Guilt in leaving parents and moving abroad

by on November 10, 2010

in Stories

I am 32 years old, an only child born abroad and now living in the UK. Happily married to a man much older than me and enjoying bringing up my two young children. My parents still live abroad. I text my mum everyday and we speak on the phone once a week. Part of me is happy with the decision I made while another part cannot shake off the feeling of guilt.

Back home, over 10 years ago, I felt I was just a ‘background’, an attachment to their life, a bit of a nuisance – they were pursuing their careers and filled their spare time with gardening and other ‘useful’ things. Things had to have their purpose, not much room for fun. They chose not to have a second child – and perhaps they still think it was a good choice, or maybe they regret it now, as they are on their own.

Having read a lot about only children recently, I think that I am quite a typical one. Independent, tidy, polite, enjoying my own company, but also sociable and active. Responsible – and perhaps sometimes taking on too much
that I can cope with.

Choosing an older husband, apart from falling in love, probably originated from being used to company of adults. My greatest worry is that things will start going wrong with both my husband and my parents at the same time and I will not be able to be in Poland and England at the same time. Another thing that makes my life difficult is always trying to please and meet other people’s expectations, even before they even verbalise them. That comes from always trying to meet my parents expectations, even if they did not say anything. But things were always assumed. So I am glad that I am too far away to follow the routine – that
used to make me really unhappy in my early 20ties. I feel quilty about my parents not being able to see their grandchildren more often.

I live a life very different to my old one. It’s a busy, happy, noisy household, full of my kids, their playmates, my stepdaughters and their nomadic groups of friends and international students we host. Still, sometimes I have the need to hide and I cherish quiet moments I’ve got tomyself. I wish I could get rid of the feeling of guilt though and stopped trying so hard to meet other people’s expectations. There is this anger in me bubbling underneath the surface and it comes from not being brave enough to express my needs. This evolves from always trying to contradict the stereotype that only children are selfish.

  • Anonymous

    I am a 42-year-old only child also living abroad away from my parents and your post struck a chord with me. I feel an overwhelming sense of guilt being away from them that at times becomes physically debilitating. Unlike your experience of being in the `background’, I was most certainly in the `foreground’ for my parents the entire time. To the point of feeling suffocated and smothered. I have always said they love me too much and I even remember years ago asking them to just ignore me. This has led me to become almost physically ill when thinking of making decisions they might not agree with. Even at my age, happily married with 2 beautiful kids, I become scared when I think of taking a decision that my parents, especially my father, doesn’t agree with. I have realized that them and I cannot be happy at the same time and now I actually want to give in and just do whatever will please them as the emotional drainage of not doing that is not worth it. My parents have always expected that they would be involved in my life even after marriage, that my husband and I will consult them and listen to them on every decision we make, that they would bring up my kids. I think they remain stunned and haven’t quite recovered when we moved away more than 10 years ago.

    Like you, I feel that I am `independent, tidy, polite, enjoying my own company, but also sociable and active. Responsible – and perhaps sometimes taking on too much
    that I can cope with’. Having said that I live with this deep sense of guilt every single day.

    And like you I crave and cherish solituted and having some time to myself. One of the good things of being an only child is that we are comfortable and enjoy our own company.

    It’s good to read about other people with similar experiences as often I feel alone in my feelings.

  • Kellytubbie

    Hi, I stumbled across this site after doing a google search to see if there was any possibility that anyone might feel like me.  I’m a 41 yo ‘only’ living in a different city to my parents.  My partner’s parents live in the same city and he has told me he doesn’t want to live near them, which means it’s unlikely I’ll live near my parents as they become more elderly.  I carry so much guilt about not being there with them and for them, especially when they become frail.  Having to choose between living with my partner or caring for my aging parents was/is a choice I never want/ed to make.  My parents have always let me do what I want, and explore and live where I want, but I know that they would love to have me nearer in a second.  I would also dearly love that too, but also love my partner and the life we’ve created interstate.  Most of the time I get caught up in my life and it supresses the feelings, but sometimes the guilt and sadness overwhelms me and I fear I’ll lose one or the other.  I hate the idea of having to make a choice.

  • Laura

    I just found your post while trying to do some research. I’m a 30 year old single child who is about to move from England to California with my fiancé, and by doing so will be leaving my single dad behind! I have always wanted to live in another country and I think there is a part of my dad that has always known that. He’s known for the 5 years that I’ve been with my fiancé that moving to California would be on the cards (that’s where he is from originally), I just don’t think any of us saw it being as soon as it is! I’m super excited, but I do have this horrible feeling of guilt going. My mom died when I was 10, so until I moved out of home at 26 it was just me and my dad. And although I don’t live next door, I am only an hour and half car journey away, as opposed to being a 10 hour flight away! We are very close and he is super supportive of me and I know he would never stop me from going but I do feel really bad!
    I speak to him every week on the phone at least once, and obviously that will continue while I’m gone. Video chat also will help, but still – it’s not quite the same as him coming round with the dogs for a Sunday visit :(

    • Natalie V

      I was so happy to read your post. I am an 29 year old only child. With a goal to move to LA before my 30th Birthday. I would have moved ages ago. But my only child mother and her parents…my nan and grandad still all live here. But that is as big as my family goes. Then
      there is my dad who lives in San Francisco. Again an only child. I am terrified at the thought of one day it will only be me left and if I go to LA I will have never ending guilt that I left my mother. After ALL she has done for me as my dad left her for LA when I was 6 months old. And I feel ironically I would be doing the same thing. 30 years later. So ive put my dreams on hold to fear of guilt and missing out on precious time with my mum. Who is my everthing. But for that reason thats why I feel I should do it to. To learn and know I can live independently. And what its like for her to not be around as one day that will happen.

      I hope all has worked out great in California. :) how does ur dad find it…

  • Debbie

    I’ve had this guilt, but thankfully my parents made everything to assure me that they are OK, so I can be happy. I guess I just got lucky! Best wishes, my website

  • Kirausa Maria ♡

    I’ve been thinking about trying living overseas in a couple of years, and even when my brother also lives with my mom, I feel guilty about leaving home. My mom says she’ll be ok as long as I’m happy, but she gets worrysick even when I go out for a while. I also suffer of anxiety disorder since age 28, and became very dependent of her for some years, so I’m not sure if I can go far from her without feeling alone myself and feeling like I also abandoned her. I want to try living overseas but I’m scared that the anxiety for feeling alone and leaving my mother will make me get sick again. Have you felt the same? Thank you.

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