My husband and I decided to transplant ourselves into New England in our early 20s. I attend grad school in Boston; he came out right after his master's degree and we got an apartment in Salem. We could've stayed in New York; after all, that's where both of our families live, we know the political and educational systems there, and we had been their all our lives.
But on the other hand, the down side was, that's where both of our families live, we know the political and educational systems there, and we had been there all our lives. It was time for a change, one that involved living nearer to the ocean and farther from his mother, and New England fit the bill.
We've been happy here, at least as happy as a family can be which has had at least one full-time doctoral student for the past 7 years. The landscape is pretty, the schools aren't too bad, and the seafood isn't all bland and rubbery. I do wish we could live closer to my mother and sisters, but that would require a move nearer my mother-in-law, so we're placating ourselves with visits and encouraging them to move eastward, as well.
The huge, big, major, unignorable, inevitable downside to moving far from family is that you don't have any family in the area. Telephone calls about how confused and exhausted you feel after your tenth straight month of sleep deprivation just aren't the same as a chat around the kitchen table, and you have to keep up-to-date scrapbooks early on to remind the children that they have a whole flock of people that love them. And it's darn near impossible to find a consistent and reliable source of babysitting.
It's not just the babysitting, though. The process of finding any number of services becomes difficult and nerve-wracking. You can ask around at work and among friends, but being new to the area, you don't know whose word to trust when it comes to plumbers, mechanics, cell phone reception, contractors, grocery stores... you get the idea.
But the daycare thing, that's a big one, and about as nerve-wracking as any opening of the phone book can be. This isn't the kind of decision that might result in you getting overcharged for a brake job or left with caulk peeling off your newly redone bathroom (ask me how I know), it's the kind of decision that can end up with your child being exposed to physical dangers, unethical care providers, or the Teletubbies. It's a scary proposition.
I got my current job in June of 2006, which gave us a little time before my husband returned to school and we needed somewhere other than a closet to house my son, who would be two when enrolled. I asked anyone who would stop and listen to me, I read newspapers, I compares prices and wait-lists and teacher turnover rates, and I still didn't have a good sense of what I wanted. I knew I wanted something accredited by the state, only because I didn't have any reliable word-of-mouth recommendations and I wanted some sense of oversight and accountability.
And lo, I found a website that cleared the way. The Bureau of Child Care Licensing in New Hampshire has a website which allows you to search by town to see a list of all accredited child care providers, and read through their recent accreditation visits and reviews. It wasn't an entirely good experience for me, just as visiting WebMD can leave you in a panicked and overwhelmed state when you're searching for information on a headache and you end up thinking you might have cancer. There were places that had slick websites or friend-of-a-friend recommendations which were listed as having major safety violations, and I was left with these images of my son being trapped under heavy, unrestrained furniture while drinking bleach and suffering alone because of the low staff-to-child ratio.
But at the end of the day, I narrowed it down, found a place I'm happy with, and have kept my son there for a year and a half (well, we do take him home on weekends, ha ha). I was reminded of this all this morning, as I dropped him off after a three-day weekend. He always has three-day weekends, because I have Mondays off, so he settled in comfortably. Not so some of his friends; to listen to their wailing and schedule-disrupted angst you'd think they were conducting product-testing experiments on their little bodies. But, no, it's just a first-day-back adjustment thing, and I'm happy with the choice we made. I wouldn't consider that website a total lifesaver... but it helped give me one less reason to lose sleep at night.