Security of Lifelong Home or Experience of Living Abroad?

Updated on July 31, 2013
D.M. asks from San Rafael, CA
18 answers

Hi All,

This is a question that my husband and I consider often - Do we want our children to have the security of one family home throughout their childhood or the cultural and educational experience that living abroad could offer them.

I am an American, from the Bay Area, and my family lived in the same house until I was in my 30s. My husband is English (with an Australian mother) and had a similar upbringing. We really cherish the fact that we have friends who we've known since we were small, went to our local schools and have a single place to call 'home', but at the same time we realise that we are in a privileged position to have multiple passports and jobs that allow us the opportunity to move around and, having lived in several countries, we both know how much more well rounded people, particularly children, who live an international life are. - particularly as it allows them to look critically at their own life and country and not just accept the status quo. Traveling is great, but it does not give you the same perspective as living some place for an extended period.

We now live in England and my children are English (technically they are 1/2 American, 1/4 English and 1/4 Australian, but they were born here and are English by culture, accent and attitude). The boys are 6 and nearly 4 now, so there's no rush I suppose, but I would be really interested to know your opinions on this subject and I'd particularly liketo hear from people who have faced this decision and what your experiences are.

PS: Before someone suggests it, we are not in a financial position to keep our house in the UK to come 'home' to as we move around the world. If only.

Thanks in advance for your help.

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answers from Detroit on


Take me with you.

What about house sharing? Kids in my DD's class have gone abroad and had other kids (and their families) come live in their house in an exchange.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

It is very hard for kids to move around. What sounds like giving them a good experience to an adult means uprooting and stress on their end. Wherever you do, there you are.
There is a time for good experiences (a vacation) but remaining grounded is important, such as having a home to come back to.
I can't imagine not having had the family home and those experiences.
I have traveled overseas a lot (all over the world) but there is nowhere I care to go these days, beyond being with family.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Washington DC on

We moved to Spain when I was in elementary school. I thrived.
We moved to the Middle East when I was in junior high. I thrived.
We moved home to the US for high school. I thrived.
In between moves, we always came home to our old house.
I know people who have stayed put and people who were military brats. As long as you have family, you have home.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

I'm on the side of an overseas experience, having done it for myself and my family.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I lived in the same town forever. However, my father was transferred for a long-term project in another state, so we did have the experience of leaving the northeast and living in Texas, which was totally different. I went to school there and spent a good chunk of summer vacation there as well, so it was a great experience even though I can't say I fit in over the course of a year or two.

A friend of mine lived in many foreign countries (Liberia, South Korea, Singapore) due to her father's job, and she found it very enriching. Her siblings are all very confident too, and they have an expanded world view.

Another friend took her kids out of school for a year (they were older than your 2 - hers were 15, 12 and 9) and they rented a house in France for a year. They home-schooled the kids, traveled to about 10 European countries due to their flexible schedule, walked to the village in the morning for fresh bread & cheese, and all of that. They did the "tourist" things but also "lived the life" on a daily basis. It was a glorious experience.

There are many many reputable services that do home sharing - you could open your home to someone wanting to live in your area for a month or 6 months or a year, and either swap and take their home or (much more flexible) get into a larger network and pick from a variety of available homes. There is insurance coverage and there are other precautions taken. So you could look into that. I would adore doing that and have looked into it for extended vacations - that's my next adventure!

I think I'd wait a few year so your kids would have true memories. My 2nd friend's kids did well leaving their friends for a year, but if you aren't sure, you might not want to wait until they are teens and are super sensitive about missing out.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

My husband's job may take us to London for a few years. We told them yes, that we would be willing to go. However, due to complications with international law and the sale of my husband's company, everything is on hold right now. I'm ready to go, though!

You are correct when you say that living abroad does give children a unique experience and perspective. Go now, while your children are young and can soak up these experiences which will shape them in wonderful ways as they grow. You can always move back to England or settle permanently in another place you may discover.

Good luck and enjoy your adventures!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

The opportunity to live abroad is a WONDERFUL experience!!

I don't have the "roots" that you have....I'm a military brat who has moved to several countries - I can only WISH that Australia had been one of them!!

My daughter got to experience Belgium and Germany - for 7 years - 3.5 years in each country. We did a lot of traveling as well - England, Luxembourg, Austria, France, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, etc.

It was an experience that we will NEVER forget. It was also a learning experience as to what other countries have, don't have, how they live, etc.

I have lived in my current home for 17 years. this is the longest I have EVER been in one spot. I can't tell you how much I am "itching" to make a move....

so for me? I would get as much experience out of life that I could...and not sit still...

good luck!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

For me it would be about what makes the most financial sense, end of story. Sure, I'd love to give my kids the experience of living abroad, but what does this do to my overall financial goals and needs? Hubby turned down an offer to move to Singapore. The offer was OK, but he knew the job would have ended up with him traveling 60%. That's way too much travel for us.

My in-laws are in Ireland. My plan is to start pond hopping when the kids get older. So we will visit the in-laws and then hop somewhere else for a visit. No, they won't learn the critical perspective living elsewhere will give them, but they will get to visit different places, and they will see that they have lots of options for when they are older.

I honestly don't think it matters all that much. I think you an instill the critical thinking without living somewhere else. It's all a matter of how you are raised.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Amarillo on

I lost my first post.

It is what you make it. My husband was active duty military and we accompanied him on his assignments overseas Quebec and Germany. Packing a house and having it placed in a truck and moved out is an experience in itself. Knowing what you need to live with and not is of great importance.

Living out of the country has its ups and downs but it is also an adventure of a lifetime. You learn how to be self sufficient and independent. You learn the ways of the country people, their language, and how they see us (Americans). We are ambassadors for our country when we travel we give the locals a taste of what they have seen from TV what they think America is like. When you explain to them that all are not like the Jerseyshore or Housewives or whatever, they are taken back but warm up to the real you.

Yes moving is costly. But staying put can be just as costly. What do you want your children and yourself to benefit from while you are on this planet? Do you want to expose them to the ways people live in other countries for short periods or long periods of time?

Visiting a country is nice but living there allows you to understand what life is all about. My children have had to become Americanized as they grew up out of the US. They know more about European history than American and the methods of teaching were different. In many ways they were more advanced in English, Math, Science than the average American child. DDODS schools format is much more intense.

My son played football and had a game with the International School of Brussels which had children from all around the world enrolled. We would host students for the weekend for scheduled games. Their fathers were oil executives. They were just regular kids playing sports as a team.

The school had a student exchange program. My son spent a week in France with a family going to school. Later that year that child stayed with us for a week living our lifestyle. A real enrichment that lives on.

Having a family home is good but a home is where you make it. It could be a tree house as long as everyone is healthy and happy. Staying put and not moving is nice but you only see what is around you by 100 to 200 miles in life.

If you can't or don't want to move, try to get your children involved in many different cultural experiences. Make sure they have friends of other nationalities so that they can experience the differences which will make a better person when they do grow to adulthood. Above all else, don't be afraid of the unknown. This is what keeps you put in one spot. I agree with Doris Day and Wild Woman - go for it.

I have lived in New Jersey (born there), Arizona, Quebec, Nevada, Germany and now New Mexico. I fell in love with the desert and the mountains of Tucson and cannot live in the crowded state of New Jersey. I miss the holiday decorations of the big department stores in New York City and Rockefeller Center's ice rink but not enough to move back. I will visit home (missed Hurricane Sandy due to family issues) and see the area from time to time and shop.

Just do it. You will always wonder the "what if".

the other S.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

ideally, a lifelong home to call 'base' and from which to leapfrog around the world.
not an option for most, and it doesn't sound as if it is for you.
a family home is a GREAT thing. i didn't have it, but did have the irreplaceable experience of growing up in bermuda. not one house, but i do consider it all 'home.' that, of course, wasn't an option for my kids, but they got the family home.
i don't think kids are being cheated in either scenario. there are pros and cons to everything, aren't there? but i think when the pedal meets the metal, living in various cultures would be an enrichment beyond anything else.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Abroad!! No question. I wish I could.

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answers from Kansas City on

The people I know that moved a lot in their childhood state that it was tough. Especially after elementary school when friends are formed, activities ramp up, and a sense if "belonging" becomes more important. etc.
I don't know how old your kids are, if they're very small--how much really will they "get" from a new culture? If they're older, it's probably going to get tougher as they "dig in" with friends and activities.
I wonder if you can achieve a lot if what you want to give them through travel?

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

It really depends on the child. I never felt the need for one lifelong home and would gladly be peripatetic. Until I had children, I traveled wherever and whenever I had the opportunity. My brothers were homebodies. My older daughter, Fishcake, is like me and I just hope that she does return to the US after study abroad this year. Her younger sister, Chickpea, gets homesick after a night away.
If you can't afford to keep your home empty, what about renting it out. Our neighbors for the past 6 years were almost always Asian grad students because the homeowners were traveling around the Eastern Hemisphere. They came back once every couple years for three months to see the grandkids.
If you can't imagine being a landlord, you could arrange to housesit a suitable property when you return to the UK.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Just my opinion, but overseas is great to visit but my heart belongs the the good ole USA.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Miami on

Hi D.,

If your primary home was in the US, I would suggest renting it out while you are overseas so that you had both the security of being able to go home and also from a financial perspective - that you were able to continue to take advantage of the tax reasons for owning a home. That being said, I don't know enough about home ownership or renting laws in the UK to be able to comment sufficiently. You also don't mention where you live in the UK so I don't know if renting it out might be an option.

My comments are twofold. First, regarding a "home". To me, a home is where your family lives - that might be a house or a boat or an RV or whatever...I get concerned when people are too attached to a place or to material items. My in-laws have lived in the same town in Virginia for 46 years now - in the same house. Unfortunately, they are having trouble maintaining the same house as they grow older and their three children have all left in order to pursue their careers. We have not been able to convince them to downsize (even in their own town) because they say that any other house will not be "home" to them. This is a problem from a home maintenance standpoint, financial standpoint, etc. Their children would like to be able to help their parents more as they age but since the parents refuse to relocate and children can't find jobs there (very small town) it is a very difficult situation. Perhaps if they had ever moved, they would understand that "home" is your family and where you sleep and not a particular address. I think that the overseas experience may mean that your children don't have "lifelong" friends - that quite honestly doesn't always happen anyway - even if you do live in the same place your entire life. However, it could cause your children to have a much stronger nuclear family bond as they rely on their parents and each other. Living in the US, near your family, might provide them a chance to build relationships that could be maintained thru distance when they are older. I assume that they have strong bonds with your husband's family now due to living in the UK but how often have they seen your family?

Second: you need to consider schooling. If you wish to have your children be employable and possibly attend university in the UK, than I think you would be best off to have them attend high school in the UK. On the flip side, I am not sure it would matter if they applied to a US university with a UK high school degree (or an Australian one for that matter). While I do not agree that children should stay in the same school system throughout their academic career, you will need to do the research to figure out at what points are the "best" points for changes if you chose to live overseas.

I am assuming that your children have multiple passports? In order to make them global citizens you will need to make sure that they have the life experience and education to be able to move between countries as you have. My final comment is a disclosure that I worked in the International Education Offices of both US and Spanish universities for over 15 years - promoting student exchanges and dual degree programs between international universities. You are right, living is not the same as travelling.

Good luck with your decisions. C.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I grew up in Wales until I was 30. We moved around a lot, and I hated it. Hated changing schools, hated leaving friends, hated leaving houses... Whenever we would move I would beg that this would be the last time. And we didn't move around as much as say an army family, but probably abou 6 moves before I was 16. When I married my husband, he is a very "stay put" person. He never ever wants to move from this piece of land we are living on. (10 acres) And my kids are very happy about that. and if they are happy, and settled, then why change it? I never felt happy or settled with my parents moving around so much.
I think you can accomplish a lot, by just traveling. You don't have to live in a place to embrace culture. And sometimes when you move, you don't like it as much as you thought, then you have to move again, and you always wish for that place you were happy. It also cost A LAAAHHHTT of money for us to move to Texas. thousands upon thousands of pounds.

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answers from Los Angeles on

I prefer to have a single place to call home. My family moved a lot because of my dad's work until they decided to settle in the U.S. when I was in junior high. English is my third language and it wasn't fun having to learn a new language and new culture every time we moved. At the same time, I think it may depend on the child's personality.



answers from Portland on

It's an interesting question, D..

For myself, I would prefer one house/one town and do trips to provide experiences. I was a kid who went to 14 different schools, which I know is extreme, but that was my childhood. The choice to stay in one place, in one house, is because I know how hard it is to make friends when moving from place to place. Add in language barriers, etc, and it could be rather more difficult. By the time I'd hit 4th grade, I was 8, moving to my fifth school-- and from this point until nearly my senior year, I actually stopped trying to make friends. I never had them for more than a year and it was painful to leave and do it all over again.

So--Unless the parents were already connected with other families in those different countries, unless the parents are super-social and willing to invest in their child's social life, it could be a lot of loneliness.

As for well-rounded: I think that really has a lot more do to with the parenting of those kids than just the moving. The parents who are willing to have the deeper conversations about social responsibility, world affairs and to encourage reaching out and making connections or critically thinking about our country's role in the global story-- those parents would likely do the same thing at home as they would abroad.

Personally, after all the years of roaming as a kid, I can honestly say that I hope to stay in my present home and neighborhood until I am removed to the undertaker in my old age. I craved having just one place, one set of friends as a kid, and I want that stability and consistency for my son. There's something fun about visiting a new place, certainly, but for me, there's also something wonderful and comforting about knowing where the majority of the streets are, where the resources and shops are, having deep, long-lasting friendships now (after about 27 years here)-- it's too marvelous to want to move again.

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