After all, this is a story about respect… And love…
We would like to start by disclosing that the reason why we are late “submitting” our story to Hugo is because we did not know exactly which title we should give it…
In fact, the story we share here is not about career management, it is not about how to build a solid marriage, it is not about children education, it is not about expectation management and it is not about skill building… It is, in fact, a story about respect and love!
So, besides the fact we still do not know which title we should give it, we will tell you “how” and “why” we have been living and working in different countries, with kids travelling back and forward between Germany, Switzerland and Portugal and what we have been getting out of this experience!
Setting the scene…
Since 2014, both my work and Andre’s work are based in different European countries. We have a social and personal life in two different cities. And we are on the way, if everything goes well, to have our third child in October 2021, so in the verge of another change. We both work in international companies and have held roles of increasing responsibility across local, regional, and global operations. Our daughters have lived in 3 countries, always simultaneously in 2, and if you are asking “What about school and childcare?” … Yes, we were always lucky to find great people that fell in love with our family and became part of our story and our children’s story too! We always picked one country to base the school and whenever we are in the “second home country”, we get creative and we transform museums, parks, dance and music courses into some sort of daily occupation for our daughters that replaces the school and expands her horizons! We have to say that we have been lucky with the schools. We always found teachers and educators who believe, besides their young age, that exploring the World with their parents and being constantly exposed to new and different experiences is shaping them as more flexible and open human beings with broad horizons!
So how did it all start? (written by Madalena)
This was a critical moment of our life as a couple! We had decided we would only embark on an international career if it was the right time for the both of us. A couple of weeks later we took this decision, I came back from work and told Andre – “I have accepted a job in Basel”. I honestly do not know what crossed his mind and what was the exercise he had to make to give the answer he gave me, in less than 5min – “Ok, let’s try!”
Moving to Berlin with a 1-month old baby, Andre takes on a leadership role in a Global structure… Madalena commutes to Basel on a weekly basis… (written by Andre)
Children change our life. Carmo, our youngest, led the way to indefinitely change who we are and what we value in life. This would always happen, no matter the country, the age, or the setting of our family. What made everything different was the fact that we moved to Berlin with a 1-month old baby, our 1st child, together with my first international assignment and Madalena commuting to Basel, while immersing in a new city like Berlin. All together made it one of the most important, challenging, and rough, but at the same time, rewarding moments of our life. Learning to be parents, to manage careers, to coordinate all my international travelling across all continents, with Madalena’s weekly commutes to Basel, ensuring that we were also taking care of us as couple, of our professional challenges, leaving enough space to our differences to solve themselves while building common dreams – that was Berlin. Usually I say, I love Berlin, but it would have been even more amazing if it was a couple of years before. But in fact, maybe Berlin became special because of all of that, and not despite all of that. If forced us to take mutual respect and appreciation to a whole new level and made it very clear that the only way to actually enjoy it was to ensure that “what we wanted and needed” was always before “what I wanted and needed”. These shaped me and Madalena not only personally, but also professionally in a very profound way and it became a competitive advantage in the context we operate professionally. Be confident to always focus on the collective, at a very early stage of your career, is very powerful.
Second child, Andre with a new assignment back in Portugal, leaving Berlin and making Switzerland our (new) second home country, during a pandemic… (written by Madalena)
Luz, our second child is used to commute between Portugal and Switzerland, for periods of two to three months, since she is 4 months old. Being a mother for the second time does not make the decision to continue to split your life between different countries any easier… There are no excuses, you know what is at stake, you know “what you will miss” and the “challenges” you will face. Being very clear about the “gains” and “opportunities” you want to provide to your family is crucial and that becomes your most important measuring tool. This new chapter of our life made it very clear to us that “roots are state of mind”. Setting your roots needs to be a conscious decision and you need to find your way to stay true to it. And, it is much more profound than what your passport says, the nationality of your parents, or where you buy a house… Andre and I are Portuguese, our children are Portuguese nationals and we need to accept if one day they want to “set their roots” somewhere else. However, in the meanwhile our roots are in Portugal and that is a choice. No matter how many times we travel, that feeling of belonging to a specific place in the World is crucial for the healthy growth of children. How you provide this feeling needs to be discussed, agreed, and planned within the family.
Measure, measure, measure, and measure again, the impact of our decision, became key to understand if it was worth continuing and what we wanted to change, (if anything), in our set up!
The other crucial learning was to be naturally flexible, not forcibly flexible. Teach children to be flexible and adaptable has a different result versus training them to act in a flexible way, when it is needed! This took time, several attempts and you cannot stop exercising it…
Switzerland became our “getaway place” as a family and that is a privilege to have a home (second home in this case) where you can shape your “core family” to become what you want it to be, but still have the joy of the company of your parents and grandparents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends!
I do not need to speak about the impact this has on our professional lives and how much we use it in our daily jobs, while interacting with teams and colleagues!
How did we make it work so far? And what’s next? (written by the couple)
Our decisions have permitted us to deeply appreciate, care and respect each other! We have created a healthy chain of constantly owing “to the other” the ability to fulfill our own dreams and live the experiences we always wanted to live, while being responsible for each other’s success in our professional lives.
We were saved by having elevated mutual respect and appreciation to the level of the things that really matter. And always answer “YES, LET’S TRY” before saying “NO” to a new challenge!
Behind all of what we shared, there is a deep belief that this is “our way”. There is no recipe for success, we found something that works for us and probably that is the exercise. Find what works for you and your family but do it with dedication and open heart.
Hope you enjoyed our story and that it encourages you to believe that it is possible to write yours and go on unimaginable adventures if you try.
Finally, every child has brought us a change… We are eager to find out what’s next!
P.S – It is a boy!
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