This essay originally appeared in our monthly newsletter for The Mom Hour podcast. To get our emails, subscribe here. –Meagan
Last month, the kids, dog, and cat and I moved – from the 1200-square-foot bungalow we moved into a couple years ago, to a much larger home about a mile away.
In almost every way, the move is a positive one: this house offers a lot more space for us to spread out in and to entertain friends and family, it’s closer to the high school, where two of the boys will be in attendance next year, and there’s an amazing outdoor area I can’t wait to enjoy when the weather gets nicer. I no longer have to ask kids to scooch in their dining room chair so I can squeeze past into the kitchen or hallway, and nobody has to share a room: a first for both Owen and Will.
While we loved our cozy little space and it served its purpose for a season, it’s been lovely to swap out about 12 inches of counter space and two small cabinets, for a big kitchen with a lovely island and walk-in pantry. Also, did I mention I have my own bathroom? And the additional cherry on top: I learned that it’s much, much easier to move from a small house into a big one, than it is to move from a big house into a small one (no need for a major purge this time around, that was done two years ago!)
That said, no matter how relatively simple the circumstances surrounding a move, it’s a lot of work. For the two weeks we were actively packing, moving, and unpacking, I found myself switching between multiple hats each day: Foreman of the crew, making a plan, delivering orders to the workforce, keeping things organized, and checking quality. Instructor and guide, showing Clara how to wrap breakables before packing them, teaching Owen how to properly tape a box, reminding Will to carry the heavy loads from the bottom.
And, of course, I never stopped being Mom. As excited as the kids were for the move, there were plenty of little worries to soothe, and ways those worries were highlighted by their individual personalities. Owen fixated on which room the TV would wind up in, and how to arrange furniture for maximum viewing quality in said room. Clara stressed about whether she’d feel lonely in her new room, further away from mine than she’s used to. Will was full of questions about how many friends he’d be allowed to have over at once, and on which days, and for how long.
Several times, with a to-do list in one hand and Sharpie and roll of packing tape in the other, I found myself repeating this statement: “I promise you we can talk about that when we are all settled in. I promise, we will figure something out. But honey, I just can’t think about that right now.”
It was exhausting, but also kind of amazing. When everyone has to pull together to get a job done, it creates a feeling of intense togetherness that’s hard to reproduce after life gets back to normal. During the move, I was my most “on” as a mom: teaching, guiding, soothing, reminding. Now that we’re more or less moved in, it’s easy to slip back into a less-present, less-vigilant state. It’s the same reason you can work 12 hours a day to unpack alllllmost all of the boxes, but leave four or five untouched until you move again. It’s why garages are full of leftover tile and trim that never quite got cut and fit and put in place, or why you leave that one drawer disorganized. When we finally get a chance to take a foot off the gas, sometimes coasting feels like such a relief that we just drift to a stop.
Sarah and I recently talked about how the “normal”-ness of January – when the back-to-school-slash-holiday craziness is behind us and all we seem to have in front of us are average, routine days – can be both a blessing and a curse. After all that activity, we need a break, but it’s also easy to slip into inertia. My intense post-holiday period of packing and cleaning and U-Haul renting and moving and unpacking and organizing was a reminder for me not to completely slide into a waking slumber. The kids and I don’t have to work for hours a day putting the new house to rights (and I am starting to get the feeling they’re avoiding me for fear I’ll give them something to do), but we can still set aside time to talk about how we’d like to use all this space we’ve been blessed with. There are board games to play, meals to enjoy in our spacious new dining room, snacks to share at the island, and conversations I still need to circle back to. (Come to think of it, I don’t think I ever told Will how many friends he’s allowed to have over at a time, and when.)
For many families, January – April represents a long stretch of not-much-going-on: no vacations, no travel, no major holidays to break up the monotony. It can be a relief. It can also be boring. As for myself, I’m looking forward to leaning in on this peaceful new existence for a while – while still channeling just a bit of that energy from more intense times to give my days shape and energy. And this time around, I am committed to unpacking every. last. box. – even if it takes me until spring.