Moving Abroad with children: Dealing with guilt trips & negative comments

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Moving Abroad with children: Dealing with guilt trips & negative comments

If you want to move abroad with children but you’re afraid it’s selfish to move away from family and friends, or you’re unsure how to deal with the negative comments, read this. Here are six responses to 6 things naysayers have said to me to try and shame me or make me feel guilty about moving abroad with my kids.

Moving abroad to a new country (with your children), far away from family, friends, and loved ones to blaze your own trail can feel like the most selfish thing in the world.

Then there are the passive-aggressive comments, shaming and guilt trips some people inevitably put you through to guilt you into conforming to their idea of what’s the right or wrong way to live your life or the best way to raise your children.

I’ve been there.

Moving to another country with kids, away from family and friends

photo of the family right after we married in Edinburgh at the registrars office

You did what?

If you’re new here, my husband and I moved to France with our three children in 2011.

  • We didn’t have a job lined up. 
  • We didn’t know anyone.
  • And we used our savings to foot the bill.

That was ten years ago, and we are still here living in France. 

Nailed it, matching shirt day

A little back story about moving to France

When we arrived in France, everything was going well.

I started this blog as a way to share our journey with family and friends. About six months into our stay abroad, we were featured on a popular TV show, after which I was bombarded with emails.

It was a little surreal to receive so many emails from complete strangers who saw us on the TV show and then looked up this blog to contact me.  

Most of the emails were positive, telling me they wished they could move abroad too. Many asked for advice.

However, I was surprised at all the negative emails I received from complete strangers letting me know just how stupid and irresponsible Blake and I were for using our savings to move to France without having jobs lined up. 

To each their own. Those comments didn’t bother me so much because this wasn’t the first time I had moved abroad. It was just the first time I did it as a married person with children. 

The emails that did bother me and piss me off were those accusing Blake and me of being bad parents because we uprooted our kids from their life and routine to move abroad.

I think one person said that we were “forcing our dream of moving abroad onto our children.”

That’s the beauty of having a blog where you share personal information. The whole world gets to chime in with their two cents while they hide in their basement behind their anonymous avatars. 

It’s normal for people to judge you when you think outside the box

Marseille France, the old port with the kids

What I’ve come to realize, and what I have to tell myself from time to time is, we all have limiting beliefs. 

Most of us are raised to believe that we’re supposed to follow a particular path and live our lives a certain way. Nowhere in the socially acceptable manual of life does it say families should move abroad with kids. It just goes against social norms.

But just because you want to do something that isn’t commonplace doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it.

Sometimes you have to do things outside the box and take risks in order to do extraordinary things, like these families who travelled long-term with their kids in tow.

How do you deal with guilt trips from others about moving to a new country

Here are six comments people have said to me (via email) about moving abroad to a new country with my children and why they don’t bother. More importantly, why they’re wrong.

If you’re contemplating moving away from family to live abroad with kids, maybe some of your friends or family might say these things to you or think it and keep it to themselves. Or maybe, it’s your own guilt, trying to talk you out of your dream of moving abroad with your kids. 

1) You’re selfish to impose your dream of moving to another country onto your children

Yes, my husband and I love to travel, and yes, it was OUR dream to live in France, but our decision to DO IT wasn’t based on a selfish desire but a strong belief that our children would benefit from living in another country. 

We didn’t just wake up one day and say, “oh, let’s move to France.”

Actually, that’s exactly what we did, but we said it half-jokingly and played around with the idea just for fun at first.

But after we carefully weighed the pros and cons, poured over our finances, conducted countless hours of research, we decided to do it. We went back and forth with the idea for several months until we bit the bullet and applied for visas to stay in France. 

And so here we are. Moving abroad has only confirmed my belief that travelling and moving abroad is a positive thing. It exposes children to another culture, speaking another language, learning that there are other ways of doing things, and so much more.

I wrote about the 25 Unexpected Benefits & Advantages Of Living Abroad.

2) You’re selfish to use your savings to live abroad when you have children.

It is selfish to use your savings to for a gap year in france when you have children?

This comment confused me.

We weren’t buying a Porsche or some luxury item that we couldn’t afford. We worked hard for years at the expense of valuable family time and chose to use some of that hard-earned money for a couple of years of family bonding, experiences and memories abroad.

If we thought we were putting our future at risk, we would never have taken the leap to live abroad. 

3) You’re selfish to move the kids to another country far away from relatives and friends!

First of all, this is your life, and you have to do what makes you happy. You are not responsible for anyone else’s happiness.

Second, yes, your kids will miss their friends and family, but with technology being so readily available, there is no reason why you can’t stay in touch with family and friends back home via video calls like we do. In some ways, we stay more in contact now than we ever did before.

Third, you have to do what is best for your family and what you think is best for your children.  

Lastly, It’s only temporary. A year or two abroad is not going to kill anyone.  If your move abroad is longer or more permanent, that’s OK too. The US and Canada are filled with people who left their homeland and their families behind to start a new life they thought would be better. France is also filled with many, many people who come from someplace else.

4) Your kids are too young. They won’t remember or benefit from your time abroad.

The kids are too young. They won’t remember or benefit from your family gap year abroad

I’ve heard this argument so many times, and frankly, it’s RECIDULOUS!

If we follow this logic that we should not do something with our kids just because they won’t remember, then we shouldn’t read to our babies or hold them or even speak to them simply because they won’t remember. 

Some developmental specialists believe that much of a person’s brain development happens within the first few years of life.  In other words, a child’s experiences during the first few years of their life will become the hardwired connections responsible for better cognitive and emotional functioning, including vision, movements and language.

Want to learn some of the ways my kids have benefited from travelling? Read 10 Reasons Why You Should Travel With Your Kids Even If They Won’t Remember.

5) You should have waited until your children were 18 to pursue living abroad. 

Our time with our children is very precious and relatively short.

Why wait to experience the trip of a lifetime until after the kids have left the nest? It just doesn’t make sense to me. Yes, it’s true, there are going to be risks and challenges, but I think the pros outweigh the cons.

Living abroad has given us more Family bonding time:

The first two years in France, our kids received our attention full time before and after school, where previously they went to school and then straight to daycare because we worked mad crazy hours and commuted almost 2 hours every day to work. 

All this time together exploring another country creates the perfect environment to spend more time together…

Also, when you move to a new country, everyone relies on one another. Everyone is more thoughtful, deliberate and intentional in their actions rather than just coasting through life because everything is familiar. 

6) Your kids look withdrawn: They must Hate Living abroad in France.

The kids will love / hate their gap year in France

In one of the emails I received, someone wrote that the body language of my two teenage boys on the episode of the House Hunters International show we were featured on showed two boys withdrawing from reality.

I find it strange that someone would draw this conclusion about the state of mind of my children from less than a few minutes of footage.

Second, clearly, the person who wrote these words does NOT understand what it’s like to have teenagers who can be moody as hell. Add in the fact that they had the stomach flu on the day we were filming and that they were embarrassed to be filmed in public on the streets of France, and voila.

Are my boys always happy in France? No, but that’s true wherever they are, not just because they were living in France.

Will your kids hate living abroad?  Maybe, maybe not. It just depends on your kids and the extent they can handle change.

As parents, don’t we make many decisions for our kids that benefit them whether they like it or not? If your kids hate eating broccoli, or doing their math homework or practising the piano or some other thing that you MAKE them do for their own benefit would you stop?  Probably not.

Don’t let other people’s limiting beliefs or fears stop you from doing what you think is best.

Stop judging people based on your limiting beliefs and fears.

Some parents move to a better, more expensive area because the schools are better. Others parent keep their kids constantly busy with violin lessons, sports camps or private tutors—some parents home school.

I grew up in a multicultural home, where different languages were spoken. Since birth, I’ve lived in 5 different countries, some as a child, some as an adult. I thank my parents every day for giving me that gift. That’s how I was raised. It’s what is normal for ME. 

So naturally, I wanted to give my children the same gift. 

My boys are adults now, still living in France, and to be honest, this is just our home now.

You may disagree with our choices, but that’s OK. I get it; travelling and living abroad with your family may not be your cup of tea.

But wanting to move abroad with kids away from family and friends doesn’t make you a bad parent. It’s OK to feel those feelings of guilt or selfishness, but you shouldn’t let those things stop you from giving your family the experiences you want to give them. 

If you are reading this and still shaking your head, that’s OK.

Go away and live your life and never come back here again. If you’re contemplating spending a year abroad or moving abroad for an indefinite amount of time, here are my final thoughts.

It is your life.

You have your own unique set of circumstances and obstacles.

Ultimately only you can decide if moving abroad with the kids is right for you.

Don’t let the fear of what others think of you or social norms stop you from doing it.

You can always return to your home country if you don’t like living abroad. 

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  1. Hi
    I believe that you get to raise your own children as you see fit. What an awesome gift for them to have in their lives. Giving them this life changing experience will open up their minds and will be such a fantastic education for them. It’s also your journey and your kids get to tag along – you will all grow closer and wiser from the experience. Ignore the haters and ignorant – they exist everywhere and you will NEVER please everyone. I’m pushing my teens out of the nest to do O/S exchange whilst at University (college) and they are both keen, knowing I’ll fund it of course :). Enjoy and thanks for sharing.

  2. Great post. I think your children will cherish all those memories. I really like your article. Thank you for sharing your life stories with us.

    1. Hi Jess and Brandon,
      at first my older children did not like travelling because of all the change but now they crave diversity, change and love to travel. just goes to show you that mother always knows best. :)

  3. Hey Annie,

    SO good to see you back blogging, I’ve missed you and knowing what the heck you guys have been up to.

    So the one thing I can say about your experience is those few hateful emails you get of course never outweigh the hundreds of positive ones you receive. There are just a lot of really sad and unhappy people in this world. It’s obvious to me that they have to express this in some way and send their nasty thoughts to you. Personally I wouldn’t have wasted my time responding to them because it’s not worth it.

    Of course I’m glad you wrote this post because I think it’s your life and you should chose what’s best for you and your family. If someone else doesn’t like it then that’s their problem not yours.

    I asked a question on Facebook the other day “what’s your youngest childhood memory” and I was floored by the answers. I even got one that was 1 year old but most of them were 2 or 3. So see, children do remember that early on.

    I think as long as you’re happy and experience life the way you want then that’s all that really matters. You know I watched that same episode on TV Annie and I didn’t get the same impression of the kids which just goes to show you that people will always form their own opinions depending on where they are in their own lives.

    Happy New Year and I hope this is the best year ever.


  4. Annie, that sucks that people use energy on negativity. I am shocked that people would say those things. They have the balls to say negative things but then sign Anonymously? Really? People can disagree but name calling and labeling is unnessary. Lack of tact!

    Don’t even waist a moment on those negative ignorant people. They do not have a life of their own that they have to comment on others.

    It was a pleasure to meet your boys over this past summer. Your boys are incredible kids. Great job raising independant, responsible and active kids! I am happy to see your boys will offer our society a well rounded point of view. Lastly, thank you for teaching your kids to be respectful, if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it!

    xo Jenny

  5. Awesome. I think the key is your parents shared the gift of travel with you early on. My parents did as well and so now we’re here, in Mexico, paying it forward to our own child.

    I can’t recall of any other experiences in my life that enriched my life more than adapting and, yes, sometimes struggling to adapt, to other cultures. I remember lessons I learned when I was nine that stick with me to this day. It’s nonsensical gibberish to state that your formative years begin at 18.

    Forget the haters. They’ll always be there, no matter where or how you live.

    1. Hell Pawel;
      I go back and forth between the benefits of giving my kids a stable home and the benefits of throwing travelling and living in another culture. What i love most about travelling and living abroad is how it teaches us as individuals and the kids how to adapt to changes and to be more accepting of other people and cultures. amoung other things of course.

  6. You two are the most selfish, close-minded parents I know! How dare you remove your children from the idleness of American culture and throw them into a world full of culture, history, and even a new language! Your kids are now forced to go through life thinking about that time as kids when they HAD to endure life in France and HAD to be bilingual and HAD to make life long international friends. You’re horrible people.


    Ha! I love it Annie! Amen to everything you said!

    This is my favorite line, “Stop judging people based on your limiting beliefs and fears.”

    1. You rock Sean, i thought for a second that you were for real. Honestly Sean, the negative emails i recieve just really throw me for a loop. I mean for gods sake, we are living in another country and enriching their lives. What is the big deal. What could it be other than limiting beliefs and fears right?

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