It was exactly two years ago that I was in the midst of moving to Portland from the Midwest with a 2-year-old and a 4-month-old. We had just six weeks between the day we learned we were moving until our family’s first night in Portland.
My memories of it now are still emotional, but also a little foggy. (Maybe because at the time I had a baby who wasn’t sleeping through the night, a husband who moved almost three weeks before the kids and me, and when I wasn’t working almost full-time or packing, I was trying to sell a house, find a rental home, wade through endless to-do lists, and say difficult good-byes to family and friends. Goodness, I need a nap and a tissue just thinking about it). I remember that in the span of just a few minutes, I would feel reluctant, overwhelmed, stressed, grateful, unprepared, happy, sad… you get the idea. Truly, it was only by the grace of God that I survived that transition with my sanity intact!
While I was fortunate to get connected to people in the area quickly, I had my fair share of loneliness and difficulty getting settled. As moms, we move to a new place with a big to-do list: unpack, find doctors, child care, grocery stores, other moms… the list goes on. Meanwhile, our kids still need to be fed, diapered, disciplined, comforted, enjoyed and more.
Moving will always be stressful—no matter how big or small the change. Nevertheless, here are six things I learned through my move that I recommend to any moms new to Portland.
1. Do plenty of research
If you already have connections to people in the area, use them. Ask questions. Don’t know anyone? Then make friends with the Internet. In fact, one of the reasons I started Portland Moms Blog was to create the online resource for moms that I wish existed when I moved here! I also suggest joining local groups on social media (search Facebook for location-specific mom groups) to ask questions and seek recommendations, and use as many online tools as you can to become an area expert. Unless you really know the area, consider renting housing before buying (keep in mind the rental market here can be challenging). Even if you don’t have school-aged kids yet, check out school ratings on sites like Great Schools and School Digger. I learned a lot about different neighborhoods just by looking at the local school information and reviews.
2. Seek out relationships
Connecting with other area moms seems obvious–but just how to do that is tricky. Be proactive about finding your mama tribe. For me (a natural introvert), just the thought of having to start the conversations, initiate play dates or ask for phone numbers exhausted me. But it was good for me too! To start, find a local moms group or a group related to a personal interest. Look for events or classes associated with community centers, churches, gyms, etc. Online, search Meetup.com or our event page for opportunities to connect with and without kids. Be intentional and you will make connections in even the most random of places. But keep in mind, building friendships also takes time (see #3).
3. Be patient
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your home. You may not want to live in the mess of getting settled, but you can (and there’s likely not another option). Patience is key to every part of moving to a new area, but it was particularly important for me to remember this hand in hand with #2. Establishing new roots takes time. It was unrealistic for me to expect my friendships here after six months to feel like friendships in my former home that had been built over a decade or more. During my transition I often thought of the childhood song, “Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.”
4. Prioritize your routine
Although my toddler was in a new home, new daycare and surrounded by lots of new people, my husband and I did all we could to keep our old family routine in this new place. Morning, evening and mealtime rituals were preserved, and we spent as much time together as a family as possible. I was AMAZED at my son’s resiliency during our move, and he actually helped my adjustment tremendously.
No matter how much you long to be settled, some days you need to let the boxes sit in the middle of your kitchen floor and go make some memories. Since we moved in the fall, we started simple and headed to a local pumpkin patch. There are so many family-friendly places in our area. Make sure to explore the Portland area and the incredible beauty and variety throughout Oregon.
Head to Washington Park (zoo, children’s museum, arboretum, large playground, etc). Drive to the coast (Cannon Beach or Seaside make for good “first visits” for new Portlanders). Take a family outing to Salt & Straw Ice Cream, Blue Star Donuts, the food carts, or Portland Saturday Market. Visit Multnomah Falls. Honestly, this list barely scratches the surface–but it should keep you busy for some time. Explore the many attractions in/and around our city, and know that there is so much more to Oregon than Portland!
6. Take care of yourself
Moving is stressful. Having young kids who don’t sleep through the night is stressful. Being lonely is stressful. Ask local mom groups (or any local parents you already know) for babysitter recommendations NOW, because you need a date night with your spouse. You also need alone time to do something you enjoy. Go somewhere by yourself to read, drink coffee, workout, shop, or get a pedicure.
Now that my family is at home in Portland, I can honestly say that moving across the country has been a great experience. It gave me an increased appetite for adventure and has been packed with personal and family growth opportunities.
YOU WILL SURVIVE! And slowly but surely, in my biased opinion, you will fall in love with this place.
Fellow moving mamas, what tips do you have for moms new to Portland? Add them below!