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.
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.