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Lives of Doctor Wives: Survivor Saturdays - Moving

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Survivor Saturdays - Moving

Kim asked:

I'm sure all you survivors could give a lot of good advice about moving- especially for those going through it all right now. ie: finding out where you're going, when to start looking for houses/neighborhoods, is it better to live as close to the hospital as possible, rent vs buy, moving expenses, when is the best time to move, aquainting yourself with a new area, etc. I'm sure there are many different perspectives- but all the better. :)

Kathi said:
M and I have moved more times than I have fingers. It’s never “fun” but there are benefits to having to go through all your junk periodically. It’s also great practice for your social skills. Here are my top ten tips:

1. Spend some time talking with your spouse about what to expect with the new position. How many hours will he likely work? Does that number include rounds and staff meetings? How often will he be on call? Will he have any early/off days? Will he be able to take your phone calls/texts while at work? By knowing all the facts, you won’t later be frustrated when he’s not available or unable to attend something you don’t want to miss.

2. Research your new community at places like http://www.city-data.com/ or http://www.indeed.com/forum/loc to learn what other locals think about schools, churches, and even contractors. Remember that many realtors frequent these sites, so get your realtor references outside of these sites.
3. If you’re planning to enroll children in school, meet with all school administrators beforehand and ask for a tour of the schools. Afterwards, go to the local parks, malls, and sports events and approach locals. They may give you a better idea about the schools and neighborhoods. If possible, rent before you buy so you’re not stuck in the wrong neighborhood.
4. Ask for phone numbers of other doctor’s wives in the area so you can invite them to coffee when you visit. This is a great way to gain more knowledge of the neighborhoods, service providers, and schools you may want to concentrate on. You’ll also know at least one wife the next time you appear at a social function.
5. If you have children, concentrate on finding a person who is willing to hold a party to invite several children your childrens’ ages. This way, they will know some children before school starts. This also is a great way to make your children’s transition easier in general.
6. When packing, don’t skip the step of labeling boxes with contents. Otherwise, you’ll be opening every box looking for the wine opener or flashlights.
7. Use an easy-to-spot marker to mark boxes that are most important to pack (your clothes, shower items, every day dishes). Pack one box with toilet paper, shower curtains, towels, and all the things you need to get settled in the first 12 hours.
8. Designate one room in the house/apartment to store unpacked boxes, or you may be able to put unpacked boxes in the closet of each room. Start unpacking the brightly marked boxes first and start feeling settled. With the rest of the boxes hidden, you’ll feel more in control as you organize.
9. Hold off on buying new things for the house until you are SURE you need it. You’ll avoid buying things you don’t use and you’ll have time to learn where the best bargains are.
10. Bake some cookies/bread and take them to your neighbors. Don’t wait for them to come to you. Most long-time neighbors don’t need new friends… but you do. They’ll remember your cookies long after you move in.

Every move is another chance to make friends!

Amanda said:
When it comes to moving for your spouse's training/career, I think it all depends on where you'll be moving and your financial situation when you get there. I married my husband before his second year of medical school, and we decided to rent apartments during that time because we had to move at least twice. His "classroom" years were in one city and his rotation years were in another. Financially, we were living off his loans and what I was making working full time in schools or medical offices, so we could only afford to rent at the time. Since we were still in our home state during those years, our parents helped us look at neighborhoods and apartment complexes, and we also relied on our knowledge of the area when we moved to Indianapolis, because we'd gone to college there. After we found out that my husband had matched to a residency program in Columbus, Ohio, we set up an appointment with a realtor there to start looking at neighborhoods and houses. We decided to finally own a home because we knew we would be there for at least four years, we wanted to start building some equity, and at the time, the banks were willing to give us a substantial loan because of my husband's career choice.

Because he trained as an OB/GYN, he had to be within so many miles of the hospital for the purposes of call shifts. We found a nice, small, affordable (for that area) home that needed a lot of work. My in-laws, who like to flip houses on the side, helped us turn it into a much more livable place, and though we didn't sell it for as much as we would have liked, we definitely had improved it. During all these moves, we moved ourselves with the help of our families. It was more cost effective that way. During his fourth year of residency, my husband signed a contract with an OB/GYN office back in Indiana, and we immediately found a realtor who helped us look at neighborhoods and houses. It was probably due to the housing crisis that we only looked at seven houses and found the house we wanted among those seven. Again, there were a lot of factors that determined where we were going to live, most importantly the proximity to the hospital and my husband's new office, because babies can come at any time, and he'd need to get there fast to deliver them.

We decided to go ahead and move into an older home, since we only had so much time between the end of his residency and the beginning of his new job to move and get settled. However, we found a home that's been kept up very well and that doesn't need any kind of work, except possibly some updating here and there. Also, because his office was willing to pay for it, we hired a moving company this time, and I'm so glad we did! They were wonderful, and they saved us a lot of time and pain getting our valuables safely from one state to another. We plan on staying in our current home for a little while and then, we hope to build a new house some time in the near future.

In almost eight years of marriage, we've lived in four different cities. It can be rough at first, especially when you move somewhere far away from your family and friends and you don't know anyone in town. I highly suggest looking up your new city's government website. It usually lists events around town as well as any pertinent information regarding garbage pickup, water and other utilities, and the parks/recreation department in the area. I also suggest you try to join a moms' or play group in your new city. I've found that being a part of a group of other stay-at-home-moms has helped me become more independent and find my way around my new home towns very quickly. Most of the time, these groups will have scheduled events that are free or cheap, and they're a way to make friends for you and your kids. If you don't know where to start, try http://www.mamasource.com/ or http://www.meetup.com/, and enter in your zip code or location information. They are both great websites geared toward helping people connect with others in their area. Good luck, and I hope my rambling helps a bit!

Jennifer said:

We’ve “only” lived in three cities in thirteen years of marriage – thankfully Michael did his internship in the same city as med school and fellowship in the same city as residency – but moving still took its toll every time. I remember thinking before each move, “It just can’t possibly be as great as the place we’re leaving,” yet in the end, our new home ended up being even better than the last.

We owned a condo during med school/residency and our first house during residency/fellowship. If your finances allow for it, this is a nice option, and you may end up making a little money when you sell. Having said that, both times we were in a location with huge annual turnover of med students/residents, and we sold our house and our condo within days of listing it. If you’re not planning to live in such an area, renting might be a better option for you. You certainly don’t want to be stuck with a house you can’t sell when you’re ready to move to the next place.

If you are moving to a place that has a high turnover of medical students/residents/grad students, you should start looking during March/April before he starts his program during the summer. In my experience, there was a window of time during those months when everything would sell very quickly.

Living close to the hospital is always a perk, not only for middle-of-the-night trips to the hospital, but for the sake of family time at home. If his commute is long, his time at home will be even more limited than it already is. The expense and availability will vary from city to city – in Iowa City, there were several homes within walking distance to the hospital, but as you would expect, they were much more expensive than the homes on the outskirts. Take into account, too, whether or not he will be spending time at satellite offices, how much time he will spend there, and whether it is worth living closer to those offices.

When we moved from Houston to Iowa City, we packed most everything ourselves, but we had the movers do a “partial pack” of our valuable, breakable things (china, crystal, etc.) The only way they will insure a box is if they packed it themselves – so I would highly recommend that. When we moved to start his practice, part of his new contract included a moving allowance, so the movers packed and moved EVERYTHING – something else I would highly recommend. Make that part of your contract negotiations if you can.

For me, the very best part of moving is the cleaning out. During Michael's fellowship year, I walked around our house thinking, "Do I want to open a box and unpack that? Do I want to have to find a place to put it?" If the answer was no, away it went. I got rid of A LOT of stuff that year. Amazingly, we STILL unpacked boxes of junk! We joke that we need to tell ourselves we're moving every year or so solely for the cause of cleaning out.

Before you move, check out the AMA Alliance. This is a national group of medical spouses, and they do some great things for medical legislation and philanthropic causes. Their blog for the training years has listings for medical spouses’ groups at different programs. Even if your program does not have an organized spouses' group, someone from Alliance can put you in touch with an Alliance member in that city who can help you adjust to your new home and community and give you great advice about getting plugged in.

Hopefully your new community will have a medical spouses’ group. I was a member of Medical Partners in Iowa City during residency and fellowship, which provided an immediate group of new friends. We had playgroups, book clubs, cooking clubs, scrapbooking clubs, and Mom’s Night Outs. It was a lifeline for me!

(I know that Medical Partners has a page on their website with listings for houses/condos for sale by the outgoing Partners – that’s how we sold our house in Iowa City. Check with the spouses’ program or the Alliance in the area where you are going to see if there is something similar.)

If you strike out with a spouses’ group (or even if you don’t), there are lots of other great ways to get plugged in. I am a huge fan of MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), which is an international organization – no matter where you move, you will very likely be able to find a chapter near you. Churches or other places of worship are great places to connect yourself within your community. If your kids are school-aged, by all means volunteer in your kids’ school and get to know the other parents. Or find a cause or organization you are passionate about and get involved. Whatever it is, you have to muster up the courage to put yourself out there and take the initiative to get to know those around you. I am naturally an introvert, but I have found that stepping up and getting involved in the leadership of different organizations is a great way to gain new friends quickly while using the gifts and abilities that fulfill me and give me a sense of purpose.

You may be tempted to think, “I’m only going to live here for X-number of years, and saying good-bye is always painful, so I’m just going to keep to myself and sweat it out alone.” Don’t do that. Life is meant to be lived in community, no matter the length of years, and some of your best friends just might come from the places you never expected.

Other resources:

International Medical Spouse Network - articles on relocation

Joy's Medical Mondays article on moving

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Blogger Kim said...

Thank you ladies- all great advice, as usual!

June 15, 2009 at 10:54 AM  
Blogger Married to a med student - Marissa Nicole said...

Good stuff - thanks :)

June 15, 2009 at 1:18 PM  

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