Moving on, moving out?
January 29, 2007 6:09 PM   Subscribe

Parents want to move across the country, adolescent children want to stay. What to do?

My kids are growing up. My daughter(14) is beginning grade 10 tomorrow and my son (16) is starting his last year of school. He intends to probably go to uni, but hasn’t definitely made a decision. Anything my daughter plans is subject to change. We have no car. We are experiencing low income, mostly due to the fact that I quit my job to study full time. I will hopefully be finished that in 2 years (a year before my daughter finishes high school) so our income should nearly double about then.

My husband and I both left home relatively early by today’s standards. He entered the army age 15, I left home at 17. Neither of us went back. We had our children quite young (I’m now 39, he’s 40). We both were moved around a lot as kids and it didn’t work out too well for us, so we made sure to stay put for these guys (as much as we could). So we’ve been in the general vicinity of the state capital for the last 13 years with 3 moves, the last 5 years ago when we bought this place. As you can imagine, in the last 13 years (particularly when we had a car) we’ve seen everything within a 6 hour driving radius of this place).

Did I mention that we moved a lot as kids? I think it got into our blood. We moved nearly every single year of our lives until we became parents. We’re desperate to move again, and our kids don’t want to, and I see their point of view. In fact, I’ve promised to stay put until they’ve finished their schooling and we will - so that takes us to the end of 2009. But I really, really want to move then. Its way too hot here (yesterday it was 40C – 105F). I want to experience new horizons, new people, new places.

Thing is, I can see, when they’ve finished high school, they’re not going to be ready to live away from home. They don’t want to. None of their friends will either. And they don’t want to move cross country. Their friends are here, they have access to a number of good tertiary institutions and it is typical here to live at home and commute to uni. On the other hand, my husband and I would like to get jobs on the opposite side of the country. We’ve considered moving out, and letting them have the house, but for the first time, last night, I got the impression from them that they don’t feel confident with taking care of it. Getting any other information out of them on this topic is like getting blood out of a stone. Hey, they’re teenagers, lovely people, with great ideas, but sometimes they don’t know what they don’t know, and sometimes they don’t know how to say it.

I’ve had a look at the parenting tag questions but none fit. Other suggestions welcome.

What’s a fair way to give both generations in this family what they need/want? What am I missing here?
posted by b33j to Human Relations (38 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Let the boy go. Bring the girl. Hope for the best.
posted by jeffamaphone at 6:20 PM on January 29, 2007

As a parent, "what's best for the kids" is sometimes more important than "what's best for me". It doesn't sound like you have a compelling reason to move; it's just that you're feeling itchy.

I think you should stay put.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:23 PM on January 29, 2007

Why don't you move out, go where you want, leave the kids the house and visit frequently? That way they feel you are there frequently, but you get to satisfy your itchy feet. Alternatively, depending on what you and your husband do for a living, you could get jobs that require ALOT of traveling. That, too, will satisfy the itchy feet, plus someone else pays for the travel.
posted by zia at 6:28 PM on January 29, 2007

Those ages are a *horrible* time to move. Trust me. Unless you have to move, do the kids a favor and stay put for until you graduate.

(Also: you are experiencing low income; you are studying for the next two years; you don't have a car; but you have the $$ to do a cross country move? Does not compute for me).
posted by unSane at 6:29 PM on January 29, 2007

Hm. When I was growing up I had a friend who's parents were much like what you describe - moving around a lot due to an "itch" or sense of wanderlust. Mostly it meant that they moved a lot around our area, but eventually they picked up and moved to another corner of the country when my friend was in his last year of high school. And then, inexplicably, they moved back 6 months later. It drove the kids crazy.

That said, miserable parents NEVER = happy kids. Is there a temporary compromise you and your husband could come to for the next, say, four or five years? Find new jobs within a two to three town/city radius to satisfy your desire for new people & places on a short-term basis, but still allow the kids to live at home while they either go to uni or find their own feet as adults. Then reevaluate in that time if you and your husband still want to pack up and move cross country?
posted by AthenaPolias at 6:30 PM on January 29, 2007

Perhaps I didn't make it clear. I will not be moving before the children finish high school. It's afterward, when I would have thought they were ready to be alone and grown up, that I would like to go, but it seems their generation is staying home longer. About a decade longer.
posted by b33j at 6:31 PM on January 29, 2007

Other options:

A vacation house in the other side of the country, so that the kids can get used to the new area as visitors, and maybe later will agree that it'd be great to move there.

A month-long family trip once the daughter graduates to plant the seed of wanderlust within the kids.
posted by xo at 6:36 PM on January 29, 2007

You made it crystal clear, b33j, but reading comprehension also seems to be staying at her parent's place.
posted by AwkwardPause at 6:37 PM on January 29, 2007

Sorry, didn't mean to imply that you were thinking of leaving while the kids are in school (and I didn't do the math when suggesting the timeline that I did!). The anecdote was meant purely for anecdotal purposes.

Your situation will be a lot easier if both of your children go to uni. It's definitely jarring to be at school and know that your parents have moved, therefore you have no "home" to go back to, but eventually you adjust to living on your own within the confines of a university. It's a much easier step into the "real world" than just moving out and getting a job. I know it's customary in your country to live at home and commute, but I know people who have lived at colleges at their universities and been more than fine. Best of all, they made friends in their courses who did live at home and they found themselves somewhat adopted by those other families.

This isn't to say that adjustment to life after college is easy, but I think it's much easier in comparison with finishing secondary school and moving straight into a job (or two or three).
posted by AthenaPolias at 6:39 PM on January 29, 2007

Sorry. Didn't read properly. IMHO once they've finished high school, you should just do what you want -- your kids surely will.
posted by unSane at 6:40 PM on January 29, 2007

It doesn't matter what their generation typically does. It matters what you do to prepare them to be out in the world as adults. You should be planting seeds that they will not be living under your roof past a certain point.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 6:42 PM on January 29, 2007

when the kids are done with school move wherever you want, and let them choose between living on their own or moving with you. if they decide to move at that time it should be a fairly easy transition since if they go to uni (even while living at home) that should be a good place and time to make new friends.

anecdotally, my parents moved once while i was in middle school and once when i was in highschool, both of which were terribly traumatic for me, and once when i went away to school which i didn't mind a bit.
posted by lgyre at 6:48 PM on January 29, 2007

I grew up for 17 years in the same house, sleeping in the same bed in the same room every night. Then I went 2800 miles away to college.

It was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life, because I really had no point of reference. I agree with you that helping your college-bound son get used to the idea of impermanence might not be wholly a bad experience.
posted by ikkyu2 at 6:49 PM on January 29, 2007

Thanks for input so far. I really appreciate your ideas and views.

Vacation house across country is not an option on a low income, but it's a nice idea.
implanting wanderlust - we've tried for years during holidays to infect the kids, but it doesn't seem to have taken.

Steven C. Den Beste
What is a compelling reason to move? Apart from wanting to?

Visiting often or getting travel-paid work sounds ideal. Can you think of a way, though, that a married couple could travel for work together? (He's a database programmer, I will be a web designer).

The thing is, that's pretty much what we've done for the last 13. We know this area like the back of our hands.

fluffy battle kitten
For the last five years, we've often said that when they finished schooling, we'd move out. It was news to me that they were not looking forward to a lack of parental supervision.
posted by b33j at 6:55 PM on January 29, 2007

Hopefully you already knew this but have just momentarily forgotten it: your kids aren't running things.

You are the adults. You do what you need to do. Sometimes it involves things that your minor offspring would rather not do. Some examples: getting them vaccinated, making them eat their broccoli, making them go to school. Too fucking bad. You're the adults, you know better than they do.

The reason your children can't plan your life for you, as you asked them to, is that they are utterly incapable of doing so. They're just getting to the point where they might be able to handle their own lives without too many major screwups. There's no way they can plan their parents' lives, and you are wrong to ask them to do so. You're wimping out, trying to put the burden of running the family on a 14-year-old and 16-year-old. Children fear change - naturally they'll resist a move. They see a downside, and don't see any upside - which doesn't mean there isn't an upside, only that they don't see it.

Make this decision on your own. It sounds like you have some reasons to stay for the next few years (finishing *your* schooling, mainly). If you didn't have that reason, I'd say you should move now.

(Someone will inevitably reply: "can't you think of the CHILDREN?" I am thinking of the children. There's no greater gift that parents can give to their children than to be happy themselves. Parents making themselves miserable for the supposed sake of their children is utterly counterproductive.)
posted by jellicle at 6:56 PM on January 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

My wife's parents moved the day after their youngest graduated from high school. It was literally the day after his graduation.

They moved to a small rural town.

This was very difficult for him, because it meant that he could not really "come home" for vacations from college. His parents wanted him to come home, but for him home was Saratoga Springs. That's where all his friends were. He didn't know anyone (other than his parents) in that little town in Maine. There was nothing for him to do there. They had a room for him, but it wasn't his room.

They're all surviving, and given jobs and such I don't think they'd do much differently, but it did create some less than perfectly happy situations.
posted by alms at 6:57 PM on January 29, 2007

Hey, 18, move out time. If they don't want to move out, tough. I'm sorry, and I know this puts me in a minority, but moving out is the best thing that young adults can do. Parents have no obligation to stick around so their adult children can live cheaply off of them.
posted by maxwelton at 7:03 PM on January 29, 2007

So I guess we're pretty evenly divided, then? Yeah, me too. For the reasons you all suggest. I agree with you. I guess I'll wait and see.
posted by b33j at 7:03 PM on January 29, 2007

There's also a lot to be said for expectation. If your kids expect you'll move when they reach a certain age then they won't have as much to complain about* as they would if you sprung it on them with a year or less notice.

(*Having not-so-recently been a kid myself - kids complain. It's our job & we know it.)

Whatever you end up doing, good luck. It'll be tough on all involved, but I think that comes with a move of any nature.
posted by AthenaPolias at 7:37 PM on January 29, 2007

I think you need to revisit the situation in about 2 years. By then your kids will be 16 and 18, and those two years make a huge difference in kids. Your son will be a year into uni/TAFE/whatever he decides to move into beyond school, and your daughter will be entering her final year of school. It will be an entirely different situation.

If you're still set on moving to the other side of the country, broach it with them then. If there is a house for them to stay in, they will probably be way more open to the idea. However, if you're going to sell up and move, that's an entirely different situation. Telling your kids "Hey! We're selling the house. You can move out or move to the other side of the country" may not have the same result.

My parents wanted to sell up and move a couple of hours north of here when I finished school in 2005. They said that we would be welcome to move with them or stay here in Sydney. As you can believe, it wasn't received well. They decided that they should at least stay until my brothers, now 14 and 16, finished school.
posted by cholly at 7:39 PM on January 29, 2007

I grew up for 17 years in the same house, sleeping in the same bed in the same room every night. Then I went 2800 miles away to college.

It was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life, because I really had no point of reference.

Thing is, I can repeat ikkyu2's first two sentences but I'd change my third to "It was one of the most liberating experiences of my life." and add "It was when I felt I actually grew up."
posted by vacapinta at 7:44 PM on January 29, 2007

Well yeah, that too, vacapinta, but you know, that first part of the road was a little bumpy.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:13 PM on January 29, 2007

Rather than leaving them the house, what about selling the house and getting them a smaller condo or apartment so that they wouldn't have to worry about all the issues of home ownership and maintenance?
posted by Jeanne at 8:23 PM on January 29, 2007

To me, it seems very selfish to move just for the sake of moving when your kids are settled into their lives as they are.
posted by Loto at 8:43 PM on January 29, 2007

Just know that, whatever you do, your ADULT children may have a bit of a tough time adjusting at first, but they will adjust. At the age of 18, they are no longer kids. They are adults.

My parents moved around for awhile when I was young and then lived in the same house for 15 years. I left for uni and they were still in that house. After I was at uni for two years (even living away from home during the summers), they changed "my" room into a guest room. I was 20 years old. I was crushed. Oh, I was so very dramatic. And I wasn't even LIVING there anymore! Now that I look back on that, I'm amazed my parents didn't call me out on my drama. When all three adult children were no longer at home, they *gasp* sold their house and moved to a lakehouse. More drama and hand-wringing from the adult children.

Why on earth did we believe that they had to stay frozen in time? That they had to sacrifice their lives to spare us the discomfort of growing up finally?

I'm so happy that my parents did not cave in and that they did what made them happy. I wouldn't have told you that at age 20, but really. I think they did the very best thing for them AND us.
posted by jeanmari at 9:05 PM on January 29, 2007

I think you should move after your kids graduate. Hopefully your kids will take the opportunity to try something new, too. If they don't go with you, perhaps they'll go to school somewhere away from home. Either way, they'll be at a perfect age to learn how to catch on in a new place. Adapting to new environments is such a critical skill because nothing in the world stays static for very long today.

Also, I would not have trusted myself or most of my peers with an unsupervised house when I was 18. Perhaps it would be better for your kids to live in a university dorm or other semi-supervised environment before giving them full control over your real estate - especially if they are sheltered and not very independent. I say that as a kid who was very sheltered and went pretty nuts for a while once I got a taste of life on my own.
posted by rhiannon at 9:11 PM on January 29, 2007

I'm in a very similar situation but a little further down that track. Just finished my degree, itching to move across the country, kids are now 18 and 21. The main difference is that my kids have been out of home (30 mins away) for the last year. Youngest moved out just after she finished high school, but it's really taken her the best part of a year to find her feet and grow up to the point where she felt comfortable with the freedoms and responsibilities of being an adult. But now they're ready to fly and so am I :)

Having the 12 mths to ease them into it has proven to be a pretty good strategy for us. Biggest problem we've faced so far is the rental shortage in our area making it really difficult for them to find suitable accommodation.

Keep your plan and talk about it with them, but try to keep it a little flexible too. I agree with what others have said about revisiting your plan again in a couple of years. So much can change in two years, especially as new boyfriends/girlfriends and other influences come onto the scene. Good luck with the new adventure!
posted by harmless at 9:21 PM on January 29, 2007

OP, given what you and your husband do, it would seem ideally suited to set up a small consultancy. You can do the interface design and he can do the database structure. You can travel to your clients to get requirements and on site project management and then home to do the hard core programming. Not sure where you are, but if you want to build a business, 2-3 years is an ideal lead time to begin to develop a brand / business. If you prefer to work for an employer you might try one of the IT consultancies out there like Accenture or Price Waterhouse. And there maybe numerous small ones that would be DELIGHTED to have employees that actually LIKE to travel.
posted by zia at 9:58 PM on January 29, 2007


And there maybe numerous small IT consultancies in your area that would be DELIGHTED to have employees that actually LIKE to travel.

Mind you, your product could be custom databases and interfaces, websites, or other IT products.
posted by zia at 10:01 PM on January 29, 2007

I can't imagine youths that prefer to stay home for university. My niece was like that. She was very unhappy when she had to do a year in grad school a mere hour away. Going away to school, I strongly believe, is best, at least for most.

However, I can easily apprciate the problem of going 'home' for holidays, and wanting home to be where you know. (When I was 40, my parents moved to Florida. I never visted them there, instead I'd go see my sister who was near home). I think that some splitting of holidays would be reasonable. I'd hope they'd have good friends who'd enjoy having them on such breaks. But I'd also expect them to enjoy going to their parent's home for some breaks, too.

One important consideration is going to be about tuition. Surprised no one mentions that. Last I heard, if you move immediatly before university, you can't get resident's tuition, you pay out-of-state (assuming a state university). I'm not sure what happens if the student stays and the parents move. This needs to be checked carefully, as sometimes there can be waivers of the usual rules (at least that was the case 30 years ago).

Moving when the kids are in highschool can be extremely damaging, it depends on the new location and the kids themselves. Some places are extremely cruel to the new kids in town, others are very welcoming. I experienced, briefly, a small town Texas highschool, and the other kids were great. I've heard far more negative reports of such experience. BUT that isn't an issue for you, I mention it to counter the jerks that think the kids don't warrant due consideration.

I can't help but wonder whether you need to "Stop cooking with cheese". Your kids sound too comfortable at home. OTOH, maybe this is a manifestation of the fear that has been foisted upon the American public of late. I can't relate, my wanderlust made me hit the road at 16!
posted by Goofyy at 10:34 PM on January 29, 2007

It's okay to say you're going to move at such and such a time. Everybody deals with change and static. It's clear you've been less peripatetic than you might have wanted, and frankly guaranteeing your children enter adulthood with the same scene and all the same friends isn't exactly a gift. If either of your kids can't deal with it they will have to go along.

That said, why not give the subject a break. Let them be where they are now, not focusing on two years from now. It isn't really necessary that they confront issues of that degree of independence now. Too many variables anyway, you might be following a job, your kids might be following education or jobs, a lot happens in two years, particularly between 16 and 18.
posted by nanojath at 10:37 PM on January 29, 2007

I can't imagine youths that prefer to stay home for university.
In Australia, it is extremely common for kids to stay at home while attending uni, especially if the university is nearby. Looking at the OP's location, I could see why her kids would prefer to stay at home. I personally know very few people who are living out of home where their family lives within a reasonable (ie <1 .5ish hour)>
One important consideration is going to be about tuition.
FWIW, Australian universities work on a government subsidised basis, where the government pays a large percentage of the university fees, and provides the rest in the form of a loan, and the student begins to pay the loan off once they earn in excess of $38000, so very few people have problems with tuition.
posted by cholly at 11:29 PM on January 29, 2007

After I finished high school, my parents and my little sister moved out of the country. I lived with my granparents for two years, during my mendatory military service [paycheck = $100 per month].

The day before I left the army my boyfriend and I rented an appartment and moved in together. It was one 1.5 years ago. My parents pay my rent. I got unemployment money from the government for the first two month, then found a job and I'm financially sustainable on my own. I take care of bills, my annoying landlord, my taxes.

I know I can count on my parents when I need help - both moral and financial. I visit them yearly. They visit me 2-3 times a year. In fact, our relationships have never been better. I going backapcking with my mother for a month in the coming spring in New Zealand.

I gave my parents hell before they moved, but i'm very happy with how things turned out. If you, too, support your children from afar and give them some financial aid, it can be a very positive experience. Your kids learn to value their parents after doing their own laudry, grocery shopping and dishes for a few months and apprciate their freedom.

If your kids do not want homeowner responsibilities - which is understandable - rent them an appartment in your town and either sell / rent your house. Taking care of an appartment is much easier and comfortable for us young ones.
posted by ye#ara at 12:06 AM on January 30, 2007

My parents are still in the house where I grew up, but I moved away to college when I turned 18, and I find I don't take it as 'home' anymore; but I do rely on being able to come by and to store things there (at least until I settle into one place, rather than moving all the time).

Kids need a home base during high school, if for no other reason than that mandatory attendance laws make high school a deeply surreal place to spend half one's waking hours, and they need contact with reality. But I for one am glad I went away (like, 16 hours' driving time away) to university, and I speak from my own experience and my peers' when I say that, under normal circumstances, living with your parents after 21 is a bad, bad idea.

There's good advice here about maybe not dropping the kids headfirst into home maintenance issues. If they do decide to stay in town when they graduate, help them get oriented in a place of their own (whether it's renting a room from people you know, or an apartment, or whatever you come up with), and then you should feel freer about taking to the road. Obviously, that is a question you will have to re-evaluate completely in two years, because readiness and ability to live on their own are variable things.
posted by eritain at 12:15 AM on January 30, 2007

Firstly - can you be my mum? My sister and I are major wanderlusters, and so is my dad to an extent, but both my parents would rather we all stay home together, one big happy family. My mother has severe Empty Nest Syndrome - my sister's moved out to London over 10 years ago, with citizenship and all, and she's still pining for my sister to return. I've moved to Australia and the vacillate between buying me a house there (they regretted not doing that for my sister before property prices went up) and just getting me to come back (not very likely).

That said - are you children really not that keen on moving, or is there another reason?

My boyfriend's no stranger to moving around - he's moved house with his family a few times, went on a yearlong exchange to Denmark, and currently lives on campus with me and many other folks. In a week's time, his brother will move elsewhere to start university, and they are all getting ready to sell the house.

While he likes travelling, he greatly prefers to have his family all in one place. Right now his family's fragmented - he and his mum are in Brisbane (two separate places), his dad's in Toowoomba, his brother will be off to the Sunshine Coast. He greatly enjoyed coming back to Toowoomba for holidays, especially when all the family is in one place. While he understands the need to sell the house (they could really use the money), he is a bit sad; he probably wishes they could all be together.

Maybe your children like having all the family together and don't want people to leave. Maybe they think that if everyone moves about on their own, the family will drift apart and they will not be close anymore. (My boyfriend's parents aren't that close anymore, though I don't know if that preceded his mum's move to Brisbane or not.) Maybe they're scared of losing each other.

Try asking them what they feel about moving, about being away from the family. That could get you some real answers, and you could work from there.
posted by divabat at 4:25 AM on January 30, 2007

OP: For the last five years, we've often said that when they finished schooling, we'd move out.

What's left to discuss? They know you're moving. At that time they will be adults, and it's time to start growing up. Be supportive of them, be understanding, but stick with your plan.
posted by Robert Angelo at 6:57 AM on January 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm with unSane and Robert Angelo. When the kids are done with high school, you and your husband can live where you want to live. It might be nice for you to have a guest bedroom for the kids when they visit, but they aren't entitled to anything; it's your life.
If they're so hot to live with their parents after high school, they'll have to move along with you.
If they're so hot to hang around town after high school, they'll have to find a new place to live.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 7:34 AM on January 30, 2007

I think it is quite sad to see people continue to hang around the same town their whole life. Kids who experience other places, other ways of living, are always more interesting to me than those who grew up and stayed in one little place.

People who never make new close friends after primary school seem even more small somehow.

So, move after HS. Maybe your kids will come with you. Maybe not. Either way they'll grow because of it.

We are experiencing a similar problem, where we want to move to San Miguel de Allende, and the 13 year old would be quite unhappy about that.
posted by Invoke at 9:53 AM on January 30, 2007

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