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Did we really just move our family to the other side of the world?


When I was single, I kept my passport in my purse. I wanted to be able to jump on a plane to some distant corner of the world in a heartbeat if given the opportunity. My imagination had great aspirations.

As a graduate student in Anthropology, I had my tastes of the backpacking version of seeing the world, huts and $20 hostels were my specialty. I was hellbent on experiencing the world. For our honeymoon, my husband humored my travel itch and we set out to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience: five weeks, eight countries, all backpacking. We experienced the low and luxury of Central and South America. And of course, all the fights and stomach bugs that accompany a couple traveling.

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In many ways, it was the kind of trip designed to temporarily satiate my desire to travel before "trying" to start a family. We both knew a baby was on our horizon and while we intended to keep seeing the world together, some experiences, would become more than just "difficult" when children arrived.

As a mother of a two and four-year-old, I now know the realities of how even a trip to the grocery store can be traumatizing.

When our son was born, I fought tooth and nail to remain that backpacker of my early 20s. With enormous bags of extra clothes, pouches, snacks and distractions we continued our travels. Christmas in Dublin to see my in-laws when my son was just nine-weeks-old, the wedding in Mexico for a dear friend when he was five-months-old, and all of Papa's business trips we tagged along to. Before turning one, our son had been on more than 30 flights.

But then baby two arrived and with my son requiring full price tickets, these frequent trips quickly evaporated. With two kids, it felt like preparing for a trip would take longer than the trip itself. And was it actually a "vacation" just being in a different local without all the stabilizers of home? I began to wonder who had I become...and that upset me more than not being able to travel freely.

While our passports slowed down their mileage, the more we discussed moving our family abroad one day. More than just the experience, which we knew would be unforgettable, I think a part of me wanted to be that family. The family that wasn't phased or paralyzed by meltdowns or maybe in my fantasy if we lived somewhere else we would become the family were the kids were so perfectly chill, meltdowns weren't a word in their dictionary. This certainly wasn't our reality in New York, and like many of you, I'd read so much about those perfectly-behaved French children.

With my husband running a start up at the time, depending on the day and the ebb and flow of our collective stress, the fantasizing became more real. Maybe we could become the family that just dropped everything and travelled around the world? We charted our route, created a budget, and I even chatted with the pediatrician about which extra vaccinations the kids might need. All of our arm chair ideology about raising our children as "global citizens" felt like it might happen if we could just get ourselves to jump.

But then the offer came...a job in London.

While a great professional opportunity for my husband, if I'm honest, at first I was a little disappointed it wasn't quite the Indiana Jones version I'd been fantasizing about. But I put on my big girl pants of pragmatism and realized this, right in front of my face, was the once-in-a-lifetime chance for us to live abroad as a family. And I reminded myself to be thankful we were being given this opportunity. This would be our opportunity to jump.

But then the reality of what moving across the ocean would mean? And that tsunami of dread... "What in the WORLD did we just get ourselves into'?

As an Irishman, it would be the first time in more than 15 years my husband would live in the same time zone of his own family. But for me it would mean leaving mine. While my mom and I have the uncanny way of fighting more like sisters than mother and daughter, we certainly had been spoiled by her babysitting once a weekend and on that occasional overnight trip. I loved the way Grandma was just important to my kids as my grandparents, who raised me on and off across the years, had been to me. And what about my own grandmother, though sharper than a knife, at 82 years old, would moving overseas mean I'd lose our last chapter together?

While I had lived abroad when I was single, this was the first time I would be doing it as a mom. The weight of all the things to be managed and figured out felt enormous. Where would they go to school? Where would be we live? Would I be able to work there? Followed by the 10 million other things, like never ending paper cuts, that fall on a mom's constantly growing to-do list, which in the best of situations, already kept me up at night.

And I thought of myself, and how lonely motherhood is without your best mama friends.

My "mamas" had become my life line of sanity, the place I vented and cried, the people who understand both how hard and how amazing motherhood can be. Our kids had known each other since being babies, and we welcomed second children into our growing commune of friendship. Bath times, meal times, vacations, nights out all shared. Losing parents, premature babies, fights with partners, and that realization grown up womanhood is SO MUCH HARDER than anyone tells you, all shared. These were my sisters in arms, and I realized more than anything leaving them would be the hardest part of the move.

But after wiping away that tear, I knew I had to become laser focused on getting my family settled. The sooner this happened, the sooner I would find my own nest in this new adventure.

School became my first front of attack. Having just spent more than a year applying to schools in New York, I had a sense of what we were up against. College application like essays that judge us on every nuance of our pedigree and how well we represented our educational philosophies. Parent interviews. Kid play groups observed. I had heard that at many of the London private schools, children's names were put down at birth. C-sections scheduled to ensure a September first birthday and don't forget they had royalty in this country. How were we going to be able to compete with that?

The next week I would be on a plane to visit as many schools as I could in a two day period. (Mamas, often the heart of a home, often don't have the luxury of being gone too long.) Straight off a red eye, I rushed into an airport bathroom to change my clothes, spray some perfume and run off to my first school tour that would start 45 minutes later. Trying my best to be presentable, my goal was to charm perspective schools that we were the family for them, even if at this point in the year they had likely filled every last space.

Some places were astounding, with little Madeline uniforms and straw hats, other schools where the children looked just as dreary and depressed as the gray skies. But in the end, I got back on that plane so deeply fortunate a school we loved, in an area we loved, had room for my son. And even more a blessing, the Montessori school...across the street...had room for my daughter. A successful move meant them being happy, and school was a critical step in some of my maternal fears beginning to melt away.

Two months later I returned with my husband to find a home. A big city, I knew location was everything in London. And if we didn't play this right, between multiple kids, multiple drop offs and after school activities, I would likely be hauling small people around more than half the day around a city that was a stranger. After marathon sessions of House Hunters International, I was giddier than Christmas going into the process. But 40 apartments later, I was questioning if London was the city for us. While New York was filled with elevators and high rises, London was the home of steep narrow dark staircases that I saw every member of our family falling down. Houses were tall and skinny, small rooms none of our American furniture would fit in, and the price to be in a fourth floor walk-up with "charm" was staggering. While it's a little too small for us, and maybe a little too loud of Friday and Saturday nights with the pub across the street, we found our home, right on Portobello Road in the the heart of Notting Hill. Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant would be proud.

I have completely fallen in love with our new neighborhood. I simply could not ask for a better place to live at this particular moment in my life. There is this constant energy and buzz. So many places to eat, drink a coffee, buy fresh fruit an vegetables daily, people watch! There are live musicians on our corner a few times a week, the music wafting up into the apartment. I've made friends at a few local spots as well as the olive guy who comes on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday's to the market on our street. My two-year-old is becoming an anchovies/sardine fiend because of him. A few nights before it got too cold, my husband and I played chess on the roof top after the kids went to sleep, eating cheese and beautiful meats from the place across the street. We are embracing the "Europeaness" of our new home.

Nothing can replace New York in my heart (and for that matter my New York mamas), but slowly but surely I'm finding my way here. Each day I feel less and less like a tourist as I learn how to get around, find a doctor, find a babysitter, figure out the grocery store (which is not only filled with new brands and new foods, but also showcases an English obsession with sausage products) as well as that feeling of comfort the first time you get asked to coffee by the moms at school. Each day I absorb all the new words that mark our versions of English as just so different. And when my daughter asked for a "plaster" this morning, I held back my burning desire to correct her with the word "bandaid." In two months of being "Londoner's" I'm shocked and amazed how quickly the kids have adapted and assimilated. How soon until they have little British accents, and think of London as officially their home?

Home has become a tricky word in our household...does it mean where you come from or where you are now?

Thanks to this move, a giant jump across the so called "pond," the more I'm realizing home, rather than an address, is my husband as my partner and the two small human beings we brought into the world.

Whether we stay here for a year or forever, this is a lesson I hope none of us soon forget.

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When it comes to holiday gifts, we know what you really want, mama. A full night's sleep. Privacy in the bathroom. The opportunity to eat your dinner while it's still hot. Time to wash—and dry!—your hair. A complete wardrobe refresh.


While we can't help with everything on your list (we're still trying to figure out how to get some extra zzz's ourselves), here are 14 gift ideas that'll make you look, if not feel, like a whole new woman. Even when you're sleep deprived.

Gap Cable-Knit Turtleneck Sweater

When winter hits, one of our go-to outfits will be this tunic-length sweater and a pair of leggings. Warm and everyday-friendly, we can get behind that.

$69.95

Gap Cigarette Jeans

These high-waisted straight-leg jeans have secret smoothing panels to hide any lumps and bumps (because really, we've all got 'em).

$79.95

Tiny Tags Gold Skinny Bar Necklace

Whether engraved with a child's name or date of birth, this personalized necklace will become your go-to piece of everyday jewelry.

$135.00

Gap Brushed Pointelle Crew

This wear-with-anything soft pink sweater with delicate eyelet details can be dressed up for work or dressed down for weekend time with the family. Versatility for the win!

$79.95

Gap Flannel Pajama Set

For mamas who sleep warm, this PJ set offers the best of both worlds: cozy flannel and comfy shorts. Plus, it comes with a coordinating eye mask for a blissed-out slumber.

$69.95

Spafinder Gift Card

You can't give the gift of relaxation, per say, but you can give a gift certificate for a massage or spa service, and that's close enough!

$50.00

Gap Stripe Long Sleeve Crewneck

This featherweight long-sleeve tee is the perfect layering piece under hoodies, cardigans, and blazers.

$29.95

Gap Chenille Smartphone Gloves

Gone are the days of removing toasty gloves before accessing our touchscreen devices—thank goodness!

$9.95

Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug

Make multiple trips to the microwave a thing of the past with a app-controlled smart mug that'll keep your coffee or tea at the exact temperature you prefer for up to an hour.

$79.95

Gap Flannel Shirt

Our new favorite flannel boasts an easy-to-wear drapey fit and a flattering curved shirttail hem.

$59.95

Gap Sherpa-Lined Denim Jacket

Stay warm while looking cool in this iconic jean jacket, featuring teddy bear-soft fleece lining and a trendy oversized fit.

$98.00

Gap Crazy Stripe Scarf

Practical and stylish, this cozy scarf adds a pop of color—well, colors—to any winter ensemble.

$39.95

Nixplay Seed Frame

This digital picture frame is perfect for mamas who stay up late scrolling through their phone's photo album to glimpse their kiddos being adorable. By sending them to this smart frame to view throughout the day, you can get a few extra minutes of sleep at night!

$165.00

Gap Crewneck Sweater

Busy mamas will appreciate that this supersoft, super versatile Merino wool sweater is machine washable.

$59.95

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

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There's a lot of discussion about the importance of early education—but what about soft skills like respect and kindness? How can mamas teach children important values like cooperation, gratitude, empathy or politeness?

These values are basic, foundational beliefs that help us know right from wrong, that give balance and meaning to life and that enable us to form community bonds with one another. These soft skills are crucial for kids to learn at any age, and it's important for them to be reinforced, both in the classroom and at home, throughout their childhood.

Here are fundamental ways to build character in your young children:

Kindness

Performing random acts of kindness can have a positive influence on both the individual showing and receiving the kindness. As a family, think of ways that each one of you can show kindness to others. Some ideas may include baking cookies for the mail carrier, donating an unopened toy to a local charity, purchasing canned goods for a homeless shelter or leaving notes and drawings for the neighbors. Include your child in the process so they can see firsthand the joy that kindness can bring to others.

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Responsibility

Children have a strong desire to mimic adult family members. Encourage your child to help complete simple chores in and around the house. Children feel a great sense of accomplishment when they can do their share and feel that sense of responsibility. Two-year-olds will enjoy folding towels, putting books away, putting paper in the recycling box and tending to the garden. Older children may enjoy helping out in the kitchen or with yard work.

Patience

Patience is the ability to demonstrate self-control while waiting for an event to occur. It also refers to the ability to remain calm in the face of frustration. This is a skill which develops in children as they mature. While it is important to practice patience, adults should also be realistic in their expectations, evaluate daily routines and eliminate long periods of wait time from the schedule.

Politeness

Schedule a time when the whole family can sit down together for dinner. Model good manners and encourage older siblings and other members of the family to do the same. Use phrases such as, "Can you please pass the potatoes?" or "Thank you." Be sure to provide your child with guidance, by explaining what to do as opposed to what not to do.

Flexibility

Change your routines at home to encourage children to be flexible in their thinking and to try new things. Try being flexible in the small things: enjoy breakfast for dinner, eat ice cream with a fork, have your child read a bedtime story to you or have a picnic in the living room. Let your child know it is okay to do things in a different way.

Empathy

Children are beginning to understand different emotions and that others have feelings. Throughout their childhood, talk about their feelings and share one's own feeling with them as well. By taking the time to listen to how children are feeling, you will demonstrate to them that you care and reinforce with them that you fully understand how they are feeling.

Cooperation

Coordinate playdates or take your children to events where they can practice introducing themselves to other children, and potentially with adults. Find games and other activities that require turn-taking and sharing.

Gratitude

Encourage your child to spend five minutes every day listing the things they are grateful for. This could be done together just before bedtime or after dinner.

Respect

As parents, our goal is to teach children to recognize that even though people have different likes and dislikes or beliefs and ideas, they must treat each other with manners and positivity. Respect should be shown when sharing, cleaning up, and listening to others. Always teach and model the Golden Rule: treat others the way you would like to be treated. Also remind children that respect can be shown towards things in the classroom. Treating materials and toys correctly shows appreciation for the things we have.
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Medical researchers and providers consider a woman's postpartum period to be up to 12 months after the delivery of baby, but too often, health insurance doesn't see it the same way. Nearly half of the births in the United States are covered by Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and while the babies who are born during these births are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP for a year, their mothers often lose their coverage 60 days after delivering their child. There is clear data showing 70% of new moms will have at least one health complication within a year of giving birth.

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This week, members of Congress' Subcommittee on Health met to mark up H.R. 4996, the "Helping Medicaid Offer Maternity Services (MOMS) Act of 2019, and it was favorably forwarded to the full Committee.

What does this mean? It means that while this bill still has a ways to go before it potentially becomes law, its success would see states get the option to provide 12 months of continuous coverage postpartum coverage to mothers on Medicaid. This would save lives.

As we at Motherly have said many times, it takes a considerable amount of time and energy to heal from birth. A mother may not be healed 60 days out from delivering. She may still require medical care for perinatal mood disorders, breast issues like thrush and mastitis, diabetes, and the consequences of traumatic births, like severe vaginal tearing.

Cutting off Medicaid when her baby is only 2 months old makes mom and baby vulnerable, and the Helping Moms Act could protect families from dire consequences.

The United States has the highest rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, and according to the CDC, "about 700 women die each year in the United States as a result of pregnancy or delivery complications." This is not okay, and while H.R. 4996 is not yet signed into law this bill could help change this. It could help address the racial disparities that see so many Black mothers and Native American mothers dying from preventable causes in the first year of motherhood.

A report from nine American maternal mortality review committees found that there were three leading causes of death that occurred between 43 days and one year postpartum: cardiomyopathy (32.4%), mental health conditions (16.2%), and embolism (10.8%) and multiple state maternal mortality review committees have recommended extending Medicaid coverage to one year postpartum in order to prevent these deaths.

Basically, making sure that moms have have continuous access to health care the year after a birth means doctors can spot issues with things like depression, heart disease and high blood pressure at regular check-ups and treat these conditions before they become fatal.

The Helping Moms Act is a step forward in the fight for maternal health and it proves that maternal health is truly a bipartisan issue. Republicans and Democrats alike recognize the value in providing support for mothers during the postpartum period.

The Helping MOMS Act was was introduced by Democratic Congresswoman Robin Kelly of Illinois, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust. It was co-lead by Texas Republican Michael Burgess (who is also a medical doctor), as well as Georgia Republican Buddy Carter, Washington Republicans Jaime Herrera Beutler and Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Ayanna Pressley from Massachusettes and Lauren Underwood of Illinois (both Democrats).

"Incentivizing postpartum Medicaid expansion is a critical first step in preventing maternal deaths by ensuring new moms can see their doctor. I'm proud that my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, came together to put an end to the sad reality of American moms dying while growing their families," said Kelly. "We can't allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. This is a good, bipartisan first step, but it must be the first of many."

It doesn't matter what your political stripes, reducing America's maternal mortality stats should be a priority.

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Whether you're having a low-key Friendsgiving with your closest friends or prepping to host your first big Thanksgiving dinner with both families, figuring out all of the menu details can be the most overwhelming step. How much should I cook? What ingredients do I need? How does one actually cook a turkey this big?

But, don't worry, mama—HelloFresh is lending a helping hand this year with their Thanksgiving box in collaboration with Jessica Alba. Because you already have enough on your plate (and we're not talking stuffing).


Here are the details. You can choose from two Thanksgiving boxes: Turkey ($152) or beef tenderloin ($132). The turkey box serves 8-10 people while the beef one will serve 4-6 and both are $6.99 to ship. We got to try both and they're equally delicious so you can't go wrong with either one, but the turkey does require a 4-day thaw period so keep that in mind. And if you're wondering what the sides are, here's a sneak peek:

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  • Garlic mashed potatoes
  • Green bean casserole with crispy onions
  • Ciabatta stuffing with chick sausage and cranberries
  • Cranberry sauce with orange, ginger and cinnamon
  • Apple ginger crisp with cinnamon pecan crumble

While someone still has to do the actual cooking, it's designed to take the stress out of Thanksgiving dinner so you can focus on spending time with your loved ones (or watching Hallmark Christmas movies). You don't have to worry about grocery shopping, portion sizes, recipe curation or forgetting that essential thing you needed to make the meal perfect. Everything is super simple to make from start to finish—it even comes with a cooking timeline.

Orders are open through November 21 and can be delivered anytime through November 24. Even better? You don't need a subscription to order.


ORDER A BOX

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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My mother's death propelled me to start the process of becoming a parent as a 43-year-old single woman. As my connection to her remained strong in spirit after her death, I was ready to experience the same bond with my own child. I began the journey with Intra Uterine Insemination (IUI), and after three failed attempts at getting pregnant, I decided to adopt.

The adoption process is a lengthy and humbling one—one that includes fingerprints, background checks, references, classes, doing a profile of yourself and your life that birth parents eventually use to choose adoptive families.

After my application was approved, a young couple chose me just a month later. I couldn't believe my fortune. But I had to get to work and prepare the house for my baby's arrival. I bought the best of everything—bassinets, clothes, diapers, car seats… the list goes on. I told close friends and family that it was finally happening.

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But all of this was in vain. The day I was supposed to pick my daughter up, I learned that the birth parents had changed their minds. They no longer wanted to give their daughter up for adoption. As time passed, it was difficult to endure no interest from potential parents but the faith in believing what is meant to be continued. To increase my potential, I enrolled with a second adoption agency.

A few months later, as I was getting ready to try IVF for the first time, I received a phone call to let me know that a woman had selected me to adopt her child. So I opted out of IVF and found myself in a hospital delivery room with the birth mother, assisting her in the delivery of MY child. It was a boy! I was so thrilled, and he was just adorable.

After six years of losses and disappointments, I was able to bring him home and awaited the final word that the mother and father have given the needed consent. I was getting ready to watch the Super Bowl with him dressed in football gear, I got a phone call.

Once again, the adoption agency informed me that the birth mother had changed her mind. That evening, I had to return the baby to his birth mom. I was heartbroken, and my hopes were shattered.

What now? Going back to IVF meant starting from scratch, and that would take a minimum of six months before being able to really start getting pregnant. I was 49 years old, and the clock was ticking. I really wanted to be a mom by the age of 50.

I was in Chicago, recovering from a collapsed lung, when I received yet another phone call from the adoption agency. An expecting mom had chosen me and had already signed over all of her rights. This little girl was mine. For real, this time. But I had to get to Southern New Jersey by Thursday to pick her up from the hospital.

After negotiating with my doctor to give me the green light to leave while recovering from my condition, I hopped on a train, and 22 hours later, I arrived to New York City in a massive snow storm. I took longer than expected to get to her, but after navigating the icy roads of New Jersey, I met my daughter!

She is now 2 years old, and she has changed my life in ways that just can't be fully described. What I can say is that I now understand my mother's love even more and her devotion to me and my siblings, and as I am sharing the same with my daughter, my bond to my mother keeps on growing.

Becoming a mom at 49 was never what I had envisioned. But whether you are trying to conceive or have decided to adopt a child, the road to becoming a parent is rarely easy. I know that inner strength and believing in what was meant to be kept me moving forward.

Life
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