Should I raise my own children internationally… or settle down?

Title: Should I raise my own children internationally… or settle down?

I have heard this question stated in many forms by both veteran international school educators and those who never worked overseas as educators.

Educators seek out positions overseas for a variety of reasons* (more on the catalysts for this move in a later blog) and often go as singles or couples with no children.  At some point during their career and migrations, they partner-up and/or wish to have children.  When the conversation about ‘starting a family’ floats across the kitchen table (or the bedroom), the discussion then switches to, ‘should we go home and … settle down?’

Other educators have taken their families overseas for a short experience, and when it morphs into a decision about a longer time frame, also begin to question the impact on their children.

I have also met educators stateside, who, after hearing about the world of international education, are intrigued by our lifestyle living and working overseas. When I tried to encourage them to consider a similar career move and lifestyle change, the response often is “oh, I couldn’t do that to my children.” They were paralyzed by the fear of the perceived ‘harm’ they would do to their children.  “We’ll think about it after the youngest goes off to college” or “  …  after we retire.”

Indeed, these concerns were the prime reason for my research**, as an international educator—both to answer the questions in my own head and heart – and to help others who question this lifestyle-career decision.  We all want to know the potential effects on our children.

Responses from readers helped me realized that my subsequent book*** touched on a sensitive and necessary topic. The responses were often emotional, as complete strangers described their personal experiences and expressed their thanks for identifying, analyzing and addressing so many of their own issues – as children growing up as EdKids or adults who are raising EdKids while on their international journeys. Most indicated that they were rarely able to discuss the issues openly in the past.  They told me how cathartic it was to ‘hear’ the voices of the children-students, the parent-educators and the counselors. Some administrators wrote to tell me that they are using the book for new teacher orientation and staff development.  Wow!  I was flattered, humbled and pleased that it has been so helpful.

No, this is not a pitch to sell more books, as I will be writing excerpts from the book in this blog. I truly believe that learning more about this topic will help international school administrators, counselors, parent-educators, colleagues, students, Board members and other community members better understand the dynamics of the educator-family unit. Thus, they will be able to enjoy the pleasures, identify and learn to avoid the pitfalls, reduce the angst and improve relationships, communications, well-being and quality of life/work for all members of the community.

In fact, I would like to use this blog as a platform for your comments, observations and experiences.  Please write to me as a parent-educator, an administrator, a counselor in an international school and/or a educator-child of educators (yes, 30% typically become educators themselves).  I’d love to hear your ‘voices.’

Dr. Zilber is available for seminars and training on a variety of topics. She enjoys receiving comments from readers and colleagues in international schools. Contact her at [email protected]


*Zilber, E. (2015). The Catalysts for a Career in International Schools. Unpublished Independent Research. InterEd, p. 29

**Zilber, E.   (2005): Perceptions of children of International School Educators: An Exploratory Study of Third Culture Kids. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA.

*** Zilber, E.  (2009). Third Culture Kids: Children of International School Educators.  UK: John Catt.

**** Zilber, E., (2005): International school educators and their children: Implications for educator/parents, colleagues and schools, in Journal of Research on International Education, 4, (1), pp5-22.


4 thoughts on “Should I raise my own children internationally… or settle down?”

  1. I think about the question so often and more currently since we are (most likely) in a transition year. Some days I think this was the best decision we could have made for our kids – learning new cultures and languages, traveling, experiences – and other days I feel like I’m screwing the whole thing up. I debate it in my mind a ton but I’ll be honest, I really hate when others say things like, “Oh. I could never do that to my kids.” Uh… what does that mean? That I’m doing something to mine? It’s one of those “I can talk trash about my momma but you can’t” situations. lol. Interesting read.

    1. Hi Jen,
      Thanks so much for taking time to read and respond. What ages are your children?

      As a mother of 3 adult kids, may I please allay your fears – we all worry at some time, or all the time, that we are ‘screwing the whole thing up.’ You are in good company. In fact, at my seminars/workshops about this topic, I hang a huge letter “G” on my chest. It usually gets a good chuckle but it makes the point. It stands for ‘guilt.’ Since none of us took a course in parenting before we had children, we are all very much winging it. Typically, we learn about parenting from models we have observed (our own parents or caregivers) and/or through professional resources. Then, to add to that burden, we have chosen a lifestyle for which we did not necessarily have any models. That is why I did this research – to answer my own questions and help others.
      Those who say “i couldn’t do that to my kids” haven’t got a clue about the advantages of this family experience. Actually, I believe the comment is a smoke screen for their own fears. Are there some challenges in this lifestyle choice? of course; there are issues in every choice in life. But, remember one thing… parents can experience challenges raising their children -even if they never move 1 km from their hometown. Stay tuned to more interesting posts and don’t make any life decisions… just yet. Warmly, Ettie

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