It took just six days for me to want to run from the suburbs screaming and head back home to New York City.
I stood at my new kitchen counter, my head in my hands, and tried to steady my breathing and not freak out my kids, who were 10 feet away and watching way too much TV. I did my best, but the silent sobs still came, and the big, fat tears splashed on the countertop as it downpoured outside.
The move had felt surreal before this and almost like a vacation, probably because it had happened smack in the middle of Fourth of July weekend, and we had been looking forward to a barbecue and fireworks with friends. And I had been so focused on making sure the kids felt good about the move and normalizing things for them that I had semi-ignored my own feelings about this huge life change. But now, that was all over, I was surrounded by boxes, and this was it.
This was our new home.
And it was in suburbia.
I tried to tell myself all the things I knew: Moving is a major life event, on par with marriage, childbirth and divorce. Of course this was going to be difficult.
I tried to tell myself all the things I told my 5-year-old when he was upset about the prospect of moving: We were still close to the city, and we could visit whenever we wanted. Where we lived didn’t matter; what mattered was that we were together, that we were a family.
I tried to remember all the reasons we made this life change and how there were many things that were actually pretty damn great about our new setting: the backyard, the extra space, the schools, the fact that we were no longer paying rent that was too damn high.
But all I could think about was how much my life had changed. How moving to the suburbs had fundamentally altered the way I saw myself. How much I missed our daily city activities. How quiet it was in the suburbs. How dark it was at night. How there were weird woodland creatures everywhere. How out of the loop and isolated I felt. How I could go an entire day without seeing another adult if I wasn’t careful. How much I missed the energy and pace of the city and everything it had to offer.
In the midst of all this sobbing, I also realized that I was being a terrible parent. There was the aforementioned TV-watching, and my fuse had been pretty short for the past few days. So I sobbed some more.
Then I took a shower, unpacked a few boxes and decided that we should have a movie day, which felt at least a little more like a lazy family day than me trying to hide from the world. (Thank you, Lego Batman and Hotel Transylvania.) After that, the rain finally stopped, I made a conscious effort to stop the self-created melodrama, and I mustered up enough energy to take the kids outside to play.
That night, when I was putting my son to bed, I thought an apology was in order.
“Buddy, I’m sorry that I’ve been so grumpy lately.”
“That’s OK, Mom.” Oh, my heart.
“No, it’s not, sweetie. I’m sorry. Do you know why Mommy was so sad today? I’m having a little bit of a hard time adjusting to our new home and being away from the city.”
“Don’t worry, Mom,” he said as he touched my face sweetly. “We can go there any time. We can go to the museum and see the dinosaurs. We can go to Lincoln Center and have ice cream by the fountain. We can still do all of those things whenever you want to.”
All the words I had used to comfort him and sell the idea of the suburbs came out of his mouth and right back to me. The tears started welling up in my eyes again, as I told him just how right he was and gave him a kiss good night. And I remembered how lucky I was to have this boy and this life and that what I had said to him before the move was spot-on: It didn’t matter where we were, as long as we were together.
It may sound corny, but it really is true.
Now I just need to remember that when it’s super dark and quiet out here and there are two chipmunks and a freaking fox running through my backyard.
Tell Us: Moms, how did you deal with a big move? And what made you feel like your new home was actually home for you?
When we moved from the city the first time it was for me to go to grad school I had a full schedule and an instant social circle. That made the transition easy.
When we moved the second time (for realsies) we had nothing to fall back on socially. At that point Steve was all about work and I was all about kids. The lack of balance is what drove us to leave – he had to work a zillion hours to afford our life there, I was left doing all the childcare, including the homeschooling since our schools were lackluster and private school was just not possible.
In my new little town I volunteered Anywhere that would have me. Yes I join the schools PTA but I also made sure to volunteer for organizations that aligned with my grown-up interests. The organizations deeply appreciate the help and I deeply appreciated that after regular volunteering (a regular, steady schedule is necessary for the organizations but also meant that I both became a familiar figure and saw familiar figures which help with social transition) I could happily say that I had a few more friends with similar interests.
Dawn Yanek says
That’s a great idea! Thanks for the tip!
I totally relate to this. 3 years in and I still miss the city life sometimes. Especially the walking and seeing people. I can wear the same outfit 2 days in a row (of course, hypothetically) and no one would know. But then I sit in my kitchen drinking a coffee and watch my kids still in pjs playing on the backyard swings and it’s all worth it.
Dawn Yanek says
So true! Glad you could relate to this, too! 🙂