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What we think our parents want

The other week I came across a documentary about life, business and making difficult decisions. One of the people interviewed managed to put words on what so many expats feel (myself included).

I found myself having to choose between being true to my heart and following what my parents wanted for me. In the end I had to follow my heart.”

For hundreds of years (if not more) people have made decisions that their parents might not understand or support. They have studied, started up new business ventures, traveled near and far or just generally upset people along the way. Back in the late 1800’s some of my relatives set sail from Sweden to America to never come back. Because they were determined to seek new opportunities for themselves and their children, even if it meant upsetting their own parents.

So we know that this problem has roots and memories from way before we were even born, yet more often than not when I talk to expat clients, the family aspect is more challenging than they’d like to admit. I’ve also noticed that most people have little idea how to deal with the heartbreak, shame, guilt, expectations and sadness that even the most loving family can project onto their child consciously or unconsciously. 

The bottom line is that every person needs to be allowed to live a life of their choosing, not one based on what’s convenient for others. We only get one life, so why not make it the life you wanted rather than a copy of someone else? The other bottom line is that most parents only want health and happiness for their children. And sometimes that happiness can be hard to understand if your beloved child chooses to live out that happiness in a place far away from you or in a way you don’t understand. Because how can you be there when you physically can’t be there? Or how can you understand when you haven’t done it yourself?

It’s safe to say that we’ve already explored enough to realize that this is not a new problem, but how do we solve it?

  • Allow yourself to unpack and be clear on your own purpose. Of course you want some level of connection with your family and/or loved ones, but they can’t decide or dictate your purpose, calling or meaning in life. Only you can. Allow yourself to explore it, follow it and live it. Sometimes it keeps you close to the ones you love and sometimes it might take you further away for a short or long period of time.
  • Set clear standards. Sometimes with family (or people close to us) we accept a whole lot more (resourceful and nort so resourceful stuff) compared to what we’d allow from a work colleague, friend or other connection. You are allowed to set your own standards of what’s OK in terms of how people interact with you, support you and share their opinions with you. Just because someone is close to you does not mean you have to accept everything they send your way. Setting clear standards does not mean putting conditions on how much you love someone or how much they love you. It’s about standing up for your purpose and how you live it with integrity and love.
  • Communicate broadly and respectfully. When you are clear on you purpose and standards, it get’s much easier to communicate with the people who you want to invite along for the ride. It’s always easier to show true love and understanding when you are clear on what you want in your life and how people can help and support you towards that, much like you are supporting them to move towards their purpose.

Managing the emotional side of a move generally, and relationships with loved ones more specifically, is something that we focus a fair bit on in our Online Relocation Starter Kit. Because it’s more important and more difficult to manage in real life than most of us like to admit. Read more here if you’re interested!