From the dc's POV - what works best...?

(23 Posts)
Acinonyx Thu 18-Mar-10 10:03:56

The contrast between these two posts from 'Living the dream' sums up our dilemma over whether to go overseas again or not:

''you wont damage your child, you'll give them an amazing childhood and probably give them greater understanding of the world than growing up in an English village.''

''Nowhere is home in an emotional sense for me.''

I just don't know which is best for her. She's a shy child who doesn't make new friends easily and is quite emotionally vulnerable. OTOH, she is a good traveller and likes to see new things and stay in new places. She is 5 this summer and in reception.

Although I am only first generation Enlish myself, I have a strong attachment to my home town which I usually visit once a year. Dh moved many times in the US, and didn't like having to start new schools.

But while I was actually growing up I thought where we lived was fantastically dull and suburban and never saw myself living in that kind of place. And I didn't - until now. We live in a village. I don't completely hate it - it just feels wrong, flat, dull and as though the world has become very, very small.

Europe or USA wouldn't do it for me - it's the radically different culture, colour, sunlight - the openess of possibilities that you have when you are reasonably well-off in countries with fewer boundaries and restrictions (this doesn't really apply if you are too poor). We have lived in Africa and ME - and would like to go to Asia. Singapore, perhaps, as a compromise solution - or somewhere Dehli if we are not compromising. Dh feels the same - but he travels a lot for work so he is not as trapped as I am.

So my main concerns are - settling into new schools, and not having an emotional home to return to. I wish I had a crystal ball to tell me which path would suit dd best. Her emotional stability and security is my highest priority - this is why I have put stability above everything else. I just don't know if we really need to do that or not. If we had other children (we can't) I think we would feel differently as then she would have a sibling always moving with her, to anchor her to her past when we are gone (we are older parents - late 40s).

How have you felt about growing up overseas? Did you move around a lot or was it mainly one other country? Does that make a difference? What about bringing up dc overseas - how is working for you?

OP’s posts: |
DeirdreB Thu 18-Mar-10 10:10:47

I'm interested to hear what others have to say. We have a sensitive little boy who likes routine and think moving would be hard for him.

kreecherlivesupstairs Thu 18-Mar-10 11:52:35

Our dd is 8.10 and on her third country. We are moving again in july and she is looking forward to it. The next one will be our last, I want her settled for her senior years. IMO, as long as you don't flit around having six months here and a year there etc. your ds should be OK. Our dd is an only child to, same as OP. The problem we have at the moment is her friends live so far away from us that getting them together at weekends takes major planning.

MrIC Thu 18-Mar-10 13:09:00

Hello - I have my own log-in now! Wowsers!!

I also feel that "nowhere is home in an emotional sense" but I don't feel that this is a bad thing! Rather I feel it allows me to put aside inherited and often frankly ridiculous loyalties and points-of-view and see things from a wider perspective.

Home is where I am, where my loved ones are, where I'm happy. This has meant over 21 houses in 5 different countries and - for 8 months - a campervan that was constantly on the move between countries. Yes, I have an extended family largely centered around the Cotswolds (where I also went to boarding school) so there is a geographical area of the UK that I have constantly returned to, be it just for a few days or for a couple of years. However, my attachment is to the people that live there, rather than the place. (Incidentally, after more than 30 years of living overseas my parents returned to the Cotswolds and promptly resurrected several very old friendships - networks needn't die, especially in this age of facebook and skype.)

Of course it all depends on the child. My sister and I were never shy. But sometimes being different makes you feel special. I remember the biggest shock for me moving from a Kenyan school to an English one was that suddenly I wasn't so different - and in my mind this meant I was less special.

My sister's experience was less settled than mine - she had 5 schools and two periods of homeschooling - yet she is still in touch with friends from when she was 3 years old who will be coming to her wedding this May. She's a successful jewellery designer these days and I'm very proud of her. We're both very independent people - I think our upbringing taught us that - but our family is very close despite, on occasion, all four of us living in different countries!

phokoje Thu 18-Mar-10 13:11:38

i grew up as an expat with expat parents, as has DH.

we dont have a home country between us.

we also only have one child.

i am ADAMANT that we have to decide on a country to call home for her in the next 5 years.

to my mind, its so much harder if you dont have a country to call home.

even if you chose not to live there, a sense of identity to a culture is very very important.

if you are interested, there is a fair amount of information out there about Third Culture Kids. google it and have a look.

hope this helps.

AbsOfCroissant Thu 18-Mar-10 13:13:17

I agree with MrIC. I moved (not as a child, but as a teen), and I don't feel that I have a home (as in, an attachment to a place), but rather home is where I am and where the people I care about are. It is quite lovely, and feel it helps me to be more independent.

basildonbond Thu 18-Mar-10 13:31:14

I'm struggling with this at the moment. Dh has been working abroad on projects for 2.5 years now and has been offered a permanent post which he wants to take. This means that we could all move out with him and be together as a family again.

If it were just me and dd(7) there wouldn't be anything to think about as she's young enough to adapt easily, is a real 'joiner' so would have no problems fitting in and making friends etc and we'd have plenty of flexibility in when we came back to avoid disrupting her education as little as possible.

However ... we also have 2 boys (13 and 10), the eldest is in a fantastic school which he loves and has lots of friends, ds2 doesn't like his school at all, but only has just over a year to go there, and also has a great group of friends. My family is just round the corner as well, so they have a real relationship with their cousins/g-parents etc

I'm now trying to work out what's going to be best for everyone in the family - and i'm not sure that whatever we decide is going to work for all of us ...

How important is stability in the teenage years?

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Acinonyx Thu 18-Mar-10 13:36:32

Very interesting. I've bookmarked TCKWorld to read through later. I think I already feel like a third culture kid myself - I grew up in the UK but neither of my natural parents were English and one was Asian. Dh is American - we are already a pretty mixed bag, ethnically and culturally. I have a loose bond with the UK and Englishness - and I'm fine with that.

For some reason though, I like having a home town. I haven't lived there for 30 years and no longer have family there. I go may once a year and see some old school friends. But if there was no-one I knew left there - I would still feel it was home. I stil get something from it - some kind of rootedness - a coninuity with my past and memories (for better or worse)

Before we started settling down, I had 20 moves in 20 years in 4 countries. It seems that this kind of life suits different people differently. I worry for myself how sustainable it would be as I get older. A good friend of mine from my N Africa days had a very difficult time retiring back in the UK. But then I'm not her. Hmmm.

I just wish I knew how my dd might feel about it. She's shy, sensitive and totally non-tropical in habit and taste. But she enjoys new things, and novelty - she's very curious about stuff.

It's a real fork in the road. Maybe life overseas would be so different with dd it wouldn't be worth it for us as adults. I felt that a bit after I married dh. It's so much easier to integrate when you are single - at least that's hwo I found it. Marriage was like being in a bubble - more expat, less integrated.

OP’s posts: |
Acinonyx Thu 18-Mar-10 13:40:02

I'm also mostly concerned about secondary school/teenage years. If we go - would we ever really settle again..... ?

Tough choice Basildon. Have you discussed it with your boys or the gp? Would the gp travel to visit (dh's parents in the US will not fly at all - real pain). Could they get back to visit regularly?

Can you find out more about the school options in that country?

OP’s posts: |
phokoje Thu 18-Mar-10 14:12:31

the thing is, if you give your child a home country, they can always go travelling if/when THEY want.

its much much harder to give a child a sense of home in retrospect. if you see what i mean.

am crap at explaining!

Themasterandmargaritas Thu 18-Mar-10 19:10:21

Interesting discussion.

I grew up in the UK with a home town and now live overseas and have moved between 6 countries in 10 years. I do not miss the UK or my home town at all.

My dc have all been little whilst moving and where we are now is where we shall be for the foreseeable future. They have adapted brilliantly during each move and it hasn't affected them at all.

Dh who is a third culture kid, went to a british boarding school in Kenya, then boarding in the UK, then UK university, then army. He is much more British than I am and probably more of a settled kind of a person inspite of not having a definitive base.

So I guess I am saying that it really comes down to individual characters. What helped dh is having a stable and loving family no matter where he lived. grin

MrIC Thu 18-Mar-10 21:45:01

Sure that's a good point but travelling is NOT the same as living overseas. it's an entirely different experience

Acinonyx Thu 18-Mar-10 21:56:21

I agree that travelling is entirely different. I've always preferred living and working overseas then travelling around that region. I'm not crazy about holidays that are just holidays.

OP’s posts: |
MrIC Thu 18-Mar-10 22:15:30

sorry, got cut short thanks to DD! My above comment was in response to phokoje. Sure travelling is great but you can't compare it to living in a country (or, rather, living in another culture, which is far more important and rewarding). Although perhaps this is just some latent snobbery of mine coming through... in Kenya there were Resident rates and Tourist rates for certain things so we grew up thinking "who'd want to be a tourist!?" wink

basildonbond 13 I think is a cusp age. I've spent a lot of time working with teenagers in various ways and at 13 they are still very much a work in progress. It's still quite a young age and they are mostly happy to hang out and play with whoever is around. It's at around 15 that the social networks become seemingly really vital to them and their friends take on a whole new level of importance. (I'm not saying here that the friends you have/had at 13 are unimportant. Far from it. But simply that they are more replaceable.) Obviously all children are different, but I think most 13 year olds would swiftly adapt and quickly gain new friends. There's always Facebook and IM for staying in touch with the old ones.

Speaking from my own experience, I went to boarding school aged 12, leaving behind both my family and my Nairobi friends, and I had a great time. What are your DC's opinions on possibly moving to another country?

Acinonyx Regarding integrating and socialising as a family, we've found that children can be a huge asset in this. There's the potential interaction with other parents at schools and playgroups. Obviously it depends on the culture - here in Spain DW and I get stopped in the street by admiring spaniards if we're carrying DD in a sling - it's a great way to start up random conversations!! Naturally not every culture is so child friendly, but most are better than the Brits!! We moved here 15 months ago - we spoke no Spanish and knew no-one, but now our circle of friends includes Africans, South Americans, fellow Europeans, North Americans and, of course, Madrilenyos. Being a couple didn't slow us down at all.

phokoje Fri 19-Mar-10 07:05:39

i didnt just mean travel as a tourist. said was bad at explaining

MrIC Fri 19-Mar-10 19:40:57

there's a similar discussion going on in another section of Mumsnet which might be of interest

whiteflame Fri 19-Mar-10 19:59:37

hi acinonyx, my family moved countries several times when i was a child. i didn't mind early on, when it was all a big adventure. the first time i really objected was when i was 12, i suddenly realised that i was moving to a new place (possibly every couple of years) whether i wanted to or not. i hated saying goodbye to things i'd grown to love, and so i felt like there was no point getting involved in anything anywhere.

so from my experience, i'd say go for it at your dds age - it's now or never!

frakkinaround Sun 21-Mar-10 18:01:18

Marking this for the morning. In brief I am v British but have no place I would call home, I'm fine overseas because I can say I'm British but have nowhere I'm 'from'. My parents did the best they could to root me as I was schooled pretty much entirely in the UK but somehow it wasn't the same. I still felt an outsider somehow because every other year was spent in a different place. I didn't board but had a sort of foster arrangement with my godmother when my parents moved and we always lived as a family withtin commuting distance of school but we moved a lot. If I'm honest I had this illusion of home but it hit me at unj where I stayed put for 3 whole years that my childhood was rather unsettled. I wouldn't recommend frequent moves or hopping back and forth from a base in the UK - if you go it has to be wholesale.

I find it easy to be anywhere in the sense that you can pick me up, put me down and I get on with it but I find if difficult to form ties to places cos there's always a voice in my head saying 'you know you're not staying...'.

claraquack Mon 22-Mar-10 00:16:04

Hi again acinoyx
I posted on the other thread so you already know that I feel pretty much the same as you, but we decided we would do one posting overseas before planning to settle back in the UK. Reading your threads, I think you really do want to go - and I also think that, at the age your dd is at the moment, it will only be beneficial for her. Yes, she will need to adjust and settle in a new school, but she will and the benefits she will gain from learning about a new culture, language, food etc will outweigh any worries about her settling in.
I agree with one of the other posters, having children overseas does make it a lot easier to integrate. I was forced to make friends locally as I was desperate for play dates for my dd's. I have even been known to go up to complete strangers in the street and exchange numbers with them!
However, I would probably set a time limit on your overseas stay - perhaps look at a couple of years and then reassess. You might be fine at that point to stay, but that is a short enough period that you will be able to retain the friends you have back in your home town.
I honestly don't think you will regret going. I have a friend whose eldest son has severe cerebal palsey and I know she would absolutely love the chance to live abroad for a while, but they are very restricted as to where they can go because of his schooling needs. Sometimes when I am having a moan I think of her and realise that at least I have a choice.

ArcticFox Tue 23-Mar-10 00:22:58

"I also feel that "nowhere is home in an emotional sense" but I don't feel that this is a bad thing! Rather I feel it allows me to put aside inherited and often frankly ridiculous loyalties and points-of-view and see things from a wider perspective."

Agree with MrIC. Firstly, I dont think an emotional home has to be geographical. Secondly, I feel that we are entering an increasingly international age, and that the benefits of having an international perspective from an early age are huge and cannot be gained from bouts of travelling, however much you feel you've seen the real (eg)India on your 12 week, "keeping it real" tour of the country.

I also think that expat living helps overcome shyness and dependence on the familiar, makes you more flexible and accepting of different ways of doing things.

I am expecting DC1 in September. Obviously, he/she will learn that DH and I are from the UK and we'll visit family there, but I dont expect them to necessarily develop a personal attachment to the UK, nor do I think it's particularly going to help them in life to do so.

Earlybird Tue 23-Mar-10 00:48:31

After much indecision and soul-searching, I returned 'home' with dd 2.5 years ago (she was 6.5 at the time) as I wanted her to have a permanent home where she 'belonged'. As an only child, I also wanted her to be surrounded by cousins, aunts/uncles, grandparents, etc so that she knew/loved her extended family.

I want her to be a 'citizen of the world', but one with a clear physical and emotional home. I sometimes feel where we are now is a bit provincial, but we do extended travel on school breaks and so do plenty of 'exploring'. As she gets older, our travels are likely to become more adventurous.

I have friends all over the world, and she is beginning to also. But to me, a sense of being 'rooted' somewhere gives both of us security and stability.

Acinonyx Tue 23-Mar-10 14:51:27

Thanks to everyone - it's very helpful to read all your posts. I think this is something we will keep open to - there may be an opportunity with dh's work in future. But we will probably want her back and settled before secondary school (or else settled indefinitley wherever we are).

Dd has no extended family in the UK but he being an only child is very influential in our decision to keep her settled. I think that long-term freinds and attachments may be more important for her.

We're also wondering about investing in work on this house and whether to go ahead - or if it willnot be worth the investment if we move soon. I doubt we could cover our hideous mortguage by renting out. This was all so much easier when we were renting.

We are spending too much money on holidays - feeding our insatiable appetite for travel (and sunlight...). It would surely be cheaper and easier to just move overseas.

OP’s posts: |
tb Sun 08-Aug-10 21:37:09

My uncle had a French mother and an English father and there were 5 other similar families in his village. He was born in France, but moved to England in 1938/9 when he was 16.

He now says that he doesn't feel at home in either country. In Kent he feels he doesn't fit in, and in his village in the Somme some of the locals think he is English, and don't know that he was born there.

I suppose everyone is different, though. I know now that when I watch british tv and see people driving on the left it seems really weird.

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