DH thinks that I am not cut out for living overseas.....advice please

(47 Posts)
Solola Fri 27-Apr-12 11:35:36

We’ve been married ten years and one of the things that first attracted us to one another when we met was our shared dream of living in Spain one day. We had a heart to heart chat last night about whether this dream could become a reality and he said the only thing holding him back is that he is not sure if I could cope with living abroad.

When we met we were both living and working in a country (USA) that neither of us are native to. I’m English; he is from a Latin American country. He’d been there for 9 years and I just spent 1 year there.

We’ve lived in England all our married life and we have now got 3 children now age 5,3, and 18 months. We’ve kept postponing our move to Spain for various reasons. Firstly we wanted to wait until my DH got citizenship, and then we had our three children really close together and I wanted to be around my family and friends during that time.

Before having children I was fearless, I did human rights work which took me to many dangerous situations and countries. However, I found that having children opened up a vulnerable side to me that I wasn’t aware of and has made me want to stay closer to family and the wider support network that I’ve relied on a lot in these early years of motherhood. I’ve had quite bad postnatal depression (enough to go on antidepressants, though coming off them slowly now my youngest is 1.5 years).

DH has seen how I have relied on my family and friends so much in the past few years and he worries that I will be lonely and not settle in a foreign culture. He is much more adaptable than me, he’s not lived permanently in his native country since he was 18 and has experienced living and settling in other cultures. I think he’d thrive and love living in Spain. The only thing holding him back is his concern that I am not strong enough emotionally to make the move.

I would also love to live in Spain but I have to agree with him that I am not sure if I am strong enough emotionally to make the move. Although I’ve travelled a lot, I’ve only actually lived abroad for 1 year and I feel like I was a very different person then.

The main thing that that scares me is that if we were to go it would have to be a permanent, forever thing. If we gave up work and our house (we own 50% share in our home via housing association so we can’t rent it out while we go over for a trial period) we would have nothing to fall back on if it didn’t work.

Why do I want to live in Spain?
-So that the children can learn to speak Spanish fluently and therefore access their cultural heritage (none of husband’s family speak English).
-Close enough that we can easily see my family regularly (would take my parents no longer to visit us from Kent than it does to visit my sister in Liverpool)
-Wonderful climate so chance for more active, outdoor, life style
-I’d get fully bilingual (do already speak Spanish but room for improvement)
-You only get one life and want to live it to the full, not held back by fears or ‘what ifs’
-For husbands sake, there is a part of him that is repressed here in UK which he feels comes alive in Spain (and I have seen that when on holiday there).

Why don’t I?
-May never be able to come back as we don’t own property here
-Worry about not being able to make a community of friends
-Isolation
-Damage the children by moving, I suspect one of my 3 children may need extra support and have special needs and I think I could understand the systems better here.
-What if I get depressed again, no support network
-Spain in recession right now, more risky than UK

I’d appreciate any comments, advice on this. If you’ve moved to live overseas with small children, what are the hardest parts, the things that have pushed you to breaking point? What are the joys?

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GreatExpectations2012 Fri 27-Apr-12 14:41:02

I've lived overseas for most of my life and am going through an incredibly hard time at the moment. I have two young children and for me, being away from my parents and my siblings is really taking its toll on me. I have friends and in-laws here that are willing to help out with child are on the odd occasion and are very supportive to me while I work my way through this dark cloud. I think if you rely on your family and a close network of friends then I really do suggest giving yourself plenty of time to think things through.

I think it's wonderful that your DH recognises this trait in you and is willing to accommodate your family's experience around it. Is there any way that you could spend some time in your chosen location in Spain and build up a small network of contacts there? Even if it's just one or two friendly faces, it can make the world of difference.

I hope that things work out for you and your family.

DelGirl Fri 27-Apr-12 14:48:55

I would say go for it. If it doesn't work out and you come back, you can always rent. You don't have to buy though I understand why you would want to. Would you be able to put any equity into a smaller property or even buy in a cheaper area so if the worse happens you do have something to come back to.

You have the benefit of 2 of you, both well travelled. I moved abroad for the same reasons as you, but on my own with a dd then aged 5. No family or friends to speak of. That was 18 months ago and now we have a good amount of friends and dd is fluent in reading/writing and spoken Italian. I'm getting there wink. Go for it!!!!

SucksToBeMe Fri 27-Apr-12 14:55:25

My OH is from a latin american country too. We will be moving out there permanently in a few years time. You sound more than capable to move,it's only natural you will miss family/friends. Luckily spain is very accessible from the uk.
Good luck op.

boringnickname Fri 27-Apr-12 14:59:45

You don't say what work you do, or how you will support yourselves while in spain. So spain being in recession may or may not be a huge consideration, will it just be your DH working or both of you? Are your jobs transferrable or is it a case of starting from scratch?

Solola Fri 27-Apr-12 16:13:54

Thanks for responses.

Neither of us have any 'profession' or transferable skills really. I worked in the charitable sector until becoming full time SAHM three years ago and I'd ideally want to continue with that for a few more years. Then look at teaching English or Spanish. Am considering doing a TEFL or similar before we go. Long term I'm happy to do any kind of work I can. I've done tutoring, secretarial, worked in McDonalds for 5 years, shop work, cleaning before.

DH works in insurance, very manual job, doing restoration work after fire and floods. I have great faith in his ability to find a job. Over past ten years he's been made redundant, left work to relocate for my job and left work so we could spend 4 months in his home country before we had kids. He's very enterprising and charismatic and whether it's washing dishes for a restaurant or doing casual labouring, he's always found new work within weeks.

His ideal is to move to small town, non touristy and really settle in with local community. Realistically, I'd prefer to move to a city where there is an international community and other ex pats and have a mixture of local people and other nationalities as our friends. Just because I know that I'll need people who really 'get' me around me.

Delgirl I did suggest to him that we invest in a buy to let property in a cheaper area in the UK as a kind of safety net. Then we'd not be homeless if we chose to return. Its the choose to return part that he has a problem with. He thinks that if we go, I need to have the mentality that 'This is it it. No going back.' and having a property here would tie us to UK. Am just not sure if I can do that.

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makemineacherrybrandy Fri 27-Apr-12 17:37:35

I think it would be a great opportunity to go, but there really is no need to think 'this is forever'. It is very different if people move their whole lives to NZ or Australia, but Spain isn't very far and you really can always return to the UK. Don't worry about the lack of property, you can rent on your return (if it happens) and it really isn't the end of the world.

I agree with you however that you should look look for somewhere with an international community, especially at the beginning. Moving overseas can be very lonely at first and if you can quickly make friends that 'get' you.

Of course you will be concerned about the initial change for your children, but that's just you being a good Mum.

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Solola Fri 27-Apr-12 19:52:31

Thanks, I think it doesn't need to be forever either. We've rented before so if we need to do that again is possible.

Guess everyone goes through this scared stage before taking the plunge.

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londonmoo Sat 28-Apr-12 08:17:49

Is there anything underlying your husband's fears? Does he secretly (or openly) enjoy and embrace the proximity of your family and feel worried about leaving it? Is he as into the idea as you?

And can you think of some 'positive negatives' for staying behind? At the moment there are only negative ones: if there are truly no 'good' reasons for you to stay (apart from family who, as you say, can travel) then there's your answer.

And as pp have said - doesn't have to be forever...

tribpot Sat 28-Apr-12 08:38:13

I worry slightly that your DH thinks that he can settle into small town life in Spain based mainly on the fact that he speaks the same language and has elements of a shared culture and history. Spain is not Latin America. It's also not the UK and I think your preference of a more international environment is a sensible one; I lived in Barcelona, worked in an office that was mostly staffed with locals, had local friends as well as ex-pat ones. And sometimes the relief of just being able to speak in English at the end of a long day made it much easier to tolerate.

The 'all or nothing' mentality of not leaving a house in the UK seems similarly gung ho - I think essentially you are more risk averse than your DH, and not without some good reason given you have your own mental health and three small children to think about. "No going back" is a big ask, IMHO. Whilst I can also see his point of view that it may be more liberating to cut ties to the UK - realistically you can't do this because your family live here.

It seems you have a shared goal - to live in Spain - but a very different view on aspects of the 'deal'. The extent to which it is a 'forever' move, the extent to which you immerse yourself in the local environment and over what time period, what might be the showstopper events that will make you want to return to the UK, how to handle some of the possible consequences of having to navigate a foreign country (for both of you) with dependents and health needs of your own. Moving abroad as a single person without health needs is essentially a limitless adventure. You can do what you like, go where you like, you owe nothing to anyone. That time is over, for now, for both of you and there are bigger considerations.

So I would absolutely go to Spain but I would take a cautious attitude to the move. I think you should plan quite carefully how you would manage your meds, for example - you can't just rock up to Spain and then think 'blimey, I wonder how the health service works here'. But you can prepare for that - it just needs good planning to manage.

fivegomadindorset Sat 28-Apr-12 08:41:19

As Spain has and unemployment rate of 25% at the moment I would think your chances of getting a job are going to be remote.

PJHarpy Sat 28-Apr-12 08:45:04

I think you need to think much more about the prctical aspects before makeing a decision to move, rather than focussing so much ont e emotional aspects.

Could you find affordable living in a location you like?
Could you find work?

That sort of thing.

If the answer is yes to all the practicals, I'd say go for it. Your emotional reasons to go are better than the reasons to stay (which are based on fear of the unknown - never a good motive for life decisions).

BlingBubbles Sat 28-Apr-12 08:49:58

I am not from England and my whole family love in my native country, I married a Yorkshireman and we live in the south east. I have just had a DD and since having her I have missed my family and his family so much. I have found it very hard having a baby and not having any family support around. I get very jealous when I see friends back at home dropping their children off at their grandparents and going out for the night with the Dh's sad or just getting an afternoon to themselves. I would Love for my parents to live close by.

Cies Sat 28-Apr-12 08:51:13

I live in Spain, have done so for nearly 10 years now, and have married a Spaniard and had ds here. We are here for life, and I'm generally happy.

But, and it's a big but, there are plenty of things that are hard for me here. Spaniards generally move around less and tend to stick to their hometown, their friendship groups from their youth and often seem to be closed to new friendships. IT can be isolating. Having lived here for so long, it's perhaps shameful that my closest friendships are with other expats and with my ILs.

Life with young children is very different to UK. No playgroups, toddler groups etc. Most parents work, so you find grandparents in the park with their grandchildren, not other mummies taht you can strike up a converstaion with. Full time pre-school (5 hours a day) starts at age 3, and while not compulsory, I think I read that 95% of children go, and it can be difficult to get a place at school later on if you don't send them at 3.

The health system is fantastic, although there are changes afoot.

You0re right to worry about the crisis, everyone here is worried.

Jobs - TEFl is a good bet. Although these jobs don't really combine that well with young children in school, because TEFL academies work in the afternoons/ evenings when children are out of school.

Sorry, have to go tend to ds after this stream of consciousness.

Solola Sat 28-Apr-12 20:04:13

Just logged on and really grateful for such helpful and practical advice here. This is helping me move forward in my thinking a lot.

londonmoo, I think the main 'positive negative' or anchor here in the UK is my parents. They have a wonderful grandparent/grandchild relationship with my children and they figure in a big way in my children's life. I would feel guilty about depriving both side of this closeness. Although my parents would hate to be the ones holding us back and they may well move away themselves when they retire in a few years. They are also financially able to visit us as often as they want to if we move.

Tripot you have given me a lot to think about here, obviously a very insightful person. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that I am more risk averse than DH, and that is what makes us a good team when it comes to big decisions but also can be a source on conflict for us. You are right that it is very different relocating to a new culture as a family than as single people.

As PJ says, we need to research the practical aspects first, education, healthcare, housing and jobs market (or lack of!). We have a number of contacts in the Valencia region which is where we are focusing our research on for now. Planning a visit in early 2013 to check it out.

Cies, your post really made me think. Please feel free to continue your 'stream of consciousness' if you have time. I would love to pick your brain over some more specific questions I am bound to have over the next year as we make some decision. What you said about friendships was very interesting and good to know in advance. The lack of toddler groups is a bit scary. That is what I was counting on to forge friendships and help to integrate into society a bit. Preschool from 3 is also a lot. Do they do their school year cut off from September like in UK?

Thanks people, these were exactly the kind of grounding comments I was hoping to get and you all managed to do that without crushing the dream.

OP’s posts: |
madwomanintheattic Sat 28-Apr-12 20:12:35

Nothing is a permanent forever thing. Honestly.

Life in infinitely flexible, and might not work out the way you want it to, but if you change your mind down the road, the option of returning to the uk will always be there. Lots of people don't own houses in the Uk. Me included. We currently live and work in Canada (and own a house here in a completely stagnant market which is saturated with identikit and mich cheaper properties). the grandparents fly over to visit the kids (we have three as well), and at the mo it is all fine. but if we wanted to go back, we just would.

Yeah, it'd be a pain in the neck. No money, homeless, no jobs, etc. but that doesn't make it impossible, just more things to figure out. And the benefit of having family in the same country would give a safety net of sorts.

Dd2 has a disability as well, so it does take some time to get your head around different medical and education systems, but hey ho.

Nothing is permanent. Why don't you all take a few weeks and go and visit this summer and see how you feel? Spain is practically next door. grin

Portofino Sat 28-Apr-12 20:41:20

It is HARD imho. We moved to Brussels 6 years ago and I was determined to not just be an expat. I put my dd in local school, got a job and really, really tried. 6 years on I still don't socialise with my work colleagues, though we get on fine. DH had slightly more success. My friends here are pretty much all English. I would have gone insane otherwise.

We had a big plan on retiring to someone cheap and pretty in France....I am totally reconsidering this now. I don't want to be stuck in some rural spot with no friends and nothing to do.

I have a lovely life and lots of friends, but I am not integrated/totally settled here. I miss the UK too much and worry that if we stay, dd goes to Uni here exactly that we will be stuck...

AlpinePony Sun 29-Apr-12 08:33:17

Whether or not you yourself are ready to go, this really isn't the best time to sell your home or go to Spain!

What about back to south America with a better economy.

I'm much like your husband in that I've lived and worked abroad since I was 20, it's not for everyone and, whilst not to put too blunt a point on it - timid sahm's in rural locations do not fare well!

MadeInChinaBaby Sun 29-Apr-12 09:00:50

In my experience, it's VERY tough living overseas with young children. DH and I are work in an industry that means we've pretty much always lived overseas and loved it. DS was born in China, and suddenly and unexpectedly I really missed my family, especially my mum. I'm taking time out of my career to be with DS. We jumped at the chance to move to Italy a year ago. There are so many things we love about this place, but it's very hard without family and support networks when the shit hits the fan. We live in a large city with a sizable ex-pat community, but still, much like Spain, the local community is built around family. I go to the park every day with my 2 year old DS, and I'm pretty much always the only mum there - all the Italian kids are with their grandparents or nannies.

Cies Sun 29-Apr-12 09:03:12

Valencia is a lovely city, and the area around it is attractive. The other cities in Valencia region (Alicante, Castellon) are lively and popular with both foreign and Spanish tourists.

The playgroup thing : of course you can pay to go to music classes/ swimming classes etc, but these work out quite expensive. We pay 32 euros a month for 1 45min session a week. In Valencia you would be able to find an English speaking playgroup run more along the British lines. I have set one up where I live and it has proved a lifeline!

The job situation is appalling here , I think it 's25% unemployment or something like that now. So even if you're willing to work it's very hard. TEFL seems to be excluded from that, but for a typical 25 hour/week contrat (what most academies offer), you'd be lucky to earn more than 1000-1200 euros (at least where I am, maybe Valencia pays more, but then cost of living would be more).

Sorry, I sound all doom and gloom.

The school year starts in September as in UK, but the age cut off is in December, so those born in September, October, November and December actually start aged 2.9etc. (My own ds is in this situation, November birthday, signed up for this September, me a bit wobbly about it, everyone else saying he'll be fine because everyone is!)

LeBFG Sun 29-Apr-12 09:06:02

I'm in rural France so not Spain, but reading these posts, I can relate to lots of what's been said wrt family, employment, support groups etc. I've been here 6 years and have had one DC here. I've seen plenty of expats come...and go. Unfortunately, they nearly all come with pre-conceived ideas (as did we I hasten to add!).

The major one being work - 'We don't need much to live on, we'll get SOMETHING if we're inventive enough'.... errr, nope.

One family sticks in my mind. Dad was keen on outdoor life (hunting, fishing etc), mum was to care for her two DCs. Three months on, monotony, isolation, bleak job prospects...she starts going downhill. They leave after 6 months with rental debts built-up and depression looming its ugly head.

I'm OK-ish with a fairly isolated existance but I have to say I feel pangs of jealousy when I visit my sister's family and all the baby groups etc available to her.

Final bit to bear in mind (so negative, sorry!) - many expats move from cities or UK-style countryside (ie 20 mins from a city). Rural parts of the continent can be much more isolated than this. We live in an area half the size of Scotland with the same density (but with most of the population concentrated in one large city). Living in the highlands of Scotland is not the same as living in rural Devon! Many, many people overlook this (so did we!).

MadeInChinaBaby Sun 29-Apr-12 09:08:56

Sorry - posted too soon - my advice to you would be not to rush any decision now, especially with three young children and the economy being as shit as it is.
It also sounds like you have very different ideas about where in Spain you should head. A small town would be totally different to a big city. Also, as mentioned above, it's easy to find work in TEFL, but the hours are tough - evenings and weekends - and not really comparable with family life.
Sorry - I'd love to say 'Go for it' as I'd still like to believe I'm an adventurer at heart, by my experience now I'm a mother is very different to before.

lagartija Sun 29-Apr-12 14:36:47

Agree with everything Cies says and quite frankly think you'd be insane to come here (I live in Andalucia). Stay where you are, where you have work and family and friends. Why can't your DCs learn Spanish from your DH?

lagartija Sun 29-Apr-12 14:37:58

TEFL is also TOTALLY family unfriendly hours and also here in Andalucia a good school would only pay around 1300€ a month gross for 24 hr (evening) timetable.

Solola Sun 29-Apr-12 14:52:10

MadeInChina, your last sentence 'I'd still like to believe I'm an adventurer at heart, (but) by my experience now I'm a mother is very different to before' seems to sum up a lot of the wise advice on this thread. It captures what my own hesitations are centered around.

I don't really see myself as a 'timid SAHM' but if there was a spectrum with Adventurer at one end and Timid at the other, I think motherhood has moved me along the spectrum quite a bit.

The other issue is probably common to all bi-cultural marriages. There is always going to be an element of compromise when it comes to choosing a place to bring up the family. DH has given up so much to be here in UK with me, his culture, childhood friends, family and probably career fulfillment too with his business contacts and education worthless in this country.

Moving to Spain, does on paper seem like a compromise of some sort. 'My' continent (or easy access to my country) 'his' language and a culture that he feels comfortable in. It is not that he dislikes living in England, he has loads of friends and is very happy here. It is just that a part of him is 'shut down' here.

But from a practical viewpoint, what I'm hearing from many of you is that now maybe isn't the best time looking at Spain's economy. I would guess that has to be balanced out with the ages of my children. From what I've heard/seen, younger is better for children. I already see my almost six year old very much needing to know the buzz words, cool toys, TV shows and computer games as he interacts with his peers. So if we wait until things pick up economically we would be making the move more difficult for the children as they grow. So difficult.

Thanks for all advice, please keep it coming! I am reading this eagerly and will show it to DH when we have time for another conversation about this.

OP’s posts: |

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