Linda, a professor in her sixties, remembers the immense guilt she felt when she moved her family from Illinois to Minnesota. She and her husband, David, uprooted their three children ages 11 to 15 for the promise of a better job. Even now, decades later, Linda still feels some mom guilt. At the same time, she knows that her childhood moves shaped her into the confident person she is today. Linda inherently knows that moving comes with many benefits, so it’s time to stop feeling guilty about moving the family.
A History of Moving as a Child
Moving was a way of life for Linda and her five younger brothers. Linda attended five different schools throughout the Midwest. Her family moved because of her father’s job and, in those days, this wasn’t a family discussion. The conversation would be: “We’re moving. Do you want a roof over your heads? Do you want to eat? Then, we need to move.” So, they moved. Time and time again.
Some moves proved better than others. Linda remembers entering a large public school that felt like a “breath of fresh air” after leaving a “repressive” all-girls school. The new school fit better with her personality and made her act less rebellious than she behaved at the all-girls school. Her memories of feeling alone at lunch, though, remain as strong as if it happened yesterday. Linda would go to the bathroom and sit with her feet up because she couldn’t stand to be alone. She couldn’t face lunchtime, so she would hide. Linda tells me, “Did it last long? No. Was it incredibly painful? Yes, but it didn’t last.”
Linda and David Uproot Their Three Kids
Linda and David decided to settle down in the Chicago suburbs to raise their children. They put down roots and grew them for fifteen years when David received a job offer they couldn’t refuse. Part of Linda’s reluctance to move came from her own experiences as a child. She knew how hard it was and she didn’t want to put her kids through that pain. In the end, the financial advantage to moving and the fact that David would be happier in his new job won out. Linda said good-bye to the friends she’d raised her children with and moved a 6th grader, 8th grader, and a sophomore in high school.
Feeling Guilty and Saying “Yes” to Everything
Linda tells me, “I felt a huge amount of guilt on my part. My husband had no guilt. He moved as a kid and he told me, ‘They’re fine.’ I was wallowing and thinking, ‘What have we done?’ He would tell me again, ‘They’re fine. We’re all fine.’ And, he was right.” That didn’t stop Linda from acting irrationally since she felt so guilty about the move.
Linda, a heavily involved anti-gun activist, would go to anti-gun protests and do phone banking for the cause. She’s always been anti-gun. And, yet, when her sons asked for a BB gun after the move, she couldn’t bring herself to say “no.” Particularly in the beginning, she would say “yes” to everything because she was compensating. A BB gun? Sure! Go to a waterpark? Of course! Linda’s kids’ friends still comment on how fun Linda was because she would take them everywhere. However, Linda says it didn’t last long, but the kids certainly took advantage of it while it did.
Coping with Feeling Guilty About Moving
Maybe it was due to Linda’s moving experiences as a child, but Linda knew she couldn’t underestimate all the positives and gains that you make when you move. Moving changed Linda’s confidence. She had to be tenacious at a new school or she would’ve been left behind. “There’s that amazing sense of resourcefulness that you experience. It forces you to do things because you don’t want to be alone. There’s also the self-reliance of knowing that you can do it.” Jumping into a new school at junior high or high school is one of the hardest things to do, but she did it and her kids did it, too. In the end, you get through it. You make friends and you get on a sports team or do student council. Linda sees how her children’s confidence and self-reliance grew just with one move.
Seeing the Glass Half-Full and Stopping the What-Ifs
Seeing the positives doesn’t merely help the situation, it’s the only thing to do. “The key to moving your children,” Linda explains, “is getting it together yourself. That will all be reflected in how well your kids do. If you take the glass as half-empty, it’s going to stink for you and your family. As an adult, you are the one who did this to your family, so you better do it half-full for their sake and your sake in the long run.” And, what about all those “what-ifs” as a parent? What if we hadn’t moved, would my child be happier and would he have done better at school? “Those are a total waste of time,” Linda says. It doesn’t help. There is pain and loss associated with moving, but there are so many benefits. Linda and David have lived in Minnesota for 21 years now and Linda knows they made the right decision. Her husband was right. The kids are fine.