Generation Emigration

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens abroad

We were a typical middle-class Irish family but fell victim to the recession

Ruth Barrett O’Sullivan who followed her husband to Saudi Arabia last summer with their three children, was interviewed by Ciara Kenny as part of the Irish Times’ Squeezed Middle series this week.

Sat, Feb 11, 2012, 12:25

   

Ruth Barrett O’Sullivan who followed her husband to Saudi Arabia last summer with their three children, was interviewed by Ciara Kenny as part of the Irish Times’ Squeezed Middle series this week.

Ruth with her husband Jer and kids Roisin, Paul and Ailbhe

Ruth with her husband Jer and kids Roisin, Paul and Ailbhe

Myself and my husband Jer got married in the hazy days of the Celtic Tiger in 2007. I am a secondary school teacher and he is an engineer, so we were both in that middle-income bracket, a typical suburban family.

We planned to work and live in Limerick city for a few years and save enough money to relocate to the country. We used to speak sometimes about moving to the south of France, where we could work part time and enjoy a relaxed life. Moving to somewhere like Saudi Arabia was definitely not in the plan.

Jer’s firm started downsizing in 2009, and he was eventually let go in August 2010. We knew for more than a year that his contract wouldn’t be renewed, and the chances of finding other work in Ireland were slim. When his contract came to an end, we had already done a lot of research about options abroad.

In the meantime, my own wages were going down and down. There was no way I could have supported a family of five and pay the mortgage on my income alone.

We cut back on our spending, but the cost of our car and health insurance went up, and necessities like petrol were also getting more expensive. Every extra bit of money we had after paying the mortgage every month was going on these things. We had some money set aside for a rainy day, but not enough to last through a recession.

It was a difficult time then. It is a huge worry, not knowing what is coming when someone else is calling the shots. With all the cutbacks, we felt like we had no control.

Jer moved to Saudi Arabia in search of work in September 2010. I was expecting our third baby when he left, and took maternity leave. We spent almost a year living on different continents, and after our third child was born in April, we decided it was time for us all to be together again. I took a career break from work and joined him in August last year.

We now live together in a secure compound in Riyadh, and have a much better quality of life than we would have at home. There are four playgrounds to choose from in the compound, we have access to swimming pools, a gym, a cinema and a restaurant. The weather is fantastic, and there’s lots of organised activities for the kids. We have made friends with families from all over the world.  It is very different to Limerick, but overall, we are very happy.

The recession separated our family for a year, but we are together again and that is what is most important to us. We are not necessarily looking at this as a permanent move, but we have no plans to go home any time soon. We have nothing to go home to.

Ruth wrote a piece for Generation Emigration about her move before Christmas. Read it here.

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