Mother Muse: Dirt is Dirt in the Terrain of Parenthood

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boys running in the grassThe landscape of my life has changed. Of course my life has changed by becoming a mother, but quite literally, the view from my kitchen is much different now (a blossoming backyard with four monstrous tomato plants in the corner) from what it used to be (a cramped sidewalk and the neighboring building's brick exterior).

My family has relocated from a busy neighborhood on the northside of Chicago three hours away to a small city in Iowa. If this doesn't constitute a life change, I don't know what does.

Many of us have lived our young adult lives in a rather fluid state and I am no exception. In the last six years, I have switched jobs, changed marital status, and become a mother twice over. But when I think back over all of the rapid adjustment, it's the change in physical landscape that has ranked among the most dramatic.

City life suits me. I love pushing my double stroller to the park, the grocery store, or a friend's house and never having to buckle the kids into the car. I love being able to dine out at a new restaurant every night if I want to. I love walking, being in close proximity to neighbors, and spending enough time outside our small living spaces to get to know each other's kids and each other's dogs.

I love exposing my children, young as they are, to world-class museums, true diversity, public transportation, and latest trends. Chicago is a great place to lead such a life.

But, after what has seemed like years of deliberation between my husband and me -- weighing the value of culture versus family ties, opportunity versus stability, the familiar versus the adventurous--we traded in our city. We moved from the place that, in our young married life, we grew to love, for the place that we both loved as children.

A lot of this had to do with our two young sons. We want our children to grow up surrounded by cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles (most of whom are Iowans) and we want them to be assured a good education at a neighborhood school. We knew for years that we would eventually grow out of our tiny two-bedroom Chicago apartment and were starting to get anxious about feeling settled. So, we lined up some interviews, packed some boxes, rented a truck, and headed west.

I've heard that moving is one of the more stressful activities a human can put themselves through. One can argue that childbirth is stressful, but it also has a result that's more of a guarantee to soften the shock.

Loving a new city is not quite as automatic as loving your newborn baby. It's harder to immediately reach out your arms and embrace everything a new place has to offer. As I'm slowly adjusting to our new setting, I sometimes wonder whether or not we did the right thing. I miss our old friends and our old neighborhood. But then sometimes, like when I’m at our new city's bustling farmers' market or pulling up to a front-row (free) parking place at the local children's museum, I wonder why we didn’t move sooner.

And my children? I think we ultimately made the move for them and I'm okay with that choice. They, however, haven't really seemed to notice. I've watched them play in a small pile of dirt, two-feet in diameter, in the middle of our patch of grass outside our Chicago apartment for hours at a time. Digging, shoveling, driving toy tractors through the muck.

I've also seen them sprint through the sprinkler in the backyard of our new Iowa home. Jumping, screeching, running wild through the expanse of our new space. In both cases, they seem happy.

Jake and I parent them...we dote on them...and as far as I can tell, they feel our love. The landscape has not changed what matters most. Above all, we are their parents. And here we are, in Iowa, making the most of it.