Parenting, it’s just one big round of beating yourself up and feeling guilty.
Are you making the right decisions for them. The little stuff as well as the big stuff. Are they happy in the clothes they wear, are the toys they play with appropriate.
And for us, right now, are we doing the right thing living as an expat?
Is living an expat the best thing for our children?
I love being an expat.
Absolutely adore it. It is, without doubt, one of the most defining moments of my adult life.
Yet, at the grand old age of 30, I totally and utterly did not want to go. I could think of nothing worse than being an expat.
Leaving behind the security of everything I had ever know, had grown up with. The green grass, the open space, the drizzle.
But I took the leap of faith.
And. I. Loved. It.
Yet there is a question in me, in us, as to whether it is the right thing for our children.
There’s no place like home
There are a plethora of sayings surrounding your home. Home is where the heart is. A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it. There is no place like home.
But what if your home is transient?
Your childhood memories contained all around the world, rather than just the street you grew up in? The friends you made during your formative years are now scattered all over the world? What if you are an expat kid, just living your expat life and your home is wherever you happen to lay your head?
Are you missing out on the foundations of a stable youth, growing up with the same kids around you that you’ve known from pre-school?
These are questions that I ask myself about my boys on a near daily basis. And most of the time my answer is, no it doesn’t matter.
Home is where the heart is
That as long as they have my husband and I, we can offer the stability that they need, be the one constant. Where each night they know we will lay them down to sleep, brush the hair out of their eyes and sneak in for one final kiss.
Wherever in the world we may be they know that they are safe, that they are loved, that they are happy.
Home is where the heart is and all of the positives of being an expat outweigh any of the negatives.
Then something happens that rocks the boat. Class teachers leave, classmates leave, neighbours leave and, most devastatingly, best friends leave.
The thing is, being an expat, people leave.
It’s the nature of the beast.
We’ve weathered a few storms, waving goodbye to people who we have just met, who we have known for longer and those who have become an integral part of our lives. Times when my heart has been breaking for me, as well as them, saying goodbye to people who we saw on a near daily basis. Yet each time we’ve known that our paths would cross again in the future. Paths could cross again in the future.
Until this time.
This time both of my boys had to say a devastating goodbye to friends who moved home.
Yet home for them is not home for us.
It was, is, the other side of the world. And whilst I have Facebook, WhatsApp and all manners of social media available to me to keep in touch, this is less true for the boys. The time difference means that often I will wake up to a message I can read. And vice versa.
Yet the boys, they have no idea what’s going on. They look at pictures, they remember. Yet they are no longer present to each other.
They have memories. But memories fade.
They have the golden era of childhood spent together.
But they don’t have the chance to grow up together.
And whilst, as many of my friends have pointed out to me, they may not have continued being friends. After all how many of my old school friends am I still in regular contact with. They may have been.
As they sat on the mat outside our house that final play date, little voices chirping “you’re my best friend”, that was when the tears fell.
That is where the question lay.
Is living as an expat good for the children, or do they need more stability?
It is the never ending question. For whilst we have so many positives living in our adopted home of Qatar, and no intention of returning to the UK any time soon, we will always have that little question.
Yet when that arises I need to remember this.
Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.