Humanitarian, governmental, and religious organizations sending people abroad don’t always have the best interest of their internationally-located staff in mind. They think they do. They hope they do. Even (I think) many of them try to. But they are organizations, based back in the United States. They are staffed by people who have no idea of on-the-ground realities or of the nuance of daily life in a specific location. They think about broad vision, finances, promoting their brand, infrastructure, leadership categories, bureaucracy. There are policies in place, sometimes for decades, and no one can remember why they exist but they continue to be followed without criticism.
This can lead to decisions being delivered down from on high, or from back ‘home’, or from some western place, that make little sense to the person working on the ground. Some questionable decision include things like:
*requiring a family to switch countries in the middle of the school year for no articulated reason or an articulated reason that does not bear up under scrutiny
*splitting up husbands and wives, and by extension, kids. Dad has to keep one job but mom is moved on to another.
*requiring a furlough or a training time right in the middle of a school year
*controlling, from thousands of miles away, what year a kid can start school or what school they can attend
*trying to regulate medical care and insurance problems by issuing broad decrees
*single people being forced into unhealthy roommate situations
*single people being viewed as more easily moved about from country to country or job to job
I do believe that organizations have the best interest of their staff in mind, in theory. And I know they are dealing with hundreds, if not thousands of staff, each with unique concerns and situations. Which is exactly why the point of this post is to say: you have to fight for your family.
That means for your kids and also for your marriage. Don’t take what an organization tells you at face value. Ask questions, present your opinion, make your actual situation known, don’t let a faceless office push and pull your family without some pushing back. You might not be able to change someone’s mind about a decision but at least your family will know you are fighting for them.
Don’t simply accept the response: “But children are resilient/They will bounce back from a ruined senior year of high school/If they are with you, that’s the only home they’ll ever need/God can heal every wound…”
While true, sometimes and sometimes through trauma that may have been avoided, these are lazy excuses if slapped over unwise decisions like band-aids.
Your kids (marriage, self) are also vulnerable, sensitive, and have unique needs (health, social, mental, spiritual, academic). Be aware of those and strive to be wise stewards of them.
This applies to singles as well. Fight for yourself, for your family relationships in your home country or the family you have formed in your host country.
Even when your organization does, truly, have your best interests at heart, you need to be the one to make and protect good decisions for yourself, your marriage, and your kids. If you want to stay abroad long term and want to maintain health and raise a healthy family, be proactive.
How have you prioritized your family as you live and work abroad?