When my daughter was two months old, my husband called from work and asked how I would feel about moving to London for six months to a year. I said “sure why not?” This either makes me very adventurous or slightly insane. Nothing was decided yet, but the possibility was there and we were up for it. Three months later it was confirmed that we would be going (for two years rather than six months) and it could happen very quickly. A couple weeks later my husband came home and said “We have six weeks.” So there it was, six weeks to pack up our entire lives and our baby and move to a foreign country.
When I think about those six weeks, it is kind of a blur. We told our friends and family and everyone was very excited, but the overwhelming sentiment was that moving in such a short time, with a young baby, would be a lot of work. They were right, but we had no choice but to make it work. One factor that made the whole thing even more stressful, was that we were going to ship most of our furniture and belongings by sea, which could take up to a month. So, if we wanted our belongings ready and waiting for us when we got to England, we had to pack up in two weeks. Fortunately, lack of sleep was something we had become well acquainted with at this point in our daughter’s life. Late nights of packing, cleaning and organizing fit right into our lifestyle. We shipped off most of our worldly possessions and slept on an air mattress and a travel cot for almost a month.
When you become a parent for the first time, it is so easy to get addicted to all of the stuff. You need, not want, but need the diaper bag, the clothes, the change table, the crib, the nursing pillow, all of it. You need it exactly the way you want it or your whole life is going to end. Now that I didn’t have my stuff, how would I cope? Turns out, just fine. I learned that I am capable of living, and raising a child, with far less than I think I need. My daughter was five months at the time and we kept a few toys, but not many (we were also sending a some things by air and putting others into storage). I discovered that five month olds don’t get bored, but are able to use what they have to amuse themselves. During our last month in New York, my daughter developed a new trick of scooting herself backwards across the floor which provided countless hours of entertainment for her and us.
So we survived our slimmed down life and with the help of my parents and professional movers (God bless professional movers), we made our trip across the pond without too much drama.
When we arrived in London, we stayed in a temporary apartment until we found our permanent home. My husband was very eager to open a bank account and get mobile phones the day we arrived. This proved impossible to do; no permanent address, no bank account, no bank account, no mobile phone. We also learned our first lesson about England, you need an appointment to do everything. We were disheartened and it was only day one.
The next day we regrouped and started the search for our new home. This task was made so much easier with babywearing. With my daughter in her sling, we could quickly get from place to place and she stayed happy throughout most of it.
At the end of the first day, there was a place my husband decided was the one, I wasn’t so sure. The kitchen was small and dark, the layout was strange and it was falling apart in places. When we talked it over I realized he didn’t so much love the place as he just wanted the whole process to be over and done with. I had to remind him, that as a stay at home mom, I would be the one spending most of the time there. There was another place we had seen that day that we both loved, but it was too expensive. We wrote a thoughtful letter to the owner about who we were and asked if he would lower the rent. Our leasing agent wasn’t so sure, but it paid off and he agreed. Unfortunately, the place would not be ready for another 3 weeks. Our second lesson about England was, everything closes for Easter…everything. We wanted to move on Good Friday but that was out of the question, so that added another 5 days to our waiting period.
While we waited, my husband went back to work and I got going on my new job, meeting my new mommy village. I decided to get out and explore as much as possible in my first few weeks in London. The very first week we were here, I found a Mum and Baby Book Club on meetup.com who happened to be reading the very book I had just finished. They were meeting not too far from where we were staying, so I strapped my daughter into the Ergo and off we went. There were only 3 of us there, but it was a wonderful experience and I still meet these ladies once a month to discuss books and babies (and now toddlers). They have become some of my best friends in London.
This has been the most valuable lesson I have learned since I moved, get out there, get out of your comfort zone and do things. Having a child gives you an instant connection to people you may never have spoken to otherwise. Moving to a new place, especially a new country, gives you the opportunity to explore and do things you may never have done before. It takes a sense of adventure and a little bit of insanity. It might not be what you want at first, but it can be an amazing experience nonetheless. Kids are extremely adaptable, and they teach us that we can be too.
-Megan Wheeler, mum to 1 cute little girl
Currently living in London
from New York, USA