Help! We Disagree About Moving Our Family Across the Country

By Dr. Michael Oberschneider, Ashburn Psychological & Psychiatric Services

Dear Dr. Mike,

My husband has been offered a promotion to a new position on the West Coast, but his company needs him to relocate by March!

If he doesn’t accept, they will give him a severance package, but then he’s without a job, and I stay at home. The move would have a higher salary, which is great, but I know for certain that moving abruptly will be difficult on our 3 children since Ashburn has always been their home. It will be especially difficult for our two older children in high school. My parents live in NOVA, and my husband’s parents live 2 hours away in PA, and the children will also lose their connection to their grandparents if we move.

Simply put, he wants us all to go, and I don’t. His point is that he has a very high position (he’s a VP in his company), and positions and salaries like his don’t come along every day, which is true. My position is that he should put his family first and money second. Period. Even with my not working, we’ve saved and invested well, and even if he’s out of work for an extended period of time, I’m confident that he’d eventually find something good in NOVA, and it will all work out. Your help is appreciated.

Dear Concerned Parent,

There are several factors to consider here, and I agree that your children’s needs should be a big part of the decisions you make as a family. However, your husband’s point that finding employment as a VP could take time is a valid one.

In his sector or industry, higher-level positions may not open often. He may indeed remain unemployed for an extended period, or he may need to settle for a lesser position in the area if he rejects the offer. I think the two of you need to evaluate your finances and your long-term goals.

For instance, if your husband doesn’t relocate, how long can you maintain your current standard of living? Could not relocating impact your retirement plans?

Rather than thinking of your situation as an all-or-nothing moment where your husband gets his way, or you and your children get yours, is there the possibility of a compromise as an alternative option? This could include your husband relocating to the West Coast on his own and flying back and forth for visits until the end of the school year. COVID-19 has demonstrated that teams don’t need to always work physically together to be successful, and perhaps he could take the role while remaining virtual a portion of the time.

With the likelihood of virtual learning continuing, perhaps your children could try to complete the year in their current schools virtually from the West Coast? This may allow them to maintain social connections, which will certainly be harder to do in a new school when managing social distance.

If you consider this on a trial basis, your family could make the move and see if there are benefits to the new town and how they feel about it while still attending NOVA schools. If the children’s struggles seem too great at the end of the school year, then perhaps your husband could start a job search back in NOVA, with the added benefit of his higher title and broadened experience to aid in his search.

As a psychologist who works a lot with families, children, and teens adjust fine to work-related relocations as long as the approach to the transition and new experience is reasonable.

Unfortunately, there is no right answer to these types of decisions. The key is to support each other, to listen to each other, and to maintain an open mind to new experiences as a family.