Moving, maybe

Hey, it’s Rocky.  I’ve missed you all! And now I find myself in a wwmtd/thoughtful help needed situation, and I think this is the right place to come.  I can’t remember if I have introduced myself here on wp yet, but I’m a wohm of 2 dd’s, ages 4 and 7.   I found the site when I was pregnant with dd2, but can’t get as involved as I might like because I am chronically overcommitted.

For example, I had to take a hiatus from MT (and everything else that wasn’t work or kids) recently for a project at work that occupied me entirely for about 4 months, but which is now moving on the the next phase.

And apparently taking me with it: I’ve been asked to relocate to London from Chicago.  It was mentioned to me in passing in January, and in the same spirit I said, sure, whetever the job requires.  Because hey – sure, in abstract.  Next thing I hear, less than a week ago, is our HR department calling to say they’ll have my relo ready soon.   Ummmm, what?  So now I’m on a trip next week to look at flats and schools.
Here’s the thing: Everything professionally is completely up in the air, we don’t have an office or anything there, and the details of my job and responsibility are undefined.  But This would be the first international relo the company has done, so they can’t yet answer my questions.  That said, schools start in less than 2 months, and with the Olympics starting in 2 weeks, next week is the only time I could go between now and late August to find a place, schools, etc.   And the visa process will take a while and we don’t want to miss the school start.  They offered to take my DH and kids over but I don’t want to freak the kids out if this doesn’t happen, so for now I’m handling it myself.

So I’m unsettled on all fronts.  I don’t know if I should push to move and just take the opportunity to live abroad, or if I should push back against going.  Or wait a year and commute.  I don’t know if it is career limiting to go, or to stay.  I don’t know if I will like the job, or not.  The reality is I like my job, and I love Chicago.  But this is an interesting opportunity.  But it comes with risks to not just me, but to my family.  What do I do?  I can’t figure out how to think about it.  Good options, lots of stress.

Have any of you moved with small kids?  What should I ask, and how should I think about if we should or shouldn’t move?

Thanks.

–R

ps – haven’t mentioned this to a soul other than DH, so for the few of you that may know me on facebook, this is top secret.   Thanks.

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29 thoughts on “Moving, maybe

  1. So I lived in the same house from age 5 months to 18 years and am hoping to move long-distance when Stormageddon is still an infant. In short, I never moved as a kid and have no intention of doing so with small kids–so take this for all it’s worth (not much).

    1. I think if you’re going to do it at all, this is a good time to do so–before they’re firmly entrenched in school, friends, and adolescent drama.

    2. It takes a special kind of very strong person to commute that way–I have a co-worker who’s been commuting to the nearest major city (6.5 hours drive) almost every weekend for a year, and it’s been hell for him, his wife, and their kids, who are older than yours (10.15, and 23).

    3. If your kids are decent travelers, I might say it’s a good idea to take everyone, treat it as a trip to London, and see how they react? You don’t need to tell them right away that moving there is a possibility.

    4. What does your DH think about living in London? I assume he’s open to it or this wouldn’t even be a question.

    5. I am so glad to see you back–especially as another woman who’s got a high-stakes career that she’d ask her family to move for. (And hopes to do so very soon.)

    • Thank you! Yes, DH is excited about it, with reservations mostly about my job. He has been a great supporter of me personally and professionally, and he has told me that it has been hardest for him when I don’t like my job “you’re easier to live with when you’reworking hard on something you enjoy, than when you’re working normal hours at a job you hate”. I’ve also worked my a$$ off at a job I hated… but we know that wasn’t fun for anyone.

      That would be the only reason to commute for a year – to make sure I didn’t hate the job before I drag everyone over there.

      Congratulations on the new addition! I will tell you honestly that I was shocked by how things changed for me professionally once my first daughter was born. I love working in general, and have mostly loved my job. And I am very happy with the trade-offs of being a working mom (in fairness, I’m part of the upper middle class so my choices are more Anne-Marie Slaughter-esque). But the biggest thing becoming a mom did was give me a single, unquestionable priority that helped me work more efficiently and be a better manager. But I suppose that’s another post…

      –R

      • I’d love to read it! One thing I’ve learned about myself recently (or re-learned, rather, since I think I knew this back when I was a student and forgot when life got calmer) is that the more I have to juggle, the more I get done. (It remains to be seen, of course, whether adding a baby pushes me over the edge into insanity.) I’m more productive both at home and at work now that I’m also managing being pregnant and being on the board of our national professional association. But parenthood is a special kind of challenge that I’m trying *not* to plan for too much so I don’t get locked into thinking about how it “should” be.

  2. Do it. I know there are a lot of hassles with schools, etc., but getting the chance to live abroad is a great family experience. I say that as a kid whose family moved to Europe for a while for my father’s job when I was in junior high (I also have two younger sisters, one of whom was the same age as your oldest). It was an amazing experience for all of us.

    We (my husband and I) also moved twice with our daughter when she was young, and she did fine, and we’re actually exploring some possibilities to move to another country for a bit.

    I agree with Sister Q that if the kids are good travelers, why not take them on the reconnaissance trip? If you do go, then they’ll already be familiar with what will be their new home.

    Some things I’d want to consider: if your kids go to private school, will the company help pay their fees; will you get paid trips back to the US; can they help your husband find work if he needs help; if the position doesn’t work out or can’t work like they envisioned, can you easily return to a position in Chicago?

    • Thank you! The kids are good travelers, so I think they will do well. It’s the new school thing that worries me, and also my DH will have to transition, for a while, to be a sahd. I think he will be great at it but I don’t want him to resent me, or the kids. But in fairness, if you are moving abroad, I’d think London (or Australia!) would be the easiest for everyone.

      Good suggestions on the asks. I think I need to get my hands on a proper expat package so I can make sure I’m covered with whatever they offer…
      –R

  3. Do it! Of course, I’m biased in that I lived in London for three years and loved it. It’s a very intense city, but in terms of career possibilities, massive. Also, the chance to travel around Europe? Priceless.

    Mefpdx makes good points about relocation fees and stuff – very practical. The other good think about the UK (unless they’ve changed the rules) is the fact that the trailing spouse automatically comes in on the same visa as the working spouce – i.e., can also work. That makes things easier for your DH.

    Please message me on FB if you’d like to know anything more about living in London – delighted to share my experiences, and also to potentially set you up with friends of mine that live in London. I have a couple of gorgeous friends that I adore and who have families.

    • Thank you – I will absolutely take you up on that. Here’s another question, if the alternative was to move to someplace outside of London (Manchester or Nottingham), would you think about that differently?

      –R

      • mmm… I don’t have that much experience with either city. Manchester is quite an interesting place, from all I know; it’s worked very, very hard to overcome the decimation that came with the collapse of industry in the 70s and 80s. There is a lot going on. Plus, it’s a major transport city.

        I wouldn’t say it would think about it differently, because the things that make the move challening (finding a nice place to live, finding a good school for the girls, things for DH to do, either work or whatever) would be complicated in any of those three cities. Does it make it different for you?

          • So I don’t know I can give that much input: I’m not too familiar with either city, but I have friends who live in Manchester and love it. It’s a good sized city, Manchester Airport is a good choice for flying back to the US, and I’d assume continental Europe, it’s not crazy expensive, and has decent public transport to get around. Neither of the two couples I know who live there own cars, so that’s a bonus.
            Nottingham is more of a small city feel: close to the country, lots of driveable smaller towns, lower cost of living. It’s got a less urban feel IMO just because you can get out of the city faster, although as with most British cities when you get into the center it can feel very built up because the old streets are SMALL. The other consideration with Nottingham is that you’re going to probably have to drive out to Manchester or Leeds to fly back to the US (there are flights to continental Europe from the closer East Midlands Airport, and you could connect through Amsterdam if you did that, IIRC, but then it’s another hop), and when you’re doing those long transatlantic flights, the last thing you want is another couple of hours driving at the end (at least, I don’t).
            All that said, if you can afford London, and if you don’t mind how built up it is (I find London, like New York and other very large cities claustrophobic), I’d go there. There’s just so much to do and see. But if you want something smaller, I’d definitely consider either of the other cities, depending on what you want.

            • Thanks – that’s helpful. We are trying to figure out schools in Manchester or Nottingham vs London, too. We like city living, but I do find NYC kind of clausterphobic so I’d have to think about that when I visit London again.

              –R

      • Presumably, travel to the US would be more complicated from either of those, especially if you need to do it frequently. I do think Manchester is becoming better-connected these days, so maybe that would work, and in that case, the smaller airport would be an advantage. Life would be cheaper outside London.

  4. Hey, good to see you back here!

    Wow, this is huge for all of you. Having moved around a bit myself (but without kids!) I’d say do it! Living and working in another country will be an amazing experience for all of you. Friends of ours relocated to London about half a year ago (kids are 4 and almost 6 now) – they had a rough couple of months at the start (mainly because the kids had to learn a new language; not a problem for you), but when the kids settled in things got easier and they are really enjoying it now. I could put you in touch with them if you like – you can FB message me (I’m the MT in NL, but I think you know that).

    How does your DH feel about this? Does he have easily transferable skills?

    As for things to ask at work: for how long will this be, will they guarantee you a job if/when you return, what about your current house; to what extent do they cover double housing expenses (to a London level!). London is crazy expensive, be sure to ask about compensation for school fees, housing, transportation, etc.

    I don’t think a quick trip over will give the family a good feel for how it would be to live there, but you could consider it anyway, just as a fun trip. Commuting can be done (another friend has done so between NL and Philly for the past half a year), but is incredibly tiring, while moving abroad together can be a wonderfully bonding experience. We actually seriously considered it again this year (to Germany), but thing changed here and we’ve been convinced to stay, for now.

    Good luck with the decision-making!

    • Great to see you! You might remember that my DH has family in the NL, and he lived there for a number of years, so he is excited to be close to that part of the family, and for our girls to get a bit closer to them. I’d love to talk to your friend about schools especially, since it sounds like they mived mid-year? We will have to go to heroic efforts to move before school starts, which we will probably do. But in case we don’t it would be good to know what that’s like.

      –R

      • I certainly remember he has family here. I didn’t recall he’s lived here too. Glad to hear he’s excited about the idea – that’s a huge help.

        Our friends moved in Dec, kids started school after Xmas. I will try to connect you to my friend tomorrow, or over the weekend. FB is a bit tricky, because I use separate accounts for MT and real life, but I’ll see if I can work it out by friending you from my real-life account. I’ll be in touch.

  5. We moved Pittsburgh to NY when DD was 6 – it was a little hard on her because she was leaving friends behind, but OTOH it was the best time to relo (as someone mentioned above) because she wasn’t totally entrenched in school yet. So, I think your DDs will be fine.

    I’m not good at change, so the thought of relocating on such short notice would make my stomach hurt, but I know that once I got there I’d be fine. London is a great city, and you guys will probably have a blast there!

    Is your DH up for the move? My SIL took a relo to Moscow when my nephews were a bit younger than your DDs (they’re bilingual so the language wasn’t an issue). My bro was able to take a leave from work, and negotiate some long-distance work while he was there. It didn’t negatively affect his work – if anything, it added to his depth in his field. It was a great move for all four of them!

    Good luck with your decision!

    • It’s funny – the idea of moving within the US isn’t something I can stomach, but this seems different enough that it is more of an adventure and less of a purely logistical challenge. And I think it is a good thing tonhave on the resume, too. DH feels the same way so I guess that’s good.

      –R

  6. Hi Rocky!
    I tend to have a “just do it” attitude about moving. Our family has done it several times, with children of all ages. Our first big move was when our kids were 3 & 5.

    You’ve already gotten some great advice and things to think about. I’ll add just one more: consider negotiating the options for return if it doesn’t work out, if the company is sold, acquired, or if the company decides to jettison your project/department. DH was offered a job in London, but he had a feeling the company would be sold within a couple of years. He had some qualms about finding new employment there (as non-citizens) OR, worse, funding an international relocation back to Chicago. He negotiated a return relocation as part of the package, as I recall, but we took a different (we thought better career-wise) offer to a different U.S. city. His instincts were correct, as it turns out. The company sold and at least 2-3 families were left with some limited options. At least one stayed with the new company, but I recall hearing horror stories about personal expenses related to Re-relocation.
    That said, it sure sounds like an incredible opportunity. One expat family we know (with almost adult kids) tell me their children have visited at least 40 various countries (Some of the packages back in the day included costs being absorbed by the company; house, school, even security detail in a high risk area, so they had oodles to spend on travel). Their children still interact with their best friends who have, since that time, moved to other amazing places. Pretty doggone cool, if you ask me.

    • That’s great advice. I wonder if it would be worth it to get an attorney to read the contract through to make sure all the details are covered. I’m not expecting the huge $$$ benefit ( but it sounds awesome), but I don’t want to be stranded, either.

      –R

  7. As far as the kids go, this is the time to do it. It’s only going to get harder to move them and this is a huge opportunity. There will be challenges, no question but…London? Awesome!

  8. Wow, that sounds really exciting!

    London is very expensive of course, so one thing I’d want to look into would be whether your family can afford it if your DH cannot work over there. I think as far as the kids’ ages it will be fine. I say go for it if you can manage it.

    • Another thing is to make sure there is some money left for traveling! Being able to take short trips all over Europe would be the #1 reason I would go for an opportunity like this. My cousin is in the Air Force in Germany, and he and his wife aren’t wasting a minute of it. It seems like once a month they are off skiing in the Alps, wandering around Istanbul, or enjoying the Amalfi Coast. So my advice other then go for it would be to make sure the salary will also allow for all that amazing traveling!

      • Traveling around is the goal! From Chicago, I can weekend in Door County. Which is great and we love it. From London we can do a weekend trip to Paris. :)

        –R

  9. I’ve never moved since we had kids so I have no advice on that front but when my kids were preschool age, my husband’s employer was bought out by a British company and we fantasized about getting to live in London for a few years — so my inclination is to say go (assuming that the very well thought out questions that others have raised, above, are answered to your satisfaction).

    But I have to say how weird that your company mentioned this in passing and then a few months later basically said “are you packed?”

    • Yes, I think the different parts of HR didn’t coordinate well. So the relo team jumped the gun (especially with the timing issues of the Olympics), assuming everyone else had done their job. It kind of freaked me out but I think it is coming together now.

      –R

  10. I have absolutely no advice because I’m too blocked by my excitement that you could live in London. It is my favorite city; I lived there just out of college, & DH & I would love a chance to do it again. One vague, long-term thought we have is that if DS goes to college in Germany, we could move to London for a few years while DD finishes high school.

    Anyway, there’s pros & cons obviously, but if you’ve got the desire to be abroad, to get sent for work is a fantastic opportunity. Good luck!

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