Coping with a move: A medical marriage Q&A

Question:

My family (including two small children) and I are relocating this summer for my husband’s new job after seven years of living in the same area for residency and fellowship to a city where I know no one. I am scared about leaving our support network of friends and family nearby. Can you offer advice on starting over in a new place?

Answer:

I would guess that almost every physician family has experienced this situation. There are many ways to approach a move and make the transition smoother. Below are some suggestions for how to keep your family connected during the change.

Rely on each other as much as possible

It is a primal instinct to need support from other people. The one constant when moving is the family you take with you. Rely on your partner for support. For the doctor, starting at a new hospital with a new electronic medical records system, new attendings, new protocol, and new peers is stressful and overwhelming. So is starting a new job at a different location, finding new playgroups, church families, schools and activities for kids, and babysitters. When everything around us changes, we need the constant of our companion in order to feel safe and grounded. Make home together. If your relationship is strong, it really won’t matter where you end up as long as you are together. Well, in theory. Of course there will be those stresses previously mentioned, but knowing you have someone to struggle through them with makes it easier.

Keep as many things as consistent as possible

While it may be tempting to get rid of all your old furniture and start new, it may be helpful for the kids to have some consistency from one location to the next. Walking into their new bedroom and seeing it look almost the same as their old bedroom can be very comforting for them. Try and have extracurricular activities set up in the new city before you arrive. If your child is on swim team, find a team for him to begin with right away. That uniformity will help them transition better.

Get involved

For those of us who don’t like change very much or who are more introverted, this can be challenging. One of the disadvantages of being an introvert is that the tendency to hang back, sit alone, or not engage looks standoffish and intimidating. Try not to wait for other people to approach you. Start conversations, ask if you can join the group, plan and organize activities to which you can invite others. For spouses of physicians, look for support groups through the hospital or even online. There’s a good chance there is a Facebook group or even a live group for physician spouses in your town, or even for hobbies you like. If there isn’t, start one. There are many other individuals just like you who need someone to connect with.

Stay in touch

I cannot even imagine what it must have been like 20 years ago when you moved, and short of an occasional handwritten letter, you didn’t know about the lives of friends or family left behind.

I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to be the one left behind until the last few years of residency. We were there for a five-year surgery residency and an additional two years of research. We saw a lot of dear friends finish and move on to the next stage while we continued to plug along. I lived my same life each day; only I did it without the friends I had grown to love and rely on. Having experienced both, for me, it was much harder to be the one left behind. Make sure and stay in touch with these connections. Modern technology makes it virtually effortless.

Be positive

This one is especially for your children. You will set the tone for how the kids transition. If they hear you talking about how fun it is going to be and the many great opportunities you will have, they will be more hopeful and excited. Likewise, if they hear complaining about how hard it is or how much you miss your old stomping ground, they will have a much harder time.

Live it up

Most likely this will be the only time in your life to move around and experience something new. While some of you may be thinking, “Thank goodness I don’t have to do this forever!” I would encourage you to make the most of it. We have loved every city we have been in. We have made amazing friends and grown individually – as well as together as a couple. I would not trade any of those experiences or friendships to stay in one place forever. While it can be difficult to move away from the support of family, there are other couples in your same situation who can and will become your family if you let them.

What suggestions do you have for physician families to help make a move easier?

Kim Blackham is a marriage and family therapist and can be reached on her self-titled site, Kim Blackham.  This article originally appeared in Physician Family.

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