I am considering relocating back to Baltimore. I’ve been in Miami for three years and I’m over it. My job here is fine, but there’s really no growth potential. My mom is not in the best of health and I’d like to move back home to help her out, and to be closer to the friends I grew up with. My wife doesn’t love it here either but says we should stay put and not rock the boat in an economy like this one. What’s the right way to go here?


What I love about your question is that you’re asking it now, before you relocate, so that you can really think this through from a few angles. So many people write to me after they have relocated to find the new situation wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, and feel trapped by a choice made too quickly and possibly for the wrong reasons. The more planning you can do on the front end, the more likely it is that you’ll find success upon arrival.

The first step is to think about why you left Baltimore in the first place. You can go home again, but it’s important to understand what it was that initially drove you to other areas. Did you simply want to escape your neighborhood and see other lands? Did your company move you? What choices landed you in Miami? What was your greatest disappointment about making that move? What do you wish you had done differently?

Next, think about the moves that followed. What pattern do you see, if any? I have a friend who moves every four years. He just gets bored and restless and can’t seem to settle down anywhere. A thirst for adventure? Maybe. An inability to commit to any one place or person? Likely.

If you find yourself relocating every time you get bored with work, maybe it’s the career path – not the job – that leaves you wanting more.

It’s also critical to abandon the “going home” fantasy. You’re not a little boy anymore, and there are no cowboy sheet-covered bunk beds waiting for you. Sometimes we are too idealistic when it comes to thoughts of home because we tend to only focus on the good stuff, and often naively so. “This will be great. My parents can help out with the kids, I can reconnect with all my old friends, and I’ll have the closeness of family back.”

Then you return to find that your parents have their own lives and aren’t interested in playing full-time nanny service. Or, in your case, you may find the idea of caring for your mother to be more than you bargained for, depending on how ill she is. While I applaud your desire to help the wonderful woman who brought you into this world, the reality of doctor’s appointments, help around her house, and the overall care of an aging and ill parent can become a full time job in and of itself. Talk with your spouse ahead of time about this. Is she prepared to help out, or to manage other household/childcare responsibilities while you are helping Mom? Caretaking can strain the strongest of marriages, so try to evaluate this from many angles.

And those old friends? Before the Cheers theme song starts playing in your head, remember that all of the people on that show sat around a bar all night. Your friends have created lives and softball teams and book clubs and group vacation plans that don’t involve you, so re-entry can prove quite awkward. Worse yet, you may come back to find that you have nothing in common any more with these people and that you wouldn’t want your kids anywhere near the nightmares your old buddies call their offspring.

And with the “closeness of family” comes a strong reminder of why you left in the first place. Your sister’s shameless requests for cash. Your mother’s hysteria. Your father’s love of the drink. When it comes to embracing the family, don’t forget the dysfunction factor when fantasizing about the Hallmark moments that surely await you.

Your wife is right that it’s not the ideal time to make a move, but staying in a job you don’t love and a city you don’t like has its own associated risks. Risk of burnout. Risk of depression. Risk of settling into a life you don’t want.

And speaking of your wife, how would this move back home impact her? Her work? Her interests? Her joy? Just because she doesn’t love Miami doesn’t mean she adores Baltimore. Don’t assume anything; ask her. Because “if mama ‘aint happy, ‘aint nobody happy.”

Also, consider your timing. It may not be a question of if you’ll move back, but rather, when you’ll move back. If you wait one more year, for instance, the economy will be more stable. Johnny will be entering middle school, thus making the transition easier on him. And you’ll have plenty of time to get your ducks in a row for a solid job search.

Assuming you’ve considered all of these personal realities and coming home is still the choice you want to make, you have to then consider the potential job-related realities.

“First one in, first one out” is a well-known saying for a reason, meaning that your lack of longevity with the company could mean you’re the first one to go should layoffs come calling. Relocation packages are dwindling, and your benefits could be cut a month into the job.

Now is the time to get pro-active with your plan. Dust off the old resume, and get cracking on the classifieds. But don’t stop there…research the companies in Baltimore you’d ideally like to work for, find a contact name, reach out and explain your situation. You’ll come off as a go-getter who plans ahead and thinks things through, which is what employers look for.

Check in with old contacts and see what colleagues they may have in Charm City. Get logged on to social networking. Clean up your credit report. Draft a realistic timeline. Have a garage sale and get rid of non-essentials.

Get the boat ready, and set your sails for success. When the time is right, we’ll all come down to the harbor and welcome you home.