Four Ways to Make Moving with Little Kids (Relatively) Stress-Free

4 ideas for making the family move transition smoother on everyone


Two years or so ago, my family moved to Nashville from Washington, DC with a three-month-old and a toddler. This month, we’re moving back to DC with a four-year-old, a toddler, and a new, sweet three-month old baby. It’s not a sustainable routine—have a baby, move halfway across the country—or one I’d recommend particularly, but this type of mobility is not so uncommon in 2016, and I’m not feeling especially daunted by it this time around.

Having settled our young family into a new city relatively recently, and now preparing to do it again, I’ll spell out some ideas for making the transition smoother on everyone.

1. Make peace with mobility.

Unlike previous generations, my husband and I never expected to work for the same company for decades, from college graduation through retirement.

Our contemporaries start companies and nonprofits, go bust, go back to school, raise money and find investors for new projects, make independent films, go to work for bespoke menswear companies, open additional offices on the west coast (in order to provide expanded customer service hours, but also: the weather), and give up the corporate life to work on an organic vineyard, open a brewery, or go on the competitive barbecue circuit for awhile.

Or, less dramatic, they remain at their companies and convince management that opening a “satellite office” in their home would be a win-win. It’s a great time to try something different, try to carve out the position you want. While this new mobility has some downsides (being further from extended family and feeling isolated, for example), we ought to embrace the flexibility.

I have enjoyed and am grateful for our time in Nashville, but I don’t feel shocked or ashamed at having been here for a short time.

We moved for a work opportunity and a chance to be closer to family, knowing that if we didn’t like it, or if things didn’t work out as expected, we could, simply, do something else! And I acknowledge that it’s a privilege to have this kind of freedom and the cushion necessary to take risks. Even so, fear should not stand as a reason to remain on the sidelines, and we found it helpful to say out loud that we’re okay with trying something for awhile and being open to other possibilities.

So much so, that when a fantastic job offer came my husband’s way, we didn’t feel like we were wrenching ourselves out of some intransigent situation.

Based on work availability and career trajectory, I imagine that we’ll stay in the DC area for the long haul and raise our family there.

I would love to settle in a neighborhood, invest in the community and its people, and be there for years to come. But I can’t say it will certainly happen. Try as we might to manage life’s circumstances, ultimate control is an illusion. What we can do is bloom where we’re planted, now knowing that if and when the unexpected happens, our family can face it together with confidence and excitement.

Even if we have to drive 14 hours with three tiny children.

2. Make a plan for diving in to your new neighborhood.

One way to ramp up excitement about the move for every family member is to research your new city and your local neighborhood within it.

I don’t want to overcommit like a college freshman poring over the list of extracurriculars, but I do want us to feel like we’ve got a little bit going on. I want to take things slowly, giving ourselves plenty of grace and time to unpack and adjust. At the same time, I want us to act like we live there immediately.

Before coming to Nashville, we signed our oldest daughter up for a weekly ballet class similar to the one she’d already been attending. (Far be it from me to create a gap in her hop-like-a-frog, big-huge-elephant-steps creative movement education!)

This small commitment established some consistency from one place to the next. Now, we’re transferring our YMCA membership to the new neighborhood, and we’ve looked at the calendar for the new library’s story times.

We’re planning adventures to nearby playgrounds and outings to the local farmers’ market.

Other good options include scoping out the closest bagel place and ice cream shop on Yelp so you and the kids will recognize them upon arrival; figuring out how to join the local parents’ listserv; and planning to get involved with something immediately, like a church or other community association.

Perhaps some activities won’t last beyond the first season after arrival, but they can serve as a bridge to that point where we feel at home.

Next- 3. Make it a point to say goodbye and 4. Anticipate bumps in the road.

Josie Ortega
Josie works at home and from home---wrangling two daughters and a baby son, and writing on parenthood, faith, and culture. She appreciates the hard work it takes to raise a multicultural family, and has a passable knowledge of spanglish. Originally from Memphis, Josie remained on the east coast after studying English and religious studies at the University of Virginia. She met her husband Israel on Capitol Hill in DC, and their dream is to open a Southern-Mexican fusion restaurant one day (but only if her suegra is available to cook).

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