Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Men Who Move and the Women Who Tolerate Them

A friend who is getting ready to move halfway across the country sent me a text the other day, asking for advice. "What can I do to make this move easier on my wife and kids?" My response was: "Unfortunately for you, my answer is too long for a text. I'll answer you in e-book form. Watch Amazon in the next six weeks."

All kidding aside, I could write a short book on how a guy who is relocating his family because of his job could be ever so helpful to his wife, who, nine times out of ten, is bearing the brunt of the work involved. You're the one dealing with a new job, but she's the one whose work just centupled. 

Short of writing another book, I jotted down some of the basics of treating your spouse and children right when putting them through the moving process. You can't make all the pain go away, but you can help in some small ways.  

Don’t give your wife all the responsibility to make decisions and then second-guess them

The bulk of the work - from making decisions to carrying them out and cleaning up after them - will be on her. You’ll be off to your own set of problems with your new job. Let her make the decisions (if she wants to) but don’t come in after the fact and put in your two cents and veto what she did. She’s smart and she’s not going to screw this up. (And if she's not smart, what were you thinking marrying her and asking her to have your children?) So if she chooses a school for the kids based on all the research and visits and recommendations, it’s probably the best decision and you should just stay out of it.

Just give her a big pile of money. Really, just load it on. Despite what every philosopher has said since ancient times, money can so buy happiness

If your relo package is anything like ours have been, there’s a lot of money involved. Give it to your wife. All of it. On one of our moves, my husband scrimped and saved on the temporary living and we ended up with a bunch of money at the end of it. We decided together how to spend it, but I got my way and that’s how it should be. Even though he was the one who was cooking spaghetti in a little pan on the stove in his crappy little apartment every night. And she’ll probably want to spend it on something like nice bedspreads and curtains for the kids’ rooms, which isn’t so bad.

Tell her she looks pretty even with that bald spot where a runaway piece of strapping tape got stuck to her hair

This is probably sexist, but I’ll say it anyway. As I got closer and closer to the low point of my moves, just hearing someone say that I was doing a great job even if it wasn’t true went a long way in getting me to the finish line. “Wow, you’d never know you’re in the middle of a move! You look great!” was all it took for me to get a second wind and give me a boost of adrenaline to finish packing the kitchen. Encouraging words go a long way. And sometimes a person doesn’t have anyone else to hear that from, other than her husband. 

Admit that it’s your fault that her life sucks right now

I don’t care if it makes you feel guilty. Say out loud that if it wasn’t for you and your stupid career, she wouldn’t have to be going through all this and making all the sacrifices she’s making. Acknowledge all that she’s giving up and taking on, and repeat it often. You can’t overdo this. In fact, consider taping a couple key sentences - "I suck and you're a beautiful princess" and "You have every right to be mad at me until the next move" - and use them as her iPhone alarm wake-up. 

Do not make her cook. I repeat. Do not make her cook. There are perfectly fine restaurants within driving distance.

Starting, oh, now, and continuing through three months into your new house. Consider it a part of the moving expenses.

Don’t lord your posh temporary corporate relo housing situation over her. 

You’re in a sleek bachelor pad and she’s living in a house that is alternately unlivable because it has to be show-ready for the real estate market and unlivable because it’s being packed up. This is not fair so you should shut up about your cool apartment. When we were moving from Cleveland to DC and I had a 4-year-old and was pregnant, I went to DC on a house-hunting trip. My husband was living in Georgetown in an apartment made of brick, chrome and leather. I was living in a house where I couldn’t find anything except Fisher Price toys. When I arrived at his temp apartment, my husband said, “Isn’t this great?” I was so jealous, I almost smacked him and wet my pants out of spite.

Don’t underestimate the adjustment to a new home, neighborhood, town, state and proximity to an Ikea

Moving is hard. For some reason it seems harder for the non-working spouse than for the working spouse, even though you will have new job adjustments to deal with. The adjustments for your wife and the kids are more varied and pervasive and less focused. Going into it, you think you know what the adjustments are going to be and then when you get there, you realize there’s no Trader Joe’s, and other things you took for granted in your old place. When we moved from New Jersey to Kentucky, one of the kids’ friends said, “What beach will you go to?”  My kids just stared. Up until then we had forgotten that we loved being within a few hours drive of a beach. 

Don’t tell them, “Oh, this isn’t so bad.” It won’t make them believe it; it will just make them resent you for not acknowledging what they’re going through. 

If you want to make your wife happy, make the kids happy, and vice versa

All things flow through the mother. And that's not just some bullshit Bahá'í  saying. If you want to make the kids happy, give them a happy mom. And if you want to make the mom happy, make sure the kids don’t have reason to bitch, because they’re going to bitch to her. So if your wife decides that in order for the kids to be happy in their new home they need an in-ground swimming pool, get them a pool. Regardless of the fact that swim season in Michigan's Upper Peninsula is 45 minutes long.  Agree to the schools, lessons, bedroom room colors, and number of days they get to skip school during the transition.

Even if your kids are outgoing and confident, moving can be brutal. I can’t overemphasize the importance of their first day of school in the new school. Give them anything they want for months as a reward for surviving it. 

I sent my friend this in an email and he responded: "So basically, what you're saying is, 'shut up, open wallet.' She already got a Kate Spade moving gift."

Oh yeah, I forgot the last piece of advice:

Buy her a Kate Spade moving gift


If you like Diane's humorous take on moving, you'll love her book Home Sweet Homes: How Bundt Cakes, Bubble Wrap, and My Accent Helped Me Survive Nine Moves.

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