When Searching for The American Dream Prompts You to Leave America

My conclusion is that economics were the biggest driver of the moves.

When Searching for The American Dream Prompts You to Leave America
My latest feature for Romper

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This week, I published a piece in Romper about parents who’ve taken the leap to move their families abroad, as they seek out a version of the American dream elsewhere. I spoke with three moms who moved from North Carolina to Germany, Texas to Nigeria, and Florida to the Azores in Portugal. What I heard loud and clear from these conversations was that they were seeking communities that share more of their values. Right wing politics, racism and gun violence in the US were major concerns. Dana Publicover told me, “we had [anti-semetic] bomb threats called in to our kids’ Jewish preschool, which was something that really shook me,” she remembers. “I had started to consider pulling them out and putting them in public school, but then I thought, okay, well then in public school, they're gonna get shot. Do I want them to have a potential bomb or do I want them to get shot?” Grim.

The families I spoke to were also seeking better access to care infrastructure (like more affordable childcare and healthcare) and a more reasonable cost of living. My conclusion is that economics were the biggest driver of the moves. The difficulty of securing the trappings of what Americans still think of as a middle-class lifestyle, like homeownership, the ability to take vacations, and not feeling bankrupted by childcare and healthcare costs are really what spurred people the most.  Definitely check out their stories in the full article in Romper, which also includes tips about what to actually consider if you want to make a move like this yourself.

What prompted me to report this article was very much my own emotional reaction to the Uvalde shooting earlier this year. On the night of that tragedy, like many mothers I know, I lay in my bed, alternating between doom-scrolling and crying. Each detail I read about the horrific massacre was worse than the last. I could barely breathe as I thought about how nothing had changed after Sandy Hook. After Parkland. After countless others. I thought about dropping my own kid off at elementary school the next day. I decided to give myself a break from the throbbing pain in my chest. “I don’t want to live like this.” I kept thinking over and over.  I closed the New York Times home screen and googled, “Is Ireland a good place to raise kids?”

Since Uvalde, there have been several more horrific mass shootings in this country, and it’s depressing to realize how much they all blend together. I admit I did some fantasy-googling after speaking to Victoria Wilson, who moved to the enchanting-sounding Portuguese islands of the Azores, which are a mid-Atlantic Archipelago. I also have to admit that learning about the European childcare subsidies was practically erotic. “It only costs HOW much???”

But I haven’t kept up my personal “Escape America” research that I started after Uvalde. I think there’s a couple of reasons for that, and writing this article illuminated some of those realities for my personal situation. So here’s why I’m sticking with America, for now.

  1. We are VERY settled here in Durham, NC. We relocated here about five years ago from NYC and have invested a ton of time and energy into new friendships and community building.
  2. All of the grandparents are here. We are fortunate that our three living parents are in good health in their 70s. We live close to them now and moving away at this stage seems wildly impractical.
  3. We feel OKish about our medium-term financial outlook. I do have legitimate anxieties about paying for college for all three kids and our retirement, but those economic concerns aren’t immediate enough to prompt an international move.
  4. I feel something better than a blinding pit of despair about politics and direction of the country? This is somewhat hard to describe. I have PLENTY of concerns about American democracy, the Supreme Court, future elections bringing fascists to power, reproductive rights, unsustainable inequality, the effects of climate change etc etc etc.... BUT perhaps the Biden presidency and the relatively good outcome of the midterms has brought down my daily sense of panic. After the first Trump presidency and the pandemic, I I'm giving myself a slight break from constant feelings of political doom.

Earlier this year, I asked Double Shift members to share their thoughts about leaving America. There were many insightful responses, including facing the reality of how hard it can be to dramatically upend your life and your kids’ lives with an international move. For tomorrow's members-only thread, I’ll ask Double Shift members an adjacent question: How are you feeling about the direction of America right now? If you want to get in on this convo, become a member of the Double Shift. It starts at $7/mo.

Friends, I’m going to be taking the rest of the year off from the regular newsletter, although members may be getting an extra prompt towards the end of the month.

I wish you all peace and strength and a happy new year.

Looking across the pond: Completely fascinated and full of mixed feelings about this New York Times article about this 130-year-old, four-year college for Nannies for Britain’s elite.

Säd Beige Chüldren: This Instagram account, dedicated to all things beige, has me in stitches. I particularly like her Werner Herzog narration of children's clothing catalogs.

Yum?!: This December is nuts for me, so can someone please make these Latke cookies and tell me how they turn out?

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