I’m not going to say it went perfectly.
Just over a year ago, Jammie and I sat down with her dad and two brothers to give them the news that we had both handed in our resignations and were leaving on a 12-month service and travel trip around the world. It easily ranks as one of my most-dreaded conversations EVER (As a Swede in a Filipino family, there has been a steep learning curve on what to say and how to say it – see my last post for some of my lessons learned)… Here’s how we did it:
I practiced on my parents first – Since my own parents raised me all over the world, I decided to break the news to them first. They were pretty good about it although there was definitely a little resistance to the idea of giving up good jobs for travel and freelancing. The Swedish “hands off” approach to parenting adult kids made the conversation fairly easy. Having done it once, I geared up for round 2…
Timing, timing, timing – Since Jammie’s parents lived 8 hours away from us (as opposed to on a different continent like my parents), we decided that we were goings to tell them in person. Luckily, we had a reason to drive down to them (A LARGE family wedding). We waited until about two hours after the wedding before dropping the bomb.
Group Dynamics – We gathered Jammie’s dad and two brothers around the table in the formal dining room that hardly ever gets used, took a deep breath and went for it. “We have some big news…” Everyone tensed up…. “We’ve done a lot of thinking and planning and…” Yikes, this was harder than our practice sessions in the car on the drive down… “We have handed in our job resignations and we are going to be traveling around the world and doing service projects for a year.” THERE! We said it!!
Charts and Projections – I pivoted quickly to the prep we’d done for the move. I knew that a Filipino dad was going to be very no-nonsense about practicalities, i.e. just how did we plan on surviving? So we talked about finances – how we’d saved up and found other ways to make money. We talked about why we were doing this – the year was supposed to be an idea and relationship harvest for the future. We wanted to make international connections for future career moves.
Prepared Answers – I’d done a lot of prepping for how to respond to family concerns and objections. And sure enough, there were some (although, not a lot, surprisingly): I had info on what the cost of living would be in the countries we were visiting. I had planned a lot to make sure that career-wise, this trip would enhance my marketability rather than hurt my resume and I made sure everyone heard this.
Being real – We talked about risk. The cities we were visiting were generally safer than your average American city. Jammie’s dad made Jammie promise she wasn’t going to do any crazy exploring of back alleys on her own.
Wrap-up – As the conversation wound down we thanked everyone. Amazingly, everyone gave us their blessing. We got out without too much lingering. All things considered, things had gone well and we breathed a sigh of relief.
Final word – We were actually surprised by how easy most of our “we’re leaving” conversations turned out to be. If you are planning on breaking big news to family, I think my big takeaway would be: be prepared but don’t over-think it. It is hard to predict how it will go but don’t delay the talk because of imagined disastrous outcomes. The most important thing thing is that you actually have the conversation.