Moving to another country or even across the country seems like it’s one of those outrageous decisions that other people make. Certainly not ones who abide by logic and routine and have a family to think about. Especially when that move is not prompted by anything other than, “We’re looking for a change and my job allows me to work remotely.”
Yet, the outcomes of those moves are often well worth the stress involved in uprooting your life. Learning a new way around a city, meeting new people, and immersing yourself in a new culture is an exercise in self-growth. And the journey can come with excitement and a refreshed attitude if done right.
What if you have a child with disabilities and medical needs, though? How do you even begin this process? Should you even consider it?
My family of four was living a very routine life in one end of the country. We had some friends. We had family nearby. We had excellent healthcare for my physically and intellectually disabled daughter. But we were tired. We were lonely, as most parents of a child who has chronic medical needs and disabilities, feels. Things were so routine we no longer felt we were living. And things were getting expensive where we lived.
My husband and I started fantasizing about being able to live wherever we wanted when he accepted a new job that allowed remote work. Soon, those fantasies turned into, “Can we really do this? Why can’t we just make it happen?”
We started researching different parts of the country – excitedly talking about areas that appealed to us and quickly crossing off the list areas that didn’t. We’d want proximity to the ocean for our beach loving daughter. My husband announced he was done shoveling snow for a while. We’d need a great school system for our kids, especially my young son who just started elementary school. We needed a hospital that could care for my daughter’s complex medical needs. And we needed a place we could afford on one salary since my ability to work was often limited due to my daughter’s medical needs. Easy enough, right?
Actually, yes. There are plenty of places that can fit your utopia – you just need to put effort into finding it.
We started broadly. There are numerous publications and websites that will rank different areas depending on what is important to you. You’ve seen those headlines: Best Places to Retire, Safest Towns in America, or even High Schools Ranked Across the State. I found some that were relevant to our stage of life, started reading and got a list going.
Then I did a deep dive into those specific areas. I crossed many places off my first list because we couldn’t (easily) afford the area on one salary – realized this after looking at housing prices. But many places were still on my list. Then, I slowly started crossing more and more off, evaluating different criteria (such as school ratings, weather, family-friendly events, proximity to airports and downtown areas, etc.), leaving just a few places left on that list.
Once we got the area narrowed down, I talked to my daughter’s doctors. Suddenly, it felt astronomically crazy to think about moving her away from the incredible team of doctors who have been treating her since she was a baby.
“I have to ask you something,” I shakily asked her primary doctor. “We would like to move. Out of state. Can we do that?”
An uproarious bellow of laughter erupted from this doctor. “Of course! That’s fantastic! You are absolutely allowed to live your lives.”
That was all the validation I needed. He asked where we were thinking of moving and after relaying my short list, he listed what hospitals would be best for us in those areas. And that settled it – we narrowed the list down to one of the places he highly recommended.
I called that state’s health services department and asked about services available to my family, based on my daughter’s needs. After all, we received services from where we were currently living -- another thing we would be giving up by moving out of state. But, after this phone call, I was told what to do, step-by-step, once we established residency in the new state. Again, another piece of reassurance that all would not be lost by moving.
We then contacted a realtor and spent a quick weekend in the new area house hunting while we put our house up for sale at home. A week later we had a contract in our home and signed a contract on a new build in the new state.
Four months later, my kids and I flew away from the only home my children knew and met my husband, along with our dog whom he drove out with, at our new home. We did it.
We barely slept that first night in our beautiful new home. Adrenaline was pumping through our bodies excited for this new adventure. That, plus a little bit of terror wondering what we just did, uprooting our lives solely because we were desperate for change. But mostly excitement.
It didn’t take long for my son to fully immerse himself into the local school and our new town’s sports leagues. He also experienced immediate friendships with the kids in our neighborhood; something that seems to come easily for young kids.
My daughter, just about a teenager when we moved, was thrilled to meet all the new faces that were greeting her at our new home. She had a new set of neighbors, doctors, teachers, and especially, classroom friends, to regale with stories – a favorite pastime of hers. She also was able to join a theater program in town, as well as other clubs, that could meet her needs.
My husband and I, though, were the ones who perhaps benefited the most from this move. It renewed our sense of adventure. It renewed us. We moved in sync again – having new stories to tell, sharing new experiences with each other, and exploring together. We met a slew of new friends in our neighborhood who made us feel like whole people again. We looked forward to the days ahead of us – something we hadn’t done in a long time. And we had this completely illogical move to thank for our new sense of happiness.