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please help, please. International move with toddler, elated and devastated?

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 

I am from the south of the USA (hold back laughter, please), and my husband of 4.5 years is from Surrey, UK. We are happily married and very adventurous people at heart. When we got married I was 20 and in college or we would've moved straight to the UK. We have been talking about moving there since we got married, and just haven't got the chance for one reason or another. Its never been the "right" time. Well, we have also always said that we would try living in BOTH places before we settled anywhere, since we are from different countries that can only be fair, right?


But, there's more to it. 


My parents live here. I had a great childhood, and my family was really close. My parents always made me feel extremely loved and valued and I have fantastic memories even though we were always super broke. But to make an extremely long story short I have a brother with mental illness who is also violent and aggressive, he wasn't diagnosed with anything specific and my parents didnt know what to do as he reached adolescence and were basically shunned by all their friends and told they were bad parents and my brother was in and out of mental hospitals, actual hospitals and jails from about age 14 onward. It almost killed  my parents, literally. Our family was broken and barely hanging on from about the time I was 9. So, great early childhood, awful awful late childhood and teenage years. If I could delete that part of my life and not remember, I would (eternal sunshine of the spotless mind, anyone?!) My parents had nervous breakdowns and lost the light in their eyes. It never came back. They are different people from the ones I knew growing up. Since then all their priorities also changed. They both work like a billion hours (48+) a week even though I have an 8 year old little brother and have almost no time for anyone, obviously including me. And my husband and I have a 15 month old son.


Now, what makes it all complicated is there's a lot of pain and a lot of unhealed wounds between me and my family here. My parents don't watch my son, ever, and don't make time for me. But, we live 9 houses down on the same street and go to their house to watch my little brother (8 years old) a lot. So, we are there when they get home (6, 7, 8 pm ish) and therefore end up eating dinner at their house a lot. I don't feel like they go out of their way to see us, but my son inadvertently spends a lot of time with them and has since he was born. So, I worry that even though I feel jaded by the whole grandparent experience my son will be DEVASTATED when we move across the friggin ocean??? And then my parents become pictures and faces on skype with maybe seeing them a few weeks a year? I mean he is 15 months old, if we move and its 8 months before he sees them again, that might as well be forever. Oh by the way my super busy parents dont take vacations or fly, so us seeing them will only happen when me and DH fly home (to USA) I am pretty much sure they will not visit us in the UK.


We have really solid reasons for wanting to move to the UK. My husband's (seemingly more normal) family is there. My brother in law has kids and DH's parents are SUUUPER involved with them--- watch them all the time, at least one day a week, have them overnight, for dinner loads, etc. It seems like if we moved there we would have a similar situation. Also, my BIL seems to feel like living in the UK is easier on families even if we still wouldnt have much materially (very long maternity leave, more flexibility on sick days at jobs, paid healthcare, tax free nutritious foods, etc etc). Plus, my DH feels pretty stifled here in the conservative south and I can't blame him, we really dont fit here. 


Main thing is...I want to go to England. I think I at least owe it to my husband to try living there after he tried my home. I know there will be pluses and minuses to both places, and we have a set of grandparents in both places. I guess I am just afraid that DS will be so devastated to leave my parents,and that he will wake up crying every night for months or something like that. We have a dog we will also be leaving with my parents (wayyyy too complicated to bring to UK with their laws and the fact that pugs can ride in cargo cause they will die). I am just afraid what this move with do to my son even though it seems to be the right decision for all other reasons.


And we dont want to wait to move, because if we wait anymore itll probably never happen. The longer we are here, the more settled, if there's more kids, more debt, etc. It will never be the perfect time.


I dont even know specifically what I am asking for, just thoughts please. Thoughts on leaving dysfunctional families that you still love? Thoughts on moving with toddlers long distance? Thoughts on moving to be with DH family instead of yours? Anything. Thanks.

post #2 of 20

I've never BTDT, but I think your son is young enough that he won't be scarred for life by the move. If you think you will have a better life there, go. Maybe the physical distance from your recent past will help you heal. There's still skype, email, etc. to stay in touch.

post #3 of 20

I wanted to give my thoughts but I'm still stuck on the fact that somehow living in the South is supposed to be funny. So, I'll bow out.

post #4 of 20
Thread Starter 

I am a southern native, and I dont think its funny. However, I get enough ha-ha's when I go to other parts of the USA and they say where are you from and I tell them my state that I sort of anticipate the ridicule???

post #5 of 20

My DH is British by birth and I'm an American. We've moved around a lot because of his job and have lived in both the US and Canada as a family. Our kids are now teens, we are permanently settled in the states, and my DH is now a naturalized US citizen.


My thoughts reading your post is that you mostly want to move but are concerned about the impact it will have in your child. Having moved my kids at lots of ages, I think that as young as he is, he will transition pretty quickly. Babies and small children are *mostly* about where mom and dad are. It's a little harder to move on kids once they are school aged (even if they home school) because they feel more of a sense of lost for where they are leaving. Past about age 12, it's a huge deal, and I completely refuse to move the childs during highschool.


So my advice is to go where you want to go sometime in the next 3 years.  Small children adjust far easier than big children.

post #6 of 20
Thread Starter 

I think I want to move, but I cant know for sure until Im there...I might hate it! 


Yes primary concern is about the impact on my child, specifically in regards to him not being around my parents anymore (regularly, you know?)


I am glad to know the impact is smaller when he is younger. No move is worth me damaging him. And yes, I agree that around age 12 is too late to move. We moved when I was 12 and I hated it. 


Thank you for your comments.

post #7 of 20

We haven't moved the kids, but I do live far away from my parents.


My kids know my parents fairly well, and they even know my brothers a bit and see them very seldom.  I talk about them, have pictures of them around, we sometimes skype, we do letters...  It works if you put in a little effort your kid will know that side of the family.  Don't let that hold you back.



post #8 of 20

I don't have advice but I feel your pain....my Dh is from East Africa (where we met - I loved living there) and we've struggled in the US for the past three years.  We just applied for a position in East Africa that would be a great fit for us and it would definitely be better for our family.


but my family is really close and my mom is very involved in DD's life - she sees her usually at least once a week or every other week.  My sister is an hour and a half away and has young children and we see them at least once a month.


My biggest hesitation about moving is taking DD away from family who care about her so much and who she is really attached to. 


We did go to Kenya for three months last summer when DD was 18-21 months, and she actually did really well.  She didn't ask for anyone at all but would get excited when we skyped with them.  It surprised me that she didnt show more outward signs of missing them.


I think your son is young enough that he would adjust pretty well.  I have a friend who moved his whole family to Austrailia, things didn't work out and they were back in the US in 10 months....it made me realize that nothing is permanent.  If it doesn't work out, you can always move back. 

post #9 of 20
Originally Posted by EarthBirthLady View Post


I am glad to know the impact is smaller when he is younger. No move is worth me damaging him. And yes, I agree that around age 12 is too late to move. We moved when I was 12 and I hated it. 



Well, it's often easier to move with a toddler or young child, but I don't think age 12 is too late to move. We moved our tweens/teens internationally at that age (and again a few years later). They were reluctant at first, but not horribly so. They also saw it as an adventure, quickly made new friends and explored a bunch of new activities. It was an amazing growth experience for them and they both are grateful for it. I met a family who moved with a 13 y.o. who had been having an awkward time socially before they moved overseas. He took the opportunity to re-invent himself and became quite a social star, involved in school sport and clubs. That kid was very happy with his new life and didn't spend any time looking back. Attitude and personality make a significant difference in how tween/teens (and parents) cope with moving a long distance. I'm not saying there weren't adjustments to the new situations and unhappiness about leaving family and friends and the familiar behind, but we took it in stride, comforted each other, and cheered each other as we all made steps into new worlds. 


I sympathize with your dilemma. I think a 15 month old will miss loved ones and familiar surroundings but will adjust, especially if the adults in his life are caring, tolerant of the adjustment period and most importantly, demonstrating their own happiness and adjustment to a new environment. OP, if this is a move that will leave you unhappy or even depressed, anxious, bitter, and unable to enjoy the adventure of living in a different place with different customs and experiences, then you should reconsider because your child will absorb all of that from you.



post #10 of 20

We moved across the country when I was 5 and then again when I was 14 (in the middle of my freshman year of high school). Honestly, neither was especially traumatic. I think I did raise a bit of a fuss before the high school move, but it ended up working out fabulously for me--I went to a fantastic school that was actually a far better fit for me and made friends quickly. Two weeks after I started at my new school, I was thrilled that we had moved!


We moved to a different state when dd was 3 and again when she was 5. She's very adaptable and social, and barely blinked at the most recent move (and same with the first one--no problems at all). We do take care to nurture her friendships with her old friends through letter writing, Skype, etc.


My sister moved internationally when her kids were 2 and 0 and then again when they were 7 and 5. They've adjusted well both times and have quickly made new friends--they are incredibly cosmopolitan kids. They've travelled to over a dozen countries, speak multiple languages, etc. They will move back to the States before the kids start high school. Again, because my sister takes the time to nurture friendships with people all over (including grandparents, relatives, and friends in the States), I think that in some ways the kids feel at home no matter where they are.


I think for some kids moving can be traumatic, but I also think it can be a great opportunity. With a 15-month old child, I honestly wouldn't be concerned at all. 

post #11 of 20

I am getting ready to move my 13, 15 and 18 year olds across the country.  Luckily we have no family close by and will be moving to an area without family.  So those ties will not be torn.  We will be moving to a very cuturally diferrent area of the country.  And as a previous poster said we are looking at it as an adventure not leaving behind friends. 

post #12 of 20

I think you should go for an extended visit before you commit.  You don't know that his family will be any easier than yours, often grandparents are closer to one set of grandchildren than another and it can cause hard feelings, the cultural difference is bigger than you think.  You need to look at your housing and job options as well.


I am also from the deep south and my husband is from the UK (north).  We've lived in several sates, including NY and NJ, and now we're back near the area where I grew up.  We like it here.  He doesn't want to move back to the UK at all and I don't think I'd like it long term (but visiting is great!!!  I don't think our income would be anything CLOSE to what it is here and that would suck) but we worked all that out before we got married.  I would be very very upset if he suddenly wanted me to "play fair" and move our daughter there.  That's not what we agreed on when we got married. 


Good luck in whatever you decide, but visit first and look at things like housing and employment and schools.

post #13 of 20

I lived in France for 2 years (before kids) and dh is from Russia and I've stayed there for months at a time. Currently dh has an international job and travels extensively and is only home 50% of the time. He's mentioned relocating to his work's headquarters in Norway or in one of the satellite offices in Tokyo or Singapore. I've flat out told him no b/c with 2 small children (ages 8 and 5) I don't think at this point in my life I could handle being somewhere so far away, and so foreign to what I'm used to, without family or a support network. He's also had a job offer that was in Southampton England and turned it down primarily b/c the cost of living is much higher there and the pay didn't reflect this. 


With that all said, if we had family overseas (as in your situation) I would definitely give it a shot. My family, like yours, is somewhat dysfunctional and I actually don't mind the distance (currently live 8 hours away from family) b/c of this. I don't think your son will be too affected by the move, especially if your dh's family is there and would be involved in his life. We just moved halfway across the country and my girls are adjusting quite nicely and I think they love it here more than where we lived before (they had lived there their whole lives). So even at an older age it is doable. 


I think going for an extended visit is a good idea, especially if you've never been to England or Europe. Life is definitely different there, and while I loved living in France there are things about it that I don't think I'd ever get used to. I like having the availability of 24 hour stores. ;)

post #14 of 20

Wanted to add that I also was hesitant to move to England (and why I'm hesitant to move to Norway) is b/c I love the sun and it definitely affects my mood. England is not known for it's sunny weather (I was in Northern France so the weather was quite similar). 

post #15 of 20

As mentioned by pp, if you have never visited I would definitely do that first. Both DH and I are UK citizens, but we lived in the USA for 10+ years and DS was born in the US. We returned to the UK when DS was 17 months. I did not want to return to the UK - my family are spread out in Europe and Australasia, but had no choice. We were originally hoping to return, but this did not happen - long irrelevant story.

Although, I an a native UK citizen, on my return, I felt as though I had nothing in common with any of my neighbours/other parents at toddler groups etc. My references were all US based - I had no idea who the British celebrities were (and still don't know or care), I had nothing in common with the other SAHM of my own age - their equivalently-aged child was their 2nd or 3rd, they were more financially-secure and definitely not into baby-wearing or EC.

The job market in the UK is just as unstable as the USA. DH was recruited to head a small company's new department, and then was laid off 8 months later and the entire department closed down. Despite continually applying for jobs in his field, he was only able to get short-term contracts which meant that in the 2 years we lived in the UK, we lived in 3 different places. The only plus of being in the UK was that DS could spend some time with his GP (sadly my MIL was diagnosed and died of cancer).

We now both live and work in Spain and I'm happy here.(I would love it, if I my Spanish was better). I'm still the outsider but I expect to be the outsider and to have a different culture and expectations. Not feeling as though I fitted in in my home country was distressing.


In your shoes, with what you describe as a dysfunctional family in the USA and a loving, functional family in the UK, I think you should at least give it a try. As far as your DS is concerned, at 15 months there shouldn't be any issues. The only move that my DS has found difficult was the one to Spain when he was almost 3.5 yo, probably due to a change in languages and preschool system. (He still talks about the forest preschool he went to).


Good luck with your decision.

post #16 of 20
Originally Posted by minkin03 View Post
I think going for an extended visit is a good idea, especially if you've never been to England or Europe. Life is definitely different there, and while I loved living in France there are things about it that I don't think I'd ever get used to. I like having the availability of 24 hour stores. ;)

I agree with visiting for as long as possible and doing as many "normal" life activities as possible -- going to the bank, going grocery shopping, figuring out a realistic budget. There are a lot of things we (meaning my DH and I) take for granted that we could not afford if we lived in the UK, including living in a house with a garage and having 2 cars, going shopping at 8:00 at night, etc.


I think some people have better temperaments for living in a country other than the one they were raised in, and honestly, I'm not one of those people. bag.gif  But my DH is. Our family works better living in *my* country. It's not about fairness, but me being miserable isn't good for our marriage. The only real difference for my DH is that he became a fan of American football and that's what he talks about with his guy friends instead of soccer. Other than that, guys are guys.


And the weather thing is a very valid consideration.

post #17 of 20
Thread Starter 

Thanks for that! Good to hear....


I have been over about 7 times I guess? And about 2 weeks at a time....that's not "extended" really but we cant afford to stay any longer without paid vacation times....


If we go I kinda have to bite the bullet and go....

post #18 of 20
Thread Starter 

I am feeling much better from the number of people saying they dont think my child will be scarred for life due to his age at moving, that was my primary concern....


so thank you everyone for your honest input!


In terms of the suggestion for an extended visit that sounds like sound advice but Im afraid quite impossible. We dont have the funds or job flexibility to do that. I feel I have been there enough to know I want to try, aside from being afraid to leave my family I like the idea of going. We have lots of support in England in the form of family and friends we both know and love (I have been regularly enough to know these people and they come here too). We have had budgeting help because we know so many people that live there they have given practical advice on what to expect in that department and also with jobs etc. I know it always looks better on paper!! But Im really not so concerned about that side of things (in laws said we could live with them until we get on our feet, not worried about moving over then being homeless and jobless)....


And I know my husband would let me come back if I hated it, hes a very giving and understanding man...I really believe we could come back. 


I guess no matter how dysfunctional your family is at home you're afraid to leave! 

post #19 of 20
Originally Posted by Linda on the move View Post

I agree with visiting for as long as possible and doing as many "normal" life activities as possible -- going to the bank, going grocery shopping, figuring out a realistic budget. There are a lot of things we (meaning my DH and I) take for granted that we could not afford if we lived in the UK, including living in a house with a garage and having 2 cars, going shopping at 8:00 at night, etc.


YES! when we first looked at houses in Southampton England I was mortified at the prices. Cars, clothes, gas, electronics, etc... are so much more expensive. It's definitely a different lifestyle and unless you're 'loaded' it's not always an easy transition. I was childless when I lived in France and it worked for me. I can't imagine living in an apartment in the city trying to lug home groceries in the rain with my 2 girls in tow. That's just one example for me anyway. lol


However, there are many plus sides to Europe. In France life is much more relaxed and they put a higher value on family. But with certain social benefits comes higher taxes as well. 


@ OP, if you don't have the finances to do an extended stay perhaps you can discuss with your dh about going for a trial period. Perhaps find a place to rent for a year and keep it open-ended and flexible so that if you are miserable you can come home. Not everybody gets the opportunity to live in another country and you may regret not giving it a chance. 


post #20 of 20
Thread Starter 

Yea, exactly we cant take an extended trip so we are considering this as a "trial run" of at least a year to see how it goes. We just expect we wont own a car there...which is how he is used to living but not me...we shall see how it goes LOL

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