Third Culture Kids - Learning to Communicate Where Home Is

TCKs Home Without A Home

Total third culture kids and traveling missionary mom moment.

Tears. Like “super fast blinking and trying to keep my face smiling” mom moment.

Deep, gut-level, inner sigh…

My kids are feeling homeless.

I mean… I know it happens. I knew it would happen. To us. To my girls.

I’ve read about it and even experienced it some while growing up as we moved often.

But, my kids?

My girls… feeling homeless.

Third Culture Kids - Learning to Communicate Where Home Is

I was in our bathroom with Abby. She is 7. We were just getting back to our apartment after a 10 day trip in which we stayed 3 different places and visited 4 different churches.

Abby said, “Oh, I’m so glad to be back in our apartment.”

I looked down at her sweet little face and said, “Are you glad to be home?”

“Yes…” she frowned. “At least I tell my friends at school that this is my home because I don’t want them to know I’m homeless.”

Insert pause for an incredibly quick mommy “don’t cry just regroup” moment… “Oh, baby. We aren’t homeless. Home is always where your family is. We can make home wherever we are because we are together.”

She said, “I know. That is just too much to explain to my friends.”

Oh, sweetie… Mommy knows.

The dreaded “Where are you from?” and “Where is home?” and “Where do you live?” and “Where are you off to next?”

Do they mean where I’m from from? Like where I grew up? Where we met? Where we pastored? Where we own a house? Where we live now? Do they want to know where we were last week or where we were last year?

How much information do they want? How simple of an answer can I give? If I give a full answer will they ever understand what I’m saying?

The fact that my sweet girls have picked up on this communication/relational challenge and they haven’t even been overseas yet tells you something about our lifestyle for the past 15 months.

A lifestyle that will be their lifestyle for the coming duration of their childhood. Something will carry into adulthood as well.

It is too much to explain sometimes.

This “homeless” feeling. This “my story is just too much to explain” feeling. This “Wow… I can’t even answer simple questions. My life is pretty strange.” feeling.

My girls feel it. They feel it all. They are experiencing it to the max. And the max will only grow as they change with this ever changing missionary lifestyle.

Traveling from town to town over your childhood is hard. Traveling from town to town for months on end… crazy hard. For my girls, especially Abby, this is all she remembers.

We had a conversation recently about being busy and moving all the time. I asked, “Don’t you girls remember just being home? You know when we did school at home and Daddy came home from work and we had dinner and then went to bed just to get up and do the same thing the next day?”

All three blank stares.

Third Culture Kids - Learning to Communicate Where Home Is

They don’t really remember that.

15 months of their short lives has been stuffed in the backseat of a van together for hours on end, meeting new people, eating in restaurants or lunches on the go of string cheese and beef jerky. They can recall a hot dog place in downtown Cleveland and Chicago and St. Louis and Yellowstone and Fry’s Electronics Store in Indianapolis better than they can remember simple, quiet, normal days at home.

Being in a physical home… that isn’t their life anymore.

And they are processing it. Trying to explain it. Simplifying it for those around them because the differences are pretty great.

They are strong. Tough. Growing skills at 10 and 9 and 7 that are vital to coping with the call on our lives.

We are blessed. We carry home with us. Wherever we go.

Home is different for us and that is okay. That is our journey, our life, our adventure.

A few other Missionary Life posts:

10 Things from the Missionary’s Point of View

5 Things Missionaries Need

Challenges of TCK Life



  1. This.
    Oh man…we’re new to living overseas but our home has changed a lot over the years, simply due to life circumstances. Now our kids don’t know where to call home. In PA where they grew up? In NC where we lived for 3 months before moving to Africa? Here?? Is here now home, even though we just got here & aren’t settled?
    I feel your pain…oh so much. But our journey, our adventure is making us stronger as a family & teaching us where Home really is.

  2. Okay, so this almost made me cry too. I remember that “homeless” feeling when the kids and I were Traci.g with my husbands job. It’s tough and especially do when your kids are struggling a bit as they work through and process their emotions. It is worth it and one day they will look back on the adventures they’ve had and the lives they’ve impacted and they won’t be able to imagine life any other way. Praying for you and your family!

  3. Hi! You don’t really know me, but I’ve been following along on your blog for years now.
    I can’t say that I’ve experienced what you talk about here, but I’m going through something similar. I’m from Egypt but I’m studying in the States right now, so I’ve also had to make a home somewhere where I don’t really feel at home. What I’ve come to learn through this, though, is that this is a perfect opportunity for me to learn about my true home, Heaven. I was never meant to make my home on Earth, but it was easier to do when I was rooted in one place for so long. Now that I’m more uprooted, I’m learning all about being a stranger to the world, while feeling at home wherever I go because my Father is with me.
    It’s a very difficult lesson to learn, to be sure, but your girls are lucky to be learning it at 10 instead of at 19 like me.
    Blessings to you and your family!

    1. thank you for sharing your story! what a blessing to meet people who are walking this road too… I so appreciate your input! thanks for reading and nice to meet you!

  4. Oh Jenillee, this brought tears to my eyes. I cannot say I know what this feels like, but I will be praying for you and your girls. That is a lot to process. Hugs!

    1. it is a process. but we are blessed to be in it and to be learning the things that God is teaching us… it just amazes me when my girls are processing things and they vocalize what they are feeling. so thankful that we can talk these things through with them! Thanks for stopping by the blog today!

  5. I can only imagine the emotions you all must be feeling. The girls will understand later, but now it’s hard. They will settle in once you finally get to Senegal – it just defies easy understanding and explanation in the interim. Children are resilient. You are a great missionary family and you will do great things on the field. There are hundreds if not thousands of people praying for you. Love and Blessings to the Goodwins as you complete the last lap in this part of the race.

    1. We know that it is the power of prayer that is keeping us going! And even having fun while we’re going! It was so crazy to hear in Abby’s words that she has been processing how to communicate our lives to others. big parent moment!

  6. I understand that feeling. We were travelling evangelists at one time. I will be praying for you and your family. God will bless you for your ministry.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *