Now that I have a child I have an overwhelming desire to be closer to my family in the US: my parents, brother, niece. I feel isolated and lonely, and I did not make many close friends in the time that I’ve been here. My boyfriend works at a company that is US-based and could potentially have a job within the same company, albeit not desirable due to the fact that he would still cover the same non-US clients / region but in a US time zone. I have job prospects in the US. We have been arguing about moving back to the US: his argument is that he doesn’t understand why, with the three of us here in London, I feel the need to be close to my family in the US. He does not want to do over in the US the job he does here, and he feels that he doesn’t fit in well with the US culture.
There are many reasons for me to be happy in London: I have a good job, my son is happy and healthy, we have a comfortable lifestyle in a nice city, and my parents visit often. But I still feel something is missing. I cannot tell if it is the need to be closer to my family or if the relationship is breaking down. He is quite stressed and has a lot on his plate at work, plus caring for his mother and other commitments he has in France. I don’t know if the right solution is to force a move back to the US, since this isn’t what he wants. It seems either way one of us will be unhappy in the location we choose. — Unhappy in London
You say you feel like there’s something missing in your life, and, from what I understand, there are several things potentially missing from your life: close proximity to your family; local friendships; a life outside work and family; and possibly a lack of intimacy in your relationship (if “relationship break-down is any indication). Of these things potentially missing from your life, you can work on three of them without moving. Since moving could take a real toll on your boyfriend’s career as well as your relationship, I’d suggest focusing first on the three things you can address without moving: making some friends, getting a life, and making your relationship a priority.
Of those three, making friends is probably the one that’s trickiest. I get letters from people all the time asking how they can form friendships as an adult. Without school and the constant stream of new faces that different classes, part-time jobs, roommate’s friends, and summer internships bring, it can be tricky figuring out just where to meet potential pals.
Luckily, you have something that makes the challenge a little easier: your kid. Kids are friendship magnets. Before I had my son, I had maybe four or five friends in my neighborhood. Once I became a mom and started hanging out at playgrounds and the park and going to music class and hosting play dates, my social life really opened up. It’s ironic, really. You don’t think of parenthood as a way to jump-start a sad social life, but it totally can be. The trick is you have to be friendly, approachable, and assertive. Go out with your child, ask other parents about their children, introduce yourself, ask what else they like to do with their kids. Once you start noticing the same faces, you can swap numbers, plan play dates, etc. Eventually, while your kids play, you’ll get to know the adults. You may even suggest going out for a “mom’s night out” once or twice a month after you put your kids to bed. I do that with some of my neighborhood mom friends and it’s great. It gives us a chance to connect in a way that we can’t when we’re focused on keeping our toddlers from breaking their bones or setting our homes on fire. Plus, everyone is still so sleep-derived, we get loopy after, like, a glass and a half of wine, and that’s when the real fun starts.
Beyond making friends with other parents, you can kill two birds with one stone and start pursuing interests and hobbies outside work and family life where you will hopefully meet like-minded people who could become your friends. If you’re creative, consider taking a photography or print-making class or learn how to arrange flowers or write short fiction. You could join a softball team (do Brits play softball?), or see if there’s an American ex-pat Meetup group (start one, if there’s not) where y’all can go out and eat burgers and talk about TV.
Finally, you need to invest more in your relationship and focus on the family you live with rather than the family who’s back in the states. If your relationship continues to deteriorate and you decide to go your separate ways, how are you going to manage being a single parent and fighting for custody with a man who wants to live in a different continent than you? That sounds like way more trouble than what you’re dealing with now. So, don’t let that happen. Invest in your relationship. Hire a sitter and go out together regularly. Explore London. It’s an amazing city. Hell, explore Europe. Take a day trip to Paris. You can take a day trip to Paris! I mean, how fucking awesome is that?! Really take advantage of everything at your fingertips, appreciate what you have instead of what you don’t have, and make more an an effort to create an actual life for yourself where you are, and you’re going to find that happiness doesn’t have to elude you. There can be green grass exactly where you are — yes, even in grey London — and it isn’t necessarily any greener where you think you want to move. Search for the happiness where you are first. It’s cheaper and saner. And a lot more fun (day trip to Paris, enough said!).
You can follow me on Facebook here and sign up for my weekly newsletter here.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].
TECH April 25, 2013, 9:19 am
Wendy, as usual, is giving awesome advice here. I think the LW needs to make every effort she can to make her life work in London. That means following all of Wendy’s tips to make friends. Making friends with other mothers is an awesome idea. If she really puts in the effort I think she will probably make at least one or two good friends.
If she’s really missing her family in the US, she can start regular Skype sessions (if she hasn’t already). Somehow I just get the vibe in this letter that there is something wrong with her relationship, not that she misses her family so much. Almost like she is using missing her family as an excuse to make major changes in her life.
I would say if she makes some friends, keeps close contact with her family, and still feels the same way after several months, she and her boyfriend might want to consider couples counseling.
My instinct tells me that there’s something below the surface of this relationship that is not working.
Addie Pray April 25, 2013, 9:29 am
I liked Wendy’s advice. I also want to add that I too sometimes get the itch to pick up and just leave! (And sometimes I think it is what a lot of people need.) But more often than not it’s just a delaying tactic. Because eventually when the novelty of your new home settles in, and you get settled in a new routine, and there is no exciting upcoming move to look forward to, you’re going to have to figure out how to be happy (and make friends and all that jazz) there too.
Skyblossom April 25, 2013, 10:52 am
I think we can make ourselves happy nearly anywhere and we can be miserable nearly anywhere. I’ve lived in three different regions of this country and liked one region better than the others but I was happy in all of them. Happiness is as much a matter of outlook and attitude and behavior as anything. It’s a matter of being warm and friendly, listening to others, finding time to do things you enjoy, doing things that are meaningful, inviting others into your home, cutting out negative people as much as possible, so spending time in positive ways and positive interactions. It’s finding time to relax and time to be alone if you’re an introvert. Having a job that you like certainly doesn’t hurt and making enough income that you don’t have constant stress about bills is probably a must, not that you need to be rich, but just enough so that you have food on the table and heat in the winter.
csp April 25, 2013, 2:58 pm
You are right. I grew up moving every 2-4 years. all over the USA. So i understand the yearning to just move away from your problems. But this LW needs to realize that it isn’t enough.
Emily April 28, 2013, 10:53 am
Moving to a new city and starting over again sounds so romantic but at the same time you have to have something you’re moving for. Our lives are what we make them. I can’t tell you how many times the idea of moving away from my current city of St. Louis sounded great, but at the same time I knew that where ever I moved, there I would be and my problems would follow me to the next city. Life truly is what you make it at the end of the day and count me jealous of having the option to take day trips to Paris. Have you explored St. Malo or Rouen? What about taking weekend trips to Ireland, Scotland, or the French Riviera (Eze, France is my favorite village in the region)? Why not take a couple solo treks too? Sometimes it’s nice to do things by yourself and take a personal time out in a strange city. Travel has a way of opening up the mind, freeing the spirit and bringing new people into your life.
Jess April 25, 2013, 9:31 am
There are also plenty of “expat” groups in London if you are looking for some American friends. US Political parties have European chapters, the US Chamber of Commerce, etc. I’m not saying you necessarily want to seek out American friends over Brits, but it is another point of connection. When I lived in Belgium, there was tons of activities related to these things. Many were social mixers, happy hours, etc. Just google them and you’ll find some.
Firestar April 25, 2013, 9:46 am
Huge ex-pat community. My friend was part of the Canadian ex-pat community and they had tournaments, events etc. with the American ex-pats all the time. Lots of fun to be had.
Skyblossom April 25, 2013, 9:47 am
I think it’s a great way to make friends. It is a whole group of people who are welcoming and have lots of activities from which to choose.
MMcG April 25, 2013, 9:36 am
I feel like the LW assumed, based on where they met, her bf’s past history in the US and the fact that he has US citizenship that it was something he would be open to in the future… and they never really talked about it.
WWS, but I really feel bad for her. I know I want my parents around when I have kids, and she might not have even realized it (or she’s stressed because bf isn’t putting in enough time with the kid, because he’s taking care of his mom and in France?).
MMcG April 25, 2013, 9:39 am
“We have been arguing about moving back to the US: his argument is that he doesn’t understand why, with the three of us here in London, I feel the need to be close to my family in the US.”
Though I will say – for a man who is actively caring for an elderly parent I think there is a slight whiff of dickishness if they really are arguing over WHY she might want to be close to her family… I am not saying it is what is best for them right now or anything, but it’s a fairly understandable and reasonable emotion… especially coming from a new parent.
Liquid Luck April 25, 2013, 9:48 am
I agree with this. I can understand geographical closeness to family not being a priority to some people, but does that really mean that they can’t fathom the idea that some people actually want the closeness and support that being near parents and siblings can offer? Especially if the family wants an active role in helping care for their son (which it seems they do since her parents visit the UK often). That’s the kind of relationship many young families I know would kill for.
Lindsay April 25, 2013, 9:59 am
Definitely. How does not not understand “why” she’d want to move? I can see if he just doesn’t want to, but it’s not that confusing. I don’t know what the LW’s intention was when she moved, but even if I didn’t have a child, I’d probably miss living near my family at some point if I were abroad.
Skyblossom April 25, 2013, 10:44 am
Maybe he sees it as her valuing the family that they have established as less valuable than her family in the US. He’s also lived away from his mother for years and maybe doesn’t see family as the support system that she does. His experience of family is so different than hers that when she says she wants to live nearer her family he doesn’t see the point. He’s grown up, left home and been independent and it probably seemed that she was the same way and then suddenly after they have a baby she changes her mind.
Liquid Luck April 25, 2013, 12:08 pm
“Maybe he sees it as her valuing the family that they have established as less valuable than her family in the US.”
That actually makes a lot of sense. It’s definitely not my viewpoint (or one I would have considered on my own), but I could see how someone with little family might see it this way and how hurtful it could be if that’s the case.
MMcG April 25, 2013, 12:24 pm
Except it seems like he hasn’t really left home, as the LW stated the bf is “caring for his mother and other commitments he has in France” so it seems like he is ok with close proximity to his family 😉
Lindsay April 25, 2013, 2:17 pm
I can see that. But I feel like you have to be pretty short-sighted to not understand how another person might like being close to their family. I mean, I’ve never felt the need to live super close to mine, but I know plenty of people who do.
L April 25, 2013, 10:46 pm
I agree. I moved 500 miles away from home essentially for a boyfriend even though in my gut I knew I didn’t want to. He told me he didn’t like how close I was with my family…which should have been my first clue that he was a dick. The fact that he doesn’t understand her reasonings for wanting to be closer to family is really suspicious to me.
Sasa April 25, 2013, 9:37 am
I would have liked to know a bit more about the relationship potentially breaking down. She just mentions that as an aside even though it seems really crucial and there’s also very little about her feelings for her partner in the letter. I don’t want to sound mean, but is she maybe wanting to relocate to the US because once they’re there and they break up, it would be hard for her (ex) partner to make her move back to the UK?
Skyblossom April 25, 2013, 9:44 am
If they split up in England the custody of the child would be determined by an English court and would most likely give both parents custody/visitation just like in the US. At that point she would be unable to bring the child to the US without the consent of the child’s father because he would have custody rights that she couldn’t break. If she did bring the child over without consent the child would be sent right back to the UK because of our treaties. The laws protect parents so that a foreign born parent can’t take children without permission. So, unless he either agrees to come to the US with her or he agrees that she can take the child without him going along she is in the UK until the child is an adult if she wants the child in her life. If they moved to the US and then split the US court system would decide custody and the child’s father would be unable to take the child out of the country without her permission.
Sasa April 25, 2013, 9:56 am
Ok. So that means it would be a huge advantage to her if – in the event that they separate – if that happened while they lived in the US, right? I wasn’t sure about the legal situation because both of them are US citizens (UK citizenship is not mentioned) and they aren’t married.
I know I’m probably really reaching here, but there’s just something suspicious to me about the conjunction of wanting to move back home/ fearing that the relationship is possibly breaking down.
Skyblossom April 25, 2013, 10:38 am
I think lots of people think of home when a relationship is failing.
My understanding of international law and treaties about custody rights of parents is that if the countries have signed the treaty, and the USA and the UK both have, then custody is established wherever the couple is living at the time of the separation and the courts in that country have jurisdiction. If one of the parents takes the child and goes to another country that has also signed the treaty then the second country will immediately send the child back to the original country and let the courts in that country settle any dispute. The citizenship of the parents has no direct affect, just the location at the time that custody is determined.
I don’t know what would happen if she took the child to the US for a visit with the consent of the father and then filed for divorce while she was here. Since there would be no prior custody agreement I don’t know how the courts handle cases like that.
Skyblossom April 25, 2013, 10:45 am
Since they aren’t married she wouldn’t file for divorce. I don’t know how the courts would handle it but they might send the child back.
findingtheearth April 25, 2013, 10:50 am
I do not think the United States would have ANY jurisdiction, as the child has not lived here. Ever. However, if she was to come to the States for 90 days and then file for a parenting arrangement, that might be different. I do know an international lawyer, I should ask him how this all works.
Skyblossom April 25, 2013, 10:59 am
I think you’re right. The law was established to protect parents from situations just like this. The other parent can’t steal the child and take them away from you. One parent can’t take away the parental rights of the other parent by crossing a border unless they take the child to a country that hasn’t signed the treaty.
Lily in NYC April 25, 2013, 2:37 pm
I assume you are referencing the Hague Convention? Both the UK and the US will recognize custodial rights and will extradite in a family abduction situation. But it only comes into play if there’s an actual abduction by a non-custodial parent/family member.
Skyblossom April 25, 2013, 2:49 pm
No. I’m talking about a treaty that prevents parents from taking their children out of the country without the permission of the other parent. I don’t remember the name of the treaty but I’ve followed it over the years because I’m interested because I have a foreign husband, who I don’t think would ever steal children, but it makes me understand the situation and the risk.
Skyblossom April 25, 2013, 4:22 pm
I was just thinking about this again and I’m not sure.
lets_be_honest April 25, 2013, 4:27 pm
I’m not sure of the name of the treaty, but you cannot get a passport for your child without permission from the other parent, both parents being present when you apply, a notarized letter allowing it, or providing custody paperwork from the courts. Its very difficult.
Skyblossom April 25, 2013, 9:37 am
My experience over the years, visiting England every other year, was that the English weren’t as chatty on the playground as Americans. Americans tend to talk to the people around them and the English didn’t. The one time that we had a nice talk with another family at the playground the other family was also American and visiting relatives. Maybe someone who lives in England will have a different view or have a better way of talking to other parents at the playground.
Lucy April 25, 2013, 2:21 pm
My experience from living there for several years is that, with rare exception, Brits will never form close friendships with Yank expats. The expats come and go so frequently that it’s not seen as worth the bother to befriend them when they’ll be gone in a couple of years anyway.
I think the LW would do well to try and form more connections with other expats moms and couples in London. God knows there are certainly enough of them – not just Americans, but Canadians, Aussies, kiwis, saffers… the list goes on.
I also thought the LW was being a bit callous by trying to force her bf to move farther away from his ailing parent in France, for whom he’s actively caring, just because she misses her family. That just seems selfish to me. There’s a huge difference between being a 1 hour flight away from a sick parent and an eight-hour overnight flight away.
Skyblossom April 25, 2013, 2:51 pm
Do you also find that they mainly socialize at the pub and don’t form things like mom groups?
Jae April 25, 2013, 4:58 pm
I’m an expat Aussie living in London and I had a baby last year. I’m in a HUGE mum’s group (I live in an area with an exploding birthrate) full of Brits, Kiwis, French, Polish mums (among others). Definitely google kiddie activities in the local area – story time at the library, soft play sessions at community centres, music classes etc. it’s tough making the first move but people are generally very receptive if you try.
Liquid Luck April 25, 2013, 9:41 am
I agree with absolutely everything Wendy wrote. In addition to all of that, make a deal with your boyfriend to include at least one trip “home” every year, whether just for you and your son or all three of you, in your budget. You say your parents visit often, which is wonderful, but traveling to the US once a year might help with the feelings of homesickness. I love it when family visits me, but there’s nothing like going back to the place I grew up and having the whole family together.
Jess April 25, 2013, 9:57 am
The annual trip thing is a great idea. Maybe she can even get home twice (once with the husband and maybe once on her own to spend more catch-up time with family?). I used to aim for that when I lived abroad and it really helped with the homesickness.
Liquid Luck April 25, 2013, 12:19 pm
Yeah, more than one trip would be nice if they can afford it (both money- and time-wise). I don’t live abroad, but I moved over 800 miles from my family last year and it sucks. The trips home really help, and I feel less left out of things when I get to visit. I ended an LDR by moving here, but one of the conditions was that we make these trips a priority in our budget. It tempers any lingering resentment or feeling like I gave up to much for the relationship, which is kind of the vibe I got from this LW.
kerrycontrary April 25, 2013, 9:44 am
I love Wendy’s advice here, and it can apply to all walks of life: Change what you can and change what’s easy first, then re-evaluate.
ktfran April 25, 2013, 9:46 am
I find that the happier you are, the easier it is to attract people, new friends being one set of said people.
I always thought I had trouble making and keeping friends, but I didn’t have the right attitude about it. Now that I do, I find it super easy to make friends. All it takes is being open and friendly and putting yourself out there, i.e., as Wendy mentioned, finding opportunities to do so like at the playground.
Also, I feel that maybe you should have discussed something as important as where you want to live before you had a child together. What is done is done, obviously. But in the future, dissuss the these things before making life changing decisions.
Fabelle April 25, 2013, 9:54 am
Agree with Wendy %100. And LW, it sounds like even you know that moving to the US may not solve all of your problems. I’m getting the impression that your original desire to move there is more hopefulness on your part, that it will be a “fix” to everything? And like others hinted at, there seems to be a bit more wrong with your relationship that you’re letting on.
But for now, take Wendy’s advice & get involved in your community. If you miss your family, plan a visit out to see them. It can even be a long visit. But moving back doesn’t seem to be the best option right now.
Lindsay April 25, 2013, 10:10 am
I don’t know. I agree with Wendy’s advice, under the assumption that moving would create problems regarding the custody of their child. But what’s the end game here? She has to live in the U.K. forever? Yes, if she has to stay, then she should learn to make friends and get hobbies, so I do agree with that.
I’d be disinclined to say that she’s “projecting” or expecting the move to solve all her problems. I just gathered that she expected it to solve the relevant problems, like missing her family. Sometimes missing home is just missing home, I think. I don’t know what the relationship is like otherwise, but as noted above, if he honestly can’t understand why she’d miss her own family (not that he has to agree), then he’s kind of a dolt or an ass. So, I can see why they’d be having problems.
Sasa April 25, 2013, 10:24 am
Well, people often say they “don’t understand” why someone else might want something when they themselves don’t want it. LW’s partner has no desire to move to the US. He probably does understand her reasons, but feels that the sacrifice he would have to make (not living close to his mother, working at odd hours, being in a culture he doesn’t like as much) outweighs them. It’s a pretty difficult situation I think because neither the UK nor the US is the “obvious” place for them to live. Their interests are competing here and neither of them has a real knockdown argument. I almost feel that, in a working relationship, either both should be willing to compromise on where they live, or if one of them is not flexible it should have been clearly expressed before committing and having a child together.
Lindsay April 25, 2013, 10:33 am
True. They really should have discussed this beforehand. I can kind of see why she’s worried about the state of the relationship because neither of them sound very understanding of the other’s needs.
Skyblossom April 25, 2013, 11:23 am
Absolutely. The problem is that they had a child before deciding where they wanted to spend their lives and now they don’t agree and there is no good solution that will make them both happy.
Liquid Luck April 25, 2013, 12:23 pm
I agree that sometimes you just want to live near your family, and that’s the only issue. If this LW were single, I would tell her to just move back if she missed them. But she has a partner and a child, and she needs to think about their needs too (her partner’s as equal to hers, and her child’s as greater than). That’s not to say I think that the idea of moving back to the US should be off the table forever, but she should absolutely try to be happy where she is first. They can re-evaluate in a few years.
odelly April 25, 2013, 10:48 am
I’m about to get married, and while we don’t have children, one of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot is my “main” family shifting from being my family of origin to being my husband and I. When I read this letter my first thought is that she may not be thinking of her boyfriend and son as her “main” family. Most people are saying she needs a bit of a change in perspective. Maybe focusing on her bf and son as her main family versus her family back in the US, along with all the other suggestions, could help that shift happen.
BreezyAM April 25, 2013, 12:23 pm
Well, maybe because they aren’t married. :-/ I’m not saying people can’t be in long term committed relationships sans marriage, but really many women especially after they have a baby start getting very fussy about that, even if subconsciously. I’m wondering if she doesn’t feel like he thinks of THEM as family? In many places legally it’s really not the same, even in “common law” places, when it comes to legalities.
oldie April 25, 2013, 1:57 pm
This is true, but then why did she decide to have a child, not an accidental child but a planned one, with this man if she cannot see him and their child as her new core family? It just strikes me as logical — either you can feel that you are in a new core family without the formality of a marriage certificate, or you don’t decide to have a child until you are married. Or, I suppose you’ve decided that you want to be a single parent and your current lover is a better sperm donor than some anonymous guy. That is a tough road to travel, if she is prone to loneliness. Being a single mother living close to her parents is unlikely to be a walk in the park.
I agree with another commenter that LW is just trying to run away from her troubles — very amorphous troubles whose cause she hasn’t really identified at that.
tbrucemom April 25, 2013, 6:20 pm
I was thinking that too. Maybe she wants to get married but he doesn’t or maybe she does but hasn’t even mentioned it. Having a child together is the biggest commitment you’ll ever make so I don’t think it’s about commitment but it may be about security and feeling that if they were married they would be legally recognized as immediate family. It could also be that she’s homesick. When I had my 2nd child I moved back to my home state to be closer to my family. There’s something about being around your birth family and friends when you have a baby that feels comforting.
findingtheearth April 25, 2013, 10:49 am
I am taking some of this advice to heart- I am horrible at making friends and now that I have a kid, most of my friends have gone out the window, as they are all still single and kidless.
I do wonder though about how different London is in comparison with the United States and being friendly to other moms. But I would follow Wendy’s advice- go do stuff with the kiddo, be open to other moms, talk with them, share with them, and hopefully something will open up.
Things that I have found that work- smiling, complimenting an accessory like a purse or something, offering to buy a table next to you at a bar/pub a drink.
Skyblossom April 25, 2013, 11:22 am
We went from talking to people at the playground/preschool, to inviting people over to play to going out to dinner together. The friends we met through our son all have boys his age and the friends we have met through our daughter all have girls her age. We would trick-or-treat as a big group with the parents walking behind talking so it was a fun evening out. We go to the beach with friends with all the kids along. It keeps the kids busy so they are happy and it gives us an afternoon with fun people. We do the same for all sorts of things like the county fair, library programs, bike trail and the local coffee shop. I think that almost anywhere you go there are things you can do as a group that allow everyone to relax and have fun together.
Sometimes you invite someone over and realize it isn’t a good match and you don’t invite them back so there is some trial and error to it. Sometimes I invited multiple friends and found that their children didn’t mix well so would only invite them separately. Sometimes you invite them because you get along well with the parent but the kids don’t like each other very much so that doesn’t work either and sometimes the kids like each other but you don’t care for the parent but when the parents match and the kids match you can develop a friendship that lasts for a lifetime.
lemongrass April 25, 2013, 11:26 am
You are literally trying to run away from your problems. Take Wendy’s advice and commit to the life that you have now.
Thunder_Power April 25, 2013, 11:30 am
I don’t mean to sound callous, but i feel the need to play Captain Obvious here. If he has “commitments in France” along with caring for his elderly mother, OF COURSE he is going to be reluctant to move. Instead of trying to get him to see your side of the issue, try looking at it from his perspective. Those “commitments” and caring for his mother are going to be a lot more difficult to honor on the other side of the ocean on top of working crazier hours at work. He’ll likely be flying back and forth to Europe a lot and get to spend even less time with you and your family. Moving back to USA creates a lot more trouble for him at the expense of his family life.
I think it’s wonderful that your parents can “visit often”. You don’t say how often, but it probably means more than once in the few short years you’ve been in London. Which is pretty great considering the vast ocean and current prices of airfare to fly that far. Perhaps that, along with regular Skype dates (as some people have mentioned above) should be enough for now to fill that “family void”. Wendy offers a lot of great ideas of ways you can start connecting in your present community and I’m sure the Internet offers even more.
Fabelle April 25, 2013, 12:25 pm
Yeah, I agree. Also—didn’t see this before—but she says she has aunts, uncles, and cousins in the UK. Why not reach out to them, even if they aren’t “close” (as she says)? If I moved to a completely different county where I happened to have a few distant relatives, you can bet I’d reach out to them as a lifeline.
Thunder_Power April 25, 2013, 1:55 pm
Definitely! It’s never too late to get to know family. Perhaps there are younger little cousins her kid can play with. In 4 years of living in the same country it’s surprising that she or they haven’t made some sort of effort to be close. Where does she do holidays? It sounds as though in the 4 years she’s been there she has been all about her partner and not enough of her getting out and building her own roots. Family is the perfect place to start!
oldie April 25, 2013, 11:42 am
Surprised Wendy didn’t mention it, given her own experience, but post-partum depression certainly a possible issue. A new child can take a lot of time and changeup the rhythym of a two person family.
Yes, there are benefits to being close to family, but this letter also has a whiff of I’m feeling less happy, so if I run home to Mommy and Daddy they will make it all better. LW has a life of 4 years in London. Apparently a happy enough life that she felt comfortable deciding to have a child with her partner. The change in the equation, which seems to fairly much coincide with her unhappiness is the arrival of the child and the stresses associated with an infant.
I don’t think bf is being hypocritical. There is a huge difference between needing to live close to your relations and feeling an obligation to be close when a parent is in poor health and you are her only living relation.
If this couple is to stay together, England seems a good compromise home. She is English by birth, has relatives in England whom she could try to establish a better relationship with, and she is living in a land that speaks her native tongue, while he is not. He is not snuggled up close by his ailing mother, but close enough to come running when it is necessary. It’s not like he’s saying they have to live within a few miles of his mother.
6napkinburger April 25, 2013, 1:23 pm
I was gonna say the same thing. And maybe it isn’t even post-partum depression, but just regular depression. Some people hate the idea of medication, but for others it can be a real life-saver. And not all medicines require that you be on them forever; some can treat a problem for a little while and then wean off of them. If the LW finds herself depressed, she should look into treating the depression as a cause, rather than a symptom of the issues in her life.
GatorGirl April 25, 2013, 12:52 pm
Is it bad that part of the reason I’m pumped to have kids is for mommy groups and mom friends? It’s been impossible for me to make my own friends since my move and gah, I’d love some women to just do what ever with who aren’t completely nuts. (Not that a mom group gaurente’s they aren’t nuts.)
Liquid Luck April 25, 2013, 1:27 pm
I feel you on not being able to make friends. I’ve been here a year and have 2 (and they’re a couple). I’ve met a ton of people, but just haven’t really clicked with any of them. It’s incredibly frustrating.
findingtheearth April 25, 2013, 2:36 pm
I just think it gets harder to make friends the older you get. In school, it is easy- you are all forced into one area and have to get semi along with one another. As adults, you feel the need to be more individualized, which lessens the herd mentality, and I think, makes it hard to simply say “you and me are friends.”
katie April 25, 2013, 1:04 pm
hm, so, i am going to assume you view this man as your life partner/husband/whatever you want to call it. married or not, you have a kid with him and you are with him for the long haul. im basing my opinion off that fact.
so, that being said, his problems are your problems, and your problems are his problems. his immediate problems are being busy at work and his elderly mother. yours are that you are lonely. honestly, objectively, his problems are more pressing. being near his mother as she ages and eventually passes is a big deal. you just being unhappy where you are is less so. you are able to go see your family, and they can see you, whenever you want (within reason). his mother cannot visit (im assuming), and she needs care- actual, real care, not just visits.
to me, if you are in this relationship for the long haul, this is the pressing issue now. sometimes you have to suck it up and stick with your partner through a period of time that your not necessarily the happiest but the overall issue is more important. like, in my life, i wouldnt necessarily want my boyfriends grandmother to live with us, but im basically planning on that happening. its not what i want, it will probably make me objectively unhappy for a little while, but the overall issue of them being together at the end of her life, and/or her needing a place to stay at the end of her life so we can care for her- im on board with that, because thats a big deal.
Liquid Luck April 25, 2013, 1:34 pm
One of the first things J and I discussed before deciding to live together was the possible care of our aging grandparents/parents. Luckily we agreed that if they needed to live with us and we could afford it, that’s what would happen.
LW, have you ever discussed this issue? What would happen if his mother needed to move in with you or have you move closer to her? What about your parents got sick and needed care? If you haven’t already talked about this and come to a decision that you both agree on together, then you need to do that. Not communicating about big issues and planning for the future seems to be playing a big part in the rift in your relationship when your expectations/assumptions don’t line up.
lets_be_honest April 25, 2013, 1:36 pm
I think that should be one of the top 5 discussions to have before marriage, or serious commitment. If we weren’t eye to eye on that one, there is no way I would’ve continued the relationship.
Liquid Luck April 25, 2013, 1:58 pm
I agree, it absolutely should be. My dad’s mom lived with my family for ten years, so I saw first-hand how much that can affect a family dynamic. If both people aren’t completely on board, it’s the kind of thing that has the potential to destroy even an otherwise solid relationship. Maybe we’re an anomaly since it was a real possibility at 23 when we decided to move in together (his grandmother would never move back north to live with his mom, so if she goes anywhere it’ll be with us), but it was literally the second thing we discussed after making sure we were on the same page about marriage.
KKZ April 25, 2013, 2:05 pm
Maybe because I got married so young (on the cusp of 22) but I would not have had ANY idea how to even discuss that before marriage, any idea what I wanted or would be willing to do, and who knows how those feelings would change by the time our parents are getting up there in age. All 4 of them are in their early to mid 50s right now so, knock on wood, we’ve still got time – but this is one of those “grown-up” things I have no idea how I’m going to, or want to, handle. I didn’t have the benefit of watching my parents go through it with their own parents either – my family is very spread out, so when my grandparents reached their time, it was a plane-flight away for both my dad’s side and mom’s side. There was no long-term care or support going on, at least not that I knew of.
Anyway, point is, before marriage and even now, I’m totally unequipped to have that conversation. I can’t imagine it being a pre-req for marriage & commitment.
I’m not saying I disagree with you that it’s important, though. It just personally gives me chills of panic because I. have. no. clue. how to handle the question of my parents aging and dying.
findingtheearth April 25, 2013, 2:38 pm
My mom is diabetic and I just naturally assume that one day, I will take care of her. I have a grandmother in a nursing home, and it makes me sad.
It is really effing tough to think about parents dying. I just had a kid, and it made me appreciate my mother that much more. I have become kind of a jerk about her taking better care of herself- constantly reminding her to eat better and made her sign up for some fitness rehab.
KKZ April 25, 2013, 2:55 pm
My parents are both really private about their health and have not discussed with me any of their own plans or desires (I’m the eldest child so I just assume the responsibility would come to me first) for end-of-life care or anything like that. Neither of them has a serious chronic condition like diabetes that I know of, I’m sure the question would be more up-front in my mind if there were a circumstance that made it more tangible like that. Same goes for my in-laws, though they are not as private as my parents. I saw my MIL go through quite a bit with her father near the end of his life. I don’t know at all what their expectations are for their sons – I know where they keep their “in case of emergency” file with all their important info and stuff, but that’s about it.
I am SO not a caretaker personality. It’s part of the reason I never wanted to have kids. The idea of taking care of my parents or in-laws in their last years, especially any kind of hands-on care rather than visits or financial support or whatever, makes me a little nauseous – not disgusted nauseous, but scared nauseous. I do not feel up to the task and don’t know if I ever will. 🙁 I feel guilty and selfish for that, but right now my only feelings toward the subject are fear and aversion.
AKchic_ April 25, 2013, 12:35 pm
I think that you two need to decide whether or not you WANT to stay together, first and foremost.
After that – does his mother have a long or short life expectancy? Would she be amenable to moving in with the both of you?
If she isn’t expected to live long, then perhaps a move, however temporarily, to France would be the best thing. It gives him time to be closer to his mother, and would help alleviate further guilt should she pass and he not be there for her. When my 2nd husband’s grandfather was dying, I told him to quit his job and fly back home and spend whatever remaining time he had left with his grandpa. I knew he’d feel guilty, and worse, should he not get to be there.
My family questioned it. Why was I the sole financial support, alone with 3 kids? Why was my husband gone so long? His grandpa died 2 1/2 months after he got there. When my grandpa grilled me on Thanksgiving, I was able to say “he died yesterday, he’ll be home for Christmas, I would hope that if the roles were reversed, I’d be given the same courtesy that I gave R, without him having to be questioned by his family every time they talk or get together”. My grandpa shut up after that.
If his mother is expected to live for some time, then you should seek some counseling so you can see exactly what it is you’re missing. I wouldn’t doubt that it has to do with the fact that you’re lonely. I hated NJ when I moved, and a small part of that was because I didn’t have any friends. My closest friend lived in upstate NY and he was in Afganistan at the time. The next closest was someone in Florida.
It may be that you’ll just have to move back to the US without him. But, try other options first.
Jae April 25, 2013, 5:10 pm
Something I often ponder when talking to other expat friends is the grass-is-greener factor about home. The reality is that moving home is just like moving to a new country in some ways. Nothing stayed static at home while you were away – everyone has moved on and had stuff happen and lives change and whatnot. The idea of moving home is powerful, the reality is that it is hard work. I did it once and was dismayed to have to basically start from scratch again – my friends and family were lovely but I didn’t just slot into their lives as I had assumed I would. It took a while to feel settled. LW should be careful what she wishes for.
bittergaymark April 25, 2013, 6:13 pm
Eh, to me this reads as a classic bait-n-switch. Sorry, but if you want to raise your kid stateside, don’t fall in love with a European and gleefully move over there for him and then proceed to make a baby. Look, I’d KILL to legally live in Europe right now. And if I had grown up there, you can be damn well sure that is where I’d be raising my kids… Sad but true… the United States is one big fucking mess… People in Europe truly are so much better educated… Heck, just the foreign languages alone… So, yeah, that’s where I’d insist on raising my kids if I was the LW’s boyfriend. Sorry, LW, but you are TOTALLY in the wrong here. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. And then this whole thing about him somehow working in the States but keeping European hours? Good God, what a fucking nightmare… Frankly, I don’t see how that wouldn’t significantly harm not only his performance but also his career…