Sophie Blondeau was born in Paris. Growing up and living in Switzerland, London, Sydney and New York City, she felt like “a citizen of the world.”
So when her husband was offered a great job “up in Connecticut” — too far to commute to New York — she felt some trepidation. The family chose Westport, because it was close to his new job — and close enough to New York, for when Sophie needed her city fix.
The November 2008 move to suburbia was as hard as she’d imagined it would be. It was late fall; everyone stayed inside. Driving her kids to Saugatuck Elementary School, she didn’t see “a soul” outside.
Because she’d moved so much, Sophie knew she had to take the 1st step. Soon after arriving, she called the PTA president. She learned there was a newcomers’ cocktail 2 days later.
Submerged in boxes, making chitchat was far from Sophie’s mind. “That was the last place I wanted to go,” she recalls.
“It was fabulous,” she says. “I met lots of women in the same situation.” Four of them quickly became her support system.
Sophie enjoyed commiserating sharing stories with them. But she had another outlet too: blogging.
Her “Take the Girl” blog — as in, “You Can Take the Girl Out of NYC But…” chronicles her sometimes rocky, sometimes satisfying, always instructive transition from city dweller to suburban mom. It is insightful, funny — and, for longtime suburbanites, not always easy to read.
Sophie has blogged about isolation, homogeneity, the lack of walking, and missing New York. Her audience is primarily city people, though she gets occasional “I can relate” comments she suspects are from similarly still-adjusting women in the burbs.
One of the biggest reactions came when she wrote about the new experience of shopping at Costco. “I was so not trained!” she laughs.
Sophie says the blog is “a good way to keep me honest.” It also ties her to her city friends. “We always used to joke about moving to the suburbs,” she says. “I wanted to show them if this was as bad as we said it could be.”
In the beginning, it was. Over the past few months though, Sophie says her writing has become “more balanced.”
During the recent storm, she wrote admiringly of the CodeRED emergency alerts. Last week she admitted her feelings about SUVs have evolved. Describing carting 3 kids and countless bags of lawn refuse, she asked: “Can you imagine how many trips to the dump I would have to make if I owned a Mini?”
“My feelings have changed,” Sophie says. “The pain of moving has lessened. I see the benefits more.” Still, she says, “I’m probably more detached from Westport than most people.”
Among the benefits: “I love my neighbors. I live in a real community, not a McMansion.”
She enjoys the beach — a 6-minute bike ride away.
Sophie has “come to like having a house, to a certain extent. It’s nice not dealing with upstairs neighbors or landlords.”
She also appreciates Saugatuck Elementary; the Westport Country Playhouse and “the sense of arts here,” as well as “the larger than expected global community in Westport.”
The move to Westport enabled Sophie to get out of the “advertising rat race” she’d been in for 15 years. She now works as a life coach — a benefit she credits to moving.
But of course New York still holds allure. Sophie gets in to the city every 2 weeks or so.
“Driving everywhere kills me. I don’t like that people are rude when they don’t have to be — they’re not grateful for what they have. Westport is less spontaneous than the city. I don’t think I realized how homogeneous Westport is — it’s a little sanitized. And the isolation is still hard.”
Sounds like another blog post just waiting for Sophie to write.