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Working moms: Time to move?

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When moving up means moving out

Moving up in our careers can be a wonderful, exciting adventure. But sometimes moving up means moving out, and relocating to a new city can be tough. Here are some tips to help you and your family prepare for it!

Woman packing house

Not everyone's ideal dream
Kathryn returned home from work, and excitedly began telling her husband about the opportunity that had fallen into her lap. After working at the hotel for 12 years and being told she had hit the salary ceiling, she was offered a vice president position. Her income would increase more than 30 percent, and she would be the highest-ranking woman in the company.

Kathryn's husband and children were far less excited than she, because the new job would require them to leave behind everything they knew to live in a town nearly 1,000 miles away.

Each year, thousands of people in the United States face the same relocation dilemma. Moving to a new area causes anxiety and fear, and can be extremely stressful for everyone involved.

Is it good for everyone involved?
Quite often, the first hurdle in relocating is convincing your spouse that the move would be good for your family. It is difficult for many men to leave behind the stability of their positions to follow their wives, even if it means more money and better opportunities. "It is important to have open communication with your partner," stresses Susan Ginsberg, director of international services at Ricklin-Echikson Associates in Millburn, New Jersey. "Take time to discuss joint goals and objectives as well as personal ones." She adds that it is important to consider the long- and short-term effects the move will make on both careers.

Fortunately for Jeannine Fallon Anckaitis, her husband, Todd, was ready to leave his job. "He had been talking about a career change for himself, so this was the perfect opportunity," she recalls. However, the non-traditional role was hard for his family to accept. "His grandmother still can't fathom that her grandson moved across the country for his wife."

To help your spouse with the decision, Ginsberg suggests having him talk with a career counselor before the move. Also, learn about the job market in the new area, and inquire about spousal benefits. "More and more companies are providing partner assistance services," she says. Even if employment options look bleak, keep an open mind. Ginsberg offers, "Moving without a position can offer an opportunity to be more involved with family, community and service projects or to advance educationally before returning to the workforce."

Talking to the kids
If discussions with your husband end favorably, it is important to talk with your children about the opportunity. For young children it may be an easy conversation, but if they are older, you're likely to face complications. Listen to the children, and try to understand their feelings.

When all family members agree to consider the move, it is time to begin researching the area and benefits. "What looks like a substantial raise in Iowa may not be enough to live on in Boston," advises Barbara A. Winnington, a relocation specialist with Patterson-Schwartz and Associates in Delaware. To get a feeling of how far your money will stretch in the new community, talk with a real estate agent or someone who lives in the area. You can also refer to a salary calculator on the Internet, such as the one at http://www.homefair.com/calc/salcalc.html.

Work with your children to research schools, activities, organizations and religious affiliations in the new area. This will keep them involved with the decision, and will help ease some of the stress of the potential move. It may also offer something that piques their interest and excitement.

"Before making a final decision, it is important to consider cultural differences," states Annette M. Duwell, who moved her family from Georgia to California. "We were surprised at how different the West was from the South." Keep in mind that many of the jokes about an area may have an element of truth to them.

Make a relocation plan
If you accept the position, make yourself aware of exactly what benefits are offered through your company. Many relocation plans today are comprehensive, but don't take anything for granted. Make sure you ask about how pets, cars and valuable items will be transported.

Because most relocation packages are all-inclusive, the move itself may seem stress-free. Duwell says, "The relocation part was really easy -- it was the 'living there' stuff that was difficult."

This is especially true for children. "It's important to learn about and enjoy the new area, but be sure to also nurture the relationships 'back home," Ginsberg says. She suggests writing letters or using the Internet to keep kids connected with the friends and family they left behind. "And create a scrapbook of favorite people and places so they'll have something concrete to look back on." Most importantly, she says, "Realize that your children will be scared and possibly angry. Don't dismiss these feelings. Acknowledge them and help your child work through them."

In addition to maintaining a connection to the past, you may need to help your children adapt to their new surroundings. Encourage them to join sports teams, interesting clubs or volunteer activities. Community service projects will help them become ingrained in their new neighborhood. Adjustment will take time, but patience and understanding from you will help make the transition successful.

The children may not be the only family members having difficulty adjusting. Duwell states that little things, like not knowing the shortcuts around town, frustrated her husband. "It's important to continually evaluate the effects the move has on your spouse, his ego and your relationship," she says. "If I wasn't vigilant about this, our move could have cost us our marriage."

Finally, it is vital that you keep an open mind about your move. The vast majority of people who relocate -- after having done the communicating and research necessary -- are satisfied and content with their new careers and locations. However, this is not always the case. Remember that it is OK to change your mind after the move if it is not working out for you or your family.

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