To the mama who moved away from her family

I decided to get plugged in.

To the mama who moved away from her family

This morning I was reminded by my husband that this time last year we packed up our SUV and started our trek across the country to Massachusetts, catching our last glimpse of the Rocky Mountains.

I remember my emotions exactly—the perfect combination of nerves and excitement. I could not wait to start our new adventure as a family, yet I couldn't ignore the anxious feelings that were creeping in when I realized Mom would no longer be a few exits off the highway.

“Are we making the right decision?”

“Would the kids adapt to their new schools?”

“Will we all make new friends?”


As I reflect on the past year, it is hard to believe all that we've experienced. It has been a year of learning and growing for all of us and honestly it has been tough. But even in those very challenging moments, I am thankful that we’ve stuck it out and have created our home away from home.

To my fellow mama who has moved away from family, here's what I’ve learned:

Raising a family thousands of miles away from our families is really really hard.

Finding a babysitter is even harder. We didn't quite think through the half days at school, the sick days, and the dire need for date nights—leaving us to experience many stressful moments scrambling to find childcare. As much as it pains me to admit there are times I really needed my mom, it is so true.

Once the excitement wears off and you realize you are in a town where you literally know nobody, it can be scary.

I'm not generally a person who puts too much thought into what others think of me, but this year I felt like a freshman in high school, seeking the approval of all my peers. I couldn’t help but wonder, “Are we the weird outsiders from Colorado?”

You can imagine the anxiety that set in when my son asked to wear a Bronco's jersey his first day of school in New England.

Moving to a new town on a completely different coast was a culture shock.

It is very, very obvious that we are not from here. We don’t have the accent and we are not exactly Patriots fans (seriously though, people worship Tom Brady here). These things alone were enough to bring up the inevitable question ”Should we move back?”

But eventually it did get easier, and I for one have learned a lot about myself.

I learned that I can be really vulnerable.

When you move to an unfamiliar place, you basically have two choices. You can either hide behind your fear of putting yourself out there, or you can try and get connected. Instead of sitting in the back pew at church I decided to get plugged in. Rather than simply attend, I’ve gotten involved. It was far from easy, but I’ve developed some amazing friendships and our church is now our family here.

I’ve learned that relying on my spouse is okay.

It’s in my blood to want to handle things on my own and prove to myself that I can do just that. But this year there have been so many moments I probably wouldn’t have been able to get out of bed without his help (literally). We’ve built a deeper bond because of that, and we’ve learned to work as a team.

We’re building a tight family unit.

We actually have a lot more time together than we’ve ever had before. Instead of driving all over the state alternating our weekends at each other’s hometowns, we are exploring new territory together. We are forming memories and traditions for our children and we are going places we have never been, seeing things we’ve never seen, on our own agenda.

We have been blessed that our decision to move was the right one. Living so far away is not for everyone, but if you’re thinking it could be an option for your family, you may just find a new adventure is what you need. Plus home will always be there, waiting for you if you ever need to come back.

This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades, "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4-year-old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year:

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keep an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Follow children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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