Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas: Job offer abroad is splitting family opinion

Dear Virginia,

I have two young children, and I've just been offered a good job in Canada, as a doctor. My wife is very against going because she has her family and friends here who she loves and also depends on to help with the kids. But I feel Canada is a better place to raise a family than England and my job would be far more fulfiling and interesting. The children will get a better education, there'll be wide open spaces and so on. Do you or your readers have any views?

Yours sincerely, Adrian

If you were a family with very few roots, whose parents were dead or estranged from you, I can see that, whether you lived in England or Canada, it wouldn't make a lot of difference. But you're not like that. You wife, at least, appears pretty entrenched here. She has a loving family, who obviously adore the kids, and a wide circle of friends.

In other words, while you might have more fun in Canada, and feel more fulfiled, your wife – and, more importantly – the children – have a lot to lose were you to uproot them. Are you sure the gains that you outline are really worth the loss?

In a way you've asked the wrong person. I'm not a "Go for it" type; rather I'm a "Think about it, imagine all the most grisly scenarios and then, if you're still keen, have a try-out before you commit" type.

Anyway, is Canadian education that much better than here? And how wide a space does a small child need? In England, even if you live in a city, you're never far from a park. And as for the weather – have you ever visited Canada in the winter? It's a nightmare.

Not only that, but the culture is quite different and not exactly scintillating (unless you go to Montreal where you may be regarded as foreigners). England is steeped in tradition. The last time I was in the States I felt, inside at least, like an old Italian olive farmer, marinated in art and history, something I don't feel here because I take it for granted. And, if the kids become completely absorbed by the Canadian way of life, they'll marry Canadians and then, if you ever do return home to live, you'll be spending your time on aeroplanes just to see the grandchildren.

Emigrating has repercussions far beyond the here and now. Not only would your own children miss out on having a large close family around them while they grow up, but, unless you and your wife both decided to live in Canada for ever, their children would miss out on having a proper relationship with their own grandparents. A sense of dislocation would reverberate down the line.

True, things are not at their best in this country. But your village isn't being razed to the ground, and you are not at risk of being hacked to death by members of another tribe. It's not too bad. And remember that Canada has a recession, too – it's not just Europe.

If you have to go, go for a year. But remember that a big loving family and friends may well be worth far more than skiing skills and better grades.


There's nothing to lose

I can sympathise with Adrian's wife. When our three children were very young my husband's company offered him a job in Boston, Massachusetts. I didn't want to go, but I eventually decided that it would be an adventure to live in the States, and it turned out to be a very happy time for us all. Maybe Adrian could suggest that they compromise and go for two years, but if she and/or the children are unhappy in Canada, they return to this country. His wife could well find out that she loves the lifestyle in Canada and would want to continue living there. Give it a go – there's nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Susan Warren

Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Think more than twice

I'm with your wife on this one. If you want to live in Canada, a country with wide open spaces, then remember that those spaces are covered with snow for several months of the year, the temperatures so cold that your children will be cooped up for weeks on end. Each time they go out your wife will have to endure having to put many layers of clothing on to keep them safely warm. Think more than twice before making the decision. The grass may look greener, but in Canada you won't see it for months on end!

Name and address supplied

Canada isn't perfect

I am a British-born Canadian-trained doctor recently returned from 17 years in Canada. Overall both Britain and Canada offer a good quality of life for a doctor. But please be aware of the following in Canada that you might not have considered: the litigation rate for doctors is high in comparison. I am the only one of my peers who has not yet been sued. You will encounter gun crime. Drugs are just as prevalent among youth as here. Educational standards are variable, with many parents choosing to home school.

It is also hard to know what is going on with your relatives if they are 6,000 miles away. I have missed the funerals of two close relatives. My spouse stayed at home with the children, and felt isolated. It takes time to put down roots. My suggestion is to go for a one-year trial.

Dr Jan Hammond

By email

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