There is a bold freedom when you move as a single person. The highway is open, and you are free to take any exit. Your destiny is unchartered, and the future is relatively carefree. In contrast, when you move your family, you need to be slightly more responsible. Those things that aren’t priorities as a young single person are all of a sudden really important like researching daycares, schools, insurance, work visas, health care options, retirement plans—all of those issues become imminently important when coordinating a massive move as a parent.
When we moved to Sweden, we fumbled around a bit and relied heavily on my husband’s company to handle the logistics—that was a mistake. The woman organizing our relocation stopped answering our emails as soon as we set foot into the country. We were on our own and had not conducted any research prior to our rushed relocation—rookie mistake.
Learning via trial by fire is never my preferred method, but it does burn certain lessons into your brain. Hopefully, you can learn from our mistakes and keep these top three things in mind when relocating with your family.
Reminder #1: You’re going to make costly mistakes—a lot of them.
I’m not talking about overtipping at dinner, though that will certainly happen. I’m talking about a series of errors, blunders, and bumbles that you will make over the first three months of your relocation that will end up costing you a small (or large) fortune. Moving is expensive already—you’ll need to outfit a new house, purchase new clothes appropriate for the culture/climate, and acquire other odds and ends that seem to accompany every move. You’ll also do things that you may not realize are costly until much later. For instance, we first purchased an unlimited subway pass because we didn’t know how often I would take the train or bus around the city. We later discovered that in Sweden, people pushing strollers ride on buses for free, and I didn’t need an unlimited pass at all but a much cheaper ticket that allowed for a few roundtrips each month.
We also made the mistake of renting an old house in the most expensive neighborhood in town (we had no idea it was the ritzy part of town) and rent that year was outrageously high (along with the heating bill). So, just face it. Take whatever moving costs you know you will incur and tack on another 30%. The learning curve of a new place is going to cost you. Plain and simple.
Reminder #2: The novelty wears off faster than you think.
When your new location is all bright and shiny, and your family is happy exploring new playgrounds, cafes, and restaurants, you may think that this is the best move you’ve ever had, and it may very well be. You’re still in the glowing honeymoon phase of relocation—remember that following the honeymoon phase comes the shock and grief phase. You are going to experience a period where you hate where you live. You’ll hate yourself for moving and you’ll hate everyone around you. “How could we ever think this was a good idea?! I just want to move back!” These dark thoughts will swirl through your head during the day as you stand in the grocery store with three different brands of I-don’t-know-what-this-is-or-how-much-it-costs and are ready to tear your hair out. Take a deep breath and remember that you will adjust, adapt, and move on—just give yourself time. There’s no escaping the depressing slump that follows the honeymoon phase of relocation. Hang in there!
Reminder #3: Not everyone will understand why you’re moving.
Let’s face it—our family rarely understands our relocation, our kids may not understand the impact this will have on them (how could they?), our local friends will be sad, and we will even mourn our relocation a bit every time. It is hard to feel like you aren’t understood. Nobody else is in your bedroom at 9 pm when you’re chatting with your partner, discussing the pros and cons of moving to wherever you’re going. Nobody really knows the negotiations that happened to make this move a reality. Nobody else is in your shoes—it is impossible. You and your family will be experiencing this firsthand, and everyone else will be hit by the waves without understanding the cause. They may be unsupportive or downright combative.
Remind yourself that even though those around you may not understand or support your relocation, there are people you can lean on during this process. Friends who have experienced a big move can lend a helpful shoulder to cry on (although it may be a virtual shoulder). Reach out to your greatest supporters and tell them you need their positivity now more than ever. When we moved, it strengthened our partnership, and we turned inward, instead of outward for support. There are always silver linings to every relocation—you need to find every positive aspect you can and forgive the rest.
As commonly said, time will heal all wounds. You may have river-deep scars at the end of all of this, but those wounds will heal. You will be a stronger family, a more resilient person, and will learn more about yourself along the way than you can ever imagine.
“Knocked up Abroad isn’t just for pregnant expats, it’s a book for anyone wading through life in a foreign country, with an intercultural marriage, or who loves travel. There is a thread of universal truth to be found in each of these personal stories.” – Danielle Owens, NoLongerNative