Genny Stiller PNP, IBCLC
Here’s the thing, as a military spouse, I know one thing for certain. We. Will. Move. Living a nomadic lifestyle doesn’t prevent me from dreaming, creating, and building things. However, it does make having a private lactation practice a challenging experience. Everything is temporary. In less than 3 years time there will be a phone call, a new city or country, and a sea of boxes to sort through.
What does the life of a nomadic lactation consultant look like?
It looks like sitting in your office space, admiring the thoughtfully curated elements, reflecting on the hard work it took to build this from the ground up, and visualizing the brilliant things you will continue to do in this place.
[phone rings] Your partner calls to tell you they have some great news. (What could be better than your dream practice though, right?)
Excitedly they say, “We ‘re moving again!” [record scratch sound]
To Japan! [phone drop sound]
“Yaaay,” you say. [mostly excited sound]
It also looks messy and chaotic, and disruptive. Kind of like new parenthood. There are stages of excitement, fear, labor, transition, and adapting to new life just in time for it to change, again.
First, there are the emotional stages of moving. After “that phone call,” what typically follows are an avalanche of emotions. Feelings of loss around the connection to the community, worries about not being able to re-open the practice in a new country, and fear of failure. Next, there are spikes of creativity, hope, and joy that open the door to the possibilities for reinvention. That idea about refreshing the branding…this could be the time! Validating the spectrum of emotions involved in the experience is crucial.
Second, labor and shifting. There is a labor of love when owning a business. Know this, the hard work invested in one physical location is not lost when moving to another. With each move, I experience the urge to pause, then push, and expand the vision of my practice just a little more. I feel pressure to loosen expectations and align with the reality of starting anew. Rebuilding my beloved private practice without the physical business materials I relied upon can make the shift feel temporarily impossible. The typical time lapse between our boxes getting packed up and receiving them in a new country is around 8-12 weeks. That is not a misprint. Life stands in a time warp for weeks to months whether I like it or not. The life of a nomadic lactation consultant requires flexibility of mind and materials. Having a mostly paperless practice is one way that I keep things organized and mobile. I discovered that I can launch my practice and temporarily support families independent of my physical materials (which may or may not be boxed up inside a shipping container somewhere over the pacific).
My business to-do list before a move is long. It includes temporarily updating my website with a “We’re Moving” message, closing out client encounters, address changes, and insuring items like my infant scale and computer. Sorting and clearly labeling boxes with “BUSINESS SUPPLIES” makes it easier to identify the ones you want to open once the shipment of moving crates arrives at the new destination. However, no matter how much I prepare, pack, and organize there are always surprises when those boxes are opened.
Third, transition and adaptation to the new life. Transition is hard. There are usually moments where I feel certain this was all a huge mistake, but there’s no turning back. The first few weeks are spent adjusting to the time change, sounds, and smells, new rules of driving, and cultural nuances. Adapting my private practice requires an understanding of the new communities’ languages, family culture, beliefs about lactation, outreach, insurance, and currency conversions to name a few. Navigating all these unfamiliar spaces has sparked a creativity and growth in both my personal and professional lives that I am thankful for. The business I have learned to cultivate today is not constrained by the size of a moving box or my suitcase, it is both flexible and strong.
When the call comes to shift or start again, I encourage you to answer it with an open mind and gratitude. What I’ve learned through all these years and moves is that it’s not the location that makes my lactation practice work. It’s me. And fellow lactation warrior, YOU are what makes your practice work. [microphone drop sound]
Genny’s lactation story:
Genny Stiller holds a Master of Science in Nursing, is board certified as a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and as an International Certified Lactation Consultant. She has been in lactation support since 2000 with experience in hospital settings, support groups, and private practice. Her area of special interest is neurodiverse lactation education and support. Last but not least, she is a military spouse who reinvents and redefines her lactation practice every 3 years when her family relocates to a new state or country.
The content of this post does not imply endorsement and may not reflect the position of USLCA.