What If It Doesn't Work Out

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I've been trying to figure out how to start this post, but this subject was so disturbing, that I'm not sure how to begin writing about it. I'm a lurker on twitter. I don't actively participate on it, but I watch what's going on, about once or twice a week, usually to see what they're talking about during the walking dead, ha! No seriously, I was on there yesterday and came across this on my feed:

Raise Awareness #Hagueconvention child abduction. #Goinghometogethercampaign 2015 https://www.change.org/ & #expatstuckmums

Link: Expatstuckparent.org

I got curious and clicked on the site and I learned something that I had no clue about. Ok, I've known for years  that a parent might abduct his/her kids and bring the children to their home country, or go on holidays to his/her country and not want to go back, and will want to keep the kids with the spouse or not. It's heart breaking that grown ups can't agree with themselves and are willing to traumatize their kids forever by being so greedy.

What if it doesn't work out?

Now, what I didn't know is that sometimes, families will move overseas, with one of the spouse's job and things don't go as expected, then the parents split, one parent decides to stay and the other decides to go back home. The spouse that is trying to leave the country doesn't realize that he/she is "stuck". If he/she brings the kids, as per the Hague Abduction Convention he/she can be seen as kidnapping his/her kids and if the person decides to stay, he/she will be living with a sometimes violent spouse or with someone who you've got nothing in common. As noted above, both parents are living in a foreign country, usually due to work. One parent will be working and the other will be taking care of the family. As the accompanying spouse, you can't always work outside of the home, depending on the country where you're living.

On the same note, I was on Quora today and saw this question: "Is it illegal for a spouse to confiscate your passport in the U.S.?"

Someone posted this link about getting legal advise in the USA for victims of domestic violence. It does not only apply to American citizens, so someone who is here on a visa and is able to seek help, should do so as soon as possible.

The Hague Abduction Convention

Created to protect children from international abduction.

The problem is that it has been affecting families overseas trying to go back home after splitting from their partners. The Hague Abduction Convention is necessary for many reasons already mentioned, but governments and courts all around the world should create amendments to help those who sometimes become homeless or are in abusive relationships just so they can stay with their children.

It's unacceptable that in today's age, with all the technology and speed of things, many people still suffer due to overlooked laws that should be amended. Courts have their hands tight to do much and a lot of families are suffering because of it.

I was looking through the Expat Stuck Parent website and there's a lot of info, including ideas on what to do before you become an expat with your partner.

My advise would be... you know your relationship better than anyone. Just like a baby doesn't change people (relationships), moving overseas doesn't either. An asshole will always be an asshole. There, I said it!

Cost of Living Comparison: Phoenix, AZ vs. Washington, DC

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When we moved from London to Phoenix, it was a breath of fresh air. We could actually enjoy life a little more and not worry about not havi money to pay for food and/or day care. Although we enjoyed our lives in London, yes, we did enjoy it a lot, salaries are way lower than in the US and many times we had to really tighten our belts to stay afloat. Cost of living in Phoenix is much lower than London and the other side of the coin, is that cost of living in DC is much higher than Phoenix. We almost had a heart attack when we had to go food shopping for the first time and get all the pantry staples, fill the fridge, etc. Crazy! And that's not all, every time I go to the grocery store for a quick trip is always more than I expect it to be.

I was doing a search online and found this site where you can compare cost of living from thousands of cities around the world. According to the Expatisan site DC is 62% more expensive than Phoenix. A few things that I didn't think would be too expensive:

Bread: $3.29 DC x $1.69 Phoenix

1qt/1ltr milk: $1.05 DC x $0.71 Phoenix

500g/16oz Cheese: $9 DC x $4.74 Phoenix

But the good thing is, in the US, salaries follow the cost of living (pretty much), unlike England, where the salary really doesn't support the cost of living. So, if you move to a more expensive city (I'm assuming, you'd move with a job already), your salary would increase as well.

Expatisan is great because they have people adding the items and prices locally, which means the list gets constantly updated. Their blog is outdated and their international school database that I wanted to use is not ready, but the cost of living comparison is really great.

Please note: This is NOT a sponsored post. I found this site and thought it would be useful to share.

House vs Apartment Living

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Through my life I've lived extensively, in both, houses and apartments. I'm not one to say: "Oh, I will never live in apartments again" or vice-versa. If you live in a big city, like NY, Tokyo, London you might not have a choice, unless you're a millionaire or are living far from the city center. The same goes for living in a suburb, you might not have any apartments , and who knows what life will bring, right? Below are my opinions about advantages/disadvantages of living in each different type of dwelling, I know there's an exception to each topic, as usual, but in average what I wrote holds true.

House Living

House Living

  • There is no one above or below you
  • You might be able to have grass/front and/or back garden (although some homes nowadays have a garden that is the size of a shoe closet)

Front Garden Back garden

  • Larger spaces, rooms
  • Garage/car port
  • When you go food shopping you can just park the car and bring everything in at once.
  • You might have a chance to have a laundry room.
  • You're more vulnerable to robbers.
  • No pet rules (unless you live in a community with a HOA)
  • More privacy
  • You usually get to host yard/garage sales

Apartment living

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  1. More security
  2. Hardly any storage space
  3. Neighbors on all sides, except for the top/bottom floors, for obvious reasons.
  4. Bringing your groceries up or down is a real pain
  5. Usually you have a gym/pool and other facilities
  6. If you live on the top floor of a very tall building you have an unbeatable view of the city
  7. Room sizes are smaller
  8. Usually your washer/dryer are in the kitchen/bathroom
  9. Less chances of kids running around, climbing trees, getting muddy
  10. The rooms are very close together

Funny story: When we moved from Alexandria, USA to Lincoln, UK, we went from a 4-bedroom home to a 3-bedroom home. We had already gotten rid of a lot of our stuff, but even so,  we still had to get rid of a lot more. When we moved from Lincoln to London, UK, we moved to a 2-bedroom apartment... oh it was tight. And believe me, we got rid of a lot! Then we moved with my father-in-law, which meant we had a bedroom! Yeap, you read it right, 1 bedroom for a family of 3! Some of our furniture was spread through the rest of the flat, but if you've ever seen flats in London, they're small... Then we moved back to a 3-bed home in the US and had to buy all the stuff again... oh well, it's life.

My advice when downgrading:

  • Sell your stuff on classified websites, such as Craigslist (USA), Gumtree (UK).
  • Donate, we found that some charities wouldn't take a lot of stuff. I was actually shocked when we were living Alexandria and we were told that they would only certain items. But in AZ or in the UK I didn't come across that, except for a push chair that we were donating and for safety reasons one charity shop didn't take it.
  • Give away to friends
  • Hold a yard/garage sale
  • Don't accumulate too much, I've gotten much better through the years and I'm always donating things that we don't use anymore, but it can still be an issue.
  • If you know your move is temporary, and you can, place your larger furniture in storage. In our case, except for the 1st move, the others weren't planned, they happened because of circumstances.
  • Maybe a family member can keep some of your stuff, if they have the space, if you have a date to come back for it, if they're willing to help.

Each person has a preference whether they like house vs apartment living, but sometimes due to unforeseen and temporary periods of our lives, we don't have a choice. Especially if you choose a nomad lifestyle, but you can always strive to get what you want no matter where you live.

Moving with a 8 Year Old - The Guide - Part 1

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True Fact: Kids Bounce Back Easily

True Fact: Even thought we, as parents, know they will be ok, it is never easy to see them upset.

Moving with a 8 year old isn't easy. They're still small, but not too small that they don't know what is going on and they're big enough to make you feel guilty and to be attached to their friends and the place where they live. Victoria is a tough little girl, but at the same time, she is a planner and very attached to her things and the people around her.

My little one has been through a roller coast of emotions for the past 2 months or so. As soon as we found out that we'd be moving, we told Victoria. I was driving her back from school and looked through my rear-view mirror as I told her. It was just like a normal conversation, my voice was upbeat, not melancholic and as I watched her facial expression, I noticed she was serious. I could almost touch all the thoughts going through her mind. When Victoria noticed me looking at her, she smiled. I asked what she thought about it and she said: "It's cool".

As the days went by and it started to become more real, to all of us, Victoria got more and more upset. She was very close to her friends at school and in the neighborhood, she loved her teacher and her home.

A few dialogues we've had:

V: "Are we going to be here for the school parties"?

(her school does about 4-5 classroom parties each year and Victoria loves a good party)

Me: "No, we'll move before the parties happen."

*Tears*


When I was separating clothes to give away:

Me: "Victoria, this dress is very small, should we give it away?"

V: "Noooo, this is my favorite dress, you are dragging me away from my friends and now you want to rip my clothes away from me as well?"

(Yes, very dramatic)


And many times over, we heard:

V: "I don't want to go to DC!"

"I hate your new job" (directed at my husband)

"I want to stay with my friends"

"I don't care what you say, Phoenix is better"

Tears and more tears.


How we dealt with it:

  • We talked and talked and talked.
  • Make it out to be an adventure.
  • Show pictures of the new town, state, country. The internet is great for that.
  • As my father-in-law put it; we sold Washington DC, such as, snow, squirrels, the place where she was born, change of leaves, different seasons, cooler temperatures, the new baby panda born in the zoo... anything and everything we could think of.
  • Take them to favorite restaurants, play areas, allow them to "say goodbye", sort of speak, to their town and favorite places.

20150913_161428 Take kids to their favorite restaurants and play areas. Allow them to say good bye to their favorite places.

Oregano's it is, they don't have this delicious chain in the East Coast.

  • Always be positive, even if you have some doubts in your heart, don't let it show. Kids pick up on everything, they need to fill like it's a positive thing and that everything will be ok.
  • On the same note, be honest. If they ask you questions, which they will, answer them honestly, such as, Victoria asked many times when we'd be back to Phoenix or if we could go back to so and so's birthdays. The answer was always: "I don't know, but I don't think we will be back anytime soon" or "We will not be back next year to make it for the birthday party" or "We will be back, but we don't know when". These are all truthful answers, with this new job, we will be living in different places, and we have no clue when we will be back in Phoenix.
  • Speak to their friends' parents, explain how your child is feeling and how you are taking it, they will be your allies.
  • Throw a going away party, we had a pool party for Victoria and her best friends. It was a surprise party and if you are doing that, make sure to advise the parents of it, because kids cannot keep secrets!!! Victoria's friends' parents didn't tell their kids until the day of or the day before (when they weren't going to see each other anymore).

pool party

  • Encourage them to write notes and letters to their friends. I've always encouraged Victoria to write little thank you notes, friendship notes, etc. So, she started writing these notes to her friends without any prompts from me, I loved them, they're so honest.

Encourage your children to write goodbye notes to their friends.

  • Make them part of everything. If there are decisions to be made, involve them, such as, my husband's company is placing us in an apartment, we told her what the options were and asked her what her top 2 choices were. Although it wasn't a guarantee, it makes her feel part of the decisions.
  • Once they see you making to do lists (believe me, you will have many of those), they'll want to do their own, encourage that as well.

Encourage kids to make their own to-do lists.

  • Anytime there is a big part of the move happening, explain what is going on and when, such as, have them help pack their own things, Victoria even helped bring her things to the car (we drove). Or, on the day of the move, she was helping the mover pack her bedroom, they were all so great with her, they themselves involved her in the move, wrote her name on the boxes and even wrote her stuffed animals' names on some of the boxes. They were great. A little side note: make sure they're not getting on the way of the movers, they won't be happy about it.

Have kids help pack the car/their suitcase

Get the kids involved in the move, they can help the movers pack their bedroom.

  • Read books. I ordered on Amazon the book: "Moving Planet Isn't Easy". It's short and easy to read, made for younger children. She loved it, she tried saying, it wasn't the same because she wasn't moving planets, etc, but she really liked it and we read it many times over.
  • With an empty house do a little fashion show, a dance competition and an echo contest.

Do a dancing competition in the empty house. Do a little fashion show in an empty house, especially if the movers lay a red carpet all over it.

  • Take them around the neighborhood and say bye to the neighbors (the nice ones). And in your heart, cry a little.

Say goodbye to neighbors

It's your responsibility to guide them through this. They most probably will be very sensitive