We're now more than half-way through our contract and it's time to start thinking about what we're going to do once our project is finished. Do we try to stay on here in the Netherlands with another project? Or do we return to the States?
If you'd asked me a year ago, I would have said in a heartbeat that I wanted to go back. Now I'm not so sure, and I'm thinking about it all the time. There are so many different factors to consider and so much at stake; this is definitely one of the most difficult decisions we've ever had to make.
In no particular order, here are a smattering of the thoughts running through my head.
- I really like being able to work part-time and stay home with Aldus part-time. When I think about what it would have been like to continue trying to work full-time (and especially to commute between Ann Arbor and Detroit) and have Aldus in daycare 45 hours a week, I think I would have been miserable.
- We took a big pay cut moving here, but we've been able to "get by." Health care has been affordable. Day care has been affordable. I don't know whether or not we could get by if I worked part time or didn't work at all in the States. Maybe. Maybe not.
- However, part of the reason we've been "getting by" is that our spending is completely different here, and it's not an apples-to-apples comparison:
- We're not saving for retirement here.
- We're not investing in the kinds of things that helped to make Ann Arbor "home" - house, yard & garden, organizations, church, community. There's little spending, but also little emotional investment.
- There's nowhere to spend our money here for "quality of life" things. (We rarely go out to eat, there are no gourmet food or wine stores, there's no coffee and pastries on the way to the dog park on the weekends. There's no dog park membership, Michigan Theater membership, taekwondo classes, etc.)
- The health care and day care here is much more affordable. They're practically paying us to have Aldus go to day care 25 hours a week.
- We own a "disposable" car. If it dies before we have to leave, replacing it is going to put a big hit on our finances.
- The Netherlands is a good place to raise a child. And we would like for Aldus to grow up with an international perspective with exposure to different cultures, languages, etc.
- If Aldus grows up in the Netherlands, it'll be in a very ethnically and socio-economically homogeneous environment.
- Raising Aldus in the Netherlands means that he'll have very little exposure to his Korean heritage. If we go back to Ann Arbor, we would probably do taekwondo as a family, potentially join a Korean church, and definitely get Aldus enrolled in some Korean classes and/or summer camps. If we move elsewhere in the U.S., I'm not sure what the situation will be.
- The U.S. seems to be headed into a recession. While it would be a good time to buy a house, it's a very scary time to look for jobs and be in Michigan.
- It can get very lonely here, at least for me. We have a good group of acquaintances from the office, people we can play football with and have dinner with. But I have no girlfriends here. No one to confide in except for Charles. And I don't see that situation changing.
- 650 miles from grandparents is a lot closer than 4500 miles from grandparents. Not to mention aunts and uncles and cousins and Cho's and Hofers and Coffee Housers and knitters...
This isn't an exhaustive list. And it's a little random and rambling. But it's sort of representative of the current state of my brain at the moment. But it helps a little to get it in writing and attempt to put it in some semblance of order.
Additional thoughts, comments and perspectives on living in the American rat race and raising children there are welcome and appreciated.