Our family will be leaving New York this month after calling the UWS home for just over six years. We arrived with little Fergus in tow (now seven and-a-half) and a second baby on the way in September 2008. It was just six days before the GFC began with Lehmann Brothers collapsing, and their offices were at the end of our street in midtown. Needless to say the question ‘What have we done?’ ran through our minds as quickly as Lehmann employees came filing out of their building, boxed belongings in hand but we pushed on with our plan of taking Manhattan by storm, and braved many a wintry Ikea ferry trip to furnish an apartment when the Aussie dollar was at a measly 66c!
Fast forward six years and we have come to the end of our time in New York so grateful to have had such an awesome time, and given our kids such an amazing set of experiences and memories in the US. Joining AWNY Mums & Bubs really saved me. I knew nobody when we moved here, and had never visited the States before so it was daunting with a toddler, no street smarts and horrendous morning sickness! I quickly discovered a city that I thought couldn’t be that different, was in many ways. I think it takes a special type of person to move to another country with a young family, and the network of friends I have made through AWNY had that great attitude of jumping at all the opportunities life throws at us, and looking after each other along the way. I wouldn’t have survived single parenting with a reflux newborn while my husband travelled for work frequently, were it not for my AWNY friends who became my NY family. Although taxing at times, I loved coordinating the Mums & Bubs group for three years – planning rooftop drinks, Turtle Pond playdates, Girls Nights Out and even a Ladies Pampering Day in SoHo. The gratitude from the group, especially newcomers finding their way like I did, made it very worthwhile. After handing over the reins, I continued my involvement with AWNY on their committee for another year in an event planning role which was also great fun and an opportunity to meet even more amazing women who will be lifelong friends.
What is your ‘only in New York’ moment?
I guess the clichèd response would be driving through a snowy Central Park at night on the way to the hospital to have my daughter Isla who was born in 2009. Almost all of my other ‘NY moments’ are just that because of the absolutely amazing friends I’ve made here that I’ve had such great times with – rooftop drinks at sunset, co-parenting dinners as we helped each other through husband absences with work trips, shopping dates with girlfriends on “Dada Day” when we get to escape and have a break together, or grabbing a coffee and just walking through Central Park together. They’re my NY memories I’ll treasure most.
What will you miss most about New York?
I think the immediacy of everything – from online shopping, to fantastic cafes and restaurants within my block to a short subway ride away, to just being able to ring a friend and be sitting at a wine bar 20 minutes later because we needed a ‘girls night’. Central Park and all the wonders that entails, the incredible food scene and restaurants, the change of seasons, shopping of course! Many of these things will be impossible to replicate in Sydney, but there are also a lot of things I’m gaining that I don’t get here…..did somebody say family, backyard and pool!
What won’t you miss about New York?
Apartment living, not enough green space and outdoor time for my kids at school, bad coffee, sales tax not being included on things, the interminable winters and the resultant ‘cabin fever’ of my kids, people feeling they can weigh in on your parenting style whenever and however they want, and the health system. I got very sick a few years back and $280K later in medical bills (nearly all covered by insurance thankfully), it made me realize how the underserved are just at such risk without a decent safety net in place.
Top 3-5 things to do with kids in NY?
Hanging out as a family in Central Park is just the best. It’s easy to stick within a five block radius of your apartment, but so much more fun to get out of your comfort zone and explore the rest of NY with your kids – go to Chinatown for dim sum and ice cream on Bayard St, wander around the Village stopping in at all the playgrounds down there, hit Eataly and Shake Shack and Madison Square Park with them. With a bit more planning, and if you pack enough supplies and activities, you can take your kids anywhere in this city instead of always just going to the playground at the end of the street. Get an ergo for your baby/toddler – the subway lifts can never be relied on!
Any sage advice for AWNY Mums?
Don’t wait to put down some roots here – we moved to New York thinking we’d be here for ‘a couple of years’ and retrospectively that probably held us back somewhat. If you’re going to upend your life and family and move to a city on the other side of the world, you may as well jump in at the deep end. Take every opportunity to have as many experiences as you can. We have lived for a long time with the attitude that ‘we could have to go next week’, as lots of our friends have over the years. We are leaving without that sense of panic about all the things we ‘never got around to doing/seeing/experiencing’. It’s great knowing we took the biggest bite out of the Big Apple that we could! Now it’s just about spending time with the amazing friends and families we have here, that we’ll miss so much.