Why I’m Raising My Children Overseas

The worst thing you can do to a mother is to put her in a position where she feels she cannot protect her child. In a position where she feels helpless to protect them and where she has no recourse if something were to happen to them. This is the position that I feel I am in as a Black mother raising Black children in the United States today; which is why I have made the conscious decision (with my husband) to raise my children overseas.

I did not always feel that way though.

I grew up in small-town America, suburbia, where everything was always relatively safe and calm. I knew my neighbors, they knew me, and people looked out for one another. I was taught police were heroes looking out for and helping the community. This was an idyllic time. I didn’t know or understand completely what racism or bigotry were, and hadn’t yet been exposed to America’s ugly and brutal history with respect to race relations and enslavement—the impacts of which are still present today. My blissful ignorance as a child was in part because it happened before the advent of cell phone images and videos of innocent Black people (some of them minors) murdered, at the hands of citizen vigilantes and the police, being shared broadly on social media.

Today, we are bombarded with these images and videos yet we still don’t have any demonstrable evidence of broad justice sector reform. A type of reform that not only institutionalizes meaningful change in the way communities of color are policed, but that also educates, breaks down barriers, and brings people together. These days, in many cases, aggressors are made out to look like victims, proclaiming their actions were in self-defense or that they were in fear of their safety. Innocent victims are made to look criminal by dredging up their past life decisions and actions which have no bearing on or relevance to the circumstances that resulted in their death. These narratives end up framing the murder of innocent people as “justifiable” and/or “defensible”, and makes acquittal the only “reasonable conclusion” a judge or court can make. All this results in leaving the families that grieve the loss of their loved ones with no closure and no recompense.

Us in Machu Picchu Cusco, Peru
I want my children to not only survive but to fully live and thrive and I want to be able to feel like I can protect them; right now I don’t think that is possible in the states. Don’t get me wrong, I am not so completely naïve as to think there isn’t racism and terrible things that happen to BIPOC in other parts of the world. But I have lived overseas for most of my adult life in several different regions of the world and traveled widely enough to know that the likelihood of my children surviving encounters with racist individuals is much higher overseas. I want my children to be judged based upon who they are and how they show up in the world and not automatically [mis] judged and categorized based solely on how they look coupled with inaccurate stereotypes associated with skin color.

This has been their experience since we left the US. Yes, people see their “blackness” immediately as visible minorities, but that doesn’t seem to matter in terms of how people treat them, interact with them, and the opportunities presented to them. Admittedly, they are still children and are therefore perceived and treated as children. However, my son is on the cusp of hitting puberty and turning from a boy into a young man. Though still a child as a teenager, back in the states to some he will be seen as an adult Black male and immediately transformed into public enemy number one with a figurative (though it feels very literal at times) target on his back.

I cannot live with that. Even though I recognize that he is growing up, which is inevitable, he is still my baby and I want him to live. However, my children’s safety and the state of race relations in America is not the only reason I have decided to raise my children overseas. This experience is bringing them benefits and advantages that will propel them into their futures and stick with them throughout their lives. From the educational opportunities they are receiving abroad, the international communities they are living in, to the diverse sets of friends they are making and the languages they are immersed in, all these things are contributing towards shaping them into global citizens with a global mindset.

Us at the Parthenon in Athens
According to a May 2021 article on EducationWeek.com, “thirty countries now outperform the United State in mathematics at the high school level. Many are ahead in science, too. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the millennials in our workforce tied for last on tests of mathematics and problem solving among the millennials in the workforces of all the industrial countries tested.” The article goes on to say that, “we {the U.S.} now have the worst-educated workforce in the industrialized world.”

Instilling a global mindset in my children is essential to their future development. They are “learning by doing.” They are in foreign environments wherein they must learn to adapt, navigate, and overcome uncertainty as they acclimate to wherever they are. Part of the acclimation process when living overseas includes developing a greater sense of cultural awareness and cultural sensitivity, which is heightened when in new and different places.

They walk down streets and hear multiple languages being spoken that they would normally tune out. They are exposed to and more open to trying a wide variety of foods and delicacies in international cafes and restaurants and more willing to try the different food selections we make at local grocery stores. It has helped open them up in ways that enable them to become globally aware and exposes them to a whole new world of possibilities.

Many people ask us if we feel homesick. The short answer is yes, because as Dorothy said, “there is no place like home”. The good news is that living abroad teaches my children to be resilient and open to meeting new people and making friends wherever they go. My children are now extremely comfortable jumping into conversations or starting them with new people they encounter. They are open to finding friendships and navigating comfortably diverse types of social circles and settings. Increasingly for my family, “home” is about a feeling more than a place.

Us at the Giza Pyramid Complex in Cairo
This move has also made it logistically easier and much more affordable for us to travel. As a parent, I have found that for my children traveling expands their minds and their realm of experiences like most other things do not. When my children studied ancient Egypt in school, we were able to go there for a vacation, giving them the opportunity to see in real life many of the places and historical contexts for the things they had been studying. We did the same thing again when we traveled to Greece at the conclusion of their studying a history unit about Ancient Greece and Greek mythology. There are few experiences as impactful as stepping outside of your “normal” routines and seeing in real-time other people, places, and cultures while being able to identify the things you have in common as well as the differences.

I could list endless benefits of raising kids overseas but the calculus for each family is different. Deciding to move and live abroad as a family is not a decision to be taken lightly. The bottom line is: If you have children, you love to travel, you want a greater sense of safety and security for your children in places a bit freer of negative racial legacies and perspectives, and want your children to grow up as global citizens with a global mindset, raising kids abroad has benefits that will last a lifetime. I have no regrets.