What I’ve learned a year after moving my family cross country

It’s almost impossible to believe that it’s been a whole year since my family loaded up in the Yukon and drove the 12 hours south to our new home in Texas.

I was in my first trimester, super sick and exhausted. My husband had already made the move the month before and started his new job, and my mom drove with me and our two kiddos.

I still remember the relief I felt when climbing out of the car and being reunited with my husband.

The guilt as my mom unpacked boxes and watched the kids as I lay nauseated on the couch.

I remember how much I appreciated my dad driving down by himself to deliver our pets and help hang pictures and turn our house into a home.

I can feel the angst in my stomach that I felt as my mom and dad drove away and left us in an unfamiliar place, no longer surrounded by friends and family.

One thought kept circulating back to the front of my mind…

Did we make the right choice?

The summer of 2016 was one of the hardest times in my entire life.

My pregnant body was fatigued and barely functioning in the Houston heat.

There was no down time between finding new doctors, new schools and new clients for my business.

The cross country move left us with credit card debt for the first time in our marriage. Home and car repairs added insult to injury.

I locked my keys in the car on more than one occasion. The AAA service man knew our address.

Most days, my mind struggled to reconcile hormonal stresses with real life ones as I sat alone in my office while the kids were at preschool.

Even with the hardships we faced, this is a happy story.

In one year, I went from one of the lowest points in my life, to the highest.

Our kids have flourished over the past year. They’ve learned to swim! They’ve grown so big they needed new bicycles to ride to the neighborhood park.

Daphne will enter Kindergarten with basic reading, writing and mathematics skills, a memorized address, an eagerness to learn, and loads of confidence.

Henry is finally potty trained and enjoys showing off his days of the week and months of the year songs, usually accompanied with a silly dance.

Our sweet Audrey, our only “true” Texan, was born in this new home of ours and has brought a fresh burst of happiness to fill our lives in ways we didn’t know we needed.

Justin is around more than he ever was able to be before. He has flexibility, hobbies, home projects and time for exercise that all got stuck on pause as a hustling entrepreneur managing various stores and employees in Kansas City.

My business has been growing steadily and transformed in natural ways that highlight what I love and what I’m good at. I am excited about every project I’m working on and the women entrepreneurs I get to work with.

I have friends I cannot imagine my life without – people I’d never met if we didn’t make the move.

Not everyday is roses, believe me. But at this moment, a year after our move, I am perfectly fulfilled.

It certainly wasn’t a walk in the park, but moving with small children, an ambitious husband and a new business taught me a lot about what we’re capable of as a family. Here are my big takeaways a year after moving my family cross country.

moving my family cross country

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

No one said it’s easy to put yourself out there. In fact, even when you’re an extrovert like I am it can be pretty awkward to show up somewhere unfamiliar and insert yourself in a conversation. However, if you sit at home waiting for a dozen new friends to show up at your door you will be sorely disappointed. I knew I’d need socialization immediately, so I joined a mom’s group, chatted it up with other parents at the pool and participated in a professional women’s organization. Also, I figured the quicker I learn my way around, the less unfamiliar this new place would feel. I looked at maps online, spent weekends exploring parks with the family and drove around memorizing street names to get acquainted with the city.

People are kind.

I have to confess something that may sound silly now: when we first moved here I had nightmares that by the time my kids’ birthdays rolled around we wouldn’t have any friends to invite to their birthday party! I laugh now, because the outpouring of genuine friendship toward my family over the last year was abundant. Friends from my moms’ group would text me randomly or swing by unexpectedly {with gifts!} to see how I was adjusting. When I was on bedrest, neighbors would offer to have the kids over for a playdate. After the baby was born, we had food for weeks. And yes, even my kids had plenty of friends to help them celebrate turning a year older. We are eternally grateful for all of the kindness people showed us this past year.

Family is everything.

Not many couples with young children decide to move away from family. Truth be told, I wouldn’t really recommend it unless you have a phenomenal reason. We left more than just my parents, cousins, aunt and uncles, and friends when we left Kansas City. We left a support system, built in babysitters and emergency contacts. While we’ve built relationships with neighbors and friends who can fill some of these gaps, there are still many {many!} times I wish my parents were just down the street.

Kids are people, too.

I knew that my family’s happiness rested greatly on my shoulders. It was a pressure that oftentimes felt like a burden when I was feeling anything but happy. Overwhelmed? Yes. Frustrated? At times. Lonely? You bet ya. Yet I was always keenly aware that our children would look to me to see how I was adjusting, before coming to their own conclusions about this new community. I did this quite imperfectly, but even if I had I think our children would have struggled a bit. Our kids’ behavior was pretty rough the first few months after the move until they settled into a new routine at school. I’m sure the news of the new baby didn’t help. Kids are resilient, but they are also people who deserve time and space and a little bit of grace to adjust to change.

Life is what you make it.

I think the number one reason we’ve embraced our new home is because we came in to this new chapter with a positive attitude. No body forced my husband to accept the job opportunity. There were times when it was extremely stressful, lonely, and even scary. But when we decided to move we also decided to make it a fun adventure. For the most part we’ve really stuck to that, and when we waiver it’s a good reminder to set our perspective straight again.

Our story isn’t over.

We went back to Kansas City last month for a whole week. Our family of 5 stayed with my aunt and uncle and their family of 7. Every night was a slumber party! It was so great to spend quality time with family, our old neighbors, and friends. We got asked by almost everyone when we’d be moving back. It’s funny, because when we left, we always said we could always just move back if we weren’t happy. So it was almost hard to break it to them that we weren’t. Not anytime soon anyway. Texas may end up being just one chapter in our lives or a few, or maybe it will finish the whole book. Either way, we know it will turn out great.


Working moms are better together

working moms are better together

When I launched The Free Mama four months ago, I was simultaneously adjusting to my new work-from-home mompreneur lifestyle. I happily traded in slacks and blouses for yoga pants and cozy tees. I also had to say goodbye to some amazing colleagues who helped make the daily grind much more fun.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that working moms are better together.

Every since I made my transition, I’ve had to make some serious effort to maintain and expand my personal and professional relationships. Sure, it’s comfortable here under my blanket staring at my computer screen, but it can also be lonely and ultimately won’t do much for the growth of my business {or my sanity}.

So I’ve made a point to reach out to as many women as I can to further my mission of supporting working moms. I’ve had the opportunity to share bits and pieces of the lives of the women I interview in each week’s Working Mom Wednesday. It’s such a privilege to learn more about these mamas, and then be able to share their stories to inspire others.

What started with celebrating working moms on the local level, quickly led me to reaching out to more and more women I admire from all over the country. I’ve connected with other writers, entrepreneurs, and activists through emails and phone calls {although not everyone has responded}. These conversations are encouraging me to think bigger about the future of The Free Mama, my business and my family {more on that…}.

Recently I was fortunate enough to join up with two extremely influential working moms. One is a Public Policy Analyst for Mom-mentum, a non-profit whose mission is “Engaging Enriching and Empowering Women.” She’s doing amazing things in Washington, D.C. for women.

Image courtesy of Motherly

The other is an editor at Motherly, a website that shares stories to give women a better way to be a mother with encouragement and support. This week they even featured me as a guest contributor to help moms be more productive. {Pretty please, read it!}

What these weekly interviews and virtual connections are really about is forming relationships. Work is hard. Motherhood is hard.

As women, we put a tremendous amount of pressure on ourselves to be the best at everything all the time. It can be incredibly isolating to try to achieve this impossible standard of perfection.

The truth is, there are many reasons why working moms are better together.

Two mommy minds are better than one

If you’ve ever met me, you know that I’m a pretty confident person. I feel like I have a good grasp on my strengths and am self-aware of my weaknesses. In the workplace, it took me a long time to realize that collaboration could lead to some amazing results; ones I wouldn’t have arrived at on my own, for sure. When it comes to parenting, on the other hand, I’ve always been one to read websites, ask questions, observe others and listen carefully.

When I first decided that I wanted to do the Working Mom Wednesday interviews, it was selfish really. I wanted to learn from other women I admired. Find out how they juggle a family and career and see if I could learn a few tips along the way. Ultimately, every mom will choose to do what’s best for her family, but we can learn so much from one another by judging less and sharing more.

You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours

My neighbor and I have this incredible system. She watches my kids when I need to get work done without frequent interruptions for more snacks from the pantry. I watch her kids when she needs to take a shower or run to the store without a toddler attached to her side. It’s seriously amazing. Moms should be each other’s best friends and allies.

Similarly, the weekly q&a’s became a way for me not only to learn more about working moms, but also to promote their businesses and my new blog simultaneously. I just like a good win/win!

We rise by lifting others

Men may love their sports, but women seem to be the more competitive gender. What I have come to know is that there is plenty of room for all of us to be successful. We can be great without stacking up against one another. In fact, we can all help each other reach higher if we band together.

Without a doubt the best part of posting a new Working Mom Wednesday every week is when I see them go viral on social media and the comments explode. People can’t wait to cheer on their friends as they read about how amazing they are for all that they do. It’s not about being perfect. It’s not about doing it all. It’s about candidly sharing how we navigate a sometimes stressful life and choosing to celebrate each small victory. Girl power!

Thank you to all of the working moms who have inspired me thus far. I have absolutely no doubt that the best is yet to come. I also know that it will be much better if we stick together.

50 things I learned from my coworkers

Today you headed back to the office after a two week hiatus for the holidays. I’m guessing you were dragging a little and maybe even apprehensive about having to show up and be productive after such a relaxing break. One thing I am sure of is that your motivation to get out of bed this morning was that you got to reunite with one another. So while today I officially hang my virtual “open for business” sign and stamp “entrepreneur” on my LinkedIn profile, I spent most of the day thinking about how much I’m going to miss you.

I’d been at my job for nearly five years. Some of my you were there before I arrived and others started just six months ago. All of you made your marks on my life and I am incredibly grateful. And lucky. I know from previous jobs that your coworkers can make or break your work life. Not only did you give me a reason to come to work every day, but we actually wanted to hang out even more after we’d already punched the clock. It didn’t take long for you to become so much more than colleagues

It sounds like a line from a cheesy movie, but I learned a lot about who I want to be because of you. I won’t always recall every painfully useless meeting we endured together {most of them}, or every inside joke we came up with {swoop and poop, HOP, Mean Girls, and on and on and on}, but I will always remember the things you taught me about being a good coworker, friend, mother and wife. Here are my top 50:

  1. Collaborate as often as possible
  2. Brainstorming sessions will improve the quality of your work
  3. Delegate when you can
  4. Ask for help
  5. Show appreciation
  6. Don’t take credit for something you didn’t do
  7. Handwritten notes have not gone out of style
  8. Family comes before work always
  9. Take time off when you can
  10. Let the little things go
  11. Pick and choose wisely what colleagues you decide to become Facebook friends with
  12. Apologies go a long way
  13. Change happens
  14. No one has done everything
  15. Think twice before you hit “reply all”
  16. Be on time
  17. Vacations are time well spent re-energizing
  18. Don’t leave a meeting without a plan of action
  19. You’re never too old to learn something new
  20. Sometimes you need to pick up the phone
  21. You don’t have to like everyone
  22. Not everyone is going to like you
  23. Hair lice can keep coming back if the mother ship doesn’t get exterminated
  24. Always go to the funeral
  25. Be fiercely loyal to those you care about
  26. Teen boys smell really bad after dancing
  27. Know when to voice your opinion
  28. Know when to be quiet
  29. We wear pink on Wednesdays
  30. Holding a grudge is unattractive
  31. When you build a website, you will dream in code
  32. Make fake award certificates for yourself if it motivates you
  33. Random gifts can brighten someone’s day
  34. Bring food to the office for any reason or no reason at all
  35. If you have the opportunity to drink a purple cocktail made with champagne, just ask for the champagne
  36. Own up to your mistakes
  37. Win graciously
  38. Lose graciously
  39. Sometimes you just need to ugly cry and be hugged
  40. Takeout Chinese food for lunch can turn a day around
  41. Don’t keep your basement refrigerator stocked with liquor if there are teenagers in the house unless it has a lock
  42. Traditional white lights aren’t the only way to decorate for Christmas
  43. Some people are cold literally all the time
  44. Those people travel with space heaters
  45. If you say you’re going to do something, do it
  46. People mellow with age
  47. Don’t lie to your employer
  48. You get out of it what you put into it…it being work, friendship, marriage, parenthood or anything else you decide to do
  49. Mayo and sriracha sauce make a great dip
  50. Distance makes the heart grow fonder

I know there are many more {and I hope you call me out on them}.

So while today I am enjoying the peace and quiet of my new home office and the comfort of my yoga pants, I know that some days it will feel more like loneliness. So, dear coworkers, my Mean Girls, I hope you weren’t quite done teaching me lessons yet, because you can expect to see me often.

I miss you already.