Raising my nine-year-old has been an interesting journey so far.
I have found that no matter how I choose to raise my daughter—with love, the best way I can and know how—someone will always have a better idea of how to do it and they tell me how to do it different.
As someone who has traveled the world since my daughter was born—living in Austria, Saudi Arabia, Australia, and Switzerland—one of the biggest comments I receive is:
“You need to settle down for your daughter.”
I think about this statement often. I think about my own upbringing and how I lived in one spot. I remember struggling with school and struggling with fitting in. I remember craving to see the world, wanting to move so I could create a new identity.
I also remember meeting children who had traveled, joining and leaving my schools—some were well-adjusted and others not, just like the students I knew who had stayed in the same place all their lives.
I do not personally believe that we need to settle in one place as parents.
I believe we need to have a solid home—wherever that may be—of love and compassion. We need to guide our children with love, kindness, and empathy. And they also need some adversity to help them build new strengths and learn to overcome challenges that will inevitably happen in their lives. This is not something that can only be done in one spot; we can easily love and help our children build resilience while traveling the world—in multiple places called “home.”
I think each child—just like each adult human—is unique and will have different needs, and we need to cater to these needs regardless of the environment we raise them in.
My partner is from a different country, and visas have always been challenging for us. It was never possible for us to simply stay in one of our home countries with each other—neither country made it easy. We had to jump many hurdles and loops to reside together. It became stressful and complicated, so we decided to move where work was available and visas were possible.
So for us, we have accepted that we are travelers for now and we go where we have work and where we can nourish our family unit as best we can with love and new adventures.
To help our child adjust in different cities we use these guidelines:
>> We talk about the city or place we are going to live in.
>> We find out what things make her comfortable and excited and we focus on how we can incorporate them into her life when we move there.
>> We remind her that it is never goodbye, it’s always “see you soon.”
>> We have family in Austria and Australia (grandparents, cousins, aunties, and uncles) who we do not see frequently. We show her that love transcends all distances by calling them regularly. We remind her of the special occasions we celebrate together, and that we can still look forward to seeing them soon (when we visit).
>> We check in with her about what things are important for her to take to make her feel comfortable and give her stability.
>> We share with her the things that scare and excite us too, and we talk about how we work on finding solutions to our fears, sometimes by focusing on the things that excite us.
>> We remind her that the only constant is change and change brings about many wonderful things just like the four seasons of weather do.
There is no way we will ever be perfect parents—is there even such a thing?—but there are ways we can do our best. I feel we often judge other parents for doing things differently than we do without realising they do not have the same choices as us.
I think when we are parenting, it is not about doing everything right but about:
>> Identifying what challenges we have and giving our energy to working on the solutions. If we wish to make things work, we must take massive, determined action to create a path of success. That will look different for every parent.
>> Remembering that neither the past nor others’ opinions have any bearing on our future or abilities. We must practice living life fully in the moment with the past as a guidepost, not a hitching post.
>> Understanding that, as parents, if we do not know what to do or where to begin, it is not actually about knowing what to do—but taking steps doing what we know first and building from there.
>> And finally, remembering that each of us has everything we need within to succeed as both travelers and parents—if we can only learn to shift our perspective, access our inherent instincts, and believe in the power within. In doing so, we can rewrite the narrative that parents must “settle down”—so we can transform our lives and our unique parenting journeys.