By DOMINIQUE CLAYTON
I’ve always been a busy body. Restless, imaginative, outgoing and fearless. I left home at 17 to go to college across the country and never looked back. My wanderlust has taken me to several places in the globe including Africa, Brazil, and Europe. In that journey I managed to pick up a husband and have some kids, but I have no plans of slowing down just yet. While most families are thinking about settling into their dream house in a neighborhood with a good school, my family is thinking of how we can teach on the road, acquire new languages, and fill the pages of our passports. We’re a family that loves road tripping with kids.
Shortly before I met my husband, I was seriously considering quitting my job in New York to move somewhere in Africa and to teach or work for an international organization. I had grown tired of the single life in NYC and was looking for a life reset button. While I never found that button, I did manage to find my husband. When we started dating, I told him that I was planning to leave the country, but his charm convinced me to stay and explore the possibilities of our relationship. Shortly thereafter, much to the surprise of our friends and family, we married.
We spent our first year of marriage exploring New York together since he was a recent transplant and soon discovered we had a baby on the way.
Our first was born in New York City. She arrived fashionably late to her due date, but just in time for summer in the city. I like to think of her as the capstone of my wild days in my twenties in the big apple. My family plans and choices haven’t always been understood or welcomed with joy. Within the first month of our daughter’s birth, I strapped her to my chest, threw some earmuffs on her, and took her to a African music concert in the park. My thoughts are that children and marriages aren’t a handicap to our lives. They become the reasons for living and gaining new experiences.Children and marriages aren’t a handicap to our lives. They're for gaining new experiences. Click To Tweet
Of course I would get those looks and comments from other women, like “that baby is too little to be out of the house.” While annoying, I didn’t mind it. After all, I heard no complaints from my baby, so we kept it moving. She was one of those rare babies who never cried, slept regularly, ate regularly, was never sick. She was so easy. She just stared wide-eyed out at the world, like me ☺.
So why be stuck at home?
Not only did my husband respect my idea of parenting, he encouraged my trip planning. After a couple trips to our families in the states, we decided to go across the pond for a European adventure. Our baby girl was only 10 months, and couldn’t walk yet, so how much trouble could she get into?! And hello, traveling with babies is FREE! You just have to do a little research on how to make it practical and comfortable for your family. (I’ll write a separate cheat sheet for traveling with babies). In our case, since we were doing an overnight flight, I looked into what international airlines had sleeping options for infants, and got a sweet hookup with a complimentary on-board baby bassinet that hooked on to the seat tray so we could relax hands free on the flight. Did I mention it was free?
You know what else is free? Breastmilk! I didn’t have to pack a bunch of bottles and supplies. Her meals were ready whenever and wherever she needed them. And last but not least, baby wearing made getting around the airport and crowded places easier and much safer.
That first big trip was a great success, and she became our partner in crime. During the months following the European trip to London and Paris, we took her with us on more travels back to see friends and family in Canada, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and even New Orleans. My husband and I even managed to do a couple international trips without baby (thanks for babysitting, mom!☺).
The “rules” suggest that you should be married, live in a house, and then have kids. Daddy should work in an office and mommy should stay at home or, if she does work, there should be a grandma nearby, a nanny, or a daycare to drop the kids at. Well, none of those circumstances applied to us, so we had to write our own script for how we were gonna do this family thing. Here’s my take on it—the things you must do for your children in order of importance:
1. Keep them alive (the basics: food, shelter, water)
2. Development (how to eat, talk, walk, get dressed) – having multiple children makes this easier because the younger ones learn very easily from the older ones
3. Educate (how to read, write, think, create, explore) – you don’t need a traditional school to do this; homeschooling or learning on the road is an option
4. Establish a world view (what is the world, where are we in it, who else exists in it, how do they live)
The last point is one I hold dear to my heart because with a world view comes humility, understanding, compassion, creativity, communication, and growth. If we stay in one place, how can we grow? Like plants, many of us need more water or sunlight to grow to our highest potential, and if we aren’t getting it where we are currently planted, then we need to move somewhere else. The good news is there’s soil, sun, and water all over the world, so we can grow anywhere.
Just before our oldest turned two, we got pregnant with our second. At that point, we wanted out of the concrete jungle and were looking for nature, an opportunity to grow food, and to spread out as a growing family. So we packed up our bags midway through my pregnancy and moved to Georgia. We appreciated the southern charm, beautiful country landscapes, and before long, we naturally birthed our new Georgia “peach.” As we approached our second winter season in Atlanta, my husband and I got that familiar itch to set foot again. Even our oldest asked when she could go back on the airplane. So just shy of our second daughter’s first birthday, we packed everything up again and headed out west to Los Angeles.
For now, Los Angeles feels right and the kids love it. And now we’re in for our 3rd baby. Based on our pattern, I imagine we will be making another major move in a year or so. Of course others have asked how the kids adjust and what to do about friends and schools. The good thing is we have multiple children, so they are each other’s friends, and wherever we are we always make a daily trip to the local park and playground to socialize with others. They aren’t school age just yet, so in the meantime, they are learning French and Spanish through books and videos and will likely be homeschooled by whichever one of us stays home. I also plan to look for international school or bilingual schools, so they can maintain an international connection. If we don’t go to another US city, our next move will likely be a stint in Europe or maybe the Middle East. But for now, we’re exploring the coast, the beaches, growing avocados, and raising vegan babies, one colorful day at a time. Stay tuned as we plan our next adventure!
Dominique Clayton is a former wild child turned wife and mom. As a lover of travel, art, festivals, African and French cinema, Dominique has traveled and worked in several parts of the globe and hopes to continue doing so with her family in tow. Check out her blog, DominiqueTheParent, and connect with her on Twitter at @lookatdominique or on Facebook.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.