Several months back, my husband completed work on a construction project that had him living away from home for over a year (on top of another year away on a different project). When he first started working there, we didn’t expect the project to last that long. Had we known, the kids and I would have moved with him.
Raising a family under normal circumstances is challenging. Raising one while moving every year (or so) as required for work is extra challenging. Deciding when and where to move takes serious consideration. Having lived like this for the last 12 years, I’ve learned ways to ensure that a move will be worth it.
Here are 5 things to consider before you decide your next family move:
1. Can your family financially afford it?
Normally, moves are related to employment, which is why this is at the top of my list of things to consider before a family move.
Due to the type of construction my husband does, pay rates can vary widely. Therefore, we only seriously consider opportunities that make financial sense. His pay would need to comfortably cover all our bills and living expenses, also considering rental home rate adjustments.
Always check the rates in the area before accepting a job offer. Sometimes higher pay means a higher cost to live there, which doesn’t equal more money in your pocket.
Included in this financial affordability equation, figure out how much renting a moving truck will cost your family. Typically, the further your family has to move, the more expensive the truck. Don’t forget to figure in the cost of movers (unless you plan to load your belongings yourself), moving boxes and supplies, and travel expenses (hotel, gas, security deposits, first month rent). All of these items could easily equal thousands of dollars.
2. Is housing for your family size easy to find and affordable?
Several years back, we moved to North Dakota (yes, people live there). Due to a rapid influx of jobs, there was a housing shortage. We were very lucky to stumble upon a newly constructed apartment complex that was completed just before we needed to move. However, the cost to stay in that apartment was probably more than most would be willing to pay, let alone afford.
With a family of 4 (at the time), we were able to manage in a 2 bedroom. However, the more kids you have, the more rooms you’ll need to fit everyone (per rental laws).
Of course, buying is always an option to work around the number of kids rule, but the financial planner in me knows that buying is best left for those who plan to stay put for several years before selling.
If staying put sounds like your family situation, seek the help of a real estate agent and use online tools on sites like Zillow.com and GreatSchools.org to help you find a suitable neighborhood to buy your home.
Since we already own a home, financing a second home is not in our deck of playing cards. (The down payment requirements on a second home are higher.)
3. Are the schools in the area good?
Face it: babies turn into kids who eventually must attend school. Unless you plan to home school or have money to pay for private schools, living in a good school district should be something to seriously consider.
Ever since I discovered GreatSchools.org, I’ve used it every time we’ve considered moving. It’s actually the first website I visit, honestly, before Trulia.com or ForRent.com.
I look for public schools rated 7 – 10 (10 being best) and then use those school zone maps to determine where I will search for a place to live. Yes, you can expect the rental rates (and home prices) in those school districts to be a little higher. However, for us, that’s a small price to pay for the piece of mind.
4. Is the town big enough (or small enough) for your family’s needs?
Our personal preference is to live away from the city. You won’t see us moving to Atlanta or New York City. We just aren’t city people.
What we do want is to live in a town that is just big enough: has enough choices of childcare, recreational activities, and shopping. We don’t want to live in the middle of nowhere, but we don’t want our neighbors peeking through our windows either.
With a family, I always make sure we’ll have everything we need nearby. I consider how much commute time my husband would have and how close we’d live to things like stores, parks, and schools.
I always investigate daycare centers and after-school programs even if I don’t think I’ll need it right away. I once lived in an area where jobs were very easy to find, but daycare wasn’t and I had to wait for a daycare spot to become available before I could look for work.
5. Is there a church nearby?
If Sunday worship is your saving grace from a crazy busy week with the children, you absolutely have to consider what moving means for this important community in your life. A church home is almost as hard to leave as your friends and family. Finding a new one is even harder.
Even though it’s been four years, I’ve struggled to find a new church home since leaving the one we established when we lived in Georgia. I severely underestimated how much I was going to miss that community. All the planning in the world to make a new home in a new county or state could all go to waste if you find yourself spiritually uneasy. Research and attend services before the move (if possible) to make sure you’ll be spiritually comfortable in your new town.
Before your next family move, make sure your new job pays enough, housing is easy to find, the schools are good, the town is big enough, and your family can feel comfortable in a new church (if that’s your thing).
If all the above are doable, make sure you discuss the move with your children. Ask them how they would feel if they went to a different school or if they couldn’t play on the county sports team. Listen to their concerns and worries. Address and assure them that this move is the best thing for your family.
My kids understand that we cannot continue to live away from dad anymore and that’s why we move. I’m sure there will come a time when my kids will resist moving (probably in their teen years), but I have hope that they will understand that keeping our family together is a priority at this stage of our life, even if that means living in an RV and home schooling them (which could happen down the road).
I like to believe that as long as I continue to check in with my kids on how they feel about big changes like this (and consider the 5 things above before deciding) they will respect our decisions on where we choose to live. Plus, I want my kids to learn that it doesn’t really matter where they call home. As long as all our needs are met and we are all living together, everyone should be happy.
Because family happiness is what every mother wants, right?