Sometimes a family move is harder on mama than anyone else.
Last year, my husband and I got a little adventurous—some might even say crazy. We packed up our Denver bungalow, kissed our Australian Shepherd goodbye, sold most of our furniture, and moved ourselves and two toddlers across the country to New York City. It was a major move for anyone, especially two corn-fed Midwestern kids who had gotten very used to the big spaces of the Western plains.
I was worried about the culture shock, of course. But I was more worried about my daughters and their transition. I could only see the things we were taking away from them: Mountain views. Proximity to grandparents (especially since I consider my own mother to be the greatest mom who ever lived). Backyard gardens and grass of their own. Little friendships they’d begun to form. School programs they were learning to love. The ease of a schedule that comes from living in a smaller, car-driving town. I felt guilty for uprooting them from all of their general familiarities, whether they were old enough for attachments to have really formed or not.
When we sat down with our oldest, who was just three at the time, to tell her about the move, I approached the topic with trepidation. “I don’t want you to worry,” I told her, trying to find the best way to make it all sound normal.
My husband, on the other hand, made it all into the dreamiest adventure. “We’ll live by trains!” he exclaimed. “By parks! And playgrounds! By a hundred different kinds of donuts. We can drive to the beach! We can drive over bridges! There will be more people than you can imagine!” All of this ignited our daughter’s enthusiasm, and she couldn’t wait to go.
Maybe it wasn’t my daughters I was worried about. It was me. Instead of focusing on the amazing things I knew we’d gain from our move, I was mourning our losses, even though I couldn’t identify it at the time. We were leaving behind the house I’d brought my babies home to, the place where I’d watched them live the first few years of life and make sensational discoveries. It was just a small sliver of our story together, but for me it was still a major chapter. In my mind, my leaving this was also their leaving it. It felt like we were all walking away from the only place I knew as home.
My mother had the best advice, as mothers do. “Remember when you brought your baby home, and you had been so worried that you wouldn’t have everything ready? That the laundry wouldn’t be washed or the nursery wouldn’t be decorated or you wouldn’t have found the right gear? But all that baby needed was you. You and maybe a blanket or two. Well, that’s still what they need. Just you.”
I was reminded of being little myself, of going around the world with mom and dad—or even just a trip to the grocery store—feeling totally normal because they were there. I remember the crazy way my dad drove down mountains, my mother clutching on to his arm, me and my siblings in the back seat either peacefully sleeping or blissfully taking in the views. I remember moving place to place and feeling like it was a family adventure. If my parents were there, I always felt that they knew what they were doing and that they would keep me safe. It was always home.
Sure enough, my daughters have acclimated to their New York lives rather beautifully. Their wide eyes and trusting hearts have reminded me to let this place continue to be sensational and to let it become our norm. Like my husband encouraged them, they find all the best parts of things from the safety net of just regular life with mom and dad.
As my daughter turns four and we are working our way through schooling decisions, extracurricular activities, new friendships, and the like, I strive to operate from this place. I want to remember that, while I will of course stress over every little decision or reaction or method I’m told I should be using, in the end, all my babies need is me. I won’t be the perfect mom, even if I make what I think are the perfect choices. But I will always be their mom, and that’s enough to make a home.
Find out more about Sarah Ann Noel here.