As I walk through yet another cardboard maze on my way to the kitchen, I can’t help but wonder if there is some underlying issue in me that needs addressing. Should I have kicked up my feet on some black leather couch for an hour a week with a psychological counselor instead of TripAdvisor? Should I have been content at some point to embrace the sunset, the peace and finality it depicts instead of chasing the next sunrise and the hope of the new beginnings it promises? After so many relocations, how can I still feel the spark of excitement igniting within me as I grip a roll of packing tape and yet again seal our precious belongings?
Eight years ago, I gave up my career to stay home with my daughter who was almost three years old at the time. My husband was offered a higher level position within his company. With it came a fatter paycheck and the opportunity to pad his resume while gaining much experience in his field of expertise. It also came with a relocation, our first in a series of relocations for our family. My husband, born and raised in a military family, had a different perspective on relocations. I, born and raised in the same state, same town, same house until the age of seventeen, longed for my children to experience the stable comfort of the familiar. Yet, as much as I entertained those visions, a fire I never knew I had in me, was fueled. And so began my thirst for new adventures, next chapters, clean slates, and a passion for the unknown.
However, there are a few known facts about relocations. Facts whose presence makes me feel a bit uneasy each and every time the moving truck pulls away. A truck carrying my children’s christening gowns, our wedding albums, their first tooth and their first teddy bear – memories that fill each moving truck near capacity. What the truck doesn’t hold are those memories that fill my own heart near capacity when I take my trip down the latest memory lane. Those moments, feelings, memories that aren’t gently covered in bubble wrap and placed in a box labeled “Fragile” to be carefully transported to the next residence where more are sure to be created.
As we embark on each new adventure, I think of the fact that relocation is often the cause of divorce for many couples. On the Holmes and Rahe stress scale for adults, “change of residence” is considered a stressful activity, assigned 20 points (with death of spouse being ranked the highest at 100), although other changes on the scale (e.g. “change in living conditions,” “change in social activities”) often occur as a result of relocating, making the overall stress level potentially higher. I think of the effort we will all have to exert once again in replacing our social network. I think of the challenge ahead of finding new doctors and a new gym. I think of my son and daughter once again being the “new kid” in school and all that entails. A study conducted by Ahamanson Department of Pediatrics, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA covering 9,915 children ages 6-17, found “frequent family relocation was associated with an increased risk of children failing a grade in school and four or more frequently occurring behavioral problems.” I also think of all the tearful goodbyes that come with each move as we leave behind old friends that were once new.
I place the last item in the last box, take a deep breath, and can’t help but let my imagination wander through the new residence we will occupy in just a short time. In my mind I’m already pulling these items outside the box, and seeking out the perfect place for each of them. I picture the wall that will hold our family photo gallery, and the corner that will hold my dad’s old worn out Ricky Ricardo drum. I imagine just where we will place the Christmas tree this year, and visualize my family gathered around it Christmas morning. I carry the last box to the front entrance, and catch a glimpse of myself in the hall mirror. I don’t see the baseball cap, the faded blue t-shirt and cutoff shorts that through the years has become my moving uniform. All I can see is the smile that lights up my face with hope and anticipation. And, once again I wonder if this spark of excitement within me is normal.
My top twelve tips when relocating your family:
- Communication among all family members is key. Communicate with your spouse as well as your children.
- Hold a family meeting where all members discuss their pros and cons list. Really listen to all the cons and discuss them, trying to find the positive while making sure that family member feels like they’ve been heard.
- Go to your doctors offices and request your medical records in a digital format that will be easy to share with your new doctors. Same goes for school transcripts.
- Be prepared to “camp out” in the new place for a night or two while you wait for your household goods to arrive (we have fond memories of these “camp outs”).
- Forward your mail even in today’s day and age when we receive more virtual mail than snail mail. The act of forwarding your mail can you give the closure you need in closing one life chapter and beginning another.
- If you have children, balloons can keep them occupied for hours in an empty house while you await your items. It’s also the best time to pull out some Play-Doh as it’s easy clean up.
- Make sure your children are set up with friends and family members phone numbers, etc. so there is literally no break in their communication with them. Nowadays, there are many channels for staying in touch – FaceTime, Skype, Texting, FaceBook, Instagram (great way to share photos of the new place)
- Look up the local Newcomers Club for your area. It is a great way to meet people and also get recommendations for doctors, restaurants, etc.
- Bottoms up! Drink up your alcohol or throw a party before moving. Open containers of alcohol will not be transported by some moving companies.
- Label the side of your boxes so you can read what’s in them even when stacked.
- Expect that you will be thrown out of your routine for some time as you adjust to your new life.
- Be patient. In my experience it takes 10-12 months before it really starts to feel like home.
Do you enjoy moving? Do you have any other moving tips?
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