One of the first questions people ask when they hear you are a traveling family (to be), is: what about stability for your kids? A legitimate question and I think there are no parents in this world who would say stability is not important. It is something I wonder a lot about. How will our kids handle traveling for an indefinite time, visiting new places (at a very slow pace though) and receiving lots of new incentives from their surroundings? Is living as a nomad family, therefore, irresponsible?
Well-defined idea of stability
As I’ve mentioned on my blog post about how to work and travel with children, stability is an important factor in a kids life. But if someone is skeptical about living on the road with kids, you need to remember that most people have a fixed idea about stability. For most, stability equals a house, a school where the kids go to every day and some hobbies or a sports club where the kids make friends. All in one and the same town, year after year.
Stability for traveling families
For nomad families, stability equals being together as a family. Having their mom and dad around 24/7 provides more stability than being sent to school, kindergarten, sports clubs et cetera. There are kids who only see their parents one or two hours on a work day. Most often, these are the busiest hours of the day where the whole family needs to get ready for work, school or bed.
If the parents (and kids) are happy with such a life, that’s absolutely OK! I’m not here to judge. I just want to tell you that most people regard such a life as normal, while it isn’t necessarily standard for everyone.
Young kids only need cuddles
When we left for the first time, our son was 9 months old. There were people who said we were being selfish by dragging him along on our travels. ‘Your baby needs stability and routine!’, they said. Well, yes of course. I totally agree, but maybe not in the way most people think of stability and routine.
Especially young kids only need closeness to their parents, some food, and a clean diaper once in a while. When we left, my husband grew closer to his son every day. We grew closer as a family too. And our baby is doing fine by the way.
Smaller things provide for stability on the road
Just as when living in a brick and mortar house, we have stability and routines in our daily life. Our going to bed routine is the same every single evening. We eat at regular times and we make sure our baby can nap in his own bed at the same time almost every day.
You can read more about a typical day of a digital nomad baby here.
And when we leave again, we’ll continue to follow the needs of our children. Our routine is based on their preferred sleeping times, their preferred eating times. No alarm in the morning that wakes them up before they are ready. I think this is a huge advantage over living a 9-to-5 lifestyle. We watch our kids very closely (and we can because we are together 24/7) and see how they are happy and satisfied.
Deal with it when time comes
But kids grow older and their needs change. Every child is unique and they cope with changes differently. On Facebook – in one of the many groups about worldschooling and traveling families – a mother told about her toddler who really enjoys going to pre-school. She was wondering how her daughter would cope with having to leave. Lots of traveling moms and dads responded positively.
The general advice is not to worry about something that might happen in the future. Let her enjoy pre-school now, and deal with her possible disappointment when time comes. Be there for her when she is sad. Also, we as parents want to shelter our kids from every disappointment, but this is impossible. Dealing with things that go a different way is part of life.
Balance your needs with the kid’s needs
We also have to deal with doing things we want as a person and doing things for the sake of our kids. These are sometimes the opposite. As Nancy from Family on bikes explains, she and her husband wanted to continue traveling, while their kids were becoming more and more secluded. They decided to continue travel. As Nancy writes: ‘we acknowledged that the lack of social interaction with other kids was an issue, but it was a price we were willing to pay.’
Keep the routines
It’s a constant balance between your need as a parent and that of your kids, but it is your responsibility as a parent to keep routines the same and grand them stability. As Michelle and Matt of And Off We Went describe it: ‘if a child is allowed to continue on with their routine from home, then a foreign location may not seem so foreign to them after all.’
In the end, being with mom and dad 24/7 is the best stability kids can get, no matter where you are.
What do you think about stability for traveling families?