Heta Fell, 30, moved to San Francisco from London a year ago with her husband, Nick, and their two-year-old son, Leo. They live in the Mission District. 

The back-story
I’m a born and bred Londoner. I was born in East London, grew up in Stanmore in North London, and lived in Kentish Town after I got married. Last year my husband was offered a dream job at Apple. It was at a time when we were both pretty comfortable and happy – I was back at work after maternity leave, heading up brand partnerships for Kids Company, which was a great job, working with amazing brands and hugely inspiring young people. For Nick, I knew career-wise it was too good an opportunity to pass up and I’ve always wanted to live in America so we decided to make ourselves uncomfortable and just go for it. It’s funny, I thought our chance to live abroad had ended when we had our son, Leo. We’d dreamt of living in New York, Stockholm and Berlin when it was just us. Just goes to show that having kids doesn’t mean your life is over – it’s amazing going on this adventure as a little family. We now live in the Mission in San Francisco. It’s just the three of us here – my husband, Nick, and Leo, who just turned two.

How we live now
I can’t currently work on my husband’s visa, but I’m working on it… It was a detail that we glossed over when we moved, assuming there would be loopholes but the visa system here is strict and complex. Thankfully, our green card application is in process so I can look forward to working again. While Nick is at work, Leo and I have local days where we hang out at Mission Dolores Park or Mission Playground with mates, followed by ice cream at Bi-Rite creamery or coffee and treats at Tartine bakery or Sightglass coffee. Other days, we go to the beach – China Beach is a lovely quiet cove at the top of the city where we’ve spotted dolphins. Up until November, we would be at the beach at least once a week, which is a dream.
There is an amazing Children’s Creativity Museum in the city which we go to every other week – it’s basically a huge space dedicated to encouraging kids to get creative. We also go to the Discovery Museum in Sausalito all the time. It’s a brilliant indoor and outdoor space for kids to play and explore – covering art, science, nature. There are also little toddler treks once a month at the Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park, which Leo loves. There’s loads of space at GG Park for the little ones to whizz around on their scooters, too…
On weekends, there’s loads of places to go for baby-friendly hikes and – more importantly – family-friendly vineyards you can get to in just over an hour, like the Francis Ford Copolla winery where you can book a cabin by the pool all day.
New kid on the block
It was harder than I thought to make mum friends here at the beginning. There was a lot of standing next to cliques of mums in the playground feeling very solo, but eventually I broke through. I had to do a lot of saying ‘yes’ to everything when we first moved. It’s exhausting! We’ve made a lot of friends locally now that are stay-at-home mums or mums that work part-time. Luckily I got introduced to a few Brazilian mums quite early on, who I loved instantly and our kids all get on great. My favourite playdates are at the beach with them. We have mimosas and chat while the kids play. Ideal.
The best thing about being where we are now is being able to be outside so much. People here very laidback and friendly towards kids on the whole. The worst thing is it’s not London, which will always be my home, and I hate being away from family, especially my niece, Mia. Also healthcare is so expensive and you need good insurance. I didn’t have Leo here so not had much personal experience so far but a friend who had her kid here frequently refers to the hospital as a hotel by mistake so I guess you get your money’s worth!

The future?
We came here with an open mind and said we’ll stay as long as we’re enjoying it and leave when we’re not. Growing up, I was surrounded by family – my grandparents lived with us and all my aunts, uncles and cousins lived within 10 minutes of eachother. I really miss that for Leo. You can’t beat this place for kids, though – there’s so much space and opportunity to be outside and do great things here when you’re young.
Until I can work properly, I’m spending time helping out at companies I find interesting a couple of days a week while Leo is at play-school, and I spend the rest of the week with him. I thought that American companies would be more forward-thinking than they are with their flexible working hours for mothers. But maternity leave in America is around three months, after which babies are generally cared for by family members or nannies. Shared daycare is common after that – where you split the cost of a nanny with a friend and the nanny looks after both your kids. There are very few options that I found comparable to nursery in the UK before preschool, which starts at around age three.
From what I’ve seen, there aren’t many preschools which operate the same hours as a working parent would work, which does make being employed full-time difficult – almost impossible – unless you’re rolling in it and can afford a nanny, too!

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