Going From An Independent Expat To A Dependent Trailing Spouse

Trailing spouses… I am not sure who came up with this term, but I don’t like him or her already. Years ago it was “trailing wives”, but my 21st century brain won’t let me say those words out loud. It pains me to think of the term ‘trailing wife’ or spouse. Why, you might ask?Before I became a wife and a mother, I was an independent woman in my own right. I worked, I had lived in four different countries (including my own) and I’ve always known what I wanted. OK, my focus has changed over the years, which is OK by me, but I knew who I was, what I wanted to accomplish, where I wanted to get to, and so on. Basically, my name is Flavia and I’ve lived a life independent of being married or having kids. My ego is hurt.

After I got married, nothing much changed. I worked, paid bills, had friends. Nothing really out of the ordinary for me. The first time that I didn’t have to work outside of the home was when we moved to England, back in 2007. My husband was transferred with his job, I’d just had a baby, so it was natural for me to stay at home. Although I a “wife’s visa”, that gave me the right to work in England, I kept it with my passport. Back at home, I was climbing the walls, but managed to keep Victoria and I entertained; after all, we were in England! A new country, new city, all new: there was loads to see and do. I never really considered not being able to work outside of the house. It was just a matter of time, once my daughter was old enough, of course. And that’s exactly how it happened. In 2008 we moved from Lincolnshire to London, and I started working full-time after a few months.

Basically, during my life, if I wasn’t working, I was looking for a job, or ways to feel productive. I’ve held different jobs in different industries and I’ve always done well wherever I worked… except… at one job…

When we moved to Phoenix, AZ, I was looking for millions of jobs to no avail. It was 2012, the unemployment rate was still pretty high and it was hard to find anything. I decided then to get my real estate license and work in real estate. It’s not even that I didn’t do well at it, I mean, within a few months I was doing relocation, my clients loved working with me and I loved working with different people from all different backgrounds, but it is hard. One of the hardest jobs I’ve ever done, and no guarantee of a salary at the end of the month.

Now we, as a family, arrived at a crossroad. My husband got a job, which by the way, is an amazing opportunity that I support 100%. I have been his cheerleader from day one and I’d never consider not going along for the ride. This new job requires that we move to different places and for this reason, there is no certainty of jobs for me. Not only that, but now I’ve been given a label. One that doesn’t represent me, one that I don’t like at all. A Trailing Spouse.

How did that even happen?

Right now I am at a place where it seems like most decisions are being made for me; that when I ask questions, and I have lots of them, all I get as an answer is: “I don’t know” and “well… it depends”. I’m not used to that. I’m used to getting a job done and being good at it.

Words fail me. It’s hard to explain exactly what bugs me about it. In some aspects, my life seems to be on hold, but on the other hand, there are decisions to be made, I’m required to be involved with different things. And I have a eight-year-old who needs support in this transitioning time. She’s been strong; she’s gone through the hardest part, which was leaving her friends behind, in Phoenix.

In the end, I know that everything will be ok. Change is one common thing in the life of an expat. This is what makes it exciting! I know that I will be fine and one day I might get away with not being called a trailing spouse, but until then, I have to figure out what to do.