Moving with kids is no picnic. There’s new schools to check out, new childminders to find, new jobs to seek and no babysitters in sight. But you can survive. Here’s how.
You’ve been mulling it over ever since you had children and now you’ve decided to make the dream a reality and move. But moving is a big thing when you are single; when you have children there is much more to consider. The best thing to do is to prioritise. You’ve probably already drawn up a list of the pros and cons and there are probably a whole host of good reasons for the move – to change jobs, be nearer relatives who can babysit, to have more space, to escape the city grind…
List your priorities in order of importance and then choose an area accordingly. If you are relocating for your or your partner’s job find out if there is any help with moving on offer from the company. If you are moving and neither of you has a job yet, start getting the local papers covering where you are moving or check out whether you can/want to commute further afield. It can be easiest if you are considering moving not too far away for one of you to commute to their present job while the other takes time out to look for a more local job and set up childcare. That is, if you can afford for one of you to take time out. Otherwise, you will need to factor the costs into the moving expenses or both of you will need to commute so you will have to have childcare sorted well in advance.
As you no doubt know, childcare can be hard to organise even when you have lived somewhere for ages. When you are moving it is doubly so. When you know where you want to move to, you need to consider a lot of things, but chief among them are:
To find out about local schools, start buying the local paper and check the Ofsted website [www.ofsted.gov.uk]. It is also worth asking when you are looking at houses about local facilities such as schools, doctors, hospitals, etc. People with their own families are likely to be helpful. Arrange a visit to local schools to check them out and get a feel for the place. Ask them about any issues which you are worried about, for instance, their policy on bullying, their Ofsted report, etc. Do their ideas on education chime with yours? Are they very test-oriented? Do they offer a wide curriculum, including things like music and drama? And, if you are working or likely to be working in the near future, do they offer after or before school activities and at what cost?
Similarly with childcare, check out the local options. Decide first what option is right for you. Ring the council for a list of registered childminders, visit local nurseries, etc. Find out about the hours that childminders and nurseries do. Are they likely to fit into your work patterns? Do they offer a school day? This can be very useful if you have school-aged and younger children and work part-time. It means you don’t have to pay a full day’s nursery fees.
If you have left a job in order to move, look into job opportunities in your field in the area before moving as you may find you have to travel quite far afield if there are none available. You might be considering working from home or other flexible solutions. How feasible is this? How do you argue for flexible work in a new job? You could check out websites like WorkingMums.co.uk which promote flexible working. WorkingMums includes flexible, part-time and other job options across the UK. It also offers advice on negotiating flexibility and information on your rights regarding flexible working.
If you have to travel to work or commute to your current job, you need to factor the time involved to your childcare arrangements. How good are transport links? You can find out about train timetables online and bus information is generally available at local libraries.
You may be moving to be nearer family who will help out with childcare. If not, one of your main concerns regarding moving may well be lack of friends or any kind of support network. When you have children, friends and family become vital. They can pick up children when there is a work emergency, provide holiday cover, babysit etc. What do you do in a new area where you know no-one?
Firstly, if you know anyone in the area, get in touch. They can give you vital local information and introduce you to other people. Remember that it takes time to make friends. The same applies to your children, who may be feeling nervous about starting a new school. Make sure your child visits the school before starting and be enthusiastic about what they have to offer. If they have a birthday coming up in the first term/terms invite some of their new friends over so you can get to know their parents. Sign your children up to after school activities or clubs. They will meet more people and parents often wait for their children after activities and you might get to know some of them this way. Don’t expect, though, to make best friends instantly or find someone you feel confident about inviting your children around after school.
The first months are a bit of a slog and you have to do most things on your own if you have no established friends or family in the area. That is where good childcare is crucial.
Things can get fraught if you previously relied on friends/family to look after your children when they are ill, have sudden inset days, etc, when you have important meetings. You will have to talk to your partner, if you don’t already have this planned, about sharing the childcare in such circumstances. This doesn’t always work as one parent usually goes to work fairly early and some childcare problems only crop up at the last minute, eg your child throws up before school, the childminder rings to say her kids are sick or she is, etc. In these circumstances, it is absolutely vital to have an understanding employer. If you feel so stressed about taking time out for these kind of problems, it may be time to look for a new job with a better employer. For advice on any issue related to work – from career coaching to personal development to employment rights – check out our ask the expert advice. Moving can be stressful and doubly so with children given the amount of things you need to consider. But if you have checked out all the main areas listed above and are happy that you have ticked off most things that can be sorted out beforehand then things should go relatively smoothly. And remember, despite the potential stresses of the actual moving operation, many people think moving is the best thing they ever did.