I’ve always been a city person. I grew up bouncing around major cities and finally settled in New York in my mid-twenties. The bustle of the city made me feel alive, there was always something to do, somewhere to be, another adventure to explore. The hustle made me feel like I was part of a team—only New Yorkers know how hard it is to make there, how exhausting it can be and how once you jump in, you can’t really stop hustling.
I met my now-husband in New York. We both had fancy job titles at big-name companies and we both spent way too much time at the office. Once our relationship became serious we started prioritizing it, spending less and less time in front of computers during the weekend and making more and more plans to go out of state and explore the rest of the country and the world.
Soon after we got married, I became pregnant. We toyed with the idea of leaving the city but came to the conclusion that having babies in New York was easy—we could walk around everywhere, hang with friends in parks and bars and our tiny one-bedroom apartment could be turned into a 1.5 bedroom if we moved our son into the closet for as long as we could.
So we did that.
The first few years as new parents were great. We did all those things we said. Our baby could sleep through FDNY sirens blasting constantly down our street. He would spend all day outside of our house with his nanny (because that’s what you do in New York, you pay tons of money in rent to never be inside your apartment) and we continued working insane hours.
We would occasionally talk about how nice it would be to have a backyard, to move to the suburbs and slow down a little bit. To watch our son grow, be more involved in his life, enjoy being in our home and not constantly jumping from plan to plan every free hour we had. But we quickly shut it down by reminding ourselves that we were not ready to leave this magical place. Not yet. Maybe when he had to go to school.
I became pregnant again, this time with twins, and we were still determined to make it work in the apartment we were already crammed in to. Two adults, three kids and two dogs. What were we thinking? Well, I had had a really rough time with postpartum anxiety the first time around and wanted to be near friends and my support team, expecting that I would need a little bit more help to recover both physically and mentally after going from one to three kids.
And then the coronavirus pandemic hit.
We quickly realized that the life we had held onto so tightly, the one we thought we wanted and needed was not compatible with our new lives as parents of three under 3. My anxiety skyrocketed just a week into lockdown. Every time we stepped outside for our son to get some sunshine and burn some energy I would panic about being in the epicenter of the pandemic. Not knowing how long the lockdown would last made it even worse.
So we made the decision to do what we had been avoiding for the last few years, packed as much as we could into the last trailer UHaul had in the tri-state area and drove through the night with 2-week-old twins, a toddler and our dogs.
It felt like we were fleeing—in a way we were.
It was also extremely freeing.
The next day we woke up at our family’s farm in the middle of nowhere and, for the first time in many years, my shoulders were not tight around my ears anymore.
I immediately felt the anxiety leave my body and my brain was less foggy after we disconnected from the news for a bit.
Our toddler ran up and down the yard collecting sticks to help his dad build a fire in the firepit.
The dogs sniffed the scents of wildlife that hid around us.
The twins napped under a blanket in my arms while I rocked on a rocking chair—something I had always wanted to do but never had space or time to do before.
It felt right. It felt like what we needed for a long time.
A global pandemic pushed us to leave the “comfort” (because NYC is never comfortable) of the lives we had known for decades and start all over again somewhere new, slow, calm, for our children to have what they need right now.
I’m going to miss the cultural diversity of such an emblematic city in the world. I’m going to miss my places, my friends, our routine. But I’m also fully aware that our children need space to grow that goes beyond a closet and a city park.
Maybe one day, when this is all over, I can take them back and introduce them to the city that welcomed them into this world. But for now, we’ll stay far away, distant from everyone for our safety, collecting sticks to make another fire tonight, under the stars (the ones we could never see from the city).