How Will A Move Overseas Affect Your Family?
As I celebrated my daughter’s first holiday season, the idea of legacy was strong in my mind.
As all new parents do, I became nostalgic for my own childhood holiday traditions as I thought about the celebrations upcoming for her.
And I thought about how different my own childhood was from that of my brother—who came 10 years after me—and now for my daughter.
Our Life Decisions Impact So Many More People Than Ourselves
A fact we are so often oblivious to until long after the fact.
The decision to move anywhere, let alone across a border, is a deeply personal one. Motivations are, necessarily, selfish. We move for our job, for our partner, to be closer to something that makes us happy… we move for ourselves.
It’s something that makes a move so much harder when you do it as a couple. For such a subjective thing, can two people ever really be fully on the same page?
Taking my own example, I know Harry and I are not of a mind on the idea of living overseas. He moved to Panama purely for work; he had never had any desire to leave the States on a permanent basis. When it became clear we were going to move on from Panama, France was all my idea. He’d rather have moved back to D.C.
We’ve compromised and talked about the near future… our 10-year plan is here in France, but after that, who knows. It’s likely I’ll have to take my turn living in a place I didn’t personally plan to (though I’m secretly hoping some other alternative that’s equally appealing to my all-American man pops up in the meantime).
Moving With A Family Is Harder Than Moving Alone
The bigger the family, the more personalities at play and the more preferences to please. If you’re moving as a younger family, yes, everyone should be involved, but, frankly, someone will have to make the overriding decision. You won’t ever make everyone happy, so you do your best.
My mother made a decision more than 20 years ago to move us overseas. It was tough going for many of those years… I hated life in Ireland and I made no secret of it. She worried about how her decision would play itself out for me. Was my life ruined? Was my brother’s? Would we ever be happy with our lots?
Now, having the hindsight to see how her decision affected me, my brother, my husband, his family, my daughter, her future family, and all the people in between… I can’t imagine living any other life. It would seem so small.
So think beyond yourself.
You Need To Look Beyond Yourself
What effect will your move have on not just you for now, but you forever. Your immediate and extended family, your descendants—maybe even those you’ll never have the chance to meet—will feel the ripples of your decision… or maybe a tidal wave. Even your friends will be touched.
Not everyone will be happy about or supportive of your move. Some may come around. Some may not. If you’re lucky, though, you will find a contingent of your loved ones who celebrate your decision and get excited with you—they’ll be the first guests in your new home, I bet.
Perhaps you’re only thinking of dipping a toe in the overseas pool… maybe a holiday home in Mexico, not far from where you are now. Even that can have a wonderful domino effect on your whole family who will, no doubt, want to come for visits. Perhaps your new vacation home becomes the future family vacation home.
If you’re thinking more drastically—to move farther or permanently—then, yes, it will be harder for your family to swallow, but give them time. It may take a few years in the worst cases, but, in my experience, most of these family ruptures are temporary. Time heals all wounds.
My grandmother was livid at my being moved across the Atlantic more than 20 years ago… but she nevertheless came over to help us renovate our home, then to help when my brother was born… and she soon came to love Ireland and her excuses to spend time there more than anything, I think.
I won’t say she’s ever come to embrace the idea of us being so far away—what matriarch ever could? But she comes to visit us all over the world, and, above all, she appreciates how happy we are with the life we’ve built. It makes her happy vicariously.
When my family extended to include my husband’s, most of whom didn’t have passports before we got married, the distance between us didn’t mean much. Now, having a daughter, I do worry that she is too far away from all her extended family, especially his side. They aren’t travelers and I doubt that that will change over my daughter’s lifetime. They won’t come to visit much, and if we travel for holidays, it likely means we’ll be on our own.
My hope, though, is that in 50 years, looking back, I’ll laugh at this pessimistic attitude. I hope that we all evolve together as a new family, as I saw my own family evolve to suit our changing lifestyles when I was young. I hope we all travel together… that they visit us, we visit them, but that we also plan vacations abroad together.
No matter how it all plays out, my daughter and any future children’s lives are being nudged every day by the decisions we make—and I’m not talking about the million choices we make for her every day, I mean those we make for ourselves, without even a thought to how they could impact her.
No matter how you set your life up, there will always be challenges… mothers will always worry about their kids, grandparents will always miss their grandkids. These things are, of course, exacerbated by distance… but distance is also a prime mover… a catalyst for changes that you might hope for or never imagine.
Maybe grandma decides to buy a house down the street to spend a few months of the year in your new home with you… maybe your entire family starts a new tradition of coming to you for the holidays. You’ll figure out the best way to stay in each other’s lives and make your new home a part of it.
One thing I can say for sure… your children… and their children… and their children’s children… will have lives so much bigger than you could have fathomed thanks to you opening up your own world.
No better time than now!
Editor, Live and Invest Overseas Confidential