Faraway File #5 – Erin: New York, USA
This series aims to give a snapshot in to the lives of parents living faraway from home – the good, the bad and the ugly! If you'd like to be featured, I'd love to hear from you – please get in touch!
It’s fitting that our last Faraway File of the year takes us to New York – the Christmas capital of the world and current home of fellow Brit, Erin Hartwig. Erin has been tasting the delights of the Big Apple with her husband and four year-old son for the last year, and if you follow her on Instagram, her gorgeous pictures will soon have you wishing you were too! Erin also charts her family’s adventures on her blog If She Can Make It There (surely the best name for a destination-inspired blog you’ve come across?!) – if you happen to be heading to NYC with kids in tow, you should definitely check it out for great child-friendly recommendations and stunning seasonal snaps.
Give us the basics: where are you from, where do you live now, and what took you there?
I’m originally from the North East of England, but after meeting my hubby at university I moved to Cambridgeshire. We lived there together for several years until he got a job offer that brought the family to New York.
How does where you live now compare to your home turf?
Space is at a premium in New York, so we are paying more money for less space! We moved from a big three-bedroom house with garden and garage to a two-bedroom apartment on the top floor of a brownstone building.
And what does that mean for your family?
I thought less space would be an issue, but it really isn’t as we spend so much time out and about. We used to live in rural Cambridgeshire and it felt like we were far away from different or interesting family activities, so we ended up being very repetitive in our activities and spent lots of time close to home. Over here, there is so much to do and it is all easily accessible by public transit or the subway. This has made us very active and we never struggle to find something to do. Actually there is so much going on at weekends it sometimes can be hard to choose!
I think there is a misconception that we spend all our time in Manhattan surrounded by skyscrapers, but it doesn’t feel that way at all. Short train rides can take you to vast green spaces, such as the Botanical Gardens in the Bronx and in the summer we spent lots of time at the beautiful beaches.
We are definitely much more active now and I think it has been good for our family to spend this time together doing new things!
How was your birth experience, and did it differ from what you would have experienced at home?
Our son was three when we made the move, so he was born in the UK in a wonderful NHS birthing unit. How the birth experience, or at least the healthcare, could be different over in the US terrifies me when/ if we ever decide to have baby number two (Check out Anna’s blog on birthing a baby this side of the pond, Erin – hopefully it might allay some of your concerns!!).
If a family was visiting the city where you currently live for a day, what must they see and do?
New York in a day would be quite a challenge! I’d say head to the top of the Rockefeller Centre. You can spend quite a bit of time up there, taking in the view and enjoying the city away from the hustle. If you are visiting at this time of year, you can also do a little bit of ice-skating and get something to eat downstairs afterwards.
Website / app: When I first moved here I survived on frantic Google searches to try and find things to do, but much of the info I was finding was very dated. I then turned to Instagram and it’s been amazing. I’ve connected with lots of other New York mums, the community is very supportive and I have found lots of family/kid-friendly activities.
Favourite family activity: One of the first things we invested in when we got here was a family zoo membership package. This gives us unlimited year-round access to all the zoos in the New York area and to the aquarium. We must have visited hundreds of times and we learn something new each time.
Children's book: We love anything by Julia Donaldson in our house. Other books come and go, but my little guy always goes back to her books.
Parenting hack: New York is hard work on those little legs, so even though our son is four we still take the buggy with us on big days out – it saves one of us having to carry him when he gives up and we can also use it to carry our bags. We had a Bugaboo Cameleon back in the UK, but we left that at home and use the Maclaren – you need something you can fold and ram through the turnstiles at subway stations, and that is light enough to carry up/down subway steps. Not many stations are accessible yet in New York.
One thing you can get faraway that you can't at home: Luckily America and England aren’t too different. If you can’t find the exact item you want, you can find something similar (or better). But you CANNOT get decent chocolate out here and I do miss a bar of Dairy Milk. Also, winter tights – nothing compares to M&S tights in my opinion, so I had my mum send me a batch to see me through the winter.
What do you love about being a faraway mum?
I really love the sense of community out here. People are a lot more open and willing to speak to you, share tips and meet up for play dates. I’ve met lots of other faraway mums here and the network is very supportive.
And what do you struggle with?
I think any faraway mum would say the same thing – you miss your family and friends from home. Skype calls and instant messenger chats help, but it’s not the same as popping round for a cuppa with a loved one.
Are you forever faraway, or is this just a temporary thing?
England will always be home, so yes it will just be a temporary move.
What advice would you give to parents new to living far from home?
My advice would actually be for new parents who are still at home but thinking about moving away: don’t give up on the dream! Just because you are parents doesn’t mean a move is out of the question. Yes, you have to be more sensible and the research and planning you’ll have to do is unreal. Yes, you have to consider the impact the move will have on your little ones, especially when they reach school age, but it’s not impossible. Even if we have to go home tomorrow, I’m so glad my son has had the opportunity to see and do what he has so far on our journey over here.