Last fall, I packed up my life, left my home state, and moved to Europe with my husband and 1-year-old. My husband is a European Union citizen, so we decided to take advantage of his ability to live and work in another EU country while he had the chance, so we moved to Germany first. (He's British, and because of Brexit, he may not have that right in the future.) Six months later, we packed up again and moved to the United Kingdom.
A lot of people think that traveling with small children is difficult, so it was hard to explain to our family and friends that we were going to uproot our family for not one, but two international moves. But the positives of this decision outweighed any reservations I might have had about it.
During this transition, I struggled with that plague of modern motherhood: mom guilt. I felt responsible for dragging my kid around all over the place. I knew I wanted to provide her with a secure environment during the first few years of her life, but here we were, gallivanting around the world. I didn’t know if she would understand the moves, and I didn't know how it would affect her. But my parenting philosophy is to treat my child like an individual and not like a baby, so I tried to explain everything we were doing along the way.
After we moved, I told my daughter about where she was born and where her grandparents lived. I told her we'd decided to move away, which is why we speak to her grandparents using the phone on video chat. I encouraged her to play with new children and meet new people. I told her about how Christmas wouldn’t always be just us after this year, since we'll be living closer to my husband's family next year. As the months passed, I truly felt like she understood what I was telling her.
She gets genuinely excited when we move to new, temporary homes, and she's thrilled to explore new environments.
I watched my toddler live out this transition by embracing the new people she met, slowly but willingly. Once, a new friend of ours asked if he could hold her. At first, she shook her head and said, "No," but now that she regularly sees this person, she smiles and waves at him and connects with him in her own way. She also loves FaceTiming with her grandparents back in the States. (She developed an obsession with my iPhone along the way.) She gets genuinely excited when we move to new, temporary homes (which are mostly Airbnb locations), and she's thrilled to explore new environments. And most of the time, she handles all of our journeys well, whether they're by plane, car, or ferry.
When we left Germany, my daughter was 19 months old, or 7 months older than she was when we first moved. This time, she was nervous about leaving. I could tell she was more anxious, moody, and irritable in the days leading up to our move. When she said goodbye to our little space and the hosts of our Airbnb apartment, she cried. So now, we try to give her schedule a semblance of normality by having her follow the same eating, nap, bath, and bedtime routines every day.
My partner and I view this whole big move as one of the grandest adventures of our lives, and it’s an absolute joy that our daughter is enjoying the experience as much as we do.
Our trip included a ferry boat ride from France to the UK after our road trip from Germany. I kept explaining to her that we were going on a big boat, and I think the fact that she plays with a toy boat in the tub helped it hit home for her. With all our earthly possessions in just one car, she was stoked about the experience.
My partner and I view this whole big move as one of the grandest adventures of our lives, and it’s an absolute joy that our daughter is enjoying the experience as much as we do. As we navigate settling down in a new country and planting roots in a new homeland, my daughter has responded well. I'm much less worried that she might feel “homeless” or unsettled. Our love and support has gone a long way in setting her up to cope with life changes. This whole experience has taught me that for her entire life under my roof (wherever that roof is) home will always be where the three of us are together.