Ask the totebag: Moving tips

by winemama

So we have closed on our house now and are still looking (locally) for where to live. We have 3 weeks to vacate our current house and will be staying with my in-laws (say a prayer for me!) until we get moved into a new house.

Any moving tips? We will be getting a storage unit for most of our stuff.

Any tips on keeping all five of us sane? (Myself, DH, 5 year old DS, MIL and FIL)

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140 thoughts on “Ask the totebag: Moving tips

  1. “When in doubt, throw it out.” I try to do this but it is difficult to convince DH at times

  2. “When in doubt, throw it out.”

    lol That’s Rhett’s corollary to “only keep it if it brings you joy” theme of that best selling declutter book by the Japanese author.

    I have tried to abide by both suggestions, and I too have a husband who resists this advice. Since I have hoarding tendencies, it’s a challenge.

  3. one of the things I had been bad about in the past was holding onto books I knew I would never need/read again, that has changed, I don’t want to move all that stuff again!

  4. I used to be the queen of paying someone to move stuff I should have thrown away. When you do corporate moves, it is so easy just to let them pack that drawer full of pencils with no erasers and the stapler that doesn’t quite staple all the way through, and those key chains DH picked up at some trade show. I’ve moved old worn out towels, socks without partners, baby toys when I didn’t have any babies anymore. I’ve reformed and Rhett is right. Don’t be like the old me.

  5. winemama – your timeline is so much shorter than ours! we had our agreement in March and our closings aren’t till the end of June.

    I agree with Rhett! :)

  6. A few tips from my last move, though with a week away from the move some may be too late.

    1. Pack a box/tub that you take with you need for your first night or let each person keep – sheets for each bed, pillow for each person, towel for each person, toilet paper, a roll of paper towels, some dish soap and soap/shampoo to bathe with. Also include a few tools – hammer, screw driver, box cutter, knife, and a first aid kit (unless you have these in the car already).

    2. If you can take a video or pictures of your most valuable things and NUMBER your own boxes with some description of what is in each…even if you just take a snap shot of the box with number and contents written on it. Makes it much easier if you have to file a claim that box 16 had xyz rather than they only delivered 40 of 41 boxes.

    3. Indicate in some way on the box what room it goes to. My most successful move, we used stickers – baby bottle for infants room, teddy bear for toddlers room, owls for the study, green dots for the kitchen. Then you can put one of each on a piece of paper with the key for you and one for the movers or some other adult that is helping you. Keep one of each sticker to put on a separate piece of paper and some painters tape to put that in that room on move in day.

    4. When you pack each room, create an “open first” box. That has the most important stuff for that room – coffee maker for the kitchen, shower curtain for the bathroom, tv for the family room – whatever you want to have the next full day.

    5. If you can, decide for each room where the movers will put the boxes – it is much easier if they are all on one wall or in a closet rather than however the movers leave them!

    6. Yes, purge, purge, purge. Not only do you not want to pack it, you don’t want to unpack it. I understand decision fatigue. If you hit that point, try to put those things all together for that room and make it the last box you unpack. By then, you often have your new place looking good and can let that stuff go.

    7. With kiddos, also think about their clothing/toys/books – it can be a good time to purge things they have outgrown or will likely have outgrown by the time you need them again.

    8. You may have too much, to take ALL your important papers with you, but do hand carry things like birth certificates, insurance policies, social security cards, health cards, etc. that if that box is lost you are SOL! This is a good time to purge personal papers you no longer need. Label that box something other than personal papers…don’t be an easy target for identity theft is some untrustworthy person took that box.

    On sanity – I lived with a relatives for a few months a couple of times. Talk about your schedules – wake up/bed times, leaving and returning home from work/child care, even things like bathing so no one is stranded without hot water. Talk about household chores and upkeep, think about where you add significant extra work and take that on or take over something they really hate to do instead. Going in thinking, oh we’ll work it out as we go has never gone well!

  7. Living with in-laws is tough. I shudder when we spend a week with mine.

    Are you, DH and DS living in the same room? If so, DH and you may want to take extra care to find alone time (even a walk around the block) to have conversations away from child and other adult ears. DH and I do this in our house now – with my mom around, we end up having budget talks, or personal talks in our room or outside after DS goes to sleep.

    I’d also encourage your in-laws to maintain their usual life. Offer to clean, do dishes, cook so that they don’t feel the burden of having you there. Though, they probably won’t stand it, the offer will keep you in good standing.

    We talk about moving… I am in the process of tackling our basement. My goal is to make the room moveable. I have a lot of things to get rid of…

  8. Wine – take a break with the Mortal Instruments. I finished the first 5 books. Very good. Interesting ending.

  9. Wine – take a break with the Mortal Instruments.

    think I will after I finish Untethered

  10. off topic – is the election page working? I see a link for it, but there is nothing there when I follow

  11. 1 800 Got-Junk. They are pretty cheap and came within hours of when we called.

    What are your ILs like? My parents like the chaos and commotion of my kids while my ILs like more quiet and order. I handle the kids in different ways depending on where we are.

    Hite a babysitter on moving day if you can.

  12. I agree with Rhett. Since you will be getting a storage unit no point in packing, storing and then unpacking useless stuff. I had forgotten about a lot of our things after living in temporary accommodation for a couple of months. When you get your new house, plan a party soon. This will help you get a deadline by which your new home needs to be guest ready and also a chance to meet your neighbors.

  13. Austin, those are great suggestions! They deserve a permanent home. Hope I can find them years from now when we are moving!

  14. Last time we moved was five years ago and I was eight months pregnant at the time. And we had a wedding to go to the night before so we were still packing when the movers came (so don’t do this). I’ve moved multiple times, long distances and locally, and have lived with in-laws for a few weeks in between houses and in a extended stay hotel the last time. Get rid of as much as you can and unpack your clothes at your in-laws because living out of a suitcase is hard. When you do find a house, I find it helpful to unpack the kitchen first and then clothes. Everything else can be done as you go along.

    We actually got a dumpster last month to get rid of some old construction debris and got rid of a lot of old furniture/kid furniture, etc. We’ve added two more kids and a lot of the stuff that goes along with them since the last time we moved so I dread moving again if we do end up moving back home. I’m great about getting rid of old clothes/toys but I suspect we still have way too much stuff.

  15. we already got rid of big baby items, crib, toddler bed, changing table, and glider

  16. we have a ton of stuff from when the winery was operating (road signs) in the barn, sigh

    a friend of DH took a truck load to their place to store for us since we will already have all of our furniture in storage

  17. MM – that is what it was like for me on the mobile site. When I switched to the full site, there was a 2016 election tab at the top, and then a sub-tab for this week.

  18. we plan to help the IL’s with cooking, cleaning, household tasks, and hopefully will get some babysitting in return (win/win)

    groceries: stuff we usually buy we will continue to buy
    shared stuff (milk/eggs) plan to either chip in or replace, don’t want to be a financial drain on them, DS is growing and is eating like crazy!

  19. Atlanta – wow, that is a lot! I sometimes get nightmares about having to pack everything the day of if DH doesn’t pack all his stuff in the workshop ahead of time. :-0

  20. seriously, you guys should see all of the boxes, and all that still needs to be done, and this is after purging quite a bit last move

  21. L – It was but the wedding was fun and we did get everything packed in the end. The movers just started moving the boxes we had packed as we furiously packed the last ten or so. I was happy to move before DS came as I think moving with an infant would be worse!

  22. off topic – we watch youtube nursery rhyme videos with DS, yesterday we pulled up one he has been watching a lot, and the commercial at the beginning was for some violent movie with people shooting guns at each other, WTF?

  23. You’ll be so sick of the move by the time you get it all to your in-laws, but take the time to inspect what was moved for damage. To make claims, they require photos of the damage, and when they offer a settlement, it is final. We continued to find stuff that had been damaged over the next month as I slowly got everything situated. Since I had already agreed to the “final” settlement, there was nothing I could do about it.

    Also- do a run-through of the house you’re leaving after the movers tell you they are done. Mine told me they had cleaned out the attic, but at 11pm I was too tired to drive back over there and check, so I took their word for it. We had to spend the next two weekends moving everything they left ourselves.

  24. Don’t have the movers take your photo albums, or anything else that is truly not replaceable (mine predated shutter fly and iPhoto, and got left in a stairwell at my old apartment building – I got them back months later because the super recognized me in some pictures).

    Have your DS out of the house when you move – whether it’s with a sitter or already at the in-laws. The last time we moved I had a six month old, and carrying the baby and the stuff was miserable.

  25. FWIW, Frugalwoods just posted about managing their move.

    The part I find hard about living with another family is negotiating the habits/routines. Like, when we share a holiday, there’s always this low-level anxiety about whose recipes you’ll make, what activities we should do when, etc. Not like big fights, no one is being unreasonable, but you have things you’re used to doing one way, they have things they’re used to doing another, and sometimes you’re not even aware of the differences until you are smack in the middle of unstated assumptions and everyone’s pissy or hurt.

    So my advice would be, first, to treat it like their house and like you’re visiting. Which is hard, because it requires a level of good behavior that is unnatural at home, and you will probably be wanting to *feel* like you have a home in the midst of all of this upheaval.

    And second, when you have a specific need, try to talk about that up front instead of assuming and then getting resentful. For ex., one of my recurring annoyances with my dad is that he just cannot get dinner on the table in any reasonable time (especially when it’s all the siblings — he and my brothers together are like ADHD to the nth degree). I’d ask directly, I’d hint, I’d try to take over planning/logistics/cooking — but it was almost impossible to get food on the table before 8 PM (a/k/a my kids’ bedtime, by which time they would be completely melting down). Not gonna lie, caused recurring simmering resentment and annoyance. But I finally had to acknowledge that my dad can eat when he wants and doesn’t need to rearrange his schedule around my kids — it’s his house, and he just doesn’t get the little-kid-schedule issues at a fundamental level (nor should he have to, as he finished that stage @ 40 yrs ago!). So I started feeding my kids when they needed it (and getting my own snack!), and then when dinner was actually ready letting the kids stay up a little later to sit with us for a few minutes. I mean, it’s his house, and his right to eat whenever he wants, so it was on me to change my own approach and find a way to get my kids what they need.

  26. On PODS – we had one in summer 2014 with the flood. I liked it a lot. It was delivered to our driveway, packed by the cleaning crew and us and locked there (with a lock they provided). We were able to open it periodically to grab things we needed, or get furniture to the repair shop. I”m not sure of the price because insurance paid. And I didn’t use their “We’ll store it for you” service.

  27. Grandparents enjoy grandchildren for limited amounts of time and in limited quantities, so unless they absolutely want to be with their grandkids, I would suggest carrying on with childcare arrangements as if you lived on your own.

  28. “so unless they absolutely want to be with their grandkids, I would suggest carrying on with childcare arrangements as if you lived on your own.”

    Oh definitely, I’m just hoping it will be more frequent since the commute won’t be a factor

  29. “talk about your schedules – wake up/bed times, leaving and returning home from work/child care, even things like bathing so no one is stranded without hot water.”

    yes, and we need to figure out when I can do laundry!

  30. I’ll rephrase what I’ve said before– For stuff with only sentimental value, i.e., no practical value, taking photos can make it easier to let go.

  31. wine – if you start Mortal Instruments there are 6 books – not 5. My SIL only had the 5 book boxed set… I randomly found the 6th book today…

    I always find that simple things – bathroom time, laundry are the hardest to work out. Maybe you and your MIL (presuming she knows the family schedule) can have tea and discuss? (that works with my MIL)

  32. What’s the game plan for getting out from Mom’s and Dad’s house? Is there a firm timeline? You could always rent something while you’re shopping.

  33. we’d like to be out after a month or two. school starts end of July, so ideally before then.

    haven’t found anything with some acreage, not in a subdivision, not a mobile home that is under $x amount in the area we are looking, but I know it can be done, just waiting for the “right” property to be listed. Don’t really want to be doing this again in two years so have to balance wanting to be done with it and not compromising on too much of what we are looking for.

    thinking about building, not sure how long that takes though…

  34. “our closings aren’t till the end of June”

    I wish we would have had that much time! they (our buyers) have to be out of their house soon

  35. part of why we are having trouble is because we want to be in our current school system, DS did 2 years of preschool there and is familiar with it already

  36. It’s a blessing and a curse – plenty of time to pack, but DH especially wants to be in the new place NOW!

  37. Good luck, winemama. I hope you’re able to find a property to move into within a month or so. That seems too optimistic to me, but you seem to have a good handle on your local real estate market. I have no moving advice since I’ve lived almost 25 years in the same house.

    I suspect your ILs are not like mine, who have a family “tradition” of multiple generations living together. I lived with them (no kids) for a few months when I first moved to NY. While I was eager to move out, they tried to persuade my then bf and me to stay longer so we could save more money. My ILs are super sweet, so it was tempting at some level. But even with the best of hosts, it’s a bit constraining to be houseguests.

  38. We actually got quite lucky the last time we moved. We had three weeks between houses and for one week we stayed in a hotel (which was not fun) but the last two weeks we were able to stay at our friends’ place because they were on a two week honeymoon, so they were happy we could house sit. This was the wedding that we had gone to the night prior to moving. We almost felt like we were on vacation because they lived in this townhouse complex that had a pool and there wasn’t the normal house keep up stuff to do.

  39. I guess my only packing advice would be to plan out the separate boxes/suitcases for whatever you might need for the full @ 3-4 mos., because finding stuff once it’s in storage is a PITA. We did @ 3-4 mos. in a Residence Inn, with all of our stuff stored with the moving company in-between, so we *had* to make sure that everything we needed fit in our two cars. But I think if I had rented a storage unit, it would have been tempting to throw up my hands when I got tired of packing and just told myself I’d get it out of storage later if I needed it.

    In terms of survival, I found eating out to be an excellent coping mechanism. :-)

  40. “In terms of survival, I found eating out to be an excellent coping mechanism. :-)”

    ahh yes, we shall see, sounds good but DS can go from angel to melt down in under 10 seconds

  41. If your timeline is pretty fluid, I’d also talk to the IL’s about length of stay. They may be OK with 60 days, but not 120 or 120 but not 180. I’d look around to see if there are other options in case your house hunting goes longer than expected. Wearing out your welcome and its after affects could last a long time.

  42. “Wearing out your welcome and its after affects could last a long time.”

    If your length of stay might be on the long side relative to what your ILs are comfortable with, you might consider it an opportunity to do some weekend getaways, short staycations, or even just do some things locally that take you out of the house for most of the day.

    I suppose you and your family could spend many hours house hunting.

  43. My advice is that you give it 60 days to get a signed contract, or you move out to a rental. But only you know how easy it is for everyone to not get on each other’s nerves, and how big their house is, and how particular certain personalities are about the dishwasher being loaded just right, or not leaving toys on the family room floor, or whatever. I only suggest a firm deadline because you ask about preserving everyone’s sanity, so it seems you’re already anticipating at least a little bit of restlessness, at best.

  44. Milo +1. I think a time limit will make everyone feel better. (and once you have a contract, you’ll have a more firm end date so that still gives you some leeway). But you know the players and your financial situation better than any of us internet friends of course!

  45. My advice is that you give it 60 days to get a signed contract, or you move out to a rental.

    I agree. That also keeps you from getting pressured into buying something that’s less than idea because you’re so anxious to be out of their house.

  46. it complicates things that we are bringing are cats, which is why extended hotel was out

  47. “so it seems you’re already anticipating at least a little bit of restlessness, at best.”

    well for one she thinks people who drink are a bunch of bimbos and alcoholics so there is that..

  48. “it complicates things that we are bringing our cats”

    Got it. Change my advice from 60 days to 30 days.

  49. “well for one she thinks people who drink are a bunch of bimbos and alcoholics so there is that..”

    Given your handle, that’s not a good sign.
    Does that mean you are not bringing any of your wine with you to share at dinner?

  50. I have to agree with 30 days if you are moving in with a kid and cats…that’s a lot to handle. I would recommend spending the next 30 days finding a longish term rental, and then you can look for your new property without the pressure.

  51. I fully agree about using the move as an opportunity to get rid of stuff. I have done that with two recent moves and no regrets. On that note, I finally convinced my packrat husband to go sort through a bunch of stuff to donate, organize, sell, or trash. How? I used his arachnophobia to my advantage and showed him an article about how the only way to truly get rid of spiders is to get rid of the stacks of cardboard boxes and old papers that they call home. Worked like a charm, and now he’s glad he did it!

  52. Since it’s after 5:00, I have an off topic question. How to use up dill? I love dill, and it’s going nuts in my planters right now, but for some reason I’m drawing a blank on good ways to use it.

    As are the cucumbers. Any good recipes for cucumber/dill salads? (I don’t really want to pickle the cukes.)

  53. “I have to agree with 30 days if you are moving in with a kid and cats…that’s a lot to handle.”

    +1. Good luck finding a great house!

  54. I blanked on the name – the Greek sauce with yogurt, cucumber and dill is tzatziki!

    If you haven’t heard of or tried Tzatziki, today is your lucky day because I am sharing an easy recipe for Tzatziki. Tzatziki is a traditional Greek sauce or dip that is made of yogurt, cucumber, lemon juice, garlic, and fresh dill. It is a great dip for vegetables, pita bread, or crackers. You can also serve it with grilled meats, fish, gyros, falafel, or souvlaki.

  55. I have done this 3 times, twice when I was single and the last with my spouse, two kids and cat before an out of state move and each successive time was harder to handle. My family and I only stayed two weeks but we were all happy when it was over. It was upsetting to their routines and hard for all of us to find space. The cat was regulated to the basement and he wasn’t happy either. My boys fought with their grandmother over the T.V and my husband and I had to explain a bunch of things to our kids since my parents wouldn’t adjust their viewing habits and many were not suitable to young children. So I agree that putting a time limit on it would be the best plan as you are the guests and will not have the upper hand in any situation that arises. Also, as others stated you don’t want to be rushed into purchasing just to get out of a bad situation.

    On another note, purge, purge and purge some more! We did both a dumpster before the movers came and then finished with 1-800 Got Junk to take care of any items that we decided on moving day not to take with us.

  56. Lark, Swedish dilled potatoes. Boil or steam new potatoes, toss with butter and lots of chopped dill.

  57. I use dill to make ranch dressing, tzatziki, on salmon or for a sauce for salmon and for refrigerator pickles. Potato salad with a dill dressing would be tasty.

  58. Yes, brilliant ideas. Thanks. Am planning on steaks & BLT salad on Friday, so dilled potatoes would be perfect. And company this weekend, so will make tzatziki, which I love but have never made.

    Tonight: grilled shrimp (bought fresh off the boat today – we don’t have Nordstrom but you can’t beat our shrimp), sliced baguette, Caesar salad. I love summer cooking.

  59. @winemama – Do you have the YouTube Kids ap? I finally downloaded after I stopped pretending that I wasn’t letting my kids watch YouTube all the time. I think it is a bit more protected environment, with better vetted commercials.

    I can’t remember how old DS is, but once they are old enough to pick what they want to watch, the Netflix kids interface is pretty good, but not the Amazon Prime video. We did just get Kindle fires, which have fairly high content walls around them

    [insert something here about how we only watch 15 minutes of screen time per week, and I just looked all that up on the web. it’s kind of shocking how I have become and expert at all the ways to tranquilize kids with screens]

  60. Lark, refrigerator pickles are really easy if you have a food processor and keep a while, plus they freeze well. I haven’t tried making them with dill but I am sure you could. You don’t have to can them.

  61. Off-topic hijack- I don’t really want to start a whole topic about this, but want to get outside input anonymously from you folks since I value your opinions. Anyway, I’m wondering if the degree to which I worry about my child is normal. Any medical symptom, no matter how minor, sends me to Google which of course gets me panicking that he has cancer or something similarly terrifying. I also have some rather odd fears- like this summer, our extended family rented a condo and I found out it’s only accessible via an outdoor staircase. Now I’m somewhat dreading the trip because I have terrifying visions of falling down the concrete stairs while holding him if they’re wet for instance. Just to give a recent example. These fears generally don’t interfere with my daily life much, but they are of course very unpleasant.

    Do all parents constantly worry about something awful happening to their child, or not? If it sounds abnormal, suggestions? Would therapy or some kind of self-help improve things? I really don’t want medication. Any personal experience with this would be greatly appreciated- anonymously is obviously ok. This isn’t something I’m comfortable talking about IRL.

  62. Anon – did you have any medical issues with your child? I can tell you that I had/have health anxiety about one of my kids who had some serious health issues as a baby. It wasn’t until I had my other kids that I realized how off the rails I was over my older ones. No, it is not normal to obsess over things, freak out about small things and worry all of the time. But it is typical. I did CBT and it helped (not all of the way, but it made things so I know when I am being nutso and can rein it in). I feel for you.

  63. RGA– IMO, “normal” comprises a fairly broad spectrum of behaviors, and yours may well fall into that spectrum, albeit not the center.

    I wouldn’t worry about it. Instead, act on your concerns, taking reasonable precautions to mitigate them. For example, WRT the outdoor staircase, make sure it has railings and use them, and step carefully if they’re wet, perhaps testing them for slipperiness before attempting to traverse them carrying your DS.

    My DS used to sometimes wear a helmet to ride in our car.

  64. RGA, Not all parents worry about something awful happening to their children, but I certainly did and still do sometimes. For me, learning to tolerate the vulnerability of being a parent has been a long term struggle. Here are a few actions you could consider that I have found helpful when the crazy gets the best of me: Never google symptoms. For parents like us, it does more harm than good. Ask yourself, what is the likelihood that x might really happen? I often found that my worry was disarmed when I subjected it to the light of analysis. Some of your fears may stem from a false belief that as a mom, you can protect your child from all bad things. We just can’t. Climb those stairs holding your child. If you are finding that your world is narrowing, that you can’t climb the stairs or worse, go on the vacation at all, then you might be straying into the area of phobia and behavior modification therapy could be helpful. In her book The Gifts of Imperfection, researcher Brene Brown talks about her own struggles with fear of vulnerability once she became a mom, so that book might be helpful for you. You certainly aren’t alone. Hang in there.

  65. On the hijacks – Uses for dill…We like it as a seasoning for pork chops, just sprinkled on and grill or pan fry or bake. I love it on cottage cheese! Mix dill with yogurt (plain greek) and feta to use as a salad dressing. Agree with other suggestions, just didn’t want to repeat them.

    Worrying about your child – Have you or your child (or anyone you know) had the types of issues you are concerned about? If so, you have some real life experience that is making you worry that it will happen “again”. Taking reasonable precautions to limit it re-occuring is normal. If you think your reaction/behavior is outside of a reasonable check or precaution, I would talk to a professional about it. I would do the same if you have no direct (you, your child, a friend) experiece with what you fear happening.

    Not about my child, but I had a sort of freak car accident and now every time I am in that situation, I get very anxious. My problem is that there is nothing I could have done to have avoided or further mitigated the situation that what I did. I think it is that lack of control that makes me anxious.

  66. falling down the concrete stairs while holding him

    From this I’m guessing your son is still a baby? Yes, it’s normal to worry about everything, especially with your first. You can know it’s irrational, but it’s there. Time and experience will make it go away — first time at daycare all you can think about is whether he’s ok without you there, 100th time at daycare you’re not even thinking about it anymore. First time walking home from school or a friend’s house alone, you’re fretting and if he’s a minute late you’re convinced he’s disappeared; a couple of years later, “Where’s XXX? Did he not come right home after school? Must have gone to a friend’s or something. Oh well, it’s getting dark, he’ll show up soon.” And so on and so forth.

  67. “Some of your fears may stem from a false belief that as a mom, you can protect your child from all bad things.”

    OTOH, the fears may stem from a belief that as a mom, you can protect your child from some bad things, but you don’t know which ones, so you spend a lot of bandwidth trying to figure out which are the ones from which you can protect him, and how to protect him.

  68. I took my first on a cruise before she walked and had horrible visions of her falling overboard. Lots of times. Also, imagining I would accidentally drop her over the side. Irrational, but they quickly passed.

    I think the telling line in your post is that you are “somewhat dreading the trip”. When irrational, random fears (that we all have from time to time, some more than others) start spilling into distant (in time and space) parts of your life, that sounds like a problem.

    I would recommend seeing a therapist. Most people who do “talk therapy” can’t prescribe meds. If you open up to someone and they get the full details, they might say, “This all sounds totally normal! Godspeed!” And then you have wasted an hour. However, she/he might be able to help you tease out where this is coming from and make a big change in your day to day life.

    I had some significant anxiety that popped up several months after a medical thing – more like recurrent flashbacks. I went and saw a cash-only therapist – recommended by the one friend I could ask for therapist advice. She said, “I like her. There’s not a lot of woo.” There was definitely not a lot of woo – no great conversations about deep rooted trauma from my past, etc. Just straightforward approach to dealing with the underlying issues. Another thing I liked about her was that she told me on the first day, “While I have clients I have been seeing for years, most of my clients see me for 5-20 sessions.” Anyway, I saw her about 10 times, it helped a lot.

  69. Also, imagining I would accidentally drop her over the side. Irrational, but they quickly passed.

    That’s the key. If it passes or you can talk yourself out of it then you’re fine – it’s just a normal intrusive thought. If you end up not going on the cruise or not enjoying the cruise? That’s when you need to see someone.

  70. I’m not sure I can add to what others have said. For me, parenting comes down to 1) Is this likely to be a long-term problem? 2) Can I do anything about it? 3) At what cost? (time and logistics count here, not just money) Usually, the answer is, “This too shall pass.”

    With the arrival of Baby WCE, I am re-experiencing the emotional work of parenting a baby/toddler. You are doing real emotional work in deciding what kind of parent you want to be, and maybe it will be helpful just to recognize that.

    In terms of counseling, I went for a few sessions about a decade ago when I couldn’t stop ruminating. It was helpful as a place/time to contain my ruminations. An experienced therapist may give you perspective. Depending on your relationship with your mother (if living), you might also discuss with her. My mom was depressed for years after my youngest brother was born, but after she got through it (to the extent she did), she was never willing to acknowledge it or recognize that caring for multiple young children can be wearing as well as joyous when I had my three close-in-age sons. Going to the grocery store with one toddler is massively easier than going with three.

  71. These fears generally don’t interfere with my daily life much, but they are of course very unpleasant.

    To me it sounds like a mild case of OCD. Ruminating about unpleasant or even tragic possibilities is a common way OCD manifests itself. I have a close friend who receives treatment for this, and I myself have suffered relatively mild symptoms over many years. If this causes debilitating anxiety definitely seek therapy, but you may be able to deal with a milder version on your own.

    One of the most effective cognitive therapy techniques is Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP). Essentially, ERP involves repeatedly confronting the thought/fear/action until you are able to see that the horrible imagined consequence is unlikely to occur. I’ve been doing this for years, before I was aware that this was a form of therapy.

    Recently my kid was late getting home. I could not stop myself from thinking the worst, so I gave in to my fears and even imagined taking a trip to the morgue, etc. But I know I’ve done this many times before and was able to contain myself so I did not freak out. This is how I deal with my anxiety. In other words, I still have the thoughts but they don’t take over my life.

  72. All good points for Anon. I’ll add that if you are in the company of other worriers, it is enough for other people’s worry to overwhelm you and manifest itself in worrying about your child. So, do examine the company you keep as well.

  73. I think as a parent it’s normal to have some irrational fears and some heightened anxiety. Well after mine were sleeping through the night I was still checking on them at 1 or 2 am to make sure they were breathing.

    Do you have any close girlfriends you can talk about this with? Just voicing some of these things to a sympathetic listener can be a relief. And, not to be an obnoxious runner, but I find my own general anxieties/worries are significantly decreased when I run regularly. Life seems so much easier to handle after a hard run. I would really encourage some sort of regular, intense exercise. (The runners in this group will be nodding their heads. The non-runners may be rolling their eyes.)

  74. @Anon — I don’t know if it’s “normal” or not. But it is pretty common. And I second the notion that if it is making you unhappy/stressed, go see someone.

    I had this, pretty intensely, after DD was born. I remember distinctly standing at the top of our (carpeted, gentle) stairs and having almost a vertigo effect (stairs far away-close-far away-close-far away/etc); I could see myself falling down them and killing her. It wasn’t just that I was suddenly responsible for her safety — it is that she was the most important thing in the whole wide world, and I needed to keep her safe above all other things in the world, it was the only thing that mattered; and yet suddenly, the world seemed full of terrible dangers that I had been completely oblivious to before; I couldn’t control all of them, and yet those things I couldn’t control had the power to destroy my world, so hypervigilance seemed to be the only solution. I saw the world with new eyes, and it was terrifying.

    In retrospect, I wish I had seen someone — this was after multiple M/Cs, and I couldn’t believe I finally had a kid and so was still waiting for the other shoe to drop and something to go wrong; and we were right in the middle of DH’s company closing and trying to sell our house and move to another state. So there was just a teeeensy bit of stress going on. And it did fade. But I spent her first several years consciously forcing myself to let her go and explore and climb higher than I was comfortable with, because I knew she was doing normal kid things and I needed to let her do that and not stunt her with my own anxiety.

  75. “well for one she thinks people who drink are a bunch of bimbos and alcoholics so there is that.”

    I’m sorry, Wine. I didn’t realize you were moving to Hell. Good luck.

  76. RGA- I worried constantly when DS was a baby.

    I think it is normal to have worries, or at least I am from a family of worriers.

    Now that he is older, I worry much less, but it is still there.

  77. “this was after multiple M/Cs”

    DS was before the MC we had so I can only imagine the worry would have been magnified

    I remember one night I was about 7 months pregnant, and I got myself all worked up about “what if something was wrong” and I went in lay down in the nursery for a while and cried (over nothing)

  78. Anon, I think it is totally normal and probably driven by hormones, especially if your kid is under one or you are nursing or pregnant again.

    I agree with everyone else that if the thoughts keep you from taking the vacation (or going to the playground, or driving) you should get to a counselor.

    Otherwise, try to step back and remind yourself that the risk is extremely remote and the intrusive thoughts are nature’s way of keeping mothers alert.

  79. Anon – I find myself with very similar thoughts some days. When DS was newly sprung from the hospital, I had visions of tumbling down the stairs, dropping him while getting him out of the car seat, breaking him. The thoughts of what could have happened send chills down my spine. We recently returned from visiting national parks. DS is walking very well, and I had visions of him bolting away before I could catch him and falling off a cliff, getting eaten by a bear, you name it. I had to remind myself that DS was surrounded by 3 adults who would grab him before he ran. DS did get a bloody nose, but that’s because he tripped over a toy and smashed his face into a TV stand. We watched him for a concussion, and checked for a broken nose. I cried harder than he did. He was turning proverbial handsprings in a half hour.

    I agree the thoughts are normal, and if they get to the point where you can’t live your life, definitely talk with someone. Therapy has always helped me over hurdles when I’ve needed it.

  80. Anon – I also have intrusive thoughts but in my case it is focused on my health rather than the kids’. I am hoping it will just go away (it is like a constant drumbeat of worry, but only on the weekends and/or at certain times in my cycle) but it is hard to stop that constant worry-engine once it gets going.

  81. My intrusive thoughts diminished a lot when I went on anti-depressants. Just throwing that out there.

  82. LfB put it all very eloquently in her 7am post. Such thoughts are not uncommon, but they must not be left untreated if they constrain your life by abnormal fear. From my perspective as a senior citizen, one of whose children actually died of a cancer for which 35 years later there is still no reliable treatment (so no human culpability – but tell that to 26 year old parents), and one of whose children went through many other trials and brought public embarrassment and holier than thou judgment against the family, I can say that the hardest thing for any parent is to realize that you do not have the power to protect and as they age to control them. That realization led my first husband at a young age, who comes from a family of at the time unrecognized depressives, to give up any pretense of agency for his own life, with very difficult consequences for the rest of his then dependent immediate family.

    As for me, the difficulties with my children did not cause lasting psychological problems for me. I am not a depressive or anxious or with OCD tendencies. I did have life altering reactions to two sudden traumas – my view of men was indelibly shaped by witnessing a physical altercation between my parents at the age of 3 (the meaning of the terrifying memory only came to my consciousness in early adulthood), and a completely avoidable auto accident in which I was a passenger and sandwiched between two cars on the highway in my 50s. My need to be in the literal and figurative driver’s seat in all aspects of life arises from those two incidents.

  83. We spent a lot of time at Great Falls National Park before kids. After they were born and mobile, I didn’t want to take them there, because I could easily imagine them eluding our grasp and plunging to their death. To the best of my knowledge, though drunken adults and over-confident kayakers and hikers have perished at Great Falls, no small child has plunged over the cliff, but reason didn’t matter. I also hesitated before we bought our house in Virginia, because the deck was 20 feet above the ground. I could vividly see them standing on the lower part of the deck railing and craning their little heads over the top to see where the paper airplanes landed and….I dealt with the Great Falls fear by holding their hands in a death grip when we stood on the overlook, and with the deck fear by banning paper airplanes and standing on the lower railing.

    RGA, I agree that if these intrusive thoughts interfere with your ability to enjoy life, you should consider getting some help. When my depression and anxiety didn’t resolve after my cancer treatment ended, I consulted a doctor, and though I resisted medication for months, it helped me recover completely. Try to keep an open mind.

  84. Re: intrusive thoughts. What I was told to do for repeated intrusive thoughts is to think about them. Over and over. If you get a sudden flash of dropping your child while walking down the stairs, go over it in detail in your head. The whole thing. A bunch of times. Eventually it won’t provoke an anxious response. A lot of anxiety is made worse by avoidant something. You want to dismiss it, not avoid it.

    I don’t know if this would help anyone else, but it has helped me.

  85. When they finished the new bridge in Louisville, they let the public walk over it one designated date. I’ll admit I had visions of DS climbing over the edge, but of course he did fine. So I still have the anxiety from time to time.

  86. Anon, I love all of the excellent advice you’ve gotten here so far.

    As far as counseling goes, I have found over the years that getting a slight “tune up” can be incredibly helpful. If you can establish a relationship with someone who’s willing to see you on an as-needed basis, you can pop in, discuss something like this on a one-off basis, and go on your way. Two years from now, or whenever, you might pop back in for another adjustment. No need to have weekly sessions, which might make the entire idea less daunting (not to mention far less expensive).

    In the lives of our kids, there are natural periods where we might need a little emotional support. Changes from toddlerhood to elementary school. Entry to middle school/tweenhood. Entry to high school/teen issues. First boyfriend/girlfriend. Leaving for college. Having an objective, professional sounding board can be such a value during each of these periods.

    Best of luck to you.

  87. To go further off-topic (but related to the current hijack), the vicious comments aimed at the parents of the little boy who escaped into the gorilla enclosure are stunning. Many of them don’t seem to see a distinction between a human child and an animal, however human-like in appearance and behavior, and others must never have ventured out in public with more than one small child. And now the authorities are investigating the parents?

  88. To go further off-topic (but related to the current hijack), the vicious comments aimed at the parents of the little boy who escaped into the gorilla enclosure are stunning.

    I think that relates back to a discussion we had on the OS about the dad who left his infant child to die in a hot car. People were especially vicious because they need to believe it was gross negligence vs. something we’re all one misfired synapse away from at one point in our lives.

  89. ” People were especially vicious because they need to believe it was gross negligence vs. something we’re all one misfired synapse away from at one point in our lives.”

    A lot of commenters will say things like “I know when I had kids that age, you can’t take your eyes off of them for one second, not ONE SECOND!!!”

    Well that’s just dumb. If I had ever felt like that was true, I’d have just used a harness, or playpen, or whatever the circumstances would allow.

  90. Somewhat related – it has now been a year since DD started walking home from school by herself. A very short distance but still…
    She had to overcome fear of thunderstorms, walk past snake holes and any other scary things. She has done quite well. My new neighbors whose kids go to the same school will have their kids walk with her next year. I suggested that they have their kids walk this year but they decided to wait till next school year.

  91. The vitriol aimed at the parents is terrible. It isn’t suprising though. Those are the same nasty comments you see whenever any parenting issue is discussed in the media. If the article is on free range kids, lots of nasty comments about over protective parents. If it is about an accident like this, lots of comments on not protective-enough parents. And I guarantee you it is the same people. I think that a lot of people are so disconnected from parenting and children that they simply have no idea. I was probably similarly sanctimonius until I had kids (especially DD, who taught me just how fast an 18 month old can scale the closet shelves to the ceiling)

  92. A few months ago my 1st grader told me she didn’t need me at the bus stop anymore. I was crushed because I know it is only the beginning of losing my grip on her and controlling what she is exposed to.

  93. RGA – I agree with the others. If it is something that is becoming problematic for you in your daily life, then please seek out a therapist even just for a few sessions. If the first one doesn’t click, no shame in trying someone new. It’s better to seek help than to suffer alone.

    I don’t know what to think about the gorilla situation. I certainly don’t think that the woman should receive death threats or some of the heinous insults that have been thrown her way, but after seeing the gorilla enclosure, it’s not like the kid could have made over the barrier (taller than him), through the bushes & over the edge into the moat in a second or two. He must have been very determined to get in there. It’s not like when you turn your back to reach for something & your kid falls off the side of the bed or whatever. And what about all the other visitors at the zoo? Didn’t anyone see him climbing over the side and into the bushes? I feel like there must be more to the story.

  94. I admit to being upset at the mom even when fully knowing how easy it is or a kid to escape like that. God knows my kid is super fast and quick about getting into trouble. It is just an all around unfortunate situation, but the price of a minute of distraction was paid by a critically endangered innocent animal. For me, that life was also important. I cannot say I believe in God and claim to consider one life more important than another. But it is natural for a species to put life of its own kind above others.

    I don’t see how anyone could have done anything else once the kid was in. Maybe zoos need to rethink how close people can get in an open concept animal enclosure. Maybe there should be rules as to how many kids per adult are allowed in etc.

  95. Wow, thank you all so much. It’s nice to know that other normal, functioning people deal with these demons. I kind of suspected that, but it’s not the kind of thing people talk about with each other- this venue is great for that type of discussion. Now that I think about it, they seem to be triggered/worsened by big life changes. I had a rough time with them while engaged, then pregnancy (almost debilitating then), and to a lesser degree now.

    6:03- you sound just like me. I could have written most of that. I do think it sounds more like mild OCD than anything else. I’ve also used those ERP techniques myself, without knowing what they were called. Worrying that people running late may be dead is one of my biggest “symptoms” other than worrying about my child, and I’ve had that fear my whole life. As a child I actually didn’t like it when my mom ran errands without us, because of a magical thinking type feeling that she wouldn’t die in a car crash if I was there. Cell phones make this worse for me I’ve realized- if I can’t reach someone, it’s easy for my mind to jump to them being dead in a ditch somewhere.

    I like what you said about therapy, 9:29. I dealt with some test anxiety in college and did a few sessions with a therapist who sounds a lot like that- just focused on concrete techniques to cope rather than analyzing to death why I am this way. Now that I think about it, the medical type fears (I’ve had some for myself as well) started when a previously healthy family member nearly died from a freak sudden thing- suddenly life just seemed so vulnerable. And even moreso now with a child.

    Anyway, it’s just so helpful to that many of you have similar issues and have been able to keep them in check. I used to be a runner, maybe I should take that back up…I will be honest, some of what makes me hesitant to get help is irrational fear that getting help could backfire and go on “my record” in a scary way. A friend recently had a horrible experience with the mental health system where she answered a question too literally about whether she had ever thought of harming herself, and was involuntarily committed for days, and separated from her young children. A nightmare.

  96. RGA – I would talk to your OB or PCP regarding your fears – Postpartum depression can express itself in excessive fear for your child.

    I too am shocked by the comments on the gorilla story and agree with Rhett that it really is folks wanting to distance themselves from the same thing happening to them because they would be so diligent and in control, which is a complete fallacy. I have two very active boys who have managed to injure themselves in very creative ways even with the supervision of their parents, relatives, day care providers and teachers.

  97. In my own family, I’ve faced both sides – “you should give kids more freedom” and then the next minute “you should be watching them more closely”. So, which is it ? I have asked because it just can’t change depending on the outcome. When you start out – it is one way or the other. Not both. And I do get steamed up about the whole topic, so I will end here.

  98. “A lot of commenters will say things like “I know when I had kids that age, you can’t take your eyes off of them for one second, not ONE SECOND!!!””

    And I guarantee that not one of those perfect people lived up to their self-imposed standard. They just got away with it through some combination of luck/kid temperament.

    “What I was told to do for repeated intrusive thoughts is to think about them. Over and over.”

    Interesting. Clearly I tend toward anxiety/rumination, because I remember as a kid how my fear of the dark turned into every bump or squeak being a burglar, a vampire, etc. So I started imagining what I could do if the squeak really was a bad guy — I could roll off the other side of my bed and hide underneath; I could hide in the closet; maybe I could make it to the window; I could hit them with a chair; etc. etc. etc. And that’s how I fell asleep. I guess it’s the 8-yr-old version of cognitive behavioral therapy. :-)

  99. ” I have two very active boys who have managed to injure themselves in very creative ways even with the supervision of their parents, relatives, day care providers and teachers.”

    And I think the mother in this case is a daycare provider.

  100. As the mother of three close-in-age boys, I am probably obviously sympathetic to the parent at the zoo, but it makes me think about a technological solution- a better, faster acting tranquilizer dart, which would be useful in many other situations. The effect of rules like “number of children per adult” is that children in larger families don’t get to do stuff. We had a similar situation for a volunteer program last month where I violated the rule with the permission of the organizer, but the whole idea that kids from large or single parent families shouldn’t get to do stuff needs to be weighed through the lens of risk and justice. Sometimes that’s the right approach, but not often.

  101. I kind of think that the zoo has some culpability here. How could a 4 year old manage to do this so quickly with so many people around? Maybe the barriers aren’t quite up to snuff.

    As even if the parents are 100% at fault, you still save the kid!

    The parents should issue a statement saying that they are very grateful for the actions of the zoo, that they are very sorry re: Harambe and they are making a donation to the zoo in his honor.

  102. Or you could keep your kids on a harness and lead. It’s very sensible, but everyone always falls all over themselves gasping about horrible that would be, and how children aren’t dogs, etc. Right, because dogs can be voice-trained.

  103. RGA – people often, in the ER, endorse fleeting thoughts of harming themselves. While states have varying standards of what will get you involuntarily hospitalized, the four states I have worked in would never have put someone away for that. Usually there has to be a plan, and there has to be no option (or unwilling) for closer supervision at home. For example: “I have thoughts that I might shoot myself when I am sad.” If there’s no guns in the house (or they can be removed), and the person has a family member who is wiling to stay with them until follow up with a psychiatrist, then patient can be discharged home. Is it possible that your friend downplays the symptoms that led to hospitalization because it is embarrassing and perhaps had unintended consequences?

    Having said that, If I were going to see someone, I would chose a therapist who was off the grid, so to speak. There are many licensed providers who only accept cash, do not keep electronic records and do not interface with the health care system. Physicians do this because they don’t want to admit this on licensing applications, disability insurance, hospital credentialling, malpractice depositions. The other workaround that I am aware of is to seek “marital counseling”. If you see a therapist for marital troubles (even if only one partner goes, and he only talks about his own problems) then there is no “mental illness”.

  104. There are better tranquilizers. I don’t know anything about veterinary medicine, but I can paralyze you in about 30 seconds with an injection in the muscle (no cooperation or skill required.). Yeah, you’d stop breathing, and after about 5 minutes that will be a problem, but the zoo surely has a bag mask for the next few minutes until the paralytic wears off. Paralyzingly is not the same as tranquilizing, but it could surely buy you a bit of time.

  105. Ada- thank you! Off the grid is exactly what I’m looking for. I do not want this to follow me around, if, for instance, we decide to adopt, etc. And of course the concern (though I realize it is extremely unlikely) that my fears about say, falling down the stairs with him would somehow be misconstrued as me being a danger to him.

  106. Google “self-pay” and your city and “therapist”. He/she should still be licensed and adhere to professional standards, but likely practices out of an independent/home office somewhere with no support staff.

  107. @Ada — I was thinking smoke signals. Your answer isn’t nearly as fun.

  108. “And what about all the other visitors at the zoo? Didn’t anyone see him climbing over the side and into the bushes?”

    One account I read mentioned another couple seeing the kid in the bushes, already over the fence, and trying to find the kid’s parent(s). The dad tried to go over the fence to grab the kid, but it was too late. Apparently, he considered jumping after the kid, but his wife vetoed that.

    I’m thinking that the other zoo visitors made the situation much worse by screaming and creating a stressful situation for Harambe. Had they all remained calm, things might have played out differently.

  109. “And what about all the other visitors at the zoo? Didn’t anyone see him climbing over the side and into the bushes?”

    Many people would flip out if you criticized their kid’s behavior.

  110. Wouldn’t any doctor be effectively “off the grid” if you made arrangements to self-pay rather than relying on insurance coverage?

  111. The fact that this child managed to get into the enclosure despite the fact that there apparently other adults around, in addition to the mom, suggests that he was pretty fast. Part of my morbid curiosity about this event was imaging that was MY child, and wondering whether I would have jumped in after him. (It is much less stressful to indulge this morbid curiosity when all of my kids are young men taller than I am.)

  112. “some of what makes me hesitant to get help is irrational fear that getting help could backfire and go on “my record” in a scary way.”

    Absolutely. Remember Thomas Eagleton?

    I didn’t realize it at the time but a record of psychiatric issues might precluded him from getting a security clearance, which would have been a difficult situation if he’d had to act as CINC.

  113. I think the reaction to what happened at the zoo is so strident largely because the consequence of the kid’s actions, and his mom’s failure to prevent those actions, was so severe.

  114. Yes, Finn. That is the sort of thing that scares me. And with digitized records, it seems it could turn up anywhere and everywhere and have unpredictable consequences.

  115. Definitely go to someone who doesn’t even take insurance. Sometimes it is helpful to just have a place where you can voice the irrational fears or anxiety or frustrations. A lot of these thugs ebb and flow and if it concerns you, go talk to someone. I went to talk to a therapist because enough things built up that I felt like I needed some new skills and coping mechanisms. I was also looking for validation of family/childhood issues. She completely turned the situation around and reframed my view. Gave me homework and reading to do between sessions. Stopped the loop running through my head. Hardest thing is making the call once you find a good recommendation.

  116. Wine, congrats on selling!
    On packing, I echo Austin and LfB: label obsessively, keep lists and photos, know where everything is so that when everything goes wrong and you’re still living there at Halloween and a sibling or inlaw insist you lend them something they gave you right now for their costume (or whatever more reasonable scenario comes up) you’ll be able to put your hand on it at any stage of the process. If people think you are OCD for insisting that dining stuff be separate from kitchen things, so be it. Keep things together that go together in your mind, because as strung out as this is going to be, you don’t know what you might need when. Again–the more you prepare, the easier it will be to come up with X when reauested.

    For living with the in-laws, make sure you are all on the same page. Is your husband moving back home & bringing you with him (i.e.: you are kids in parents’ house)? Are you guests? Roommates? Two entirely separate households, perhaps even with an ad-hoc kitchenette in your area? Getting an agreement on that is a prerequisite to any of the other decisions.

    Good luck to you all!

  117. I wouldn’t consider seeing a primary care physician and paying cash to be “off the grid” for a few reasons.

    1. Most will have an office staff and want to verify identity. In contrast, a non-prescribing therapist has less need/desire to verify who you are.

    2. Most will not take actual cash. Services become connected to a check/credit card paper trail.

    3. (This is the big one) Electronic Medical records. HIPAA was going to make all the computers talk to each other, and it has been slow in coming, but it is happening. In the ER, I can see many clinic records, even from hospitals that we have no affiliation with. I also can see any radiography or meds that have been ordered through those facilities. I’m sure it’s noted on the intake paperwork, but patients may not realize that they are releasing me to dive into all of their records, even at outside facilities.

    4. Drugs – if you are prescribed a medication, the pharmacy that fills it will likely talk to anyone who asks about it. I can find it (and the name of your prescriber) in our state database. In the bad old days, we would cold call a few pharmacy chains if we needed info on a patient who couldn’t/wouldn’t provide it.

    So, if you saw a physician who doesn’t use an electronic record (or uses a non-mainstream one), takes your cash-money, doesn’t prescribe any medication or order an labs/radiography, you might be off-the-grid.

    That’s a big contrast with my friend Dr. G, who is a research neuropsych guy. He doesn’t see patients as part of his academic practice, though he is fully licensed to do so. He rents a space in NYC 6p-9p twice a week, and has patients that he books directly for that space. People pay him $300/hr (it’s NY, any other city would be less). There is a premium to see him because he is able to prescribe psychiatric medications, and is comfortable doing so. Knowing him, I’m sure he’s insured. He tells me that all the faculty do it to supplement their incomes. I imagine he makes notes in a Word document on a non-networked computer. If you see him for your depression and are not prescribed medications, no one would know.

  118. Hi saac!

    I hadn’t thought about it that way before, I see it as us being guests for a month or 2, but they probably view it as my husband moving back home & bringing me with him (i.e.: you are kids in parents’ house)

    Not a separate kitchen, but we will have our own level of the house for our sleeping space

  119. Thanks Rhett for the extended stay link, nice to have the option if it takes too long/ or things get too tense

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