A year ago, while on maternity leave, my husband and I wondered what our next step was going to be. We considered our options and committing to a house and the white picket fence felt premature. We mused whether now was a good time to uproot and relocate and ran through the list of practical cities for a budding family. Manhattan’s too expensive, Boston’s too cold, and San Francisco’s too far.
We excitedly shared the news: we’re moving to New Orleans!
People thought we were out of our minds. Our friends were stunned, our co-workers baffled, and my mother-in-law cried.
You won’t have any support down there! You’re too far away.
You’re a New Yorker. Are you sure you’re going to like it?
When are you planning to come back home?
It’s a party town, not for raising a family.
To their point, it’s 1200 miles from home. Both in culture and geographic location, New Orleans might as well be on another planet. To the unfamiliar, the sheer volume of people and noise jumbled with the ease with which you can obtain any vice you please can be surreal. The crime is constant, and the city is in dire need of support.
Despite this, we have no plans of leaving.
It wasn’t as big of a surprise as it seems. Really! We were engaged and married down here in a Speakeasy in the Big Easy kind of way. I was the household expert in all things Louis Armstrong, Charleston dancing, and red beans and rice. With a streak of Acadian in my ancestry, it was always something we wanted to do. But could we raise a family here?
Relocating isn’t easy.
Six weeks after dropping the relocation bomb, we packed our life into boxes and relocated to the French Quarter. Nothing about it was easy – but it was exciting. It was hard not to let everyone’s opinion weigh on us, especially as a new mom. Not everyone shared our excitement, and a lot of our friends didn’t get it.
My best advice (in hindsight) is:
- Stick to your guns and do what you think is best for you and your family (easier said than done, I know!)
- Moving far away makes the world feel more accessible, smaller even. Suddenly, 1200 miles is viewed as a quick flight home.
- You’re not the first new mom to do it – there’s a lot of sage advice out there.
Despite my love for New Orleans, I was nervous.
The first barrier we broke down was the perception of New Orleans. Too easily are the antics of Bourbon Street or the violent crime wholly representative of the city. It doesn’t help that it’s plastered all over the news. In reality, it’s a diverse unity of a soulful, gritty history with a refreshing, progressive, come-as-you-are culture. There is a place for everyone and everything here.
Our first Mardi Gras parade was Krewe du Vieux. Not for the faint of heart and a satirical take on deeply rooted political, historical and sexual issues, it rolled past our apartment in the Quarter, and we brought Baby E. I expected a slew of comments about how inappropriate that was. Instead, a number of the krewe and the crowd stopped over, tossed her some swag, and commended our parenting. While that may have been the alcohol talking, we felt a fast connection with New Orleanians.
Through swim lessons, zoo passes, City Park, history tours, festivals, New Orleans Moms Blog, and our effervescent neighborhood, we’ve become a family who’s becoming more cultured, more outgoing, and experiencing life in ways we never have before.
My advice? Get involved. There is SO much to do here, even with a small baby. I’ve brought her to events against my better judgement and was pleasantly surprised that there were other families there too.
And the food!
There’s a lot of ways to win someone’s heart, and New Orleans has got it covered in the culinary department. This wouldn’t be a tribute to our decision to live in New Orleans without mentioning the culinary adventure that is this city. No matter where we go to eat, someone’s always coming right over, plopping down a high chair and making us feel welcome. There is nothing the little beanpole won’t eat (shrimp creole, crawfish étouffée, gumbo, oysters…I have no sage advice on this – I think we just got lucky!).
So, about that relocation?
Living here, I think the city offers so much to us a family in ways I don’t think we would have experienced had we stayed in upstate New York. The sense of community is incredible. We’re still building our village, and learning that it can be unconventional.
For the record, New Orleans is the antithesis of a New York lifestyle (it’s easygoing and friendly); it’s a great place to raise a family. We’ve stopped getting calls asking when we’re coming home. They’re now calling for when they can come spend time in New Orleans.
My husband and I are relocating from Chicago to Portland, Oregon next month, so this hits close to home for sure! Thanks for sharing your experience.
Respectfully, I’d just challenge one statement you made: “Moving far away makes the world feel more accessible, smaller even. Suddenly, 1200 miles is viewed as a quick flight home.” For my husband and I in our financial situation (entry-level jobs and lots of student loan debt), this is honestly not true at all, because a flight home would cost hundreds of dollars that we do not have. Of course, I realize you may not have been saying that was a universal experience, just speaking from your own, so I just wanted to share mine:)
Hi Lisa, how exciting for you!
Great point on the flights – it is definitely expensive! We take turns between flying home, and having them come visit us, which helps. I also think it’s a psychological/emotional feeling that “across the country” doesn’t feel as far as I thought it would, if that makes sense. Point well taken though!
We recently relocated here due to work, and this article was very exciting to read. We’ve lived everywhere, but the crime was what scared us about venturing in the city. Now I’ll be alittle more confident to take friend’s and family to the French quarter.
Hi Erin – welcome to the Big Easy! We were nervous at first too. Like any city, we’re learned to be a lot more aware, and sensitive to it, but we’ve had a great experience so far.
The crime is what really scares me Megan. Also I found New Orleans schools to be rather segregated, and I want me daughter to be in schools with a lot of diversity. When I watch the high school bands go by during Mardi Gras, I was shocked that it was “white bands” and “black bands” representing their various schools. I love New Orleans with all my heart, and I often miss it to my core. I just couldn’t justify staying there when it came to starting a family. Seeing as you were coming from Manhattan, perhaps crime is something more normal for you? Just a part of life? But I grew up in a small town, and that type of crime is just something I didn’t grow up with, and I don’t know how to raise a child in that kind of environment. I didn’t have to deal with gangs in high school and middle school. Children in New Orleans have to deal with situations that I never did… how could I parent to my child about them? How could I understand? Where I grew up you could call the police if your neighbors were fighting and they would show up. In New Orleans the police are overwhelmbed, I had to call the police all the time in Jefferson and garden district neighborhoods, which are good neighborhoods for New Orleans. And the police wouldn’t even come if a weapon wasn’t involved, or it would take them 30 minutes to show up. I am looking to justify moving back because I miss it so much- help!