Tips for a family-wide reset?
January 15, 2013 8:34 AM   Subscribe

My wife (27) and I (30) are moving our small family (+2 year old son, -anything that won't fit in 6 suitcases) across the country to Portland, Oregon. In large part we're leaving all of our (supportive, loving) local family and friends looking for adventure and to consciously decide the sort of people we will be (Along with a serious upgrade of location from suburban Central Florida). Have others done a similar reset with themselves or their entire family? Any recommendations on how to be loving and charitable to family and friends while you are leaving and enjoying the next phase? Or pointers on how to meet and embrace a new set of friends and "family"?

My wife and I are sort of recovering fundamentalist (still christian) people that have grown up in small towns around Orlando, FL. We both participated in the leadership of our local church (I was the worship leader / music person for 6-7 years), both of our parents live within 20 minutes, we're a 10 minutes drive to the small private school we both graduated from etc.

We're also moving into our thirties and at some point last year started asking ourselves mid-life crisis style questions, "Who are we?" "Who do we want to be?" "If we could live anywhere, where would we live?"

Thankfully my day job (I make internet stuff for a small non-profit) lends itself to working remotely and Melissa is hanging out with our kid full-time. So barring church commitments, an underwater mortgage (short sale in process, looks like it'll be OK) and our familial / friend relationships we could literally live anywhere. The idea of relocation to PDX was something we've talked about for years (we're fans of the weather, the city, the culture, and a number of things my wife has been posting about).

So... we decided to move. We're about 8 weeks away at this point and we're both filled with anxiety, excitement and doubt. In many ways we're not running away from our lives here as much as attempting to run into what we think a better version of our lives could be. After some consideration we also decided to limit ourselves to what we could take with us on the (very gracious) southwest baggage limits. Time for a reset.

The question really centers around making friends (and hopefully families of friends) and embracing this "full family mid-life crisis" in a healthy way. Does anyone else have stories about doing something drastic to reset and remake themselves or their families future? Any pointers on making new friends in a new city?

I'd also love to hear any suggestions on how to make friends and family from Central Florida feel included in our lives (we're pretty sure we'll be able to swing 1-2 trips "back home" a year—but we've got nephews and nieces and dads and moms and cousins and friends all sorts of people to stay in contact with).

Sadly, I can count on one hand the number of people that have said supportive things about our move, and it feels like our (friends and family) are largely putting their happiness and proximity to us above our own happiness—which is maybe understandable but a good reminder of the way hometowns sometimes don't let people go.

I've been trolling the "moving" and "relocation" tags on MF for what seems like years at this point, hopefully this thread will prove as useful to others as it might be to me.
posted by stickwithjosh to Human Relations (19 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Mod note: removed links, please stick them in your profile if you'd like people to look at them.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:42 AM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I pulled up stakes and moved from the East Coast to Portland almost 13 years ago. It's worked out fabulously. Portland is a great place to be, especially if you're bringing a job with you.

I think if you get involved in activities locally that interest you (e.g., find yourselves a local church in line with your beliefs), and maybe get to know some of your new neighbors wherever you settle, the new friendships will easily follow.
posted by treblemaker at 8:51 AM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

My sister and her husband moved their family from our hometown in New Jersey to Arkansas a few years ago. As a group my family was not terribly supportive for several reasons, but at the end of the day they were adults and they made their own choices. I don't think you can realistically expect anyone to be thrilled about it, especially since you're not doing this because you got an awesome job somewhere else (which is why my sister moved) but for more nebulous reasons.

From their perspective, you're taking their baby away from them so you can find yourself or whatever. This is not something that most people are going to endorse. But their disapproval is not a reason for you to stop doing what you feel is right for your immediate family.

My family keeps in touch via text and Skyping, we're generally terrible with talking on the phone. I also fly out there when I can, and they come out here at least once a year.
posted by crankylex at 9:03 AM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

We're decidedly atheist, but have several christian friends, and did a similar move from Richmond, CA to Portland, OR in 2011. We're in our 30's and have a kid, overall best move we've ever made.

Finding friends took some work, but it's a very very kid frioendly place. The best advice I can give is to join a lot of the meet up groups, which is what my wife did when we moved and we have very strong local friendships with folks in our immediate neighborhood now.

I moved my job here, so it was pretty easy for me, I tag along with my wife on the friend finding thing, but I also have a few friends via metafilter in town as well. Attend meetups.

We left my wifes parents and 20 years of friends in the bay area, for the most part we stay in touch but we emphasized it was the right move for our family and people understood. they weren't happy about it, but they were supportive because it was the right thing.
posted by iamabot at 9:12 AM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Since you're both church-goers and parents to a young kid, I suspect you'll have a fairly easy time at making friends, particularly when your kid begins preschool.

My husband and I moved to New York State on a whim. We're incredibly happy with the decision, though as currently-childless introverts, it's taken time (about a year and a half) to make local friends. Still, we love it here. And yet our families have reacted much as you have described, though we're only a long car ride away. A big help has been presenting a united front and answering the same way each time: "I know it's hard. We miss you, too, but this was absolutely the best decision for us. We're so happy here! Let us know if you'd like to visit."
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:19 AM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

I grew up down the road from you (Longwood) and left when I went to college, so while it wasn't exactly the same, I know how insular Central FL can be and how few people choose to leave. You're going to have a great time.

In terms of making friends, you'll likely find other parents of 2 year olds very quickly, and that may be your fastest path into community building. Best of luck and congratulations on taking the leap.
posted by judith at 9:20 AM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

To get your friends and family a bit more on board:

Get a facebook page or blog where you document your adventure (and mention your friends you will be missing, etc.). Get your friends and family to like your page or follow your blog. They will find themselves more connected to you and might even start to get excited by vicariously living through your adventures.
posted by Vaike at 9:25 AM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think you guys are doing a fabulous and awesome thing! First, I think the neighborhood you pick will be a big deal. Finding a cool and comfortable nest will be the first step. Then, be really picky about finding your church home. It will take a while, visit many of them before you make a final decision. Making your own "community" will be important, and I've found that volunteering is the easiest way to meet like-minded people. I'm always surprised at how many really cool people I know just from my volunteer activities. You really get plugged in to the city's pulse when you do that kind of thing.

As for keeping in touch back home, you need to either be very active on facebook or start your own blog. Take lots of pictures, update regularly, and give the family back in Florida a good idea of how you're moving along. Grandparents especially will appreciate the regular posting of pictures. When we go on vacation, we post pics at the end of each day and our friends and family really enjoy seeing a new place through our eyes. A chatty blog post every day will keep everyone feeling as if they're with you on this new endeavor.
posted by raisingsand at 9:28 AM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Please give your family and friends some slack. In most ways, it's harder being the "left behind people" than being the "leavees." There's nothing in it for them--you're taking yourselves--including a new grandchild--away! Your decision can feel like rejection of so many things they cherish. I've been mostly a "leavee" my entire life and always wanted more approval than I got for my move-away decisions. But I've also been a "left behind," and it can be hard to put on the cheerleading face, though one must.

Much luck to you and your family. It sounds like a great plan, and the Mefit advice is exactly right.
posted by Elsie at 9:29 AM on January 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

mrs. usonian and I did this when we were a few years younger than you, pulling up stakes and moving across the country right after college, from the northeast to Los Angeles. Apart from one of her siblings who lived an hour away, we didn't know anybody in our new stomping grounds.

It was an intimidating move, but I'm so glad to have had the experience. We eventually returned to the northeast, but the perspective that we gained from a few years of independence in a totally different part of the country has served us very well. I know plenty of people who have moved away from their home regions and never gone back, and are perfectly happy with that too - you will never know if you don't give it a try!

We don't have kids and don't go to church so it took us a little bit longer to find friends, but it happened eventually... if you join a congregation as soon as you're situated I'm sure you'll have no trouble making new local friends and building your own support network.

As for keeping in touch with your hometown family and friends, we live in a marvelous time: Skype, facebook, e-mail, and of course telephone are all options... and a year sounds like such a long time, but the way time flies annual or semiannual visits will come back around before you know it. Also: what Elise said; it's tough when someone close moves away, even if you're genuinely happy for them... don't let that undermine your resolve, but do try to empathize if people don't seem as excited about your going as you are.

Good luck - it will be an awesome adventure, and you and your wife will be the better and stronger for it!
posted by usonian at 9:44 AM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Looking at this from a reset perspective (I've moved twice with only minimal items and once with only one suitcase - though that was under duress) it's a great opportunity. Good for you!

If you're in need of some positive thoughts and support, just yesterday I listened to Woman Uses eBay to De-Clutter Her Life on NPR, and what I think might be pertinent to your situation is this part: And right now, it's moving forward and looking forward, rather than looking back at what I have done, but more, where do I want to go and what do I want to be. And this resonated too: My world was getting smaller as my possessions were getting more numerous. And so I want to reverse that. I want to have fewer things and a larger life.

I'll also suggest watching, and perhaps with family members, an episode or two of the TV show Consumed. It's all about the reset. Families live with about ten thoughtfully-chosen items, and one suitcase of clothing, and experience a month of living with less. Some reported lowered blood pressure; more time was spent on hobbies and quality family time; and everyone had a new perspective at the end of it.

And I think Facebook is a great format for keeping in touch with loved ones. I'll also suggest that packing up kids' art and eventually schoolwork and sending it to grandparents is a great way to keep them in the loop, and an even better way to let go of it. To meet people, a walkable neighbourhood with a playground or a community centre that you'll use will probably work wonderfully.
posted by peagood at 9:50 AM on January 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Oh, and I see on your website that you're already planning on coming home at least twice a year, once at Christmas. One thing I didn't anticipate about the first move I made away from home, from New Jersey to Florida, was how quickly holiday trips would consume my December and my money. All of my money. If you commit to always traveling "home" for the holidays, you need to expect that--you'll likely have little money for vacations for your own small family. It might also be hard to get family to visit you particularly if they come to expect you to visit them every single time. You might consider, within the next few years, trying a low-pressure Christmas at home, following up with a (much, much cheaper) trip in January. You should also invite your family to visit as frequently as possible. If they're amenable, and you have the cash, plane tickets to visit the grandkid are a great gift. This will help them see that you're establishing a life that makes you happy in Oregon and will let them be a part of that--which helps quite a bit, I think, toward acceptance.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:55 AM on January 15, 2013 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I left everyone I knew and moved to PDX twelve years ago, and broke up with the guy I moved here with less than a year later, leaving me 100% on my own. I can speak to making friends:

This city is full of really nice people. My first year was spent thinking OMG they are smiling and maintaining eye contact! But I was also sad that I saw tons of very tight groups of friends that didn't seem to have room for one more. People are very friendly but slow to open up their carefully curated social circles- especially in the age bracket you fall into.

Your best bet is to get out there in structured groups. This is a very volunteer-minded city. Find things you like to do, and chances are there is some kind or organization here for it.

Roll your sleeves up and dive in- and I don't mean one time commitments- try to involve yourself with monthly or even weekly projects that will allow people to get to know you. PDX has a ton of people moving here all the time to soak in the culture, and I've found that people will love you more if they also see that you're giving back to the community instead of just taking some extended vacation here.

I found that through a combination of volunteering and taking classes, I was able to accumulate a ton of friends-- the closest of whom were also transplants like me and we've made our home here together as one big family. Activities abound in this city, but I never made a friend who stuck by attending That Cool Thing just one time.

Good luck! You're going to love it here.
posted by haplesschild at 9:59 AM on January 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: In my observation as a born-and-raised Portland Oregonian, a lot of people who make a rootless transition to Portland find it lonely and difficult to make friends. People in Portland are super polite but also super busy living their three lives as a DJ-Photographer-Barista or a BicycleBallerina-GraphicArtist-HomeBrewGuru. The church-going and family-friendly demographics may work in your favor here.

Born-and-raised Portlanders like myself will be super wary of your background because the Californication (and now Portlandia inspired gentrification) of Portland are very sensitive issues. If you want to gain the sympathy of longtime locals, you should be willing to learn about Portland's history of supporting sustainability, fighting freeway expansion and fighting suburbanization. Racism and its connection to gentrification is also very sensitive.

Whether or not you subscribe, people will be listening as to whether you treat alternative lifestyles seriously, like veganism, income equality, environmentalism and multi-modal transportation. If you dismiss these things out of hand, you will alienate people and never know it because they won't tell you out of politeness and because they have a DJ gig in a few minutes and are too busy to spend the time.

The alt-scenes all have their family-friendly off-shoots, too, so that could be a really cool way to get the bad taste out of your mouth from Florida.

Your vision of your new life sounds really vague and cloudy to me. I think firming that up before you leave and writing down your goals will help you not fall into a rut. Despite the hype, Portland is not forgiving of people without ambition because it's so darn easy to sleep to 11.

And if you haven't experienced 8 straight months of Portland grey skies and continuous misty rain, you may be a bit premature about liking the weather. Beats Florida humidity, though. Consider investing in a SAD lamp or forcing yourself to go outside and stare at the sky at lunchtime.
posted by Skwirl at 10:21 AM on January 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

Speaking as someone who's done a couple epic moves as a single person -- I find that while it really helps to have knowledge of a new place, it's been really helpful to me to not allow that to turn into expectations about what it's going to be like and how I'm going to feel about it. I try to approach new places with an attitude of exploration -- when I'm thinking about the move, I'm thinking about the excitement of getting to know someplace new, but not expecting that it'll be a particular way or that I'll have a particular reaction to it.

Does your family have the technical capability to do Skype or G+ video chats? It really is nice to be able to see people when you're chatting.

Seconding PhoBWanKenobi on reconsidering locking yourself into a return trip for every holiday. It's expensive and exhausting, and you probably won't actually get that much quality time with your family due to the chaos of the holidays. Personally, I would suggest anticipating going back no more frequently than every other year for the holidays.
posted by EvaDestruction at 12:02 PM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

We made a much shorter move about 2 years ago, from NY to NJ. Any house move is going to be rough on a two-year-old. Try to keep as many loved and familiar things around, that your son will recognize, as you can.

Either way, getting used to a new place being "home" is hard. Expect some trouble sleeping, and negative emotions that he can't really explain or deal with. Lots of hugs, and a lot of playdates and interaction with other toddlers can help mitigate the effect.

An important thing to do is get on a schedule/rhythm to establish familiarity. Various daily events at about the same time every day (which you may already do), and not too much running around doing one-off errands will help settle things.

Also, start looking into preschool or summer camp *now*. Things fill up quickly. If you're lucky, you'll find a cool new church (that fits your current outlook on things), and they'll have education programs for twos that you can take advantage of quickly. My neighborhood has several well-regarded nursery/pre-k programs, and it made a big difference that we found a good one.

Good luck! I hope the move works out well.
posted by Citrus at 12:54 PM on January 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: PhoBWanKenobi: Thanks for the advice to present a united front, that's a great point. Also, after talking things over with my wife we realize that you are totally right about committing to coming home 1-2 times a year. We're going to slow down on proclaiming that so much and try to discover the right rythm for us.

peagood: Thanks for the recommendations on how to cut back & away

haplesschild: The insight to jump into volunteering / participation is really useful

Skwirl: Your insight into the local culture and skeptism of transplants is probably the thing I'm going to act on the most. We're both a little weird / punk rock / left of center, but I'm going to throw some concerted effort into learning about local history, we're totally looking to embrace something local, particularly after living and growing up in a place devoid of it's own culture in lots of different ways.

Thanks everyone!
posted by stickwithjosh at 10:14 AM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thirding PhoBWanKenobi about the holiday visits.

I have friends who spent all the holidays zooming between multiple houses.

Then they had kids... and were horrified to realize their parents had expected things to continue on, just as they were. It took a lot of wrangling to fix that.

Set the expectations up front and crystal clear.

"We'll probably stay home for some and invite you guys, and visit some other times. You know how expensive it is traveling with kids."
posted by canine epigram at 6:22 AM on January 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Final update from the OP:
Thanks again everyone for the advice and insight. Our move is now about 16 months in the past, so I thought I'd provide a quick updated on how the process went for us and what we found helpful.

Limiting the things we brought with us went pretty well. We basically replaced everything the first couple weeks we were in town, shipping a bunch of stuff from IKEA and Amazon to avoid hassle in getting stuff to our new apartment. I'm starting to feel a little bit of annoyance at some of the furniture, so we might start getting some slightly nicer things over time.

Making friends has been tremendously easy. For us the combination of hooking into a cool local church, having a kid and going to a few tech events and meetups filled up our friend card pretty quickly. We have loads of interesting people in our lives, friends we can count on to help with various things and haven't really ever had a lack of things to do or people to do them with. Being centrally located in the city has been advantageous for this because we can generally convince people that live all over to come to us (great when planning around bedtime for a three year old).

Keeping connected with our family and friends back home has been OK. Between texting, Facebook and Instagram I think they are at least well informed. This is still something I should put more effort into, but when we do go back home I just make sure to hug everyone and let them know that we miss them.

Hillariously, one of the things I wasn't worried about at all was work, but the non-profit I worked for lost funding and let me go a few months after we moved. I've been working indepently since then as a developer for various clients, and that is going great now but there were a few months in the summer when Portlanders don't seem to be starting new projects that were pretty sketchy.

PhoBWanKenobi: You were totally right, church + kid + nerd stuff really connected us quickly with tons of cool and interesting friends. Also, even the first time we went home for Christmas my wife was totally bummed we weren't developing traditions in our new adopted home. This year we have a plan to visit for Thanksgiving to fix that, and we might try to meet family in a third place next year for one of the holidays that way we get to visit a new place and still spend time with them.

raisingsand: Your advice about volunteering was great, my wife has found a great organization she puts 10-20 hours into. She loves the people she is working with and is really committed to it.

haplesschild: Your advice about diving in was really pertinent. I don't we've had one moment were we were upset or sorry about our move and I bet a lot of that was because we were so engaged in various activities and events in PDX.

Skwirl: Your advice to put together some goals for our move was huge for me. My wife and I talked through some of the details about what we wanted to see change in our lives as a result of the move and how to focus on that stuff to really make it worth all the effort. Similarly, suggesting we do some research and learn about our new home was a big deal for me. One of the things I was just totally unaware of was how remarkably white Oregon is. This has been basically the only downside about our move, and still something I'm thinking about and putting extra effort into making sure our friend group is diverse and my kid doesn't grow up thinking everyone looks like he does.

Also, I thought it would be fun to see what our pros and cons might be:

For my wife a con was tourists. We live in a very centrally located part of the city near a certain famous book store, so there are people all over the place in the summer and it can be a little annoying. It can also be dangerous as people from out of town frequently seem to accidentally turn the wrong way down one-way streets and other dangerous things.

A con for me was how similar most men in my age group are to me. Similar clothes, haircut, shoes, glasses, earings, bag, etc. The things in Florida that were part of my affiliation with a certain music scene and culture suddenly made me blend in to a degree I'm still not very comfortable with even while acknowledging that this was a small part of why we moved here.

Pros for my wife include seeing mountains all the time, a huge departure from Florida, as well as how great the local parks & rec system is.

Pros for me include all theaters, venues and event spaces within a mile of our home. I can skateboard or take transit to just about every show I want to see in town, and we have four or five movie theaters within walking distance of our apartment. Portland also has a great food scene and there are tons of cheap amazing food in settings that are great for families.

Anyway, Portland has really been great for us. If you are reading this and thinking of making a similar life change I would totally recommend it, particularly if you take advantage of the advice of my friends on this thread.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:01 PM on July 10, 2014

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