Moving internationally with children – my personal experiences

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Hi Renee, I’m so glad I discovered your blog and FB page! I am an Aussie who has a dutch partner (met in Indonesia while travelling 2 yrs ago) and we have recently moved here so Bas (my partner) can have a bit of Dutch time with friends family work etc. Most of our past has been spent either travelling or living in South Aus. I now have a 5yr visa with him as my sponsor. But we would ultimately like to move home to Australia in a year or two for a long period. Although we have discussed and I think will probably be similar to what you experience and not really permanently live in one country. But I am curious if you had written a bog in the past about how easy/hard it was to move internationally with children. We are wanting to have kids soon and I don’t want to have to wait just because some have said how difficult it is to move once you have a child. I read that you had one of your children for your first move. Is there anything i should know?? Did you or your husband already have work lined up before you left? Housing situation? And just how it generally went. I would love to hear about it if you have already done a blog on it, or perhaps an idea for a new one :p Looking forward to reading more! Cheers, Jacqui


I really love getting messages from the Dutch Australian community, whether that is via the Facebook page, email or comments on this blog.  Here’s one from yesterday, and as she suggests, I’m going to respond with a blog post so that others who are interested can also read through my response.  Thanks Jacqui!

There are a number of blog posts in the archives where I document a bit more about these questions, and in fact blogging about these experiences is one way I’ve found I can cope better with situations I have found confusing or difficult.  For me, writing about stuff, and then finding that others send messages who are in the same situation, helps somehow.  Find your way of tackling problems.  Maybe it’s blogging, maybe it’s talking, maybe it’s just thinking them through.  Perhaps it’s drawing.  Find your way that works.

To be perfectly honest about moving between countries – it’s HARD.  Whether you do it for love, for a job, or for other reasons, I’ve now spent enough of my life mixing with expats/internationals/lovepats – whatever you want to call us – to know that there is nobody that thinks it’s easy.  Even if it is easy temporarily, particularly in what they call the “honeymoon period” where you are caught up in the excitement of living in a new country – at some point, you’ll hit a wall.  Sorry!  I know I’m being rather blunt but will put that down to enough years of living in Dutch culture to learn to be brutally honest.

Actually, you ask about the two and I think moving to another country has a lot in common to parenting!  It’s one of those things that you simply cannot really appreciate the enormity of until you are smack bang in the middle of it.  There are incredibly tough times when you wonder what on earth you are doing and why you made the decision to move across the world/be a parent.  But then, thankfully, there are also these other amazing times, when you wouldn’t change it for anything and it’s the most rewarding thing you have ever done.   Usually the good times outweigh the bad.  When they don’t, you need to find help until they do.

Personally, perhaps I’m mixing up parenting and relocating in my head as we have mixed the two in reality!  Our first daughter was born in Delft, the Netherlands and when she was 5 months old, we moved to Australia.  Our second little Dutch Australian daughter was born in Brisbane, Australia, and then we moved back to the Netherlands when she was 3 years old (and our eldest was then 5 years old).  We’ve been here since – it’s been more than three years now.  The first time I moved here, I found it tough but manageable.  The second time we moved back really knocked me down, hard.  I’m not sure that was just because we had children though and in fact, because we had children, it forced me to identify what issues I was having and get out there and solve them as soon as possible.  It took me about a year to “get back on my feet”, another year to “settle in” and now, after the third year, I can genuinely say I’m doing ok.

That first and second year was really mostly figuring out the practical stuff you asked about.  We rented a house for the first year and chose an area near where my husband had lived before and which we knew was an area with a high percentage of internationals (The Hague).  We choose a school based mostly on their nice website!  I used Facebook groups such as Delft Mama and Amsterdam Mamas to ask lots of questions (and am now helping other newcomers there).  In the second year, we bought a house.  This will eventually get a blog post of its own, but even a year later I’m still not ready to write about it!  Not as it was a really bad experience, I just have mixed emotions.  Getting my drivers licence was actually rather traumatic, but that’s more a personal thing I think – and again, though it was tough, the sense of pride and confidence I have of actually having done it is priceless.

Neither of us had work lined up when we moved in either direction, though had done some research and made some connections via LinkedIn which made the process easier.  My husband had work quite quickly both times, but it took me a lot longer – mainly due to the fact I also had the responsibility of caring for the children.  Again, though tough, this drove me to start a business and I did write a blog post about moving my small business overseas with me!  I’ve always done a lot of volunteer work and networked, networked, networked – online and off.  It took me nearly 3 years, but I now have an amazing job that I love.

Finally, as you’ve said, Jacqui, some people have said how difficult it is to move once you have a child.  Yes, it is.  However it’s also difficult to be a parent even if you stay in one place all your life!  Again, to find a similarity between the two, with both parenting and relocating, you will always hear horror stories and stories of pure joy.  And everything in between.

In terms of how the children themselves have coped – I’d say quite well.  I noticed that it took a lot longer for my youngest to deal with the changes, which is probably as much about her personality as it was her age.  They are now 6 & 8 years old and I just realised my youngest has lived half her life in each country, and my eldest has lived more in the Netherlands than Australia.  Overall, they are happy, healthy, well adjusted kids.  They miss Australia but part of this could be due to my conscious effort to keep this as part of our lives.  Of course, one of the biggest challenges is missing family – they talk to my parents at least weekly on Skype and we try to visit annually.  In fact, just this week I was feeling a little down (maybe because of the end of summer!) and realising the kids are using more and more Dutch words and neither sound “Australian”.  However then my 8 year old came home with this beautiful drawing from school.  The Australian side is still strong!

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So where does that leave you with decision making?  You’ll hear “do what’s right for you” and as cliche as it sounds, I think that’s the best advice I can give.  In relationships where partners are from opposite sides of the planet, I think that from that second you decide to be together, you really are making a choice to merge your lives, countries and cultures.  On the down side, that can be incredibly challenging, and expensive if you move/travel between the two countries.  On the up side, it’s amazing – for both of you and any children that may come along.

You do need to find ways to cope with the tough times and again I’ll be blunt.  Divorce rates amongst international couples is disproportionately high.  Throw kids into the mix and you may have near-impossible challenges to solve at some point in your life.  Once you love someone though, not being together may also not be an option – and it CAN work.  Find tools and ways to cope, learn to compromise, respect each other’s needs and talk, talk, talk about stuff until you find a solution.

I hope that helps.  Good luck!  Always great to hear from you and any readers out there.  Browse this blog for more articles about the specifics, you can use the search bar and I’m working on making past posts more accessible via the categories section (on the home page).  You can sign up for the enewsletter to get a summary of posts that month. Guest contributions are most welcome too.

Good luck!  Succes!

Renee

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6 thoughts on “Moving internationally with children – my personal experiences

  1. Renee this is awesome! Thank you so much for doing this, its great to hear it from first hand experience like yourself. I love it and it really does give me some more positive feeling overall. And I totally agree even though its a cliche. You do have to do what feels right. I can identify with so much of what you have written and had very similar thoughts about a lot of things, so that gives me a confidence we are on the right track!

    As you said, “from the second we decided to be together, we really are making a choice to merge our lives, countries and cultures”. Yes it is harder when its opposite sides of the planet, but we’ve known this from the start and accept that this is how it is. We cannot wait around for the ‘perfect time’ to start a family because we will probably always be between countries. So we have to “do what feel right”. Lots of things are hard, but not impossible!

    Thanks again Renee, this really has helped me a lot and I am excited for the things to come!

    • Hi Jacqui, glad it helped and as I mentioned, “what works for me” has always been sharing stories and feeling, like we both do now, that you’re not alone. I wish you every joy in the future and in the lows, (in the lowlands, haha), remember that though you need to make your own choices, there are always others out there like me and no doubt lots of others, who can identify with what you are going through and support you. Bring on the little Dutch Australian army! Haha. Good luck. Renee

    • Hi Jacqui, Renee,
      I first moved to Australie in 1980 when I was 8. I know that I struggled a bit missing mainly my friends etc. but my dad remembers more than me he knows I was very sad for quite a while. As the years went on I didn’t miss Holland much at all, My mum and I went back for a holiday in 82 and I even came by myself for 10 weeks when I was 16 and stayed with family but was happy to get back home to Aus. When I was 18 my parents were planning a trip to Holland for 8 months or so and they wanted me to come as they weren’t keen to leave me by myself although my older brothers didn’t have to. Guess what happened… yep I met my now Husband. We already knew his family from when we lived here before, his younger sister was actually my best friend before we moved to Aus. Anyhow long story short we went back to Aus I packed my bags and moved to Holland (after 3 months of dating!). That was hard I moved out of home to the other side of the world. 2 years later my parents came back too and my brothers (because I was always on the phone sad and miserable without them). My husband had a dairy farm with his dad so it wasn’t an option for him to move there until the council decided to take our land and build on it so that was my chance after 15 years in Holland to move back to the sunshine. Unfortunately my mum had passed away during this time otherwise they would have followed us back to Aus too as they also missed the lifestyle. So my husband, myself and our 2 children moved to Aus kids were 6 and 3. It was not easy the kids struggled without the family and missed Holland, we visited Holland every 2 years (which was a mistake) and the kids always said we want to go back to live in Holland one day. I too was in Limbo as I missed my dad very much even though he visited every year. 10 years later (last December) we moved back to Holland, kids 16, 13 and our little Aussie 7. Ohh dear not easy. Big reason was family and my husbands family home – the Farm as his mum had been living on this large property for the last 5 years alone and had been waiting for us to come back and take it over. I tell you what my husband has work (outside tradie) which he hates lived most of his life in Holland but got used to the nice weather in Aus very quickly. (he didn’t want to come back in the first place) and the 2 older kids have realised that Holland isn’t what they imagined (Holidays are very different to the real life). So all in all we are struggling. Our eldest daughter was a straight A student and is doing VWO here but will be returning to Aus next year to finish year 12. My son is happy at school here but is saying when he is 18 he will go back. That leaves our 8 year old who is loving it here. Sure she struggled with dutch but she has many friends, she is free to play on the street (We live in a town in Friesland) she couldn’t do that in Adelaide and she has Aunties, Uncles, cousins and grandparents here. What do we do??? I don’t know I to go back but can’t imagine saying goodbye to my dad again!!
      Sorry guys, I was looking for advice myself and stumbled across this page, I guess I just needed to get this out, if it helps anyone I don’t know but…..

      • Hi Erna, thanks so much for sharing your story! Great to (virtually) meet you. One of the reasons I started this blog was to connect with others and it seems there are a lot of us out there going through similar tough decisions. Appreciate you taking the time to connect. Renee

      • Hi Erna, my goodness it is a bit of a tough place you are in. But it sounds like you have done a fabulous job so far of trying to do what is right. It must be difficult with different family members wanting different things and to be in different places. This blog and all its stories definitely helped me a little (thank you Renee!) Just to know there is others out there going through similar things. And like you said, just to talk about it and get it off your chest. I hope you feel a bit better about what decisions to make.
        Jacqui x

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