I just finished reading a summary report about a survey of accompanying partners (trailing spouses, as I call myself) and career choices. I enjoyed reading the survey summary because it validated a lot of my fears and experiences. Here are some of the interesting tidbits I read:
“Ninety percent of accompanying partners worked before going on international assignment, but only 35 percent worked while on assignment. (Permits Foundation, 2008)”
After being in Kenya, this makes a lot of sense to me. I’m lucky enough to work part-time as a freelance writer, which is a job that I can do remotely. I would not be able to get a work permit in Kenya, so if I had a career path that required me to do in-person work, it would be very difficult for me to get a job here. Many other countries have similarly stringent work permit rules, so I imagine this is a barrier for many accompanying partners.
“[Accompanying partners] who have been abroad for longest, report the highest level of fulfillment. Accompanying partners in their first year abroad rated themselves as the most unfulfilled.”
Through my blog and other social networks, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet a variety of expats and trailing spouses and I consistently notice that the older partners are much more satisfied with their lives. As for me personally, just a year into my trailing spouse life, I feel a lot more confident and happy with my choice. I think I’ve gotten used to my new life and I’ve seen many of the advantages that come with being a trailing spouse, so I feel more emotionally settled, and consequently more satisfied.
“Younger participants report lower levels of fulfillment than their older counterparts.”
With age comes wisdom, right? I also wonder if my generation of younger accompanying partners has been socialized to feel like work is a defining part of our identities. I know several married couples my age who live thousands of miles apart to accommodate their two careers, instead of choosing to make career sacrifices that would allow them to live together. We’ve been taught to prioritize our careers, is it any wonder that when we prioritize our marriages, we feel less fulfilled?
“Accompanying partners DO want to work, but they have to find creative and flexible ways to:
- accommodate local circumstances
- balance work with the important role of being an accompanying partner in managing the relocation and supporting the family”
We don’t even have kids, but this already feels true for us. Someone needs to be available to manage all the large and small details of moving frequently and traveling frequently. Since my husband is working in stressful and busy job already, it’s my responsibility to take care of all the loose ends in our home life. I bring him to and from the airport. I buy the kitty litter and the Listerene before his whirlwind trips to east Africa. I find us new dentists and doctors. I communicate with everyone at home and plan all of our trips. He’s very grateful for my work; without me, he says, he would probably never get a physical, have no friends, and never be able to travel outside of work. He simply doesn’t have the time or energy to plan all that stuff, so I do it.
If you’re interested in reading the summary report for the survey, head over to AccompanyingPartner.com. You can enter you email address to get a free PDF copy of the summary sent to your inbox.
And if you’re an accompanying partner, what are your thoughts? Do you see some these trends reflected in your own life?
Photo by: meganfitzgerald