Relocating With Kids

I didn’t have to think for long when my partner was offered a job in Toronto. For many Brits in the current political climate, Canada and it’s yoga-loving (and rather dashing) Prime Minister seems like the epitome of peace and progressiveness.

The slight hitch with relocating internationally? Just four small kids. Was this even possible? How would we pack all our worldly possessions (a lot of kid’s books, Lego, and some scooters) and start a life with no family or friends for support?

It makes for rather a stressful situation attempting to pack everything you own in to twenty boxes, when you have four small kids, and one week between the shipping company dropping the boxes to you and returning to pick them up.

You miss stuff, favorite stuffed animals get mislaid, light sabers don’t fit, and you can’t unscrew the blasted things. You’re still packing the boxes when the man turns up at seven thirty am on the morning all your kids have to be dressed in costume for another school fundraising effort, and you’re frantically writing something the length of the bible on the side of each box so that it actually gets to you.

Did I mention that your baby will be screaming blue murder the entire time? ‘Everyone’s the same’ the nice driver man tells you, trying to help. ‘No ones ready on time’.

You’re feeling slightly better about your personal capabilities, until you walk back in to the kitchen and realize you forgot to pack your black Creauset teapot. The one you bought when you turned forty. The one you always wanted. “Shit!”, you think. “F-ing Bollocks! I’m not going! It’s all a big mistake! Why the hell did I think I could move across the world, aged forty two with four flipping children? I’m too old for this”, you think, replaying in your mind the scene where Wendy tells Peter Pan she can’t go with him this time. “I can’t fly.. I’m too old Peter”, you tell your husband after several glasses of red wine. “Who the hell is Peter?”, your husband asks..

Managing to get through good byes at school will be the hardest thing you have ever possibly done. In the weeks leading up to the dreaded D-day, I would’ve rather poked my own eye out with a knitting needle than stand in the playground, pulling my children away from their beloved friends.

You make it out the school without crying, which was the goal. Then your five year old starts howling ‘I don’t want to go!!!’, all the way home, rain lashing against his little face, and you realize that you are by this point the most wretched human being/Mother ever to exist on earth.

Your husband is fine by the way.

And you know how they say everything comes back to you? So when after only one term at the new school in Canada, it finishes for Summer break, you will be overcome by some kind of Stanivslaskian emotional recall, and will uncontrollably bawl your eyes out, as a very empathetic teacher holds you up — but it’s fine because its totally okay to cry here.

Determined not to leave all the crap that didn’t make it in to the boxes, you leave for the airport with four children each carrying a large back pack and dragging a wheely suitcase on its side. You know full well that this is going to be what can only be described as a shit show.

Just breathe.. And remember your Valium prescription. No, but really, just keep breathing, even when your husband informs you that he ordered you the gluten-free meal option on the plane so that you would get your food faster, and you get a sandwich made out of cardboard, while everyone else is devouring delicious smelling hot roast beef sandwiches on ciabatta bread. Namaste.

Somehow you make it to Canada. But, don’t expect just the normal security check if you’re picking up a visa. Expect to be ushered in to a large empty waiting room, where you will sit with your kids, and baby, who have indeed made it through a three hour drive to London, a seven hour flight to Toronto, and are now up so way past their bed time that there’s no way you can stop them from running like maniacs up and down the waiting room, bumping in to heavily armed customs police, and trying to smash the glass on the food dispenser machine to break out an old packet of Cheetos.

After two hours of mental torture, you’re handed your visa which tells you that you can work here, but in some kind of warped irony, absolutely no childcare (if only!) and definitely no dancing on tables — which puts an end to that second career you were hoping for.

You make it to your hotel and spend about five hundred dollars on food. Whilst staring at the room service bill you realize that there’s a high price to pay for living somewhere so progressive..

The next morning you take a taxi driven by a Bulgarian immigrant to your neighborhood, and wait for the realtor to bring the keys. You set your children free in the back yard, and sipping coffee from a paper cup, watch them getting the first dose of vitamin d they’ve had in about five years.

We did it, you think. We actually did it.

Anne writes about moving abroad with kids and helps other families with their relocations at

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