jobs and moving and love, oh my.

Hope everyone had a nice weekend! Let’s go for a very Monday-morning-themed question today — something about everyone’s favorite activity: our jobs.

Reader JK asks:

What’s more important: Having a job that you love but causes you to move every 3 to 4 years with your immediate family OR Having a job that is okay but you don’t have to move around a lot and you choose where you want to live so you can stay close to your parents/siblings/relatives?

What a very modern conundrum. In centuries past, the “work” of humans (i.e. farming, hunting, gathering) kept them at home. We lived in large familial groups, keeping each other alive with shared food sources, baby-raising responsibilities, and communication. The industrial revolution gave people more reason to leave their homes and their family groups, and, I think, may have made life infinitely harder for us as a species. I think the old adage is definitely true: “It takes a village.”

Terra abitata nel verde.

You can make a home anywhere in the world.

That being said: I come from a family of folks who generally moved several thousand miles away from their parents after college. In my youth, a trip to Grandma’s was a long-haul event, even though we always drove. Uncles and aunts were seen much less frequently. How did my parents do it? They created an extended family in the city to which they moved. Specifically, my parents built a church family. I tell people that my sisters and I were raised by several families, because we were — all at church. And it worked.

Non-religious folks still have meet-up groups, sports groups, daycare centers, etc., to make the self-selected-extended-family a possibility. Humans are an extremely adaptable group.

All this is to say: if you love your job, the fact that it moves you every couple of years doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t see your family, or make a new one. I may just be a little jaded, but I think that spending your day-to-day hours doing something you really enjoy is a rarity in our current economy. Most of our parents’ generation and those before them saw “work” as something you just did to pay the bills.  In fact, most of the friends I have feel the same way. You work whatever you can get, and you put up with it, even if you dread getting out of bed in the morning, because then you are free to do things that cost money in your spare time. If you’ve got a job that you don’t outright hate, that’s one thing; if you’ve got a job that you can stand, that’s another; but having a job you genuinely enjoy is definitely awesome.

Looking at it another way, moving every 3-4 years with your immediate family is not so bad. It beats having to go on business trips every three weeks. It beats having to move every year, or every six months. And it definitely beats hum drum boredom. Plus it gives your extended family an interesting excuse to come visit you. “J’s in Germany for a few years! Hurray! We finally have a place to stay in Berlin!”

I will say this: the one thing that could possibly make me say “stay put” is if someone in your extended family whom you love is going through a severe illness. Cancer, MS, Parkinson’s… if your mother or father (or even a sibling) has a severely debilitating illness that you feel you need to help them get through, by all means, stay close. It’s touchy. You may regret things either way — staying put to deal with an illness that isn’t your own is hard; but so is being far away and feeling like you’re missing out on someone’s lifetime.

Also, if your spouse has a job that he/she cares about and a career that could use some fostering, staying put is a definite compromise you could make, especially if the job that would keep you in one place isn’t too terrible. It’s one thing to move when you’re an unconnected bachelor, but when you’ve got a family in tow, you have to consider their feelings.

In any case, my votes lean heavily towards the job that will bring you the most enjoyment and adventure. Moving is pretty normal these days, and we have all kinds of ways to keep in touch with our siblings, parents, and extended family members that don’t require our living next door to them.


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