It isn’t easy being new to Marshalltown or any town really. I can speak from experience as my family moved around a lot and from a young age I learned how to adapt and integrate into my new surroundings.
The challenge is greater when you’re a parent and you’re the one responsible for helping your whole family settle into the new town. Moms, we feel you. Our goal at Marshalltown Moms is to help moms make Marshalltown home.
When I moved here years ago I loved that families and friendships have existed here for decades and I wanted so much to be a part of that love and warmth that I could see exhibited in these decades-long relationships.
As an outsider, however, witnessing these close-knit relationships made me even more aware of my outsider status. I experienced the isolation and loneliness in trying to find my place without a lot of time to do it (raising my littles) or knowing where to begin.
I felt immense pressure to put down roots for my family and to make Marshalltown home for everyone when I was struggling to find my own place.
I found that raising a family, working, keeping the laundry from covering our entire bedroom floor and seeping out into the hallways (yes the struggle is real) all took precious time away from settling into Marshalltown. Each month that passed by was like a big black mark on my morale, reminding me how far away I was from assimilating.
Eventually, slowly but surely I found my way. It began with a simple invitation from a neighbor (read how we began) and it snowballed from there. So moms, if you’re new to town or even if you’re not new but looking for more ideas to help Marshalltown feel like home, here are some ideas:
A Move to Marshalltown Checklist: 10 Tips to Make Your New Town Your Home
1. Introduce yourself to Chamber – According to the website, the Marshalltown of Commerce “seeks to lead the way in making the Marshalltown area a better place for everyone to live, work, and play.” I recommend reaching out to Chamber of Commerce and introducing yourself and sharing your interests, hobbies, profession, etc. Chamber may have ideas for how to get involved and find your place. Additionally, you can sign up for a Community Greeting from a volunteer in the community!
2. Find a church and register – I realize for some this may not apply but for those of us who practice religion, our church can be an anchor in a new town. Find a church you like and register right away. Marshalltown has many church options that you are likely to find a good fit for your family. Even better, if you have the time, get involved in church activities and ministries like small group bible studies, volunteer committees, and Moms’ groups like MUGGS (Moms Under God’s Grace and Strength) to meet other church families and find people in similar life stages as yourself.
3. Go to the local library – The Marshalltown Public Library is best-in-class and award-winning. There are a lot of great classes and activities for kids of all ages. When we first moved here, the library’s Toddlers and 2s class (an energetic hour of music, story-time, and free play) was one of the ways I met other moms and dads and my little had a chance to socialize with kids of the same age.
4. Sign your child up for at least one activity – Getting your child involved in the community kills two birds with one stone. First, your child starts making friends and finding his/her own place in the community and second, you get to meet parents of other kids and may make some new friends, acquaintances at the very least. The opportunities are endless here in Marshalltown. You could sign up for something at the library, the YMCA, the Art Center, 4-H, Boy/Girl Scouts, Grimes Farm and Conservation Center, Devoted Dance, Tiger Taekwondo, etc.
5. Catch up on local news and happenings – Marshalltown residents are involved and informed. Local happenings often come up in conversation and being up in current events gives you an opportunity to strike up or join in a conversation.
I’d also recommend you buy a digital or print subscription to the Times Republican. Yes, I mean the newspaper. I know that reaching for the newspaper isn’t a natural thing for millennials but the TR (as it’s colloquially known) is a great resource for things that are important to citizens here and never fear, you can access is online and peruse the front page in just a few minutes.
6. Meet your neighbors (in person) – It is so easy for an introvert like myself to isolate myself on social media, “like” a few photos, check out a few friends’ blog posts, and feel like I’ve been social. Don’t get me wrong, social media is a wonderful tool. It just might not be the best tool for making a new place your home.
Meeting your neighbors is a great way to start building attachment to your neighborhood and eventually your town. Bring cookies to your neighbors with a short letter introducing your family or just stop by and say hi sometime. If this all takes you far outside your comfort zone you can wait until you’re both out doing yard work and strike up a conversation.
7. Talk to strangers – There’s no doubt about it, this is hard. Just remember that every stranger could be a new friend. Regardless of the season, Iowans love to talk about the weather. “Beautiful day today,” or “I hope the snowstorm stays north,” are great ice breakers and are sure to start a conversation. If you’ve seen the person before you can say, “I think I saw you last week. I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to introduce myself…” or “You guys must like coming here as much as we do!”
The other thing to know about Iowans is that, by and large, we’re friendly people and though I can’t guarantee every interaction will make you a new friend I am pretty confident you won’t get rebuffed for trying to start a friendly conversation.
8. Find a mom mentor – One mom mentor is a gateway into the community. Find one person you’ve met that you “click” with and focus on developing that relationship. Your unofficial mom-mentor can give you recommendations for things like practitioners, schools, and classes in town. She can also introduce you to her friends and networks.
9. Shop Local – I have dedicated a whole post to the benefits of shopping local – In the most simple terms, shopping local supports local business owners, who are more likely to re-invest those dollars into the local community to improve the town. We are lucky to have a lot of unique shops in our town.
10. Say “Yes” – There is so much work involved in a move: packing, unpacking, helping your family transition, grocery shopping and meals, finding a doctor, the list goes on. All these things can be overwhelming and facing all these challenges makes it easy to close yourself off to new experiences. If there ever was a time, however, to fight off those hibernating and isolating tendencies it would be after a move to a new town.
If someone invites you for a playdate (but it’s at an inconvenient time) say “yes” because you never know if you might make a friend and the invitation might not come around again. If someone asks you to volunteer at the school festival (but you don’t think you can squeeze another thing on your plate) say “yes” because you’ll meet a lot of people and giving back to your community is scientifically proven to be good for you too.
Hopefully you can try (or have tried!) some of these tips for making your new town home. My last piece of advice is simply to remember to give it time. Good relationships take time and that goes for attaching to (dare I say “loving”) your new town too. Trying some of these pointers and having a positive outlook can only help you as you make Marshalltown home.
More posts in this series: