AWNY Mums and Dads update, June 2017

Written by Helen McWilliam

May was a quieter month for the AWNY Mums and Dads group after a very busy April.  The warmer weather has been very welcome and my children are loving the more regular sight of sprinklers in the playgrounds.

This month, Amanda and I wanted to include a shout out to the Dads of this group.  The events we’ve organised so far have been focused on the Mums.  We’d love some input from the Dads to see if you’d like our help to organize a Dad’s meet-up, arrange a Saturday playgroup or something else entirely.  Please contact us through our Facebook page or email AWNY. We’d love to hear from you.

With the school holidays rapidly approaching, I wanted to share a day trip idea.  As I have recently overcome my fear of travelling on the subway alone with two children, I am finally leaving the Upper West Side.  Well, if I’m honest there’s still fear, I can just do it without hyperventilating and shouting! The New York Hall of Science in Queens is worth the long subway ride.  I have a 4.5 year old and nearly 2 year old and they were both transfixed for hours.  It would also be suitable for much older children as my two missed a lot of the meaning behind many of the exhibits. All the exhibits were engaging and hands on, however the ‘Connected Worlds’ installation was a must see. There’s also plenty of staff on hand to help the children get the most out of the museum. It can get a bit hectic with school groups but there’s a preschool area where groups aren’t allowed and we were advised that the groups tend to leave at 12-1pm. A few helpful pointers:

1. There’s no lift for strollers at 111th street Subway Station in Queens however, however I found I only had to look towards the stairs and people were offering me help.

2. The café was pretty basic so I would advise bringing your own food.

3. In what I would consider a big win, the shop was easily avoided!

Some up coming AWNY events to highlight: the ‘Working In the USA’ information session presented by Belinda Jackson is on the 14th of June.  It provides expert advice for Aussie job seekers.  Plus, the annual AWNY picnic is one for the whole family on the 24th of June in Central Park.

Photo credit: Helen McWilliams

Enjoy your June and the last few precious weeks of school before the endless school holidays!

 

Maarten van den Heuvel @mvdheuvel Maarten van den Heuvel

Is it okay not to love New York City with kids?

By Helen McWilliam

 

What makes a person move to New York City? Bright lights, big city? For us, it was love at first sight ten years ago when we visited New York City. My now husband and I visited for 5 days and loved every second. We barely slept because we didn’t want to waste a moment. We were determined to return to live in New York one day. This dream took a back seat as we continued our every day life. We visited again for a few days as part of a longer holiday in the US. Again loving every second.

The opportunity came when I was about 3 months pregnant with our second child. We had made a happy life for ourselves in Sydney; new to us but it felt like home. As settled as we were, we didn’t feel like we could turn down the opportunity to move to New York, a city that we both loved. We negotiated for my husband to transfer 6 weeks after the baby was born. I would move to Queensland to live with my Mum whilst he moved to New York to set us up. I couldn’t wait to get to New York. I hated splitting up our family and my then 2.5 year old missed his father desperately.

I am pretty flexible and I find it easy to make conversations with strangers so I was looking forward to the challenge of forming a new network…but with a 12 week old baby? I didn’t think about how challenging that would be.

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Counseling & Photography go hand in hand for Susie Lang in this week’s AWNY Startup Story

Susie Lang has combined her two lifelong passions, photography and counseling into two wonderful startup’s in New York. Susie has a private counseling practice, working with individuals and groups. She is also a professional Photographer and has lived in New York since 2004 with her husband.

Susie is a valued AWNY Committee member and is also hosting two group sessions in October – The Emotional Transition of Moving to New York.

Tell us about these businesses and what inspired you to begin.

SUSIE LANG COUNSELING: www.susielangcounseling.com

I have been in the Caring Profession since 1975.  In Australia I was a Registered Sick Children’s and General Registered Nurse in Adelaide, and the Manager of the YWCA Child Care Center in Darwin.  Throughout the 1990’s in the UK I worked in Women’s Centers offering women low cost, long term services – counseling, childcare, women’s health issues, legal support and computer training.  I also worked in a center for women who experienced domestic and relational violence – here the women were offered counseling, emergency and safe re-housing, emotional, legal and financial support.  I had a small private practice.  When I arrived in the USA in 2004, I was employed as a Psychological Consultant with a company in Arizona which dealt with Identity Theft.  In 2009 – 2011 I worked alongside the family caregivers at the NYC Chapter for the Alzheimer’s Association.  Throughout my personal life and my career I have been fortunate to have women in my life whom I have felt inspired by.  I have never forgotten their “way of being” – being available, supportive and present to me throughout my life.  I realized that at an early age I didn’t have enough wisdom, presence, life experience, personal growth development and healing to go into the counseling/psychotherapy field as a younger woman.

My husband and I arrived in NYC in 2004.  Being in NYC I found my previous work experiences in Australia and the UK didn’t cut it.  It felt easy to simply give up on the notion that I could “make it” in NYC.  As a requirement to become licensed as a counseling therapist, I needed to go to University to get a MA (Mental Health Counseling and Wellness), degree in order to practice.  Since 2012 I have been in Private Practice as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and a National Certified Counselor (NCC).

I am passionate about my therapeutic work, gaining much experience in my intimate and professional work with clients.  It is one of my life’s joys.

SUSIE LANG PHOTOGRAPHY:  www.susielangphoto.com

In growing up on a farm in rural South Australia I shared a camera with my 4 brothers.  Luckily for me they weren’t interested in using the camera that our father bought for us, so I began to experiment with film photography. My inspiration came from John Sprod, a well-known and much-admired South Australian portrait photographer who traveled throughout the State, to photograph families in remote areas. He “knew” how to work with us, as small children.

I traveled to the UK in the early 1980’s, where I was accepted to the four London Colleges of Photography. I chose to attend Watford College where I received a BA in Design, majoring in Photography. I was awarded the prize for Portrait Excellence from Kodak in 1986. I have continued to photograph with a passion, receiving positive feedback from many who have seen my work.

In 2005, I switched from film to digital photography. I have always referred to my photographic work as my “creative outlet”. It is in contrast to the intense and intimate work I do in my counseling field.

In 2013, I created my photographic website – this has been a massive personal step, stating that I was ready to show the world that I love what I do.  Photography offers and gives me great joy.  I simply come alive!

I am passionate about connecting with people in both professions.

As I like to say, it is my “art of connection”.

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Do you find that the synergy of these businesses overlap?  

Yes!  In the Summer of 2014, I was talking to a woman, also a photographer, who said to me, “What sets you apart as a photographer?”  I had never been asked this before.  In considering my psychotherapy training, my passion in photographing and my ability to connect with people, and after many hours of processing, thought and conversation with close allies I began to realize that I have an “art of connection” in my two fields of work.

In counseling, I am very present with each client, listening intently to them, empathizing with their experiences and offering unconditional positive regard.

In photography, I am able to “see” and be with a person, as if there is NO camera between us.  The synergy is electric to me, and in this, I trust that there is mutual connection with those whom I am working with.  Counseling clients continue to return with greater self-awareness and a willingness to delve deeper into their own self-understanding and self-awareness.  Photographic clients delight in images of self – I often hear their “WOW” factor being expressed!

What has been your “Aha / I’ve made it in the USA” moment?

I continue to strive towards this “aha” moment and I never take this for granted.  It is a very competitive world out there, and I am up against lots of others in the same fields.  “Aha” moments come with my connections I make with my clients.  They are often brief moments in time, and I have learnt to really feel and acknowledge them each time this joyous experience happens.

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Maternity Leave in the US Makes Me Want to Move Down Under

Written by Laura Forer

Peanut butter, Disneyland, better Netflix… yes, there are truly some great benefits to living in the US. But if you’ve ever had a baby here, or know someone who has had a baby here, then you know that one huge disadvantage is the lack of paid parental leave.

Nearly every country in the world—and all developed countries—offer some type of paid leave to new parents (always mothers, sometimes fathers). Except the US.

So I wrote this letter, which lists 13 statistics about how the US is behind and why it’s important to change, and I’m asking for your help:

  1. If you are registered to vote in the US, please send the letter at parentalleaveletter.com to your representatives. It takes just a few seconds.
  2. SHARE, SHARE, SHARE. So far this letter has been sent from hundreds of people in 35 states. Let’s make it thousands of people from all of the states.

Of all the issues, why am I championing this one? Because it affects literally every person. Because babies need their parents, parents need their babies, and when paid leave is done properly it actually saves employers money and creates a healthier nation.

Right now paid leave in the US is not done properly. It’s true that some lucky people get paid time off because they work for a generous employer. Google, Facebook, Adobe, and the aforementioned Netflix are just a few of the large tech companies footing the bill. But most workers do not enjoy this benefit. It’s very common for expectant moms to save up all their sick and vacation days to allow them an extra couple weeks to be with their child once their six weeks of disability pay expires.

This means that many new parents in the US have to choose between staying with newborn babies or going back to work. And too often, this decision isn’t made in a matter of months—situations become desperate in a matter or weeks, or even days. 30% of women in the US do not even take maternity leave.

But one thing moms do well is help each other. And we can change this. To learn more about how paid parental leave helps babies, parents, and yes, even employers, check out this letter and then spread the word.

 

About the Author

Laura Forer is an American who lived in Australia during university and fell in love with antipodean culture. When she moved back to New York, she founded Waltzing Matilda’s Bakery to share her passion for Aussie sweets and treats. Now closed, she currently works in content marketing and, after the birth of her first child, has become an advocate for changing maternity leave laws in the US. Connect with Laura at llaurra@hotmail.com.

Faces of AWNY: Katherine Bruce, AWNY Mums & Bubs Coordinator

I moved to New York with my husband Matt and our daughter Emily, who was eight months old at the time, nearly two years ago. It’s been a busy two years, with lots of highs – including the birth of our second daughter, Sophie, last Memorial Day – and some lows – hello, two of the worst NY winters on record!?!! As much as I’m looking forward to being back in Sydney with family, friends and an easier lifestyle for kids, I know there is so much I will miss about New York. In particular, the friends I’ve made through the Australian Women in New York group and the wonderful, supportive mums in our Mums & Bubs group.

So as I farewell this brilliant city, here are my top tips for making the most of NYC as a stay at home Mum with young babies.

Online Shopping

This is something I’m really going to miss as I order pretty much everything online! Groceries: FreshDirect for next day delivery, Instacart for delivery within 1-2hrs; Diapers.com for anything baby related, it usually arrives the next day; Bed Bath & Beyond will deliver anything in store within hours for a small fee; Gap, H&M, Zara for kids clothes, and all the high street department stores. So much easier than battling the busy streets of NYC with a double stroller!

Get out of New York

One of the most memorable trips we’ve done during our time in NY was a holiday in France to celebrate my 40th. We listed our apartment on Home Exchange and were inundated with offers from all over the world to swap homes. We ended up swapping with a family in Paris, who had a beautiful apartment in the 9th arrondissement. So easy with kids, huge saving on accommodation and they gave us lots of local knowledge on where to eat, parks for the kids etc.

Paris apt

View from our apartment in Paris.

We also joined Zipcar and took weekend and day trips out of NYC. There are so many beautiful towns within 1-2hrs drive of the city and Zipcar makes it easy and affordable.

Meet other Australian Mums

Every mother needs her support network and more than ever when living on the other side of the world. I met so many wonderful women through the Australian Women in New York Mums & Bubs group, including some very close friends who I will miss dearly. We have a fantastic Facebook community of Australian/Kiwi Mums in NYC who are always very generous with their advice and support for women in NYC or making the move over here.

Take Time to Chill

Finding a Sunday night restorative yoga class at Upper West Side Yoga has been my sanctuary from the noise of NYC and the intensity of looking after two small children 24/7. I look forward to this class all week!

Leave the Neighborhood

As much as I love the buzz of downtown NYC, there are fewer strollers and elevators, and more people so I usually keep to the Upper West Side during peak hours. I tend to save venturing downtown with the kids for early weekend mornings when most people without kids are still asleep or at the gym. One of our favorite things to do on a weekend morning when the weather warms up, is an early breakfast at The Standard Hotel in the Meatpacking District, followed by a walk along the Highline before it gets busy. The restaurant has lots of outdoor seating and it’s always easy to get a table at 8.30/9am.

Culture

I’ve been to Women of Letters at Joe’s Pub every month since it started and this is also something I really look forward to. They bring together an eclectic group of writers, actors, musicians, and comedians, and ask them to write a letter on a theme and read it to the audience. Most of the letters are deeply personal and hilarious/heartbreaking. A highlight was seeing 80s icon Molly Ringwald!

Central Park

One of the best things about this city is Central Park. Living on the Upper West Side, it’s a short 10-15min walk from home and we spend most weekends there, outside of January-March. There are 21 playgrounds inside Central Park and I think we’ve been to pretty much all of them! So much fun for kids in the summer when they have the sprinklers on.

Date Night

So many incredible restaurants in New York… some of my favorites include Han Dynasty, Balthazar, Commerce, Gramercy Tavern, Morandi, and Meme.