Sam Mednick is a professional life and executive coach based in Barcelona (www.blueprintcoaching.ca). A Canadian native, she’s been living in the city for eight years working with companies as well as individuals focusing on transitions, communication, leadership training, time management and productivity, as well as emotional intelligence development. For more coaching tips, tune into her Podcast.
THIS MONTH: SHEDDING THE GUILT
I’m originally from the States, yet I’ve lived abroad most of my life. I’ve spent the last two decades in Barcelona and I adore everything about it. I married a Catalan and we now have two kids and live in a beautiful house just outside of Alella. All in all, I’ve never once questioned my decision to move here, until now. Recently, I can’t seem to shake this feeling of guilt that seeps in every time I see or speak to my parents back home. Although they’re in good shape and quite ‘young’ for their age (in their seventies) I know that time is ticking. Every visit gets harder and I’m starting to question the decision I made so many years ago. Am I a bad son? Should I move back and spend their remaining years with them? Any advice would be welcome as I’m quite torn at the moment.
Hi Guilt Ridden,
This is a hard one and it’s a predicament that most of us struggle with at some point in our ‘expat careers’. When we’re younger we can look at our parents and think that they’re going to live forever. As they get older, however, something of a reality check sinks in, one that can often force us to re-evaluate our lives and the choices we’re making.
Last year I made a point of spending a month in Toronto with my family, instead of the usual seven to ten days. It was only an extra few weeks, but something about it made me feel more at ease, as I had started feeling the same way you do—that time will eventually run out.
The answer to your question is a very personal one and ultimately only you know what will give you peace of mind. The key, however, is knowing what you need in order to come to a place where you can be at ease with your decision.
One of the best ways to do this is to have a very real conversation with yourself. Coaching is all about questions, so here are a few that will hopefully shed light on what’s important to you, where you’re currently at and what you need in order to live as guilt-free as possible.
Is this a case of should or want? As you explore this, I’d challenge you to remove all ‘shoulds’ from the equation. There are too many moments in life when we adhere to things that we think are expected of us rather than what we actually want to do. When you ask the question: ‘Should I move back and be with them for their remaining years?’, make sure you’re clear on what is motivating your decisions.
What is the source of your guilt? Is this self-inflicted? For example, did your parents say something to trigger this or did a specific incident occur? The more you’re able to understand where it’s coming from, the better you’ll be able to act on it and diffuse the feeling.
What’s important to you at this stage in your life? Once you figure this out, it’ll be easier to navigate hard decisions. If being surrounded by family is on the list, then that tells you something. If quality of life and furthering your career is the goal, then that might propel you in another direction. This is a hard one to answer for most of us, as it’s not something we always take the time to think about. To make it easier, I sometimes ask people to write down their truths—things they know to be true in their lives at the current moment. This often helps to break it down in terms of what’s important.
What will it take for you to be at peace with this? Remember, it’s not always so black and white. The answer might not be whether to stay or to go, it might be somewhere in the middle. It could be a lifestyle adjustment, like making more trips home, or a small daily change such as calling more often. Ask yourself what you need in order to be OK with this and then take action on your decisions.
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