Virginia Ironside: Dilemmas

 

My husband has the opportunity to take a job in the West Indies for a long-term contract. We estimate we should be there about 10 years. We have no intention of settling there for ever. The problem is that we have two small children. My husband argues that a change of culture will be good for them and will broaden their minds. My fear is that they will grow up rootless. And of course there are all the grandparents to consider, who are understandably upset about the idea of our going. What do you think? Yours sincerely, Joanna

 

Virginia says...I can well understand your anxieties. And a friend of mine, who was brought up abroad in similar circumstances, says she bitterly regrets missing a childhood at home, with all her grandparents and cousins to play with and connect to. On her return to England, to go to university, she felt like a fish out of water, with no old school friends to fall back on, nothing. It was as if she'd arrived from outer space. And to add to that, she has no desire to return to the country where she spent so much of her youth. She "can't see the point".

On the other hand, my mother, who had an idyllic childhood in India, could never really settle in England, was always longing for the sights and smells of the Indian markets, loving Indian food, only ever really feeling "at home" there.

And I can well imagine how upset the grandparents will be. True, they could stagger out to see you once a year, but it's a hell of a haul, and though "there's always Skype", as everyone says these days, Skype isn't the same. You can't smell, touch or feel each other, read people's faces, understand when they're feeling low... all the instinctual animal feelings in a relationship are removed.

However, I'm sure you don't want to spoil your husband's chance of a job, and I can imagine that in this climate of financial gloom and doom, the prospect of a good job in a beautiful climate, with a strange culture, wonderful music, swimming, is pretty seductive. It's not as if you're going to Darfur or Sirte. It's a prospect I think is almost irresistible. As long as you don't stay too long.

As one of our readers, Patricia Burke, who was with a UN agency for 10 years and was particularly interested in the effect of transfers to foreign postings on staff member's children, said in an interesting letter too long to reproduce here, it's important that children between the ages of 11 and 19 avoid changes of country, culture or language. This is when they're most vulnerable. It would be better, if you're going to stay out a bit longer than ten years, to send them to boarding school in England for their secondary education, if that's where you want them to feel most at home eventually, than keep them in the West Indies during their teenage years and then whizz them back to England. It's the country in which they spend their teenage years that is the one they'll identify with, regardless of their own passports or their parents' nationality.

Readers say...

They'll thank you

 

Do it. Your children will not be rootless, they will have their horizons broadened. My parents took three small children to West Africa in 1960 where we spent the next eight years. All of us were changed by those years, and feel we have been enriched. Your children will return home with the sights, sounds, tastes and aromas of that very different world having become part of them, and their understanding of life here will be informed and deepened. They will thank you for giving them that experience.

Catherine Annabel By email

 

What about you?

As a grandmother I'd say: please don't do it. My grandchildren live abroad and it is the hardest thing. As a mother I'd say that your husband is probably right, it might well be good for the children – as long as they are settled by the time they start secondary school. As a wife I'd wonder if my husband would resent it if he felt I was blocking his career. And as a woman I'd ask you to think very hard how easy it would be for you to live abroad.

Raili Taylor By email

Next week's dilemma

Dear Virginia, A friend told me about a rare illness she suffers from, but swore me to secrecy. A couple of weeks later, I met a mutual friend with the same illness and I couldn't resist telling her about the first friend, swearing her to secrecy, too. I thought she might be able, by confessing her illness to the first friend, to offer support and get her to open up about it. Now it's got out that I betrayed my friend's trust, and she's furious. I feel so dreadful I could crawl into a hole and die. I should never have done it. Is there anything I can do to make amends? Yours sincerely, Veronica

What would you advise Veronica to do? Email your dilemmas and comments to dilemmas @independent. co.uk, or go to independent.co.uk/dilemmas. Anyone whose advice is quoted will receive a £25 voucher from the wine website Fine Wine Sellers (www.finewinesellers.co.uk)

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

    £60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    General Cover Teacher

    £110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

    Maths Teacher

    £110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

    Maths Teacher

    £110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

    Day In a Page

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?