Living Near Family vs. Living Here

Parent Q&A

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  • Hi! I am interested to learn how other people navigate having elderly or sick parents living abroad (or far away) while you are raising a family here.

    My own situation is that I am from Europe, married to an American, living here for 10 years, and have two kids under 5. I enjoy living here and we have built a good community, though the high cost of living is a burden on us. My mother back home has early onset Alzheimers and has been living with it for about 7 years now. She has in-home caretakers, my brother lives in the same city as her and takes care of all administrative issues and visits and spends time with her, and there are other family members and friends who maintain contact. Overall, she is in good care.

    However, living more or less on the other side of the world means that I can see her 2 - maybe 3 times max per year and that comes with long-distance travel. 2-3 times a year is not great with this disease and I estimate that my mom has about 1.5 - 2 years left before she will reach the later stages of the disease and might not need to move to memory care etc. I am considering moving my family to Europe, which my partner is open to. I am overwhelmed by how daunting it seems - the potential of moving back to my hometown brings up a lot of emotions, both positive and negative, I worry about changed family dynamics both in my family of origin and with my own family, both my husband and I would need to find new jobs, the kids would need to be supported through a major move (which would mainly affect my 5 year old, though at least he knows my parents and the city well as we have spent a lot of time there), etc.

    I am not planning on becoming a care taker for my mom, but to be there to both support my family with her care and to be there for her as she has to go through this terrible disintegration of her life. As I am contemplating the move I am also sad at the idea of leaving the Bay Area and since we don't own a home here and wouldn't be able to take our jobs there, it feels like we would not be able to maintain a strong connection to the Bay Area (though  we would come back to the US regularly to visit my partners family). 

    I am curious how other people navigate big life decisions like this in general, with young kids and elderly parents, and any advice on Alzheimer's specifically. Thank you for reading! 

    I can't say I have an answer, only to share my commiseration and note that I'll be following your thread closely as my husband just brought up this same concern with me last night. He is European while I'm an American, and we moved here about five years ago to be closer to my family in the Bay Area, but he fears that in the next few years, he will eventually be faced with the same difficult choices you're bringing as his parents' health start to deteriorate. I hope others here have some good insight and experiences to share. 

    I'm very sorry to hear about your situation. It's so tough. My family moved from the Bay Area to Europe almost four years ago, and about two years ago my mother (in NY State) was diagnosed with advanced cancer. So I was in a similar position to you, traveling back-and-forth (including during Covid times!), sometimes staying for up to 2-3 weeks at a time. It was expensive and often disruptive to my family's life, but certainly way less disruptive than moving! My mother died three months ago, and I am grateful for all of the time I had with her. One element of living far-away: I wasn't there for a lot of the day-to-day care, driving to appointments, etc. (that fell on my sister, and that's another consideration!), but maybe because of that, I was able to be "present" with my mother in a different way. We spoke nearly every day, and when I was there in person I had zero distractions of work, kids, etc. and was able to really be WITH her. In the end, I felt that "quality" of time was as meaningful as "quantity" of time. One other thing I will say is that, depending on your kids' dispositions, moving abroad is not for the faint of heart. As you probably know, there are a lot of adjustments, different schools systems to navigate, etc. It is sad, but your mother won't live forever, and from what I know of Alzheimer's, the quality of your time with her will definitely shift as the disease progresses. I would really sit down with your family and carefully weigh all of the costs and benefits of a big move vs. a lot of trips. And either way, I would think about how you are able to best "show up" for your mother, your children and partner, your siblings, and yourself through what is a terribly difficult time of life. In the end, I think that matters even more than geography. Good luck with it all. I have found a lot of solace in sharing my experience with other friends who are living abroad as their parents age and die. It's a terrible trade-off for international living. 

    This is a heartbreaking situation that many of us face.  My dad lives across the country (only 2K miles) and has stroke dementia.  It strikes me as though your understandable and deep grief may be guiding your thinking a lot.  Would it be possible for to you in the next 6 months to spend *much* more time in your European hometown with your mom--like, take ONE young child and stay for a month? Could you take family medical leave from work, or work out some decreased work load with your employer?  I know this seems daunting to consider, arrange, and schedule, but uprooting your family to be with your mother could not be what you envision it to be.  Or could you go by yourself for a week at a time?   Unless you want to permanently move back to Europe and your mother's condition is simply spurring you to act more quickly on a move back to Europe anyway.  Anyway, I am so sorry you are going through this and I totally get the grief, fear, and anguish of being so far away from a very ill parent. 


    i moved my family back to Europe to be closer to my parents and siblings and I would say the hardest part is to build a new community. Though I easily found a job the pay is not great and the hardest has been for my American husband who has not acclimated to the language and culture here. My primary aged son has adapted just fine and is happy at school. Happy to exchange more. Feel free to DM me. 

    Sorry to hear about your mother's health. We actually just made the opposite move from France where we'd been for 5 years, and had intended to stay much longer, to the Bay area once my father-in-law's dementia progressed to the point where he only has a year or so left. There are plenty of caregivers in place so we aren't needed in that capacity but we chose to make the move because we know we'll never have these years back, and we hope to create some more memories with him while we can. We have also been able to provide emotional support to his wife, my mother-in-law, which has been a big relief and hopefully will help extend her life as well. If it's the decision you decide to make know that kids are resilient and can even flourish in new settings given the chance, and jobs, even new opportunities, appear when you search for them.  Though we miss our life in Paris and plan to move back in the future, this is where we are meant to be now. Hope that helps you, and bon courage with your decision.

    I have the experience of making the difficult decision to move myself and my child away from a connected community — not for the support of a family member with Alzheimer’s but I still think there is a useful parallel: you mentioned concern for your 5 yr old — my experience was that the upheaval was a challenge, but my child learned some amazing lessons: 1) that things can change in a huge way, but that he can handle it, and even enjoy it. 2)That home is wherever we are, together and maybe most importantly: 3) being with loved ones at times of illness and need is a family value. 
    Best of luck to you and I’m sorry about your mother’s illness. 

    We moved home to the Bay Area partially to be close to family. It's tough in some ways (cost of living! smoke!  educational questions for my kid!), but I am so grateful that I will get to be near my parents as they age, and share the work with my brother.  My folks don't live here yet, but they have spent 3 months of the year here since we moved and are hoping to have moved here within the year.  I'm so glad my kid knows them.  There's every reason to expect they could live another 20+ years, but if they don't, she has had real time with them.  I am so glad that I have the prospect of living near my parents and being able to support them through their aging process, and that my brother and I can share the support roles.  But -- I love the Bay Area and it feels like home to me, we have close friends here, and my brother lives here and intends to stay.  I've accepted that my east coast friends are people I love, but will not see even yearly, most likely.  It's a bummer but I'm not sure what else I can do.  But, I also love it here and it feels like home and not exile.  Where I lived before never felt like home, and really didn't feel like home for my partner.  

    However, what's right for me might not be right for you.  Here are a few things to think about, which don't all cut the same way:

    Do you have relationships other than your family in Europe?  Do you have reasonable job prospects?  If you are just moving there for your mother (rather than your mother leading you to reassess your priorities) I think it's a little tougher as a sell.  

    I wonder how you will feel if you move your family there, and then 2 years later your mother is rarely lucid, or if she dies a year from now.  Where do you want your life to be in the long term?  What feels like home?  If the answer is the Bay Area, can you -- for example -- take an extended unpaid leave and take your children with you for a trip?  Sure, it's expensive, but so is moving and finding a new job.  

    How do you feel about raising your kids in the US vs. Europe?  With current US politics, I am already thinking about when/whether I would leave (and where I would go).  Is your home safer (from gun violence, devastating medical bills, fascist politics, ...)?   

    How close are you to your partner's family?  Would you see them less if you moved?  What does care and support for them look like long term?  How would that affect your family's needs?

Archived Q&A and Reviews



Move for Job - Stay here for Family and Friends?

March 2005

My husband and I are struggling with decision to move away from the area in order for him to pursue a great work opportunity. We would leave behind some family and great friends. We would be near some important family in the new location. There isn't a job locally right now and probability is low that we could find one for him that will be nearly as satisfying. We have 2 young children. Without the young kids I think I could tell myself I would visit often and make it work, enjoying the chance to be close to the other family in the new place, try some new things etc. However I know I won't be able to travel often and easily and I dread leaving behind the wonderful connections and community I have built here. I want my children to have those rich relationships. But I also want my husband to have opportunities for his work, I don't want to be the breadwinner and I think that less than satisfactory work for him won't be good for our whole family in the long run. How have others reconciled the need for job satisfaction, family connections and the conflicts of geography? Anon

Only you can know what is right for your family. But if it were me, and there was a good job offered near family, when there was no such offer here, we'd move there in a second. We have a great network of friends and some family here, too, and the economy of living in the Bay Area is just too much, and we would love a chance to move elsewhere. The network that you have here will not disappear, and you will be able to keep in touch with the people to whom you are closest. And you can build a new network, where you are going.

My father was in the military, and we lived in a variety of places while I was growing up, and we remain in contact with many of the people to whom we were close, all over the country. Distance is not the only determining factor in friendship. I find a lot of people here assuming that they need to stay in place for a long time, so they and their kids can have friends, and while that is a nice goal, moving around does not make it impossible to have and keep friends. And it sounds like this would be just one move for your family, so not that disruptive, in the big scheme of things. I know it's a hard decision. Good Luck Donna

Considering move to San Diego to be near ex-husband

February 2003

I'm a single parent of a 4 year old boy and I need some advice! I moved back to the Bay Area about 16 months ago after my husband and I split up because my family lives here and I felt I needed there support. My ex moved to San Diego and my son sees him about once every 4 to 6 weeks for a few days at a time (definitely not enough time). I'll be leaving my job at the end of March and I don't know what to do. I am sick and tired of being a single, full-time working-outside-the-home, parent! I know others do this successfully but I just feel overwhelmed and frantic all of the time. My question is, do I move to the San Diego area so that I can share custody with my ex (we are in agreement on this) so that I can perhaps have some kind of decent, less stressed filled life (and of course the very added benefit that my son will spend time with his dad on a regular basis), or do I stay in the Bay Area so that I can remain close to my family (who help out when they can, though neither of my parents are very interested in being grandparents and my siblings have there own lives)? If I move to SD I could go back to school, then hopefully get a more fulfilling career, but I won't know anyone (and I find it's rather difficult making friends), but if I stay here I'll be stuck in the same relentless rat race that I'm in now. My poor little boy has to bear the brunt of my discontent and the thought of how this is affecting him makes me want to cry!

At the moment, I never have time alone and all I seem to do is run frantically between work, preschool, grocery store, dr's office, etc, etc, etc. I don't have time to exercise, read a book, stare off into space, do anything remotely creative, or just have fun doing goofy stuff with my son. I know this sounds like one big self-indulged pity party but I truly need some advice. What would you do? Just another stressed out mom!

I think you should go on and move to San Diego. Your ex is the best support that you have right now for your child. No one else will be there for your child like he will. You already have school as an option for yourself there too. It won't be long before you develop your own support network. You can come up here for visits a few times a year for family help. Have you considered childcre swapping with other single parents? Take care of yourself. anon

You don't really mention what your relationship with your ex is like, other than to say that you're in agreement about shared custody. If the two of you get along decently now that you're apart, and he's willing to help, it sounds like it might be better to be there with him around for your son, than here with people whom you describe as ''not all that interested'' and ''having their own lives.'' I think I'd sit down and make lists: for example, how much help (in terms of time) you have here, how much you'd have there (talk to your ex if you can). How much money you have here (what you earn, what you spend), and what it would be like there. Who your friends are here, and how often you get to see them, versus who you'd know there (doesn't sound like there is anyone, other than your ex). Be as realisitic as you can (of course it's impossible to know completely, but you can probably have a pretty good estimate). Then decide what looks best for you. Good luck. Karen

I absolutely hear what you are saying. I am a single mom of a now 7 year old boy and even though I do not feel overwhelmed as much anymore, it is still very challenging at times. My advise to you is this. If your ex-husband is a good father to your son, and you and him can work things out amicably, MOVE. It will not only make your life easier, as you already mention, but the main thing is that it will be much better for your son. My son's father lives 200 miles away, and even though he sees him every other weekend and during school vacations, it is never enough. I am confronted on a daily basis with the sadness of my son missing the ''daily'' interaction with his father. The only thing from keeping me here in the Bay Area is that I have a very fulfilling career, which allows me to provide adequately for my son and be a very happy mother at the same time. There are no career opportunities for me in the area where my son's father lives (not even a job that would pay enough for me to support my son), otherwise I would seriously re-consider. Ties with family are important, but your son's father is his family as well, and ultimately, when your son is happy, you will be happy too. another single mom

My husband and I have been living in the Bay Area for our whole relationship (8 1/2 years) and are DYING to leave. We have zero family and only a few acquantances here. This is the situation for a tremendously outgoing and friendly man like my husband is! We feel that most of the people here are so much into themselves and the rat race, as you mentioned. All of our parents (both sets divorced) have been begging us to move closer to one of them but we've resisted until now, hoping that we'd someday make a real home for ourselves here (and also so as not to offend the parents we didn't choose to be close to). Since our daughter was born in July 2000, and my husband's decline in health, it has become down right depressing to be here ALONE. I am married and my husband is a wonderful father, but I too NEVER get any time alone (I even take my daughter to my part-time job) and our marriage NEVER gets any adult sustenance due to the constant presence of our daughter. So we've decided to move close to my father and step-mother this coming June, with the promise of family support with the difficulties that come with my husband's health, as well as having good grandparents who really want to be a part of their granddaugher's life, and even babysit!

The reason I'm telling you all this is because I want you to know that I understand completely how you're feeling about your lack of support and time to be you, separate from your son. It doesn't mean you're selfish, it just means that you were a person before you had a baby and you still are! I love my daughter more than I can put into words, but I really could use a break from her company from time to time.

Sooooo, even though you moved here because you thought being close to your family would help with being a single parent, it hasn't, right? If you and your ex get along well and agree that you could come up with a joint custody arrangement, it really may be in your and your son's best interest to move. If you're not getting the support or help you need from your parents or siblings, and your son's father wants to be able to be a hands- on dad, then I think that would be wonderful.

I too have a hard time making new friends, but having a child is an excellent ice breaker. You can join a mother's group, gym, church or chat with and get to know the other parents where your son goes to school. Being new in town should bring some offers of a few casseroles and shown around town.

Incidentally, we honeymooned in San Diego and I thought it was someplace I could live. I bet it would feel much less like a rat race and the people would be warmer than we've experienced here. Good luck! Jennifer

You're here bcs your family is here, but it doesn't sound like they are making your life a whole lot better. It also doesn't sound like you have a whole lot to lose by giving San Diego a try, and it also sounds like you'd be happier if your son was able to see his dad more often. See if your spouse will agree to a trial one year relocation and not contest it if you decide to move back here. anon

I am in a similar situation. I lived in Oakland and my ex lives in Castro Valley. Well I moved to Sacramento and my kids see their father every other weekend. So I do get some me time. The traveling is hard and I don't have any family out there but I'm not as far as you are from San Diego. But I keep one thing in mind when living my life and that is that I do for me and I do right by my children. Everything you do for yourself is not going to benefit everyone. But your child will benefit in the end. As a single parent, I know it gets overwhelming sometimes. Been there, done that....

You seem to have already answered your own question: You could either move to San Diego and ''share custody with my ex (we are in agreement on this) so that I can perhaps have some kind of decent, less stressed filled life (and of course the very added benefit that my son will spend time with his dad on a regular basis)''...or you could ''move to SD (where)I could go back to school, then hopefully get a more fulfilling career...(whereas) if I stay here I'll be stuck in the same relentless rat race that I'm in now.'' You may be lonely in San Diego, at first, but it sounds like the pros outweigh the cons. Also, you and your son could visit your family in the Bay Area (where your parents don't have much interest in being grandparents and your siblings are busy) rather than having your son ''visit'' his dad in San Diego every few weeks. Good luck

Fiance is moving - should son and I move too?

January 2003

Hello, I am hoping that you all can help me in making a really tough decision...

First, some background... My fiance and I have been together for over 10 years and have a 1 1/2-year old son together. We do not currently live together and our relationship has been rocky, to put it lightly (we've been in counseling for over year). However, we have recently gotten engaged so it seems things are moving towards better times. We are planning on getting married next year sometime in the summer. Both of us live in the bay area and I work on campus with a very good position (stable, good pay, benefits for me and my son - especially important in these trying times). My fiance (he's a physician just out of residency), however, has been job hunting and after months of searching, interviewing, and sending out resumes, he finally landed a position on the east coast - a one- year fellowship. Happy for him, not so for me. I am very unsure of what to do and need advice, especially from those of you in similar situations.

After much thinking through this, I've come up with several options:
Option 1 - I quit my job, move out to be with him. Positives: keep our family intact, our son doesn't experience the separation. Negatives: lose my job, unsure of job market there, no family, no friends around, question stability of our relationship to withstand a year of living together.
Option 2 - I don't quit my job and do not move. We do a long distance thing for year. Positives: keep the job, the stability. Negatives: family is split up, question stability of our relationship to withstand the stress of long distance.
Option 3? - anything I haven't seen yet.

I don't know what to do. I keep thinking if we were married, I would definitely move, but because we are not, I wonder if moving is worth it for me to totally uproot myself (and our son) into a world of uncertainty. Honestly, I don't think I'll be very happy moving to a new place with no job, no family, and no friends, and most likely not very much help from my fiance with our child (being with a doctor is rough; the on-call thing really sucks!). But, how difficult is it to do a long-distance relationship? I feel equally selfish and guilty for not moving since it means separating my son from his dad (they have a great relationship). Would not moving screw that (and him) up? HELP PLEASE! Anonymous Please

I would like to suggest that you step back and ask a different set of questions. It sounds like you are confused about a number of things and getting clarity on these other issues may make your posted question easier for you to answer.

From your writing it sounds like you are future thinking about MAYBE being a family. Ask yourself if you are a family right now or not? (Marriage does not a family make.) Life is happening right now. Your son is living and breathing right now. If you don't have clarity about what is happening now you can't begin to make informed decisions about the future. If you are not a family, then whatever is in the way of being a family, inside of you, is the place to focus. Be willing to tell the truth about it, as hurtful as it may seem.

If you are not a family right now, why would you even consider moving. If you are a family, then you and your son's father need to start thinking and behaving like one. And both of you need to ask what is in your son's best interest. Since you are both working parents, another option to consider would be to have Dad take care of the child for all or part of the time you live separately. Your reaction, not Dad's, to this last suggestion may inform you on the family question I posed earlier. anon

This is based on my personal experience and is not really advice but here goes -

When my husband and I got engaged, I had more friends and support in another town which was where we had agreed we would probably move to after my husband passed the exam for his professional license. He had grown up and lived all his life in the same Bay Area town and he gave me the impression that moving would be a grand adventure for him. I took a job which was supposed to be about a 6 month temporary and then , at the end of 6 months,

I started looking at other jobs where I expected we would move to. But my husband didn't pass the licensing exam. We had to wait 6 more months for him to take it over. At that point he was offered a job in town which paid him more than he would have made where I wanted to move. At the time, the salary seemed quite attractive to him. He told me it meant being able to save up more money for the move and to look for a job and a home. Well, 12 years later we are still in the same place as when we were married. We live in a town where still I have no family and very few friends - essentially no support system and my husband is always off doing his own thing. Meanwhile, we have two young children which I take care of while he is out goofing off with one of his college or high school buddies. My only friends are at a job I have had for a few years but it took several years of living here and working in painful situations before I got that job.

My opinion is that you should ask your fiance to try to find a fellowship closer to this state. I know getting a fellowship is not an easy process and this may be one he particularly wants. So if that is the case - let him go for a year but keep your stable job. I woud not uproot myself to go somewhere where I had no support basis, to possibly have to move at the end of the year again either because things didn' work out between you or because he got a residency somewhere else after his fellowship. Where he ultimately winds up will depend upon his specialty and whether he passes the appropriate licensing where he wants to live. If you think you can move there with the hope that you will both come back here and get jobs when he is done and have a hapy home etc. etc. I would think twice because there are too many unknowns in what will happen in his situation in the next couple of years.

You are worried about separating your some from his father, but truthfully, the father will be so busy with fellowship and residency for the next year or so, I wonder just how much time he would have to spend with his son even if he was there with him. It may be hard on you to stay here and take care of your son by yourself, but it sounds like you may be doing that already and it sounds like you have a job and some friends here who can maybe help you occassionally if you need it. If you move you will lose this and I think you will still be a ''single mom'' even if you are livng in the same home as your fiance. anon

It sounds like you are in a really tight spot and trying to think it through. My one question is how does your fiance feel about the two options you proposed? It might be that he is fine with the separation so he can focus on fellowship and then will move back here after fellowship. A third option which I have heard about as well.

I think many bosses at UC are somewhat flexible with taking some time off per family leave act, etc if you explain your dilemma. You could take 4-6 months off and go east and then come back and spend 6 months apart. That way you would keep your job and lessen the amount of separation between you and fiance and son. It's worth checking with you boss to see if s/he would be amenable to that at all. --Just a thought

It is important to know that moving is almost always more difficult for females because of having to completely rebuild a support system. Jobs are very scarce right now and it sounds like you are the one who is really responsible for yourself and your child, so to leave a steady income does not sound like a good choice. If in fact your relationship is moving in a good direction than the distance might actually bring you closer together, since it will require your fiance to make a greater effort to let you know that you are important to him. One thing you might think of doing is go and help him find a place to live, but don't plan on moving for at least six months until you see that he is stable in his new job. You can also do job hunting from here and not move until you have lined up a position. anon

Since his fellowship is only for a year, I wouldn't lose all of your child's security for a temporary situation. If you're not married now after 10 years and a child together, I would prioritize making sure you could support your child. He doesn't have to take the job. If he would move away from you, that doesn't sound like he would be a good father and husband. If your relationship can't stand being apart for a year, that doesn't bode well for your relationship either. anon

I know 2 couples who have survived long term distance relationships (5 years in one case; in the other case, 1 1/2 years and ongoing). However, they suffered a lot and were able to hang in there only because they had an extremely good and solid relationship before they had to live separated for several years. You say your relationship is pretty rocky and that you don't live together. I think surviving in a long distance situation will be very difficult, but to be frank, I believe that moving with your fiance to the East Coast in these circomstances might be even worse. Moving is very stressful and if things don't go well for you there (you don't find a job, for instance), it will be even more taxing and might destroy your relationship. I come from the opposite place: I chose to forgo an academic career to avoid moving from the BAy Area (my husband did not want to move). Even though it was my ''choice'' I resented him for the longest time and it created a lot of problems between us, until I was able to carve another succesful career for myself. And we had what I consider a very solid, stable relationship! Now imagine giving up a job, stability, your friends, your life, and starting all over in another place to ''maintain'' the relationship. I think it will destroy it. I would advise you to start living together here, before deciding to move, to have more clarity about how things may go. Also, he can move first and you can go visit and do job hunting before you move there, so at least you have something to fall on other than him in the East Coast. Be cautious and find ways to try staying together without giving up your whole lfe for a rocky relationship. Anon

My advice is stay here and keep your job. I believe that relationships that are meant to be can withstand, and even be strengthened by, separations. Although we did not have children at the time, in the first five years I was with my husband (including after we were married) we spent about 1/3 of our time apart. Part of that time he was in Michigan (in school) and I was in New York; part of that time he was in Tokyo and I was in New York. It sounds like you are currently in a good situation for you and your child. Because you have a rocky relationship with your fiance, I don't think you should put all your eggs in that basket. I think you should focus on taking care of your child. Besides, this is only a one year fellowship so if you moved you would probably have to move again. I think you can use this time to assess your relationship and at the end of the year figure out your options. Focus on saving up for visits to the East Coast so your son and his father can have time together (and ask your fiance to contribute financially if he can't get the time off to visit you). Good luck with whatever you decide to do. Stephanie

My first thought to you is....a job is only that...just a job. Security is nice but can be is not. And family should ALWAYS come first, in my opinion. However, unhappy parents are not a better solution either. This is a tough one....but my suggestion to you is to figure out what will make you the happiest...being all in one place as a family, having that support in building a new life together or staying in an environment y ou know and feel secure, providing stability for your son(of course, his father leaving may prove to create instabilty, too). Ultimately, what makes you the happiest will be the best solution for your son...

My second thought is that having a piece of paper that says you are ''married'' should not be the determining factor in helping you make your decision. You have already made a lifetime commitment to each other...having a son together. If you even consider not going with your fiance, my feeling is you are not completely sure you want to spend your life ''together'' otherwise there would be no question.

Ultimately, you have made a choice already. You have a son together, and if he, your fiance, is a good father, and they have a great relationship, as you claim, I don't think (remember, you asked for this advice) you should deprive either one of them of that because of your need for security/stability. Part of making a marriage and/or a family work is making compromises and sacrifices! I would recommend you make the commitment to your fiance AND your son and go---yes, it will be hard...but life is! Think of the reward... anon

Even if you and your fiance had been happily married for years and had a rock solid relationship, I don't think it would make sense for you to quit your job and move 3000 miles away for a one year appointment. You'll only face the same dilemma all over again a year from now.

And given how rocky your relationship is, I frankly don't think it makes sense for the two of you to even be engaged -- your relationship is so rocky, that you can't even live together NOW! Marriage won't fix a relationship that's not working any more than having a child together fixed it. You really ought to get to the point where you can stand to live together *before* you get engaged! And if, after 10 years of being together, and a year of counseling, you're still not at that point, I think you should take a long hard look at whether or not it makes sense to be in this relationship at all. And just think how much more of a strain it will put on that relationship to move 3000 miles and live together in a new place where you don't know anyone except each other. My advice is, stay put and rethink the engagement! -- anon

Don't move. Don't leave your friends, family, job, home to be with someone you don't get along with. All your son needs for stability is you. Maybe you can arrange it that he can see his father once every few months during the one year fellowship. A year really isn't so long. Some men remove their wives from their support system so they can control them. I hope this doesn't describe your fiance. But I bet he could have gotten a job on this coast if he had wanted to. sun

It seems to me as if you have already half made up your mind when you say that you honestly don't think that you could move to a new city with no friends, family or job. In conjunction with the type of job your fiancee will be doing, it sounds to me as though it might turn out to be a very lonely experience. This may lead you to resent your fiancee and become very dependent on him for social stimulus.

I understand why you would go if you were married, but you are not yet and are still going to counselling. And remember that even if you are married you are still an individual. I am only hoping that the counselling is working and that is the reason for you getting engaged. The status of your relationship on paper is pretty irrelevant really. Even if you were married you should still be asking the same questions based on how your relationship has been with your fiancee and your son. The thing in question is the quality of your relationship with your fiancee and with your son.

You say that at the present time you do not live with your fiancee. How does your son deal with this situation already ? If he seems fairly stable it might be that he is now used to that situation and suddenly hurling him into a situation where you are all living together, plus in a strange place, might affect him as much. Also, he is bound to pick up on strains in the relationship between you and your fiancee.

Having said all of this, you might find the new experience a totally energizing one and things may improve in your relationship. My husband and I recently made a similar transition but from a different country and the change has been the best thing that could ever have happened to us. But we needed to escape the stress and move to a more relaxed lifestyle where we spent more quality time together. AND we were both on an even keel - ie. we were both moving for the same reason. I have also moved to a new city and given up a good job etc for a dream job that my husband had wanted to do for years. Immediately the siutation was imbalanced because I didn't really want to go. On top of that, he threw himself into his work and seemed to have very little time for me. This made for a lonely, and painful time and it did cause some serious relationship problems.

It doesn't sound as though the extra time together thing is likely to happen since your fiancee will undoubtedly be working extremely long hours.

Unfortunately you will have to make the decision for both yourself and your son. A year is a short time and maybe the distance will let you both re-assess your need for each other. 10 years is a long time and seems to be the breaking point for a lot of couples. I think it is because people suddenly realise that they have lost their identity. Yet again, sometimes a move can spur you into starting again. It can make you more assertive, more empowered and more enthusiastic about what you want. But it can also cause you to become more introvert. If you are the kind of person who is a go-getter and is very sociable then you might find that a new job, etc will kick you out of the rut you are in. In turn that might give your relationship a whole new energy.

It is hard to tell and only you can make the decision and know what feels right.

Just be wary of what you commit to. If it goes wrong, the worst that will happen is that you will come back here and start again. But, in a year's time your fiancee might decide that he hates it in the East and want to return here.

Have you voiced your concerns to your fiancee ? I think that you MUST do that first. It will be far better being done now than when he has moved and has his head in his job - then there will be no getting through. It seems a little selfish that he went ahead and took the job without consulting you first. Or did you just not voice your concerns from the start ? Whatever you decide, I hope you have luck and sort things out with your fiancee. Remember, if you are miserable then so will your child be since he will be potentially spending more time with you. Good luck Anon

Surely you will be inundated with concerned advice on this very difficult situation, but here are my two cents anyway. I believe the best thing would be for your fiance to continue to look for employment in the Bay Area, where his wife-to-be and child are already living stable lives. In my opinion, your most important duty as a mother is to secure financial stability for your family. Being that you are the only employed one of the two, and that your fiance has landed merely a one-year stint far far away, the wisest and most practical decision would be to remain here, where you are on sure footing. If your husband-to-be cares a hoot about his responsibilities to you as a partner and to your child as a dad and PROVIDER, then he will eventually realize that continuing to look for a viable position where his life has already taken root is the best (while perhaps to him the least exciting) decision. I have no personal experience with situations such as yours. This is just my opinion. Good luck. Miki

Though my experience was very different because we did not yet have children, I felt compelled to put in my 2 cents worth. My now-husband was an intern when we met, and 4 months later, he moved across the country to finish his residency. We maintained a long-distance relationship for 10 months.

Based on my experience, if I were in your shoes, I would stay here with your son. A long distance relationship is very difficult, and requires much soul-searching. It made me really consider my relationship, and neither of us were sure it would last, but in our case, it got stronger. You sound unsure about the future of your relationship in general. I agree that moving you and your son to an unknown area with no family (except your fiance, who, yes, will be working a lot), no job, etc. would be very difficult and stress- inducing, and I worry that it would cause you to resent your fiance.

If you stayed here, your relationship would be tested fiercely, and the separation may prove to be helpful to you; will the relationship stand the test of time or not? As for your son, hopefully he could see his father often, but even if he can't, I think he's young enough to not remember the separation down the line...and hopefully you will reunite at the end of the year, and their close bond could be reestablished. anonymous

I have a third option for you: your fiance doesn't move to the east coast and he continues to look for a job so he doesn't have to uproot his family. I don't know why you have to make the sacrifice. Your job is long term, his isn't. It sounds like he has had a hard time finding work, but just because he found one thing (and a short term thing at that) doesn't mean he has to take it and stop looking for something that actually meets the needs of those he loves. I don't know what your problems were in the past but it sounds like there might be more weight on his needs in the relationship than yours. Good luck. anon

I went through a somewhat similar decision as yours, but different enough that I'm not sure my experience will be helpful. But for what's its worth, I moved to the west coast from the east because of a job when my kids were 5 and 20 months. My husband stayed on the east coast waiting to sell our house and land his own job in Calif and then move. We thought it would take 6-12 months and it was a year and nine months later when we finally got together again in Calif.

It was very hard on all of us, but we were already married and living together. The kids missed their Dad terribly and I felt quite resentful of my new role as a single mother. It was hardest with my 20 month old because she just didn't understand where Dad had gone and she grieved. I would say that while she certainly loves her Dad today, she never really bonded to him after that experience. Looking back on it I can say that I would do this differently now...emphasizing the importance of family unity over jobs and money.

However, you are not living with your partner now so his absence might not feel quite as acute. Your partner only has a job for a year, then what? Will you all move somewhere else again, or go back to California? I think I would ask some questions of him...does he really have to go? is this such an important career opporunity that it is worth leaving his family for a year?

On the other side, can you take a year's leave of absence from your own job and then return to it? Making plans to return might make a year away an adventure rather than a long-term seperation from friends and family.

If he decides to go and you stay, then I would advise reunions as often as possible.We were able to get together every couple months and that helped. My husband did most of the traveling to see us. We had a difficult time reuniting as a married couple and as a family. I certainly grew up and changed during my time as a single parent.

You have even more pros and cons since you are already feeling uncertain about the relationship. Perhaps the seperation could be a time of figuring out what you both really want...I think I raised more questions than offered advice, but it's a tough one and my heart goes out to you. Good Luck! anonymous

My family is in LA but my friends are here

September 2002

I would like to ask wiser minds out there what they think about what's more important when raising kids: close ties with extended family or the overall culture of the place you raise them in. Let me explain. My husband will be graduating from law school next year and we're trying to decide where we want to finally settle. We have two kids who'll be 6 and 3 when he graduates. Here's the conundrum. I grew up in L.A. and my entire family, with whom I am close, continues to live there. I moved up here in 1983 and until recently, never entertained the idea of moving back down. My entire circle of friends and all my ''social capital'' is here, and I feel completely in my element.

Lately, especially now that my kids are old enough to really be into their grandparents, uncles and cousins, I'm starting to really wrestle with the idea of moving back. My husband and I could both easily get work in LA, and we'd then enjoy all the benefits of having family close by - willing babysitters, lotsa cousins for my kids to grow up with, and the security and connectedness that comes with regular interaction with one's extended family. And heck, even West Hollywood is cheaper than here.

But then I remember what I hated about LA growing up. I don't want to raise my kids in a place where nobody's out on the street, where a pretty face is worth so much more than a sharp mind. Sure, we could live in a funkier, more walkable neighborhood than the one I grew up in, but it would still be LA. I go around and around on this one. Can anyone offer some perspective on this for me' Will I wreck my kids if we move back to LA' Will I be depriving them by staying up here so they only see their grandparents a few times a year' And what about me - will I make new friends and find new daycare, etc. etc.' I'm obsessing about this, obviously. Anyone have words of wisdom for me' Thanks so much, Julie

I live very close to my parents, in-laws, cousins, aunts, etc. and I absolutely love it! My husband, who was at one point itching to move to more affordable housing, now wants to buy land and build a family compound so we can be even closer! Now that is a bit extreme, but it shows you that we see a ton of benefits. I can't tell you how much it means to me to see the cousins laugh and play together. Or to have my kids have multiple ''homes away from home.'' Plus, my husband and I can go out anytime we want and know that our kids are having a ball - without costing a small fortune in babysitting. While I agree with you about LA, I think that the benefits will far outweigh the negatives. In my opinion, relationships come first before anything else. Helena

I grew up in the LA area, and lived there for most of my life until about 5 years ago, when I moved to Berkeley. (I attended college on the East Coast and graduate school here.) I love Berkeley, but I also love LA!

My impression is that, besides the superior, cheaper bread in Berkeley, you can find everything in LA that you find here. The LA area is as culturally diverse as the Bay Area. There are great restaurants, museums, concerts, lectures, etc. Both areas have similar problems: flight from the public schools, traffic and parking, high housing costs, and many others.

I lived in two different LA area neighborhoods as a child, where kids played together on the street, and the kids on my old block still do. (My parents still live in the house I grew up in.) If you mean people on the street going to restuarants, shopping, etc., there's Melrose, Old Town Pasadena, Santa Monica, to name a few areas. Both here and in LA there are plenty of neighborhoods where there is ''nobody's out on the street.''

The other issues you mention are so personal, it's hard to know. How much will you miss your Bay Area friends compared to how much you will miss your family? If your kids are going to be 3 and 6, you have experienced what raising children here is like. You've know whatever level of babysitting and grandparental visits you get. Depending on the age of your parents, that level will either probably remain constant, or decrease as travel becomes more difficult.

I think as an adult, especially if you have children who take up most of your time outside work, it's harder to make friends than before. This makes keeping your present friends more important. It depends on your personality, and also how many social contacts you have. With so many family members in LA, you might have enough company, and they might make in easier for you to meet other people. It's hard to say.

My parents live in LA. Although they are retired and well enough to travel, they only come up here about 5 times a year, and then only for the weekend; this despite both of their children and all four of their grandchildren living within walking distance here. We go down occasionally, but it's harder because we work. (And my husband doesn't like us to visit because my parents have an unfenced pool, and we have two children under 4.) It makes me sad, when there could be so much more contact if we lived closer.

If I can offer any more insight, feel free to contact me. Karen

Tough choice~

My husband and I moved from LA 4 years ago leaving behind family, though joining many friends in the Bay Area. Since moving here and starting our own family, we have been heavily recuiting all family members to move up here.

Short of that working for you, I think growing up amongst family is more important than living in the Bay. Yes, I too enjoy the Bay Area much more than Los Angeles, but like you said there are more desirable parts of LA to live in then say Sherman Oaks or Brentwood. There's a great neighborhood a bit east of the Beverly Center which is located near all parts of LA, I lived on Beverly and Flores for a while and loved it! Some parts of Santa Monica are more laid back, and parts of North Hollywood (yes, the Valley) are fun too. Eventhough I grew up in LA, I grew up alongside all my family and cousins and wouldn't trade that for anything. anonymous

julie, i am not necessarily any wiser than you, but i will give my 2 cents. both my parents and my husband's parents live in LA. we met in the 80's while at school in berkeley and have been here ever since. we have 2 kids (age 4 and 2). we did consider the benefits of being closer to the grandparents and other family, but we love the bay area. our kids get to see their grandparents at least 4 times a year and i think they have a wonderful relationship even at their young age. it is really the quality time, not quantity, that counts. we also talk on the phone regularly and talk about them alot. when we reunite with our extended family, there is no warming up period. the kids feel instantly comfortable. LA is close enough that we can drive back and forth pretty easily. the kids are used to it. and airfare is cheap too. on the other hand, if you do decide to relocate, everything will work out fine. you will get good jobs, live in a good neighborhood and make new friends. don't worry either way. suzie

I can relate to your dilemma about whether to stay in the Bay Area or move to the L.A. area to be closer to your family. For what it's worth, I lived very happily in L.A. for eleven years. I NEVER expected to stay, let alone like being there. My husband and I moved here five years ago just before my first child was born and my family is in So Cal, so I often wish that we could move back for the same reasons you identify. All of our vacation time is spent visiting family so that our children will have a chance to know their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

People in the Bay Area love to disparage Los Angeles and presume that there is no intelligent life there. This is pure balderdash. L.A. has a vibrant arts scene, fabulous restaurants, great public radio and some really wonderful neighborhoods in which to live. And sadly, the Bay Area now features many of the same blights that L.A. is renowned for: traffic jams, the astronomical cost of living, and people talking about real estate not social change these days. As someone who attended UC Berkeley over 20 years ago, my impressions are that this area really has NOT changed for the better.

You can create a great life there as well as here, but a relocation of this magnitude takes a few years to bear fruit (aside from what you would gain right away by being close to your family). Two things really helped me to enjoy living in L.A. all those years: live close to work so that the commute is not a killer, and keep your sense of humor about you. I guess the same could be said about living here. Anonymous

It's truly wonderful to have caring extended-family to stimulate your children. It's equally wonderful if they're supportive of you. But any child's priority is the relationship with its parents. So, my advice is to live where ever makes you happy and more effective parents. In the end, that is what's best for your children. Kim

I lived in LA for 10 years - moved up here in 1989. No one yet has mentioned in their post the issue of air quality. I moved out of LA because of it, and while married for 6 years while I lived there and also during my late 20's and early 30's (prime child bearing years), I vowed not to start a family down there because of the air quality. I could not even imagine a newborn baby breathing in that air! I discovered soon after moving there in 1979 that I could not live inland. I lived in Santa Monica, 5 blocks from the beach which helped me to handle living down there for 10 years. My advice is that before you make your decision do some research to see how bad it really is and what potential impact it may have on your children's respiratory systems. It is my belief that the people who live in LA are in deep denial about the air they are breathing. When I drive down there for a visit, my eyes begin to burn when we hit about Valencia! Good luck! Breathing easy in the East Bay

This post really spoke to my sadness at living so far away from our families. I grew up close to family - grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. We all met every Sunday evening for dinner at my grandparents' house. My great-grandmother also lived with my grandparents. It was really wonderful. As did many friends, I moved as far away as possible (opposite coast) as soon as I graduated from high school. I went to college in LA, in fact, where I also had some family, which made it nice for me. In any case, I am now a parent with virtually no family in the Bay Area (one cousin who is very busy in law school whom we don't get to see much). My daughter's grandparents (only one set is living at this point) live on the East Coast, as do aunts, uncles, and cousins. We are fortunate that my in-laws can travel here several times a year. My daughter is also really into her grandparents now and it is wonderful to see, yet also makes me sad that they aren't closer. We have no desire to move to where they live, and my in-laws will never move out here. I totally understand your concern about raising a child in LA - I have my own problems with LA. ;-) However, I personally think it's so rewarding to have your children grow up knowing their family in a close way - in other words, growing up with them and seeing them often, rather than visiting them now and again. So you can see that I would be leaning towards moving to LA to be near family in your case. As for the concern about all those LA superficialities, you need to teach your children values no matter where you raise them, so I don't see LA being a problem. Yes, you'd have to put more work into it, but it could be done. What a rewarding experience it could be for your child. A side note: my cousin in LA, age 16, wants to go to college ''someplace foggy'' as she hates the fact that it's always sunny in LA and can't wait to leave. ;-) Good luck with your decision! I know it's a tough one. Wish I had family nearby...

Just had to add my thoughts on this one...My entire extended family lives here in the Bay Area and it is something I wouldn't trade for the world. My kids are close to all their grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, etc and they love it. Having said that, I also taught high school in LA for seven years and always thought it would be an incredibly difficult place to raise kids. The economic divide there is enormous. People live in intensely segregated communities by ethnicity and/or income and although LA is very diverse, it is in no way integrated. Communities are very homogeneous, and it is hard to find places where people of different economic and cultural backgrounds congregate. Also, the culture of consumption and appearance is MUCH MUCH stronger than here in the Bay Area. The pressure to look great and have all the latest stuff is hard on kids, especially teenagers, and while peer pressure is certainly present everywhere, it seems to be an especially humongous beast in LA. It's a constant uphill battle to convince kids that there are more important things than good looks, nice cars and money -- there is so much pressure and evidence to the contrary. I don't know if these issues are relevant for you, but these are my observations.... D. M.