We just packed up our entire life and moved 2000 miles away from any family and friends our family has ever known. There’s no better way to describe doing something like this than to use the word “bittersweet” — we know we’re in the right place for our family, but we’re seriously struggling with feeling guilty for taking our kids away from their grandparents, cousins, aunts, and friends.
How do you deal with feeling like an awful parent and family member for moving far away? — Recent Nomads
I love this question because I’ve totally been there: my family and I moved from Alabama to Oregon last July. Even though we have very, very good reasons for moving (reasons that go beyond a simple “We wanted to live somewhere cool!”), we still occasionally feel pretty horrible for moving our kid so far away. I have a few tips for keeping your kid and yourselves connected to those you love, and for dealing with the random guilt pang:
Establish regular talk dates
Whether it’s video chat or just phone calls, pick one day each week that you and your kiddos sit down and talk to the family/friend they’re missing. It won’t always work out because people’s lives and schedules are inevitably crazy, but it’s good to have some kind of pattern. The only person I’ve been able to consistently spontaneously stay in touch with (and by spontaneously, I mean pick up the phone and call whenever I want) is my best friend.
It’s important to make sure everyone considers these chat dates important, or to not feel bad if it seems like at least one person doesn’t. We have some family who don’t opt into video chatting, and our four-year-old doesn’t like to talk on the phone. We’ve reiterated that video chatting will be the best way for everyone to keep in touch, but at the end of the day we don’t take it personally — it’s just how the situation is playing out.
Listen to everyone’s feelings
For the first two or three months after we moved, our son used every opportunity he could to let us know how much he missed Alabama. Even though we grew tired of having exactly the same conversation each time, we still patiently explained to him why we moved and then listened to what/who he missed and why. In our case, a solid 75% of the reason has to do with being around specific doctors and specialists, so it was also important to make sure we didn’t frame our move as something we did because of our son — it wouldn’t make sense to him that we would do something he didn’t like to help him.
After establishing a routine, getting set up in preschool and making friends, and getting out in our new city and taking advantage of all the cool things and events it offers — stuff that our son would never experience otherwise — he started to warm up to the move. He’s now a big fan of our new home, but still mentions missing Alabama. So my advice is to let your kids say they miss their former home and/or people, and to also acknowledge that you do, too — but then ramp up the convo and talk about all the positives you have around you.
Visit for as long as you can, and encourage people to visit you
We’re going back to Alabama for a while this fall — my son’s dad can only spend about a week there due to work obligations, but since I can take my work on the road my son and I will be there for several weeks. While we’ll probably stay around a month, I am contemplating spending two months there, just to make sure we both get to see everyone we want to. If this is an option you have, I suggest going for it.
We’re also lucky that one of our son’s grandmothers visits fairly frequently — they see each other every two or three months. It’s been amazing that she’s able to come out, and has definitely helped the transition.
Stick with your reason(s) for moving and support yourself
You wanted to move, you did it, and it feels so right — remember that. It’s really easy to question a big move, especially when you don’t have a close social circle around you. In my experience, the first six months were the hardest — once we crossed that hump, it’s only been easier to be really happy were we are. I mentioned that we moved mostly for medical reasons, but we also really, really wanted to come back to Oregon and had been looking for an opportunity to do so for a few years. I think it’s really important to remind yourself that you chose to move, and that you’re living where you really want to be.
Not everyone understands the need to get out and go somewhere new — and that’s ok. As long as you guys believe in yourselves and your reasons for moving, you’ll be ok.
Get out and make friends
It’s hard to make friends as adults, but I’ve learned that you really have to just suck it up and put yourself out there. I found myself being overly friendly to other parents at my son’s school — and then surprising myself by making real friends with people who I previously might have thought I wouldn’t have a lot in common with. I’ve been lucky in that I was able to connect with a few people in our new city in the years before we moved, so there was already a tiny social circle waiting for us when we got here. Our son has made a ton of friends through his school and random kid-related activities, and just knowing that we know people here helps with the feelings of guilt and isolation that can come with a big move.
What advice do you guys have?