Exactly one year ago, we said a final goodbye to our old home. After months of trying to figure out all the practical things, and two weeks of intense packing, arranging and trying to get settled with the idea of leaving my beloved Copenhagen behind, we took off to London to spend a few days with my in-laws before moving to New York the day before Halloween.
During the last 8 months I’ve been asked lot of questions about moving abroad with small children, and since I haven’t always been the best at answering, I’ve tried to collect and answer some of these questions here:
What is the most difficult thing about moving?
It’s in no way easy to start a new life in a new city where you don’t know a lot of people. Both on a practical and on a personal level. You end up spending a long time trying to figure out how to deal with really simple things like how to make sure your child gets the necessary vaccines. My youngest daughter is in pre-school a few days a week, and spends the rest of the time with me taking art, music and yoga classes and going to the playgrounds. Even though I love spending time with her, it took me a while to get settled with this. I actually started Little Kin Journal as a way to accept that I would be spending most of my time in a child’s universe. It was my way of getting devoted to my new life and taking a step away from the life I used to live.
Do you miss your family?
Yes. But not as much as I thought I would. My parents have visited a few times, and my daughters and I spent almost 2 months in Denmark this summer, which we plan to do every year. In some ways, I think our relationship has ended up being more balanced since we moved. Because of the distance I can no longer rely on my parents to help solve my problems.
How did you decide on the area where you live?
That was a tricky one. When my eldest child was about two years old, we stayed in Manhattan for two weeks. She got stressed with the crowds and constant noise, so we knew that wouldn’t be the right place for us. Half a year before moving, we took two months off work to try out New York and figure out if this could be our new home. We ended up in one of the most child friendly areas of Brooklyn and we live really close to an amazing public school. Brooklyn Bridge Park is only 10 minutes walk away and we are 3 subway stops away from the Lower East Side in Manhattan. These things mean a lot to us, and even though we have to pay more for our apartment than one the same size in another area, it’s well worth it.
What do your children miss the most?
Their grandparents and our summerhouse. In the beginning my 6-year-old missed our old home a lot. My daughters were five and two when we moved, and neither of them were really attached to their friends. I think it’s much harder to move when children get older. I know some Danish people in Brooklyn who moved here over two years ago and their 13-year-old boy still misses his friends in Denmark every day.
Does your everyday life looks the same as it did in Denmark?
No, It doesn’t. If you want a good full-time day care in New York, it’s almost as expensive as a full time salary. At the moment my youngest is in pre-school (which is much more learning based than day-care) a few times a week, and for the rest of the time she’s home with me. A lot of people do it like that here, or you hire a nanny to take care of your children during hours they’re not in daycare. Since my husband is working a lot and his work requires a lot of traveling I take care of most of the practical things at home and with the children. The weekends we always try to spend together.
Did you keep an option open for moving back to Denmark if you didn’t like it?
We told our 6-year-old that she had to give it two month, and if she didn’t like it by then, we would move back home. A week after moving she said, she never wanted to move back home again. Before moving we decided to evaluate every year. In May this year, we decided to stay another year, and just a month ago, we decided to stay for at least two more years. My youngest daughter is starting school here next year, and both her and I would really like to see what that does to our everyday life.
Did you have things like schools, daycare apartment, work etc. settled before moving or did you just figure it out when you got there?
We had most of it settled before moving, except from daycare for my youngest, which is very different here, than in Denmark. Before moving, my husband went to New York for a few weeks to sort everything out, and after spending the first two weeks looking at a lot of awful and expensive places, he found a fairly spacious and very light apartment just one block from one of the best public schools in New York, which happened to have an open spot.
Do you ever regret moving abroad with small children?
No, and even if moved home tomorrow, I couldn’t imagine being without this experience. Before moving here, I sometimes questioned why we didn’t do it before we had children, but I never think of that anymore. I believe every family would gain and learn a lot from living abroad for a few years, and I think most children will end up seeing it as a positive experience.