Where is home when your kids grow up in another country?
If you are an expat or have grown up in different places around the world, you might feel the same and some of you will understand me better :-)
As I am sitting on the plane, flying back to Dubai from a long summer holiday in Germany, I am thinking back of the great time we had, of the great memories I created with my kids, of the quality time we have spent together. I am sitting here with one laughing eye because I am flying home and with one crying eye because I am leaving home...
And I am wondering once again where our home is? Where the home of our kids is? We have lived in Dubai for seven years and none of our kids know or remember any other home. But they are not actually from Dubai. They have German passports, the boys also have American passports, and their parents are from Germany and speak German. But do our kids feel German? Definitely not the way I do.
For me going 'home' during the summers is going back to my old life. With my family, with my friends from childhood and with all my memories from my childhood and twenties. But is Germany still my home? Not really, but at the same time it still is and always will be.
Living abroad for almost 15 years and in Dubai for seven years is a long time. The girls were born in Dubai. We bought our first house there. The kids went to nursery there and are now going to school there. They have really close friends there now, the same way I had my friends in my primary school.
Gordon and I have established and also achieved many things of our life in Dubai. But is it our real home? What is home these days? What does it mean to you? And again I wonder is it the home of our kids? What will they say when they are older? Yes, Dubai will be the home of their childhood and of many childhood friends. But will they stay in contact with them, the same way I do with my childhood friends? Will they go back to Dubai once we don't live there anymore? Will they go back once we don't have our house there anymore? What will our kids feel later on in their lives? Where will we all even be?
That is another aspect of living in Dubai. There is this uncertainty. You never know how long you will actually be there. It all depends on our visa status and of course where the job takes us. We don't even know how much longer we will stay in Dubai. We can't really plan. We don't know where our kids will go to secondary school or if their friends – and our friends - will be there next year. We have seen so many people leave. In Germany everybody is still there, life is still the same. I guess that plays a big part in why Dubai is different and why Dubai will never really be home for many people.
We have so many friends who have moved around the world many times. Friends, where the parents are from different parts of the world and the kids were born in another part of the world. Friends who have had three kids in three different countries. Friends whose parents don't live in their birth countries anymore. Friends who have adopted kids from other parts of the world. Friends who have lived abroad longer than they have lived in the country of their nationality and where they were born. Gordon and I have had our kids in two different countries and have lived abroad for so many years. So I wonder what is home these days? Where is home?
Yes, home is where the heart and the family is. And yes, and my heart is with my family. But my heart is also with Germany and my childhood and my old friends and of course my family in Germany. I have this bond with my friends from Kindergarten and primary school and of course with my family that is always there, no matter how long we don't see each other. This will never go away and my heart is with them all the time. On the other hand I have made so many new amazing friends around the world and we have experienced so much together that with some of them there is also a bond that will not go away.
My heart is also with Houston, TX. Gordon and I got married during our time there. I met one of my very bests friends there. Together we met many other great friends. We felt incredibly welcome in Houston and so many people took great care of us. We had our two sons there and they are actually little Americans. We experienced some of our first 'bigger' challenges of our lives there together. So even though we only lived in Houston for 3 ½ years, a big part of my heart is also there. And I wonder sometimes whether we would feel more at home there than I feel now in Dubai?
If you haven't lived in Dubai or abroad at all, all these feelings are difficult to explain. I guess if you have lived in Dubai for some time you'll understand.
And just like that we are close to landing and going back 'home'. I am really looking forward to sleeping in my own bed again, to seeing all my friends, to working, to having a schedule with the kids, to our house, to our 'normal' life. And the kids are also looking forward to their school and their friends. But I also know I will miss Germany and my friends and family there and my friends around the world.
So I am sitting here while writing this with one laughing and one crying eye and thinking once again: where is home?