The reality of being a trailing spouse…

I’ve spoken before about the trailing spouse in the expat world. It’s not easy.

I never thought that I would be a stay at home parent. Especially before I had turned 30 years of age. I thought I was very career driven, I had so many plans and goals that I wanted to achieve. While pregnant I didn’t want to finish up working even though I was unwell and probably not able to keep going. I thought I wasn’t cut out to be at home and would be dying to get back to work.

When we agreed to start an expat rotation I had to give up my new job. I did that only partially because I was missing my son as I was back in work. A huge part of me wanted to do this because it was an adventure, an opportunity to live somewhere in a warmer climate… to meet new people, experience new things and see the world. Of course I wanted to support my husband and his career but I wanted to be selfish and travel too.

Now we’re here. We have been living here for almost 20 months. I haven’t worked more than a few freelance jobs here and there. I miss work. I miss my financial independence, I miss the feeling of completing a project and being happy with the results. I miss running successful events. I miss having my opinion valued in a professional setting.

The longer I don’t work the more unemployable I become. The more difficult it will be to start at the beginning. I’m beginning to question where I’m going and if I’ll ever work again. Will I be at the bottom of the marketing career ladder when I’m in my late 30s? Will my experience and skills be so outdated and irrelevant that everyone else will know more than me?

Yet the longer I don’t work the harder it is to contemplate undertaking further education or more freelance work. Not only am I in a routine that allows me freedom to relax more and meet new people but I’m enjoying the time with my son and it’s hard to give that up. He’s only small for such a short time.

However, I know that this is partially an excuse. I’ve lost my confidence. Being the trailing spouse has meant that while I know my role here in our family is important, it’s diminished my self belief that I could be anything outside that role. I’m feeling lost.

Who knows where our next rotation will be or if we will be going home to Ireland after our time here in Puerto Rico. I feel like I can’t plan any further than a few months ahead at a time.

As much as people believe that a huge part of my time here is spent by the pool with a pina colada that isn’t the case… But I fear if I don’t start to apply myself better in the coming months then I’m about to become the stereotype. If that happens I’ve no idea where to go from there.


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