I have a confession to make. Since the moment my husband and I decided that our move back to New Orleans was a done deal, I have been fantasizing about a feeling. More like a sense of relief I would experience at THAT moment. That moment when every box when unpacked. That moment when every photo hung on the wall. That moment when the kids are in bed, sleeping through the night once again, in their new room. Of course it was a fantasy, especially the latter “moment.” I also thought that moment would be a pinpoint second when order existed, as if all of the stars in the universe had aligned, all for my sake. The fact of the matter is, moving, whether it is down the street, to a neighboring community or across the country, is a stressful and challenging event for anyone, especially with children.
I have unpacked that last box, hung that last photo, and the kids have been sleeping, somewhat, through the night between teething and wet diapers. Now that we are “settled,” I have been reflecting on the last year and a half. (And yes, it has been that long since we made our decision to relocate back south.) I have asked myself a few questions. How would I have done it differently? More smoothly? What parts of the move were successful? What were not?
“Fragile” Handle with Care: Preparing for a Move
Each member of your family, including the furry ones, will need some time to transition into their new surroundings. In preparation for the move, we spoke to our pediatrician about what to expect with both children. Similar to the birth of a sibling, you can expect some setbacks in their development. As long as my youngest maintained his routine, he was less likely to act out in response to the move at only five months old. My oldest was twenty-two months and despite her young age she was acutely aware that a change was looming since the first box arrived. In the weeks preceding the move, we made individual and group play dates with all of their friends. The send offs were priceless moments and created more opportunities for my oldest to remember and even call her friends by name. By the time we moved into our temporary home, Elia cried “bye-bye” incessantly, which translated into, “I want to go home.” It was the first, and only, home she knew and which no longer existed one-thousand miles away. The process was heartbreaking and torturous as we patiently waited for our final destination to become available. In retrospect, I wish she had “helped” pack away her paintings, toys and stuff animals to make her feel more secure about the process. Also, we noticed her speech development regressed; however, it was short term and was once again in full force as soon as we recreated her room and provided her with stability in the means of a routine and surrounding her with familiar things.
Rummaging Through your Belongings: Donate What You No Longer Need!
For many, moving is a good opportunity to remind yourself of the belongings you have not seen in quite some time and purge your new home from unnecessary items. Some options include coordinating a garage sale, a pick up from the local dump or donating to a local charity or organization. You may call 311 to coordinate dump bound items. (Note, private companies cover some areas of the city and they will provide you their contact number based on your location.) There are some New Orleans organizations that save you time by picking up items from your home. (Note, from our experience many charities will reject furniture and some household items if you are pet owner.) Bridgehouse picks up household items, appliances, furniture and clothing. Salvation Army has a mommy friendly website where you just enter your zip code and indicate items intended for donation. Other local charities include Goodwill and Vietnam Veterans of America.
Research Your New Neighborhood, Even If You’ve Been There Before
Even though we were returning to our old turf, I did some extensive research to find new networks for each member of our family. I signed up for local newsletters highlighting kid friendly events, play dates, neighborhood associations, etc. Also, I spent the first six weeks taking the children out on daily adventures to experience the sights and sounds of everything in their new hometown. It was time well invested as it made unpacking less stressful and we always had fun! And, it was a great opportunity to meet new friends along the way. Mommy cards are a helpful way to share your contact information quickly for new play dates.
I packed my first box the week we decided to move back home. Since I was expecting, I knew I had to pace myself and not take for granted the times I felt well. I used nap times to pack away books and other nonessential items. I tucked them to the side, away from climbing temptation. As the stack grew, my husband moved them to storage. It made it easy on moving day!
I was so concerned about inconveniencing the many mommy friends that offered to watch our kids, but in retrospect there would have been more moments my children could have spent with their friends, taken snapshots and giggled a few more times. Accept help if it comes your way!
Pack Essentials for a Few Weeks
The best decision during this process was purchasing six colorful 18-gallon containers. I used one for toys, a couple for clothing, bathing, kitchen and other miscellaneous essentials. They came in VERY handy, especially when tens of cardboard boxes surrounded us!
I flew out on my own, with two under two, the day before my husband and his friend made the long thousand mile drive. In hindsight, we should have flown out a few days earlier. Remember, it takes more than a day to un-assemble a child’s bed, high chair, pack toys, bathtubs, etc.
It has been nearly fourteen weeks since we arrived back home in New Orleans. We are now surrounded by family and friends and have already shared with our children many of our favorite spots and experiences from our own childhood. We are back in the land of snowball stands, red beans and rice on Mondays and where the cashiers calls you “darlin'”. It is good to be home, so in fact my fantasy did come true!