I have recently returned from Singapore – a country that takes 5th place, behind Qatar, UAE, Kuwait and Jordan, in the competition for the highest share of Expatriates in the total population. Whilst there, I talked to Globally Mobile Parents but I also did a lot of listening. The topic of conversation and concern that was repeated over and over again was the issue of “home,” or more specifically, the question: where do, and will, my Globally Mobile Children call home? It was the Mums who raised this topic most.
As Mum’s we want our homes to be havens; places where our family members feel safe and happy, where wonderful memories are created, values are nurtured, traditions are established and passed on, and above all, a place that our children can return to, at any time, and feel “at home.”
What happens though, when we are part of a Globally Mobile family – a family that lives outside of the parents’ passport country and, in many cases, has family members in a variety of locations around the globe? In complete contrast to those in a monoculture, Globally Mobile families move house often. Their physical homes can change every two years, sometimes within the same country but regularly in a totally different country. How can a Globally Mobile Mum, in this context, create a place that her children will call home? I offer you three tips to creating a home for your Globally Mobile Kids.
Firstly, I believe that the Globally Mobile Mum needs to rethink the meaning of the word “home.” For Globally Mobile Children, “home” is not so much the bricks and mortar, the colour of the paint on the walls or the front door. It is an emotional place – a place where they don’t need to explain themselves and where they can just “be.” I know this is a big mind-shift for some but given the fact that Generation Z (people born between 1995 & 2012) will have 17 different jobs, 5 different careers and 15 different homes in their lifetime, it is a mind-shift worth considering. *
Secondly, wherever your current house is located, you can make it a home by displaying photographs, mementos and objet d’art that evoke happy memories of time spent with loved ones. I was a Domestically Mobile Kid – a child whose parents moved in and among various subcultures within our home country.** I know what it’s like to move houses often, however, each time I walked into my parents’ home, I saw photographs of all our family members doing what we loved best – swimming, horse riding, driving a tractor (well, actually, Dad drove the tractor – we just looked, and wished, we were driving) or standing beside a piece of history in a far away land. The same ornament that signified our family’s Italian heritage and the unique smell of Mum’s cooking always greeted me. I instantly felt at home because of the familiarity of these things and the associated memories. Your Globally Mobile Children can feel this too.
Thirdly, establish your own family traditions. On my most recent trip, I was in Singapore during Halloween – a holiday celebrated by some Western Cultures but increasingly becoming part of the broader Expatriate and Singaporean cultures too, so it seems. Other celebrations such as Deepavali, Hari Raya Puasa, Thanksgiving and Christmas all bring the issue of “home” to the fore because, as parents, these holidays are the ones we remember as children. They generally signify the coming together of family members from near and far to celebrate an important aspect of our family’s values and heritage. As Globally Mobile families, we don’t need to abandon family traditions just because we are not in our passport culture or with our extended family. In fact, we can, and should, add to our family traditions by incorporating some of the traditions from our host countries. This helps our Globally Mobile Kids keep the connections and sentimentality with their former host countries alive.
So take heart Globally Mobile Mums! Once you can get your head around the fact that “home” is an emotional place rather than a physical one, the other aspects, of filling your home with photographs, momentos and objet d’art whilst also establishing and creating your family traditions at special celebration times, will fall into place. Before you know it, your house – wherever it may be – will be a home for your Globally Mobile Children.
* Mark McCrindle 2015
**Pollock and Van Reken 2009
Photo Credit: Love This Pic