Sarah O’Grady and her husband lived in New York City for more than a decade before a job brought them to Raleigh. We’re not exactly the country, but it was a bit of a transition to move from the Big Apple to the more medium-ish Triangle. She chronicles her adventures here with two kids, one of which just arrived in March, on her blog Escaping New York. (She also blogs at Mom Gone Style, because she’s an overachiever like that.) We talked to Sarah about life in North Carolina and what tips she has for relocating and catching on to the culture.
Q: So, you escaped New York, as your blog title says, and landed in Raleigh. What brought you here?
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A: We'd been talking for a few years (as I think so many New Yorkers do) about the prospect of leaving New York. It all seemed so mysterious... what else could be out there? Where would we go? Was there a city that would fulfill us and engage us and inspire us? (Because of course, New Yorkers are conditioned to believe that there's nothing remotely interesting beyond the Big Apple.) And then a job opportunity presented itself for my husband. So, with one kiddo in tow and plans for a second, it seemed like the perfect time to pack up and "escape" New York.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself, and about your family.
A: There’s never a dull moment in our family. My husband and I are both creative souls who always end up having our hands in multiple things. My husband is a contract attorney by day with Credit Suisse in RTP, and moonlights as the editor of a sophisticated new sports collection (The Cauldron) on Medium.com. I've been freelancing for the last few years as a copywriter and strategist and recently accepted a new position which will have me managing social media and content for Lenovo in North America. And of course, I'll continue to moonlight as a blogger for as long as I have relevant and/or funny things to muse on.
We have a son, Jack Hendrix, who’s going to be four in August. He’s pretty much the coolest kid around. (And he also happens to be a superhero, but you didn’t hear that from me.) We just welcomed our daughter, Gemma Pearl, in March. She's a total mama’s girl, which I'm perfectly okay with. (I’m no fool — I know there will come a time in about nine years when she's embarrassed by the sight of me, so I'll take what I can get now.) I think our biggest challenges as a family are to enjoy the “now.” I feel like we’re always moving at a crazy-fast pace, and it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of how lucky we are!
Q: What was the biggest adjustment(s) you had to make to get used to life in Raleigh?
A: Without a doubt, the biggest adjustment to life in the Triangle is how NICE everyone is here. Listen; everything they say about New Yorkers being aggressive and self-centered and always in a hurry to get somewhere are pretty much spot-on. Yes, I was probably all of those things too, before moving to NC... especially in the car at rush hour! One of the first interactions I had here — which I'll never forget — was at a Fresh Market. The checkout girl was SO friendly and so sweet to my son, making him giggle and engaging with him. I was in shock. At first I assumed she had some ulterior motive. But sure enough, it's just how people are here, and after the initial shock melts away, it's such a refreshing thing.
Q: What do you miss most about New York?
A: Our friends and family. But honestly, so many of them have been intrigued that we actually left New York that we’ve had a steady stream of visitors since we moved. I joke that we run a B&B. I feel like I’m constantly changing sheets in the guest room! Joking aside, it’s definitely helped ease our transition, and we’ve even managed to recruit a few to move down, as well. My sister-in-law is here looking for a job and my in-laws are coming in August!
Q: What advice would you give someone contemplating a move like yours — either actually from NYC to Raleigh or just from a big city to a smaller one?
A: I think the biggest piece of advice I can give is be honest with yourself that it will take time before you feel truly settled somewhere new. If you prepare yourself for the realities of making a major life move, it will be easier to contend with. Truth: it can be isolating and lonely. It's hard to make new friends in your 30s (or later) when you’re married with kids. Be open to meeting new people, and don’t be disappointed if they don’t become “best friend” material. You don't have to replace the friends you left behind. In fact, it's a lot easier than I expected to keep long-distance friendships. At this phase of my life, it’s easier (and often more fulfilling) to have a meaningful 10-minute FaceTime with a girlfriend over a glass of wine then go give your kid a bath, watch “Game of Thrones” and crash in bed.
Q: So there’s the big city-to-less-big-city transition, but also this shift from North to South. How did that go for you? Any advice to folks making the same transition?
A: A few months after we moved here, the tragic event unfolded in Newtown, CT. Coming from NY — from the Northeast — guns weren't part of the culture, but here, they were. It was very hard, in the aftermath of that tragedy, to think about the cultural differences here in the South — about the prevalence of guns and “gun pride.” In the Northeast, it's not that people don't have guns, but it’s more of a private thing. People don’t talk about it or preach Second Amendment rights. That put me on edge for a while, as I tried to wrap my head around this unfamiliar mentality, and what it means raising kids here — sending kids on play dates in other people's homes. I've had to prepare myself mentally for how a parent addresses that, because it's truly out of my comfort zone. Aside from that, the transition hasn't been very hard. But we do live in Cary, after all, so in some ways it's like we never actually left New York!
Q: What’s your favorite thing to do with the whole family in the Triangle?
A: We absolutely love exploring on the weekends, and going for drives on nice days. We like uncovering amazing new eateries and finding fun spots to spend time together as a family. We love Sarah Duke Gardens... a picnic and tossing around the Frisbee or soccer ball. We've recently become addicted to the local food truck rodeos, as well. Run — don't walk — to Dump Pho King truck for your dumpling fix!
Q: What’s your favorite thing around here to do when you get a few hours to yourself?
A: I love to do yoga, but I have a hard time finding the time for it — I need to be better about making it a priority. I recently discovered Republic of Yoga in Cary and I really dig their studio and teachers. If I had a few hours to myself (hello, luxury!) I'd take a slow flow class at Republic of Yoga and follow it up with a reflexology massage at Revive Foot Massage in Brier Creek. I'm relaxed just thinking about it...
Q: What's the best parenting trick you’ve picked up?
A: If you want something from a four-year-old, tell him you don’t want it. It’s the law of preschooler physics: “I really don't want you to eat that broccoli, okay? Whatever you do, DON'T touch that broccoli.” It will be cleared off his plate in a heartbeat!
Q: What’s the best advice someone has given you about being a mom?
A: To not sweat the small stuff. As moms in 2014, I think we suffer from TMI (Too Much Internet). There are thousands of mom blogs telling us what to do, what not to do, what to feed our kids, what not to feed our kids, what SPF we should be using or not using. It’s exhausting and can give a mom such a complex. Just chill out. Do what feels natural. Be the best mom you can be, but stop trying to live your life through a Pinterest board or through some judgmental mommy blogger who claims to have all the answers.
Q: What's your least favorite part and most favorite part of mommyhood?
A: My least favorite part of being a mom is having to make hard decisions on someone else’s behalf. Raising little people can be taxing, both mentally AND physically! Keeping them safe and telling them “no” is hard. My favorite part? The snuggles. The unconditional love. Seeing the world through their eyes. It’s amazing ... it fuels me. Seriously, becoming a parent is the most amazing thing we can do as humans, in my opinion!
Each month we talk to a mom in the Triangle about her life and her story. If you know a mom we should get to know, please drop us a line at email@example.com.