Moving with your family to a new city can be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be a difficult one. If you’re planning on moving to LA with your children, you will have extra items to tick off your checklist, such as finding a neighbourhood and a good school.
Real moves: local mothers in LA
For a great place to find out what life is like with kids in Los Angeles, MoveHub interviewed Sarah Auerswald, co-founder of MomsLA.com, a site with practical information for raising kids in Los Angeles.
Sarah lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two teenage sons.
How long have you lived in LA?
I moved to Los Angeles in 1990, so I’ve been here 25 years so far. Wow! That’s a milestone.
Like so many others before and since, I came here to work in the movie industry, but once I had kids, that just wasn’t the right fit for me anymore. Luckily I found the internet and started blogging.
Why did you start MomsLA?
Yvonne Condes and I started MomsLA because we saw a need for practical information about parenting in this city. Los Angeles is a major metropolis, with millions of people and tons of things happening all the time – and life here is very busy.
As parents, it's a challenge to juggle it all and so we wanted to offer information that’s of use to people, especially moms. We publish guides to summer camps, winter camps, birthday party places, after school programs, and things to do in Los Angeles with kids. We talk about things that really engage parents, both on our website and on our social channels.
What do you tend to do on the weekends in LA with your family?
I am going to make us sound boring, but we try to relax as much as possible on the weekends since our weekdays are ultra busy. That being said, we actually love to do our relaxing at Venice Beach whenever possible, since we’re lucky enough to live close by. And we visit our local Farmers’ Market every Sunday in Mar Vista.
If you like to hike, like Yvonne and her family, there are dozens of great places to do that here year round. Plus when your kids are in sports, that pretty much means your Saturdays are booked with soccer, basketball, baseball – whatever’s in season.
My family has all recently taken up golf, so we spend time at the driving range on the weekends as well. And of course, we have our standing Saturday night tradition of making homemade pizza and watching a movie together.
What are some underrated family-friendly places in LA?
The beaches here can’t be overstated as a fun family destination: there are no age restrictions for the Pacific Ocean. If you’re not interested in getting sand in your toes, Will Rogers Park State Historic Park is a place where you can watch a polo match, tour Will Rogers’ historic home, ride horses, or take a hike up to a peak where on a clear day you get a gorgeous view of downtown LA.
LACMA is a wonderful museum to take kids. They offer a NexGen membership for kids 17 and under that includes free admission for an accompanying adult, and the collection is so vast, I dare you to run out of things to look at.
What type of schools do your kids attend and how do you find the education system in LA?
My kids attend public school and we’ve been very happy with their education. Does that mean there’s nothing at all wrong with LAUSD schools? Oh no, but what I’ve realized is that there are some problems at every school in the world, and that you either learn to deal with them, try to fix them, or move your kids to another school.
I’ve also realized that not every school is right for every kid, so you’ll need to be an advocate for your kids’ education from day one.
All that being said, there are some amazing educational opportunities in LA’s public schools, from language immersion programs and specialized Magnet School programs to world-class music, performance, and sports programs at certain schools; your job as a parent is to find the one that’s best for your kids.
What are some of your tips for mothers new to LA on creating a support network?
I joined a group called MOMs (Moms offering Moms support) Club, which helped organize playgroups by the kids’ ages. It was also a great support network of other local moms, and it was a way to plug in, find a social network and ways to give back.
There are similar groups called MOPS (Mothers of preschoolers) and Mocha Moms as well. There’s a group here called Peachhead, which is a way for Moms to connect online, and Club Mom Me, which offers in-person events and connections as well.
I also often met other moms when my kids were playing at the park or the beach, or when we were enrolled in toddler classes as well.
You have regular videos on nights out entitled ‘is it worth a babysitter?’ - what are some tips for families new to the area that are looking for a babysitter?
It feels like it's so much easier to find a babysitter now than when my kids were really little, which is great! There are a few services, like UrbanSitter.com and Care.com, which are super helpful. Plus social sharing on platforms like Facebook and NextDoor make things easier, too.
There are Babysitting co-ops, where you trade your time with other parents, and usually within playgroup and school friend circles you share and trade names of good sitters. That’s how it always worked best; that way you’re getting trusted recommendations.
LA has a reputation for health food and crazes - how much of that is true for your friends and families?
Um, I’m embarrassed to say this is very true. No matter what group of friends I’m with, someone is always either eating Gluten-free or dairy-free, low-carb or no-carb, Vegan or Paleo – or whatever the latest fad is.
I myself eat quite a bit of kale in salads, always with dressing on the side, and I would say that a large proportion of kids in LA know what an Acai Bowl is.
What are three of your favourite things about living in LA?
Can I say the weather three times in a row? The weather is far and away my favorite thing about living here, but I also love the diversity of cultures that we get to live with here.
Within walking distance of my house – and I would say most houses in LA – there are at least 4 different ethnic food restaurants, and that’s just the food. There are cultural institutions representing dozens and dozens of countries and traditions all within the greater Los Angeles area.
And that leads to my third fave – the sheer number of things to do here, from cultural events, to shopping, dining or recreating. There’s no excuse to be bored in LA.