Monday 18 February 2019

Victoria White: Tears at school as another family leaves to follow the money

A CHILD in my children's school is having a party this week. There will be buns and orange and balloons, but behind the fun there's a sad twist. None of the children is coming back in September. The whole family is leaving Ireland.

At first I was jealous. They're going to live in a wonderful European city. I would sell my granny to have a weekend break there. But my children were full of pity.

"Imagine doing that to your kids," said my eldest. "Taking them out of their school and making them leave all their friends. Then, just when they're settled, making them leave all their friends again and come back to Ireland."

They don't have any choice if they're going to keep the family together. It's not that they can't find work. But the dad works for a global company which has decided it could be more competitive with a mainland headquarters. They would be closer to their markets and there would be more flights out.

The fact that the children want to graduate from primary school with their class is not on the agenda.

It's nearly always men who rise in global companies because they're more prepared to leave their families, or they feel they have no choice.

When they're transferred because a new market has opened up or more competitive headquarters have been found, their families have to uproot or split up.

But the human cost doesn't ever figure on the balance sheet of the company. And there is a huge human cost because children don't do global. A child's world is small. It's about a stable home and a close circle of friends.


Most children want everything to stay the same until they're adults. Just growing up is hard enough.

But business is going global and Ireland is one of the most globalised countries in the world. That's not going to change any time soon, even if our own economy improves. It's just the way the world economy works nowadays.

Nobody ever thinks about the heart-breaking choices families often have to make: which do the children need more, their home or their dad?

Another family in the school tried splitting up. Mam was a global widow, home alone for six weeks at a time while her husband worked in construction in the Middle East.

It's only going to be a few years, but they're the last few years of the kids' childhood. So the whole family is moving to the Middle East this summer and the children's reactions range from excited to stunned to devastated.

Some of them may thank their parents in years to come for the opportunity they had to live abroad. Some of them may not. One thing's for sure, it will be too late to do anything about it.

These are the questions another mam is asking herself. All of the opportunities in her husband's business have moved to another part of Ireland and he had to move with them.

She tried staying in Dublin and splitting up the family. The kids missed their father, but he missed them even more. He hated living on his own in a miserable bachelor pad.

So they uprooted the family and moved away with him. But the children couldn't settle in school. One night she left her computer on and one of the children wrote on it: "S.O.S., Mam, get us out of here."

Their school in Dublin held their places open for a year, but their mam has to decide whether to let them go or not by the end of this week. And she can't. She wants to do the best by her children, by her husband, by her elderly mother in Dublin, and she also wants to keep bread on the table. She doesn't know what to do.

All these families are lucky because they have work. They know these decisions are not a matter of life or death. But it does feel like it, some of the time.

And the thing that worries me is that the entire world economy seems to built around forgetting that families need to stay together.

"The whole world is your family now," writes one groupie on a website for globalised families.

Try telling that to a small child crying herself to sleep because she misses her dad, her home, her friends or her dog.

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