A year ago I was living just outside of Washington, DC in Arlington, VA, balancing work and home life. Our little family of 3 was living in a cozy little house on a charming street—you know, the kind where kids run across the street to play with their friends, your neighbors feel more like family members, and summers are filled with block parties and impromptu gatherings on each other’s lawns. We had great, supportive friends who really leaned on each other because most of our families were far away. Don't get me wrong, we would have loved to feel a bit safer in our community, have better access to outdoor recreational activities, and less access to traffic; but for the most part we were really happy.
Life as a working mom was hard—I never felt I was ever really doing a great job at either profession, and that was frustrating—but work was also invigorating and I felt like my daughter and I got along much better when we didn’t spend ALL of our time together. I loved that she would see me doing important things at work. I loved bringing her to my office and secretly hoped she would see that this was something that could be in her future, if she wanted it.
As the baby’s arrival grew closer, it sounded more and more like I would not be able to continue working. Childcare was too expensive, and my salary was not where it would need to be to come out ahead of those costs. I was some parts distraught about this, and some parts relieved—relieved that the decision was being made for me, but at the same time, wishing I could decide for myself that I was ready to transition to a life as a stay-at-home mom. As the weeks before maternity leave approached, I still wasn’t sure I couldn’t find a way to make it work.
Almost exactly a year ago, my father took a job in DC, and moved south from New Jersey, where they had only been about a year. We had loved being on the East coast with them, and found ourselves traveling to visit them every couple of months. We were excited at the prospect of seeing them without battling hours of traffic to do so. We (especially my daughter) were so blessed to get to see them several times a week, as their apartment was only 15 minutes away. We often had them over to dinner, and were loving watching our daughter develop such a close relationship with them. It was also reassuring that, as we transitioned to a family of four, we would have two excellent grandparents so close to help make it easier, especially on the little lady.
I went on maternity leave near the end of June, giving myself about a week before my due date to spend with my daughter, and get life in order before the baby was born. A day or two into maternity leave I got a phone call from my husband in the middle of the day. He told me he had been asked to relocate, and would have between 3 and 4 months to sell our house and move to Great Falls, Montana. I’ll be honest: I cried. Ugly cried. Sobbed. Some might say I was furious. Although I absolutely loved visiting my in-laws in Montana and had wonderful childhood memories of summer trips to lakes and cabins in big sky country, I had always been fairly certain that I did not want to live there.
The choice to move was given to us—we could have turned down the relocation, which was my vote. “The timing is just not right,” I said. “I am supposed to have a baby any day!” Moving was not what I wanted to be focusing on at that time. After about 36 hours of thinking, discussing, and praying, my husband felt that we were supposed to move. Unfortunately, at the time, I didn’t feel the same way, but trusted that he wouldn’t make a declaration like that on hollow grounds. [It should be noted that this trust didn’t come without a lot of anger and resentment…it was a real test of our relationship, and one I’m glad we’ve come through.]
The next four months are some I never want to experience again. We broke the news to family and friends—most difficultly: to my parents who felt we had performed a professional bait-and-switch. I delivered our beautiful little boy on July 5, a week after his due date and also after a week of 100-degree weather and no power (read: no A/C!!) in our neighborhood, due to a huge storm that knocked down our power lines. For the next two months, our new baby was not happy (I don’t really know what “colicky” means—unless you’re talking about horses—but if he was awake, he was crying unless you were feeding him or holding him outside), and became affectionately referred to as our grumpy boy. In the meantime, to prepare for selling the house, inspectors and contractors were coming through the house almost every day. We learned our foundation had a huge structural crack that needed extensive repairs, which meant noisy jackhammers. For those that aren’t sure: jackhammers and colicky babies don’t mix well. I juggled trips to the county zoning & building permit offices, activities for my daughter, breast-feeding my son, and trying to cram in as much time with friends and family as possible.
Finally, after a house hunting visit to Montana, where we found a beautiful home, finishing the remodeling of our home in Arlington, selling that home, having never ending farewell parties (we were never ready to say a final goodbye), and packing up a truck with all of our things, we hit the road and drove 2,073 miles to our new life.
As we drove, I was a mix of emotions: denial, sadness, excitement and anticipation. At some point I received a bit of clarity, from none other than A.A. Milne (author of Winnie the Pooh):
“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
Even though I felt we were abruptly torn away from a life I loved in Virginia, I know I was blessed to have those experiences and those people that I loved. Now our family has entered a new phase of life—one that has required quite a few transitions besides the relocation. We are adjusting to real lifestyle changes, and much different surroundings. We are so grateful for the chance to live near so many of my husband’s immediate and extended family. We have loved getting to see so many of them so often. We enjoy Skype sessions with my parents and have several visits planned to see each other.
John Lubbock famously said, “What we see depends mainly on what we look for.”
I am still very much in the midst of my transitions, and would love to learn from your experiences. What kind of transitions are you going through? How have you navigated change in your life?