One month ago my husband, myself, and our three rowdy boys stood in our little yellow house. Besides some dust around the baseboards, it was empty. It was cold. It was nothing like it was just a few weeks earlier–bursting with toys, the sink constantly full of dishes. The garden beds out back were frozen and empty. The front porch was barren. I stood in the living room and tried to imagine what it had felt like to feel at “home” in this little yellow house. The house we had so many sweet memories in, the house we loved. Perhaps it was the stressed induced from moving, but I couldn’t imagine it. That’s what happens when your heart aches for something you can’t grasp at anymore. It was hard to walk away from our little “hometown,” extremely hard. But we did it. And ya’ll, moving to the great “NWA” has already exceeded our hopes tenfold.
After one month (although let’s face it, January is a hard stretch of the year) of living in Northwest Arkansas, I’ve taken my kids to seven different parks, went to two different art museums, tried coffee and local goods that were delightful and beyond comparison, utilized the community resources (the libraries ya’ll, the libraries!) and have a long list of exciting events, many that are kid friendly, to fill up our winter with.
We knew that this was why we wanted to move to Northwest Arkansas: the opportunities, the family friendly vibes, the sidewalks, the parks, the coffee, the art, the events. What we didn’t know is how easy it would be to find a sense of community here.
I’m a full time stay at home mom to a five year old, almost three year old, and almost one year old. All boys. To say that I’m one of those moms who looks approachable would be a lie. I’m almost always overwhelmed, almost always scattered and spread between smiles and tantrums, and almost always flying on empty. Yet–almost every time I’ve been at the park with my boys, I’ve exchanged numbers with a fellow mom. And more than that, I’ve actually made a few friends!
I hate generalizations, but the moms here are just nice. I wasn’t scoffed at when my kid pooped his pants in Chik-fil-A and I had to drag my kids out of there screaming. A mom working on her laptop asked if I needed help. A mom shared her kids’ sidewalk chalk with mine (and my toddler did try to eat some of it). I’ve been met with smiles, sympathy, and openness.
If after just one measly January I can feel this “at home” in a place I don’t even know, I can’t wait to see what the spring brings for myself and my family here. I’m convinced that if you’re not enjoying living in Northwest Arkansas, you’re not doing it right. So here’s my tips to you, if you’re new here or even if you’re not:
Follow local businesses on Instagram and Facebook. There’s a lot of them here. And a lot of them host events that are cheap or free. Go to these events, even if it’s scary to do it. Smile at somebody while you’re there. Be yourself.
Don’t be afraid to say “hi” to a fellow mom. She may just wave at you and go about her day, or she may just spark conversation with you that will give you a sense of humanity. I’ve had both happen to me since I’ve moved here, but more often than not, we’ve exchanged numbers.
Take advantage of the family-friendly events at Crystal Bridges, donation days at the Amazeum, and story times at the libraries. I’m excited to check out the community centers as well (I hear there is childcare involved in monthly memberships!) The resources here in Northwest Arkansas are amazing and relevant to our lives as mothers.
Also: try all the coffee shops. And the parks! Every time I’ve gone to a new coffee shop or park, I’ve seen a new part of this community and given and received smiles and conversations. Check the bulletin boards for events and ask questions, unapologetically. The parks here all have paved walking trails, double stroller approved.
Feeling “at home” in a place is more than simply living in a place. It’s also enjoying a place, experiencing a place, and opening yourself up to all it has to offer. Northwest Arkansas appears to have a lot to offer, and my tired spirit is so happy to soak it all up. Here’s to many more long months of chaotic motherhood in the great “NWA.” Perhaps I’ll see you around, too.
Do you have any tips to enjoy Northwest Arkansas a little bit more? What are your favorite things to do with or without your kiddos?