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Do I completely change my family's life for a dream job opportunity?
January 26, 2014 11:21 AM   Subscribe

I have been offered a dream career position. All signs indicate that I will excel at the job, and in a few years I may be in a technical leadership position with amazing potential and significant rewards. However, it will require my wife and I to move across the country, away from family and friends. How do we make such a difficult choice?

On preview, this is long and somewhat special-snowflakey. TLDR: How do my wife and I resolve a conflict between a dream career and potential financial windfall, vs. being close to family and completely uprooting our current comfortable life?

I've been offered an engineering position with a major tech company in Silicon Valley. I don't want this question to be even easier to google, so PM me if you feel the details matter. Suffice it to say that the position is a dream career opportunity for me, the technologies are perfectly poised to make a major impact in the 5-10 year time frame, and there could be moderate-to-significant financial incentives.

My wife & I live on the East Coast. I'm not especially close with my family - we mostly get together at the holidays and a couple other times throughout the year. However, she's lived close to hers for almost her entire life, and we see them at least once every 1-2 weeks. Her parents lives are highly focused around family, and they don't like to travel. I am still close with a group of friends that I went to high school and college with, and most of them are back in my home town area now after being scattered for a few years.

I have a good job now. Some days are quite stressful, but some are great. I would definitely do well there for the foreseeable future, but my biggest fear is that I could also plateau. We're fairly bureaucratic; promotions normally come only from seniority, and you often have to wait for someone to retire before new opportunities are available. More than that, there is a heavy feeling of cronyism at the upper levels of the organization, and I don't see an opportunity to make a big impact there. However, I'm certain I could stay there for 30 years, work on a mix of good projects, and retire very comfortably.

At the new position, I would be involved from the start in helping form an amazing, talented team working on Big Impactful Things, and furthermore I know that I would do an Awesome Job; everything in my career has prepared me for this.

We are very comfortable right now. We own a house, which we would have to sell (at almost break-even thanks to the housing crash) or rent, and we fear being lonely without family and friends. At the same time, we spend a lot of time together, and the new area has a lot of things we like - beaches, walkable small cities, wine country, beautiful weather, etc. My wife is inclined towards conservatism and sticking with a good thing, and I'm inclined towards taking calculated risks. We both love a lot about our current life, our house, our friends, etc. I know that if I say no to the new job, I may deeply regret it, especially if the technology does make it big in a few years. But I also know that if we do move, there's a chance my wife may be unhappy and resent our decision. She worries that I'll resent her if she says she wants to stay, and I worry that she might resent me if I say I want us to go. OTOH, we could also love the new life and enjoy every day.

We've discussed doing a 1-year trial, renting our house here and renting an apt out there. There would still be a lot of stress of moving and settling there. The biggest risk would be if a year from now, I love the job and the area, and she is extremely unhappy, and we're faced with this same situation over again.

We're faced with a huge dilemma - keep a life that we enjoy, know a lot about and can predict, or jump into the unknown? We tend to be very deliberate decision-makers that make tons of spreadsheets and pro/con lists to analyze this sort of thing, but that tactic basically results in decision paralysis for us with this kind of big decision. I'd love to hear from others that have faced similar situations and what factors you considered. What did you regret, and what are you happy you've done 5-10 years later?
posted by RobotNinja to Work & Money (46 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Do it.
posted by humph at 11:26 AM on January 26 [6 favorites]


Forget the spreadsheets. Jump.
posted by easement1 at 11:40 AM on January 26 [1 favorite]


There are some compromises where I feel one side should be the default. I am messier than my partner and I feel the default should be towards cleanliness. It is so easy to become mired in the familiar and imagine a world of problems with the unknown that I really believe in this kind of decision making the default should be towards risk taking. I love my family and my city but I have always felt a little less than grown up because I never ventured forth. If your opportunity was only about money it would be different but you are talking about feeling really excited about your job and that is worth so much. You make no mention of your wife having a job, if that means you are the sole support of the family then she should really be wanting you to be happy with your life of work. If you are just not mentioning her job or career, well, thats a whole other ball of wax.
posted by InkaLomax at 11:42 AM on January 26 [1 favorite]


We've discussed doing a 1-year trial, renting our house here and renting an apt out there.

Yes. Although I think two years would probably be better. It can take a surprisingly long time to acclimate to a new place and one year can be peak unhappiness for some people. Also it might take a while for your wife to find a job, if she is looking for one, and you might her to be in the job for at least a year before you decide to leave.

There would still be a lot of stress of moving and settling there. The biggest risk would be if a year from now, I love the job and the area, and she is extremely unhappy, and we're faced with this same situation over again.

Yeah, but then you'll have real information about whether both of you like it or not, not just guesses. And each of your feelings will affect the other in the meantime. I doubt you will really have polarized opinions then.
posted by grouse at 11:43 AM on January 26 [10 favorites]


I've moved country four times as an adult... and just wrote a big spiel about the pluses and minuses but on easement1's comment I deleted. He/She is right, forget spreadsheets.

You are improving your financial lot and going on an adventure. Your friends and family will still be there and if you're miserable there are no rules saying you can't go back to the east coast.

Do it.
posted by jujulalia at 11:43 AM on January 26 [9 favorites]


"I'm certain I could stay there for 30 years ... and retire very comfortably."

Be advised that this almost never happens in Silicon Valley unless you are VP level by the time you hit 40. Tech companies here do not value older workers, where older = 45 and up. That said, I do think you should give it a go, just sorta...recalibrate your long term expectations and keep those connections back east alive while you are here.
posted by jamaro at 11:45 AM on January 26 [12 favorites]


Don't do it.

There's a huge value in the family and friend network that you can't buy back. Also, people from one coast often seem weird to people from the other coast. Also, I'm skeptical of the "amazing potential" of the new job, due to the uncertainty of new technology. I'm guessing you want to move to be part of the next big technology, and I'd encourage you to put your family ahead of this desire and let the current generation of young people without kids (who have the same information as you and same desire to build meaningful stuff) do this work. The technology will get developed whether you're there or not, so you should do what's best for you and your family. Staying put will give you a better quality of life.
posted by sninctown at 11:52 AM on January 26 [5 favorites]


Are you working a solid well established company like Pan Am, Atari, Arthur Andersen, Kodak, etc where you are assured of a continued long career? Then, sure, stay comfortable.
I think you should make the move, plan on a 2 year "trial" and put everything you can in place to be able to go back to your house. And 3+ months out find a couples therapist to give the both of you another perspective on the situation, since you will be dealing with many new stresses.
posted by Sophont at 11:54 AM on January 26 [1 favorite]


There's a huge value in the family and friend network that you can't buy back.

You can't replace them, but your family and friends will still be there if you realize you can't live without them in two years.
posted by grouse at 11:57 AM on January 26 [2 favorites]


You can't know for sure what will happen, the big questions are will you like the new job & will you like being in a new location, and you can't find out without trying.

You didn't mention kids. If you don't have any (yet), now is the time to try this.

If you are currently employed in a tech-related job by a company that's rather bureaucratic, but seems safe for the long haul: don't count on it. My experience has been that who opt for stability don't always get it, and when your employer "reinvents itself" or moves headquarters or whatever, you may find yourself high and dry and without marketable skills. If you go to the Silicon Valley job, and you don't like it, you'll still be very marketable on the East Coast. I left IBM in 2000 for a start-up, and even though they went bust, since that move I have never had trouble finding a job, and overall I've done quite well. And I'm over 60 and not in senior management.

But rent out the house, don't sell it right away.
posted by mr vino at 11:58 AM on January 26 [3 favorites]


I understand wanting to be near family, but I think you should do this. First, you are young. This is exactly the time you should make this jump. Second, your wife isn't moving away from her family - you are her family. Third, let's say it goes completely balls-up and you both hate it there. It might be difficult, it might be expensive, and it might take time, but you can move back. It is a problem that, ultimately, you can fix.

Her concerns are real, but when you are partners sometimes one partner has to give up something so that the other (or the team) can win big. This might be that time. When something else comes up and you aren't really sure that you want to do it, but it means a lot to her, maybe it becomes your turn to suck it up and take one for the team.

If all else fails - check out the weather in silicon valley right now. No, that's not a typo. It is actually that frigging awesome. It's t-shirt and shorts weather.

Good, right? Now check the house prices in silicon valley. No, those aren't typos either.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 11:58 AM on January 26 [5 favorites]


I faced a very similar decision a few years ago. I was offered a position with the White House, 3 hours away, which required relocating to D.C. A dream job, by any measure...except for the living-in-DC part. My wife and I were expecting our first child at the time. My wife's entire extended family lived within 10 minutes, my entire extended family lived within 40 minutes. All of our friends were here. Just as you wrote, "she worries that I'll resent her if she says she wants to stay, and I worry that she might resent me if I say I want us to go." After 48 hours of consideration, I turned down the job, knowing fully that I would never, ever have an opportunity like that again. (A special-snowflaky mini-documentary resulted.)

Here's the punchline: I was immediately offered a better job, which didn't require relocation, also with the White House.

Your life is not your job. Your life is the accumulation of experiences and people who are important to you, and a job facilitates that. If keeping those ties close is important to you, then find a job that facilitates that. Finding a job that you love, but losing many other things that important to you, sounds like a lousy trade-off to me. You live in Maryland because, I assume, you want to live in Maryland. If you wanted to live in Palo Alto, wouldn't you already live in Palo Alto? The fact that you do not tells me that perhaps you'd be happier staying in Maryland.

You've been offered a great job by a company you admire doing work that's important. That's great—it speaks highly of your skills, experience, and ambition. And it means that you're likely to offered another such job that doesn't require uprooting your lives. I see from your recent AskMes that you're working on a robotics startup. If this company wants to give you money, by way of hiring you, then I'll bet somebody else wants to invest in that business. Or, if you're going to work for the Palo Alto-based business that requires that its employees work in their offices who has recently made a strong move into the robotics business, it seems to me that you ought to pursue that business and see if said company wants to acquire it in 12–18 months, since they clearly admire you're work. (Also, if you two are planning to have children, and planning to do so in the near term, I suggest you consider how much easier it is to have an infant with family and friends nearby to help.)

Imagine that you moved out there and then lost your job 3 months later. Would you return to Maryland, or stay in Palo Alto? Think about this in those terms, and I think you'll have your answer.
posted by waldo at 12:01 PM on January 26 [19 favorites]


You do realize no decision is irrevocable, right?

If it doesn't pan out, then move back.
posted by BlueHorse at 12:01 PM on January 26


You won't lose family and friends if you move, but you will lose time with them, and money can't buy that back. This is one of those hard decisions because in part you are choosing between money and people, and between your happiness and your spouse's. Nobody here can help you through that type of decision -- it's one that depends entirely on your priorities and type of character. Either may be the right choice, depending on who you are.
posted by Houstonian at 12:03 PM on January 26 [3 favorites]


If it doesn't work out in Silicon Valley, could you move back to your current location near your families and get a job again and re-restart there?

I'd say do it. You see that your current career is going to eventually plateau and it's already got its problems, so that's going to make YOU unhappy eventually. If you're going to spend half your waking life at work, you might as well take that rare chance to actually really enjoy that half.

You say you'll be making more money at this job, so you'll have more money to make more trips back to visit family and friends. You haven't mentioned your wife's job and how much travel flexibility she will have. There are plenty of ways to stay connected on the internet to continue communicating with those back where you came from and figure out when to plan those trips. Also, if you can make it work with your new boss, you might be able to take longer "working vacations" with your family, where you can continue to work remotely while you're visiting your families for an extended period.

My parents moved down to where we are over 35 years ago leaving both their families behind. They've made it work, and it's really the ideal place for my dad's (and my) industry. We've had to travel a lot to see family, but for day-to-day living, your job and immediate family will dominate your life anyways. Find happiness is those areas, and you'll be fine.
posted by KinoAndHermes at 12:10 PM on January 26 [1 favorite]


You didn't mention kids, so I assume you don't have any. Are you planning to have kids anytime soon? If so, I think that has to be a factor, because having a baby in a place where you don't have an established network can be really tough. If that's in the cards in the next couple of years, then I would think hard about whether you should stay closer to your friends and family.

You mentioned your job, but you didn't say whether your wife works. If she does, what are her job prospects like in the new place?

Ultimately, my impulse is to say that you should not sell the house, go, and give it a few years, but I'm also inclined towards calculated risk-taking. I actually don't think this is a call that anyone else can make for you. You and your wife are going to have to figure it out for yourselves.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 12:12 PM on January 26 [3 favorites]


I don't know if you should move or not. But I am concerned about the lack of information about your wife. I can't tell if she is working or what the impact for her own career would be. I can't tell if you have kids or are planning kids. You've not said very much and I don't feel like you're gained enough information about your wife's point of view...or maybe you just haven't shared it here. I know this all sounds very exciting for you, but I am reading a lot of "I" statements and not so many "we", or it comes across that way anyway.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 12:21 PM on January 26 [5 favorites]


If it inspires you, excites you, and you see growth, do it.

Transitions away from families and support networks are always tough, but think a couple years down the line and your family will have some sort of friend network in the west coast, not to mention personal satisfaction from having the no-regrets about potentially "missed opportunities".

Families can stick together even if there are distances. Distances matter, but not so much if you keep perspective (my family is spread out over three different continents across the northern and southern hemispheres, but we're still close since we catch up on everything - phone/Skype/web calls). Moving away has made personal growth possible for each of us siblings (who all now have their own families), not to mention the intangible things like inner strength and resilience from having had to adjust to changing places and cultures. I do not think I'd have had this had each of us lived close to our families (parents, siblings, aunts, all in the same city/nearby).

Not to mention, more $$$ usually gives you more freedom to fix things that arise due to loss of a support network - traveling to see family during vacations, have them (retired parents) come over, vacation at a mutually-agreed upon locations etc.

New transitions and experiences in life are hard to come by. It is exciting and scary, but that is what makes personal growth possible, which if you ask me is very important and worth the initial pain that comes with it.
posted by greta_01 at 12:22 PM on January 26


You have your head screwed on enough to know you can trial it and then change your mind if it doesn't work. This is very wise (speaking as someone who's family of origin was torn apart by someone doing the first bit but forgetting about the last bit).
posted by tanktop at 12:29 PM on January 26


What does your wife think about all this? Is she starting from a place of excitement or hesitance? Are you going to have to convince her to go, or is she already on the same page about it?

What does she do for a living, and would she be able to easily settle into a new job in the Bay Area? How do her interests, worldviews, values, etc. line up with the Silicon Valley/Bay Area? Is she going to find a militant knitters' collective or a tabletop gaming group and fall right into a new group of friends, or is she going to be a fish out of water?
posted by Sara C. at 12:33 PM on January 26


You are both adults, you don't have kids (not that they really complicate a move that much) and you are apparently financially comfortable. There will never be a better time to take off on a grand adventure and check out the other side of the country while getting paid at a dream job while you do it. The east coast is not going to fall off the side of the country while you are gone. And if it does, you'll be happy to be in the West Coast ;)

Do it, don't look back.
posted by COD at 12:34 PM on January 26


It sounds like a really good opportunity. Renting out your house and giving it a decent trial period sounds good. Would your current job hire you back if you don't end up thriving on the West Coast? Could you work remotely for the new company after a while? Either way, I'd go for it. You don't want to regret it 10 years from now when you're bored at your current job.
posted by snailparade at 12:38 PM on January 26


Oh my god I wrote "you're" when I meant "your" and now I'm dying.
posted by waldo at 12:41 PM on January 26 [8 favorites]


If you are earning enough money to live in silicon valley (don't underestimate, even from the east coast!), are driven enough and don't have kids, why not pay for your wife (and you?) to visit the east coast every 3-6 weeks for a long weekend ? Especially if you/her can stay w/friends/family, each visit will cost ~1k (or 2k for 2 ppl). She sees her family, you get your career.
posted by lalochezia at 12:44 PM on January 26 [3 favorites]


My gut feeling is definately go on an adventure! But it is good you are examining all angles.

The last time you mentioned your wife you said she was having a really hard time finding a job/career she liked despite her educational background. Can you work very hard together on finding her a suitable place to work out west? With your higher income maybe she could feel free to start up a business or take a lower-paying/more fulfilling job. Or maybe even a social job where the people you work with make up for the crappy wages. What about her going back to school. even part-time?

With the new position can you negotiate a bump in vacation pay/telework days so the two of you can travel back home frequently. The only caveate I would have with that is it would then impede you developing a healthy social life in your new home.

I think the two of you are really underestimating how much social technology has replaced or supplemented face to face socialising. I am super [emotionally] close to my family, I used to see them several times a week and deliberately close to live about an hour away from them. But now we all have txting and facetime and a lot of our face to face interactions have been reduced without affecting the quality of our relationship. (Since you are into Robotics what about mocking up a Double to stay with your inlaws? If nothing else, it shold make your wife laugh as you once again try to find a technology solution to a social problem.)

The last sugestion would be for you to go out, try it and she stay behind with frequent visits back and forth. I think this would be the hardest, most expensive, and ultimately not good for your relationship way to do it but could also give the both of you a chance to explore the new job/community without committing.
posted by saucysault at 12:56 PM on January 26


Lots of comments here about my wife's job, which I didn't go into. It's definitely a major factor for us. She is negotiating a remote work arrangement with her current job soon. If that doesn't work out, then it's a much different scenario for us; she'd look for jobs in the area, but we might have to negotiate offer acceptance contingent on her getting a job.

Kids, ugh...this is always an unknown for us. They may be in the future, and if so presumably within 3-5 years. That's another one of those decision paralysis things for us. We do actually have some family in the new area, but it's obviously not the same as having our parents around if we have kids.
posted by RobotNinja at 1:22 PM on January 26


These are all really great responses, although of course it still makes it pretty hard since we're seeing a mix of answers here! Thanks everyone for your input so far. These are great things to think about.
posted by RobotNinja at 1:23 PM on January 26


we're seeing a mix of answers here

The vast majority of responses are telling you to go. The fact that you are interpreting that as something that reads mixed to you is interesting.

For what it's worth, I'd go. In deference to your wife's preference to stay put I'd negotiate a trial period of a couple of years and at the end of that, if she hates it you leave without grumbling, even if you're having a whale of a time. You can let your house for that length of time. You may even find the property market recovers some in that time, should you decide to stay in new location.

If you do not plan on starting a family for at least the next 3 to 5 years this is not something that should even impact your decision to do a trial move for 2 years. If it doesn't work out you'll be back home in your house long before you're even pregnant.

Regarding your wife's job - how long exactly is your offer going to be kept open? It sounds like her plans are quite vague at this point and I bet they're not holding your offer for very long. So does she work in a field where she is likely to find a new job in the new area or not? I'd seriously reconsider remote working as an option. Working remotely can be isolating at the best of times, which is fine if it can be balanced by a good social life outside work. But in a new location that won't be there for a while. So for her to spend all day working remotely, communicating with people she knows from home who remind her of home sounds like the best way to ensure she's lonely and homesick. I'd recommend a local job for her, where she interacts with real people daily and can start to form new connections.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:04 PM on January 26 [6 favorites]


Sounds like there is no downside to giving it a two-year trial, but I disagree with koahiatamadl -- you do need to think more about this:

> Kids, ugh...this is always an unknown for us. They may be in the future, and if so presumably within 3-5 years.

If you're going to have kids, it's much, much, MUCH easier to do so with your parents and friends around you. Go, test it out, but if you do decide to have kids, I'm guessing you're would want to be back in your community. Talk to your friends who have kids to get a sense of what makes it easier (physically and psychologically) to be around family or harder when you can't be. They're not you and that won't decide things for you -- it would just be an important piece of information to factor in -- because it seems like what you're trying to do is to set up a fallback plan so that if things don't go well, you have options in hand for reorganizing things. Having kids is a major, life-altering event, far more than which job you take or which coast you live on.

But even if you did take the dream job and then did end up coming back in 3-5 years, I'm guessing it still would have greatly benefited you to take that step, in terms of connections, building your skills, etc., so you can't lose here, whichever way you guys decide. I think the fact that you're thinking it out so carefully and so realistically is a good omen. You have no bad options here, and it will turn out either good or great -- an enviable position to be in.
posted by ravioli at 2:26 PM on January 26


I could be wrong but I would be very surprised if negotiating an offer contingent on her getting a job is an actual likely scenario (unless you are trying to get her a job at the company itself).

Honestly, this situation seems like a huge win for you and a huge gamble for her--she has much less reason to be excited about going and much more reason to want to stay, especially if she enjoys her current job. If there is some trade-off that you guys can negotiate so it is a better situation for her and you can both be on board (does the extra money mean that she can pursue something that she's always been interested in--going back to school, spending a year working on some big independent project?) then sure, try it.

Otherwise, I think that this could be really rough on her--you'll have a great job that you are really excited about and she could easily be unemployed for a long time. Your current situation sounds good enough that I would think very hard about changing it for something that isn't clearly win-win for both of you.
posted by pie_seven at 2:32 PM on January 26 [5 favorites]


First, bravo for taking calculated risks, and for recognising the central importance of your family to one anothers' happiness.

But when making those calculations, specifically factor in that people are lousy at knowing what will actually make them happy - so lousy, that even knowing that they'll almost certainly make a lousy decision doesn't stop them making it anyway.

They think that money and prestige will make them happy. Their brains will perform all sorts of backflips to make them follow it. Dumb backflips.

'More money equals more happiness' is only true up to a point that you already appear to have exceeded (that is, you are already 'comfortable').

You are likely to derive only a small benefit from any additional income, and then only for a short period of time. After that, the extra income will become 'normal' and you'll be no happier than you were without it.

The flip side is that people underestimate how unhappy losing something will make them. Having close friends and family actually makes people very happy, and is closely linked to overall life satisfaction, quality of life and life expectancy. You, but especially your wife, will probably be more unhappy at losing these things than you can currently estimate. When your wife is unhappy, you will be unhappy. You're unhappy now, just thinking about it.

So overall, you're proposing to trade something proven to make most people very happy - friends and family - for something proven to not make most people much happier for very long at all - money and status. Throw in the grief of the move there - and potentially the move back - and it's hard to see how you'll derive any measurable, long-term improvement over your current comfortable position.

Such calculations are rarely that simple, of course. You may regret not going so badly that it haunts you and makes you miserable until the end of your days. And so framing your choice to stay would become very important. You'd need to remind yourself from time to time that you, as a human being, make lousy decisions when money is on the table, and that chasing that money would have been a lousy decision, and that it almost certainly would not have been anywhere near as good as you thought it would be, because we're just pathetic at making those sorts of judgments. You'd need to remember that it's important to have other ways of living a valuable life outside of work, because work comes and goes and is often beyond your control.

Watching your wife happily spending time with her family should help enormously when that particular ego trip comes knocking. Speaking from experience (as in, I'm currently making about $60K less than I'm offered every couple of years), it's very nice to be able to look in the mirror and say 'I'm a good(ish) husband and father, and that's better than being a great keyboard monkey.'
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:35 PM on January 26 [5 favorites]


Engineering skills are in demand everywhere, and not every exciting tech startup is in the Valley. Have you exhausted the option of finding that same mix of risk and reward where you currently are, or at a company that endorses remote work?
posted by nev at 2:39 PM on January 26 [1 favorite]


Go. Skype. Have kids without parents around. Make new friends. Stay close to old ones. But go.

Go.

Go.

Go.
posted by chasles at 3:34 PM on January 26 [1 favorite]


As to keeping in touch with family who live far away, it really is pretty easy to do that long-distance, as other posters have pointed out. My parents have passed away, but I have a brother who lives in the same city that I do, and a sister who lives hundreds of miles away. I am actually more in touch (via long emails) with my far-away sister than with my nearby brother.

All of my husband's relatives live quite far away, but he speaks to them (mother, father, three sisters) over iChat almost every night sometimes, and always at least a few times a week. And those are often long conversations.

Maybe for your wife, using technology to keep in touch with relatives would not be enough. But it is something to keep in mind.
posted by merejane at 4:22 PM on January 26


Go. We moved internationally with my work for 15 years and never regretted it. Family can visit or you can visit them. If it doesn't pan out, you can always move back.
posted by arcticseal at 4:38 PM on January 26 [1 favorite]


The way you're talking and thinking about this is exactly right: you're going to make a good decision, whatever it is. I'd vote go, for the reasons many here have given.

I don't think the company that's made you an offer would be willing to have it be contingent on your wife finding work though: I've never heard of that happening at a tech company. (It's a cultural thing. Bay Area tech companies assume work is easy to find, people move around a lot, and affluence is everywhere: they also place a very low priority on job security for the same reason.)

Personally, I wouldn't ask. Which leaves a real question around whether your wife will be able to find satisfying work. If she works in or near tech, that should be easy. If her field is something else though, it might not. Easier if your new salary will make it affordable for her to take something interesting that's not necessarily lucrative.

That's the only potential deal breaker I can see here -- if your wife ends up unmoored, away from family and not working, while you're excitedly digging into a new job. That could breed resentment and unhappiness. If she's an extrovert, adventurous, inclined to like the Bay for its weather or food or culture, that'd all argue for success.

I do think you should do it, with an agreement with your wife that if after two years either of you is unhappy, you move back with no questions asked. That seems reasonable to me, given that the chances are pretty good you'll both love it. Good luck!
posted by Susan PG at 5:15 PM on January 26


Someone I work with is living in southern New England while the rest of his family (wife and children) are living on another continent. I won't say it's easy, but there is an option that is neither both of you move or neither of you move.

(And as someone who already has kids and has friends living in that area of CA now, one of whom who has experience working in both MA and CA public schools, and you couldn't pay me enough to move to California.)
posted by zizzle at 5:31 PM on January 26 [2 favorites]


My husband is an Engineer (well, he's a director of engineers now) who has hired, worked with and supervised engineers on the East and West coast, as his company has bases in both.

With only one exception in his nearly 25 years with the company, every engineer who left the East coast to go live out West--whether with his company or with other companies in both sites--all came back to the East to live. One guy, in probably a hundred that he's personally known, stayed out West. One.

I would not even consider moving out there, personally. The benefits would have to be practically obscene for us to have anywhere close to our standard of living there that we do here, and our family lives here, too, like your wife's. Are they offering double your salary, stock options in the company, a dream healthcare plan, all moving expenses paid, etc.? Even then, you will not have a support system of friends and family.

Housing is approximately $500 a square foot, for a thirty year-old house, in the area where I am pretty sure you would be going. It s INSaNELY expensive. Cost of living all around is higher than the East Coast; groceries, transportation, state and local income tax, property taxes, healthcare.

I am not knocking the West Coast; there's some beautiful country out West. I know people born and raised out there who never want to live anywhere else. But I think it takes that level of connection and commitment to the area to keep people there.

Consider what you really hope will come from this opportunity. If you do choose to move out there and don't absolutely love what you do...well, I'd bet you good money you won't want to stay.
posted by misha at 6:25 PM on January 26 [1 favorite]


If you do go, make sure you make time for your wife and are there for her emotionally. It's a bigger gamble and bigger loss for her to move away, and the last thing you want is for her to feel resentful. Just be extra gentle with her and help her make it feel like"home" in any way you can.
posted by anad487 at 6:26 PM on January 26


My husband and I were you and your wife about seven years ago. We had stable, comfortable jobs in the midwest, in our family home town, with low cost of living. He got a job offer in the bay area. It meant selling our house, leaving our family, giving up jobs that could have been long term stable options. It meant a lot of unknown.

I had a very difficult time with the decision. At the end of the day, all of the things I was worried about weren't as important to me as the fact that I knew this was an opportunity for my husband that he deeply wanted and that would be good for him. I took a big leap of faith, and we did it. The day after my husband gave notice at work I was so upset that I stayed in bed sick. But we did it.

I have never, ever regretted it. It's the best thing he, I or we together have ever done. It's opened up a universe of personal growth - love the comments above about becoming more resilient and self-reliant as a couple - and of financial gain and professional opportunity for BOTH of us. We're into life-altering territory as far as some of what's happened for us out here. I am so incredibly glad that I took the leap and went outside my comfort zone.

I also think the leaving-our-families thing has been beneficial to us in the long run. Going back home and seeing family members who stayed in town, you can see that sometimes there's this trap of expectations, or of thinking about how someone has always been, that is hard to get out of. It's made us truly our own family, with our own values and traditions. It's given us space to breath and grow, and also to miss folks back home and forge other ways of connecting. It's let us make our own new friends, and family-of-friends, on our own terms, as adults.

I will say, though, that having kids out here without family has been a challenge. We are doing a good job of forging close relationships with the grandparents, but it's been harder with aunts/uncles/cousins. Might not happen as much. It's also been hard not to have the support. A couple of weeks ago we were all of us sick, and my husband and I were both too sick to really be able to care for anyone else. And yet, no choice, so you just kind of struggle through.

Before you move I would absolutely look hard at cost of living, especially housing - the bay area is a shocking place, unless you're coming from a very small number of other spots in the country/world. Especially look at the space you get for what you pay for, and how competitive both the rental and purchase markets are. This is a fabulous place, with many wonderful things to do and experience. I do love it, despite the housing market.

My husband and I are both hiring managers in Silicon Valley and have worked from startups to large, publicly traded companies. I'm not sure the details of your career/offer/etc, but I cannot imagine a scenario where you could really accept an offer contingent on something like your wife getting a job. I don't think many places would have a lot of patience with that type of negotiation unless you are truly a special kind of talent. I would not bring that up unless there's something special about the details of your opportunity you have chosen not to disclose. If the worst happens I suppose you can rescind your acceptance, with perhaps some burned bridges, although I think many people are sympathetic to the difficulties of relocating cross-country and the nuances of personal situations.

There is a lot of hiring and a hot job market in the bay area, so it's very likely your wife can find work out here - again, don't know details of her situation. I agree that the remote working is not as great as it sounds, and might increase her sense of alienation (rather than forging new roots here, she's still mentally back in the old place).

I think if all else fails, you can always move back. But especially with no kids now, it's hard to see the upside to staying put...unless you think it's a dealbreaker with your wife.
posted by handful of rain at 6:46 PM on January 26 [5 favorites]


Go. Try it out. Life is too short to deny yourself the chance at these opportunities. You don't have kids yet, so it's really much easier to move away from family right now, you can always move back. But don't make your acceptance conditional on her finding a job, that's not going to go down well.

I moved across the world with my boyfriend 15 years ago, and it was well worth the risk. Nerve-wracking, but an exciting adventure. Go, go, go! You can move back if you don't like it! Try new things, take opportunities!
posted by Joh at 8:44 PM on January 26


I did the move you're talking about. I knew I'd regret it my whole life if I didn't. It may sound cheesy but I don't see it as being about career -- I see it as a decision to be where history is being made. Some things are better out here, some things are worse. In retrospect I overestimated what a big deal it would be -- wherever you go, there you are, you know? You'll be fine no matter what.

Oh, and if you do move, your wife should just get a new job. The whole "I'm going to move three thousand miles to where I know nobody and my husband is going to work twelve hours a day building a team and I'm going to work from home with people who are all back east" thing is a recipe for disaster.

(And yes the whole "I accept this offer contingent on my wife getting a job" thing is unlikely to fly.)
posted by phoenixy at 8:45 PM on January 26 [1 favorite]


Oh, and one more thing -- I think that the biggest adjustment for me was just moving to a bigger city. It would probably be more of an upheaval in many ways to move, say, from an East Coast suburb to Manhattan than it would be to move from an East Coast suburb to a West Coast suburb.
posted by phoenixy at 10:12 PM on January 26


I am the wife in a couple that moved from Australia to the UK for my husband's career change. It didn't go exactly how we planned - I have found it extremely hard to go from fulltime paid employment to, well, no employment - but we have made the most of it and loved it and have made sure the benefits outweight the negatives.
Being close to family was never a big deal for us. It may be for your wife, but I think a lot of people who think that it is a 'must' in their lives don't realise that actually it is just habit - they are so used to their family being close they can't imagine anything different - and actually cope without it quite well when the situation changes.
As for children - I have managed to raise our kid (now turning 10 this year) never living close to family - they were always a few hours flight away at least - so again I am not all that convinced that the best way to have a baby is with family around. And the important thing is what you define as family - if it is you and your wife, you do what is best for you. You are a flight away (perhaps two) if there is a drama and you or she needs to go back to look after something/someone.
posted by Megami at 12:27 AM on January 27 [1 favorite]


+1 to Megami's second paragraph above. Before we moved I would have knee-jerk said that family was critical to me, because I grew up in a large local extended family (as did my husband). Upon leaving I can see that a lot of what I had was a habit and traditions - and it was very liberating to be able to make changes as adults and not be tied into Sunday dinner every single week at Grandma's, must spend a week up north at the cabin, etc. With the benefit of distance I can look back and see what does mean something to me, what I do want to continue, what connections I do want to maintain, but I can let other things go. And now when I go home, it means a lot to immerse myself in family for a short period of time, really enjoy it, but not have the senses of obligation and other family drama that can come along with life in a big family. Plus, as noted, you can get home quickly if you need to.
posted by handful of rain at 7:08 AM on January 27 [2 favorites]


Being close to family was never a big deal for us. It may be for your wife, but I think a lot of people who think that it is a 'must' in their lives don't realise that actually it is just habit - they are so used to their family being close they can't imagine anything different - and actually cope without it quite well when the situation changes.

This x 100.
posted by Amy NM at 10:32 AM on January 27 [4 favorites]


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