About me

I’m Emily, a stay-at-home mom of two little boys, and one of the least likely people you’d ever expect to decide to live abroad with her family.

I am a homebody — I have never been much of a traveler.  Before moving to Vienna, Austria in April of 2011, we lived within an hour’s drive of every member of my extensive immediate family, and I liked it that way.  My mom came over to visit us once or twice a week, and many of my closest friends were people I’d known since I was a child.  I had never lived more than a few hours away from the DC area.  After our first child was born, I would cringe at the thought of driving an hour to see my parents (our oldest did not like riding in the car) and I put off travelling with him by air as long as I could — it seemed so daunting.  There were days where putting him in the car and driving to the mall seemed like “too much”, and I’d just stay home.  I always liked to have everything in my life structured and ordered — we had a strict feeding/nap schedule, I liked to have all of my “stuff” with me (just in case) and I would rarely do things outside of my comfort zone (i.e., situations I was pretty sure I could control or at least predict).

In the spring of 2009, when we had just one child, my husband, Dan, was offered the chance to move to Austria for a new job.  It was my overwhelming natural instinct to say no, but since I’d stopped working when our first child was born, money was a little tight, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to at least investigate this opportunity and find out what they could offer.  The process of applying, being accepted and negotiating this job opportunity took almost 2 years, during which time we had our second child.  During that time, it seemed like an opportunity that was never actually going to happen.  Because it seemed more fantasy than reality, I allowed myself to dream of the things we’d do if we moved abroad, the adventures we would take, the fun places we’d go and the amazingly different perspective we would all get from the experience.  Also, during that time, Dan traveled back and forth to Austria frequently for work, and I decided to join him on one trip (for a total of 4 days, including travel back and forth) to see if Vienna was a place I could even imagine myself living:  it was;  I loved it.

When the offer finally came through, we had spent so much time dreaming about going that we actually decided to do it.  Before deciding to move our entire family to Europe, I had left the US a total of 3 times in my entire life, and then ENTIRE time of my travel abroad, if you added it all up, totalled less than 1 week.  I knew not a single word of German, neither did my husband.  At the time that we made the decision to move, our kids were 2 years old and 3 months old.  We arrived here with seven suitcases, an 11 year old dog and two small kids . . . and absolutely no idea of what we were doing.

I had no concept of the adventure we were in for:  what we would learn, what we would experience, the challenges, the victories, the shift in how I parent, the way I would learn to be flexible and to be kinder to myself.  “A Mommy Abroad” is many things:  a recounting of our adventures, plus advice, lessons learned and suggestions for anyone traveling or living abroad with young children — although my original intention (and still my main purpose) is to record our experience, as best I can, in order to share it with our friends and family at home.  I also hope that it will help us reminisce and remember the details of this adventure in the future.  In order to keep the story as honest as possible, I made a committment to record something every single day of our two year stay here — I was afraid that if I only wrote when it was easy, I’d only write about the good things.  (When our stay was extended beyond that, I relaxed this self-imposed requirement for the sake of my sanity, but I do still write a lot, with the goal of capturing the good and the bad.)

We are having a truly amazing adventure.  We have been delighted to discover that travel with children, even little ones, is not only possible, it can be fantastic.  It takes more preparation, much more flexibility and acceptance that you’ll see and do things differently from a “normal” tourist (which can actually be wonderful — we have gotten to see and experience things most travellers miss).  This is our journey of seeing the world, sharing wonderful experiences with our kids and changing our perception of what is possible and what life can include.

(Both Dan & I blogged . . . a little . . . before I started this one.  You can find our pre-Austrian thoughts and adventures here.  In fact, that’s where this blog lived for the first year we were here, so you’ll see some duplication.)

43 thoughts on “About me

  1. Hi Emily!

    I’m new to Vienna with two little girls. Do you have any suggestions or must go-see places for newcomers? Are there playgroups or parks you recommend?

    Thanks!
    Katie

    • Sorry it took me a bit to get back to you — just returned from a 2+ week trip to the UK.

      There are tons of great, kid friendly places in Vienna — my suggestions would be age and geography dependent. How old are your girls? Which district are you living in? My favorite parks are the playground by the Rathaus (but we live nearby), the Volksgarten (but can be rough for little ones, because it’s theoretically a “stay off the grass area”) and Schonbrunn for lots of space to run and play. In terms of just things to see, places to go . . . Schonbrunn would top that list, as well as the pedestrian Graben in the 1st district. The ring is a beautiful, easy place to walk/bike (again, depending on the ages) and the Donau Park is nice if you’re out that way (east of the city).

      I’ll keep thinking on it. I know I’ll come up with more!

      Emily 🙂

      • Hi,

        I was just reviewing some follow on comments and saw that my response from last month didn’t post. My two girls are 1.5 and 3.5 years old.

        I’ve been struggling the past couple of months to get the older one into a kindergarten but we just got her into KIWI and we are so happy. She is loving it and after the dozens of places we visited, I feel great about it.

        Thanks for your tips and blog! 🙂

        • And for some reason, I never saw your response! Other places we’ve found that we love:
          the Zoo (at Schonnbrunn)
          the Aquarium (but don’t bother with a stroller)
          the Zoom Kindermuseum (they have sessions specifically for young kids and their older siblings, which is perfect).

          I’ll post more as I think of things — and please share things you’ve found, too! 🙂

        • Hi Emily,

          It hard for me to believe that I have been here over a year already! I’m still enjoying your blog and without a doubt Vienna itself. 🙂

          I have a couple of quick questions and I was wondering if I may email you directly. If so, my email is kdphelps (at) gmail.com

          Thanks!
          Katie

  2. I just found this blog today. I work at the IAEA but my husband stays home with our toddler daughter.
    A great place to take kids on rainy days is http://monkipark.at/. It’s an indoor playground with an area for little kids under 3 years and a bigger area for bigger kids. There’s an entry fee, but you can get a season pass (worth it!)
    Wi-Fi and comfy couches for the parents!

  3. Hello there!
    I found your blog on Expat Blog when looking through the Austrian blog directory! It’s great to meet other expat bloggers in Austria, although I am in Graz and somehow I am the only “mommy blogger” around here… so it can get lonely sometimes 😉
    I am adding your blog to my blog roll at Graz4Kids! Hope you like that!
    Would love to see you around…

    • Thanks for getting in touch, for reading, and for including my blog in your blog roll! It’s all very much appreciated. 🙂 Good to “know” you, too!

  4. Hi, I just found your blog — I think we may find ourselves in a very similar situation soon. Can you say more about your original preparations for moving from Maryland to Vienna. How did you deal with the lingering possibility for 2 years? What did you do once you found out?

    • Well, for the 2 years or so that we weren’t sure whether or not we were going, it was kind of maddening. We just had to kind of let go of it and tried to have faith that it would all turn out well. (Which, it did, but the waiting was really hard.) During the seemingly endless waiting period, I accompanied my husband on a trip to Vienna once, just to try the city out. Otherwise, I spent a fair bit of time reading about the city, and preparing the house as I would have for any other move — throwing things out that we wouldn’t want to take with us, organizing things that we would want to. Once we found out, we ramped up our preparations, and also started doing more intense research about neighborhoods, looking up available apartments, putting our oldest son on the waiting list for a preschool. But mostly, my husband’s new work took care of the arrangements, and the lion’s share of the work had to wait for our arrival here. It made the first month incredibly hard, and the next few pretty hard, too, but I think it was easier to figure stuff out from here than it would have been from the US.

      Hope that helps!

  5. Hi Emily, I just found your blog about being a mom in Austria! I am an American who has lived abroad with my husband who is Italian for almost 11 years. We are planning to move to Vienna in about 6 months. Planning to open our business there as we have been self-employed in Italy as well. We have two boys ages 11 (born in NYC) and 5 (born here in Italy). The youngest is bilingual Italian/English and the oldest speaks Italian with some little English due to his disability. He was born deaf, but hears since age 3 with a cochlear implant. Although he is doing excellent in school and has been completely integrated, I am worried about adding another language. He hasn’t yet gotten caught up with English as his second language. We have been looking for school information and how the system handles children with disabilities. Here our son has a second teacher who follows him in the classroom for 20 hrs a week as support when needed. I’m having a hard time finding information on what type of assistance would eventually be available. Schools are another challenge. I am not worried about our 5 year old who attends the first grade. He will pick up another language as he did here quickly. I know we don’t have the budget to send our children to expensive international schools…and I actually frown on the idea of putting him in an international school (as many of my friends did here in Italy). Their children grew up in a cocoon with little Italian experiences or friends…in fact after years they haven’t integrated well or have the ability to escape that English-only speaking environment. We’re open-minded people who want to help our children integrate wherever we go. That said, ideally a public school (bilingual) would be best. I’ve read about them in Vienna, but they seem difficult to enter as the demand for affordable bilingual schooling is in demand. Do you have any experience or know other moms who do, that you could share with me? I would love to find an English speaking mom-group or something of that nature, but haven’t come across any info. I did find one in Italian which is very helpful, but would love to hear another perspective – an English version of that group, as our kids have that English schooling option whereas the Italians don’t even have an Italian school in Vienna. Thanks so much and all the best to you and your two boys!

  6. Hello! I found you via the Word Lens app on Twitter. I just discovered them and feel like they might transform my life. We’re American expats in the Netherlands and I have 2 year old twins and a newly turned 4 year old (boys). Loving every second of this abroad gig so far… anyhow- just thought I’d give you a high five for also finding that app. Isn’t it incredible?

  7. I’m so glad I stumbled across your blog. This is the first Vienna-related blog I’ve found since living here and I have loved reading your stories about the same places I frequent or situations I find myself in every now and again. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Hi Emily, My name is Stephanie and I’m a mom of a 7 year old boy. I’ve been pouring over your blogs because my husband has been looking at jobs in Vienna. I, like you am very close to my family. Actually my parents live 3 blocks away from me. The thought of a move to Vienna being a possibility is both exciting and slightly terrifying. I’ve dealt with homesickness once before in my life and it unfortunately beat me. I look back at that experience and regret that I didn’t deal with it differently. Reading your experiences have been really helpful and gives me hope that this is something I could do, should it happen.
    All the best, Stephanie

    • Stephanie —
      So glad that you found my blog and that it’s helping. I really feel like about the least likely expat ever, so I completely understand. It was a surprise to myself that I was even willing to contemplate moving abroad, let alone actually do it! If there’s anything I can do to help, any questions I can answer, let me know — I’d be happy to. 🙂

      Emily

  9. Hi Emily,

    I just found your blog because I Googled ‘Faschingfest costume’ in an attempt to find my son something cool to dress up as on Thursday at school…how random is that? But it was nice to find it. I came here in Feb 2011, like you at stay at home mum with 2 small kids and a husband that had been offered a new job in a country where we don’t speak the language. Hurrah! I thought, “I’ll give it a year”, then “OK, two”….but here we are about to hit our 3rd anniversary. We are UK rather than US expats and try to go back at least once a year, but gradually I am missing home a little less and even missing Vienna a teeny bit when I’m away from it. Anyway, just wanted to say “Hey!” 🙂

    Sam

    • Hi Sam! Nice to “meet” you! 🙂

      You and I sound like we have a lot in common. I completely understand the “I’ll give it a year . . . ” and then suddenly finding yourself approaching the 3rd anniversary.

      Where in the UK are you from? So far, the UK has been my favorite place to travel since we’ve been here. 🙂

      Glad you found this!
      Emily 🙂

  10. Hi! I live about 30 minutes from DC when traffic is nice (which is not often in the DMV area). I love the States but my husband and I feel we want our children to have different experiences, we have considered living abroad. I found your blog enlightening and inspiring especially because we have three small children. Currently we are just researching countries, Austria is one the list. Keep the stories coming!

    • Thanks! Where in the DC area? I grew up in Montgomery County (near Olney) and then lived for 10+ years in the Tysons Corner area, so it sounds like we were probably neighbors. 🙂

  11. We share something, then! My husband is an Austrian and we have two children together. One was born in Vienna and the other in the U.S.. We currently reside in the U.S. but are considering moving back to Vienna by springtime of 2015. Reading your posts inspire me – and depress me at time (bringing my loved memories there back!) Despite me having grown up in the U.S., I felt home in Vienna. I hope, one day, we’ll bump into each others in Vienna!

  12. Hi,
    Are you familiar with Vienna International school?
    I’m planning to drive my kids there and back every day from the 18th district? Does it sound reasonable to you? Also I so in their website that parking might be a problem, if I want to take my kids to the class.. I have to park because my girls are 3 and 5.5 years old…
    Do you have any idea about the issues above?
    I’ll appreciate any help.

    Thanks!!!
    Diana

    • Yes, I am! We don’t have a car, so I don’t know that much about driving there during morning traffic. It might end up being quite a long drive — conventional wisdom in Vienna is that the U-Bahn (subway) system is typically a faster way to get around the city, especially during times of high traffic. I know that there is a parking lot at the VIS, but yes, I think it’s possible the finding parking to take the kids in to class could be difficult, but I do know people who manage it. Sorry I can’t be more help! (Being without a car makes me pretty clueless about car-related issues.)

  13. So excited I found this blog! We are moving to Salzburg next month. Have a 1.5 and three year old. Looking forward to reading old posts for tips and love to know of any good mommy groups.

  14. Hi Emily, I think I have reached out to you before but haven’t heard back so I wanted to make sure it went through. I launched a website in September called Wanderlittles that helps parents traveling with young children for vacation or relocation (www.wanderlittles.com). As that obviously is a passion of yours (I love seeing how all of these people are reaching out to you!), we would love to have you represent Vienna! Check out Wanderlittles and you can shoot me an email at jess@wanderlittles.com for more info. Hope to talk to you soon- thank you! http://www.facebook.com/wanderlittles http://www.instagram.com/wanderlittles

  15. Hi just found this blog and wanted to ask some questions. I am moving to vienna with my husband and 3year old girl, trying to find nursery for her, any idea what the prices of the nurseries are?

    • Sorry — I just saw this comment! The Vienna nurseries are typically free (there is a small fee if the child stays for a full day and eats lunch at the school every day). I don’t know about the prices at the private nurseries (called kindergartens here) but I think most of them have their price structures posted on their websites. I hope that helps!

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