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Trailing Wife and She as Herself

I used to take our country hopping for granted,  viewing it as something normal for husband and I who grew up abroad. I also mistakenly thought we would never ever feel tired of moving, no matter how frequent it  would be. I was forgetting that everybody needs a break and should take some distance from the routine.

I was indeed wrong and amnesic. Humans do need to do something different for a change.  Now in Sydney we only want to stay HOME, to enjoy our neighborhood and our new tiny apartment. We do the same boring things every weekend as we desperately need some rest from learning new stuffs. We haven't yet gone outside Sydney, although we've been here for more than a year. We are on a break. 

There is also a slight change of perspective regarding my role. Before, I've always seen myself as a cross-culture kid who keeps on relocating in adulthood. Now in OZ I see myself as a tag-along spouse for the first time, after having lots of chats with other moms at school and read books on expatriates.

A tag-along wife should always adapt herself, has heart big enough to constantly support her husband's career (while letting her own career melt down) and be patient with any unexpected turn in life. Once she opts for following her husband (to wherever at whenever time), she should also be ready to leave her comfort zone (ex. from using the public transport in Europe now she needs to drive in the USA, from simply going down the stairs for grocery in Holland now she has to walk uphill to get a simple bread in Sydney, etc) .

On the other hand, it's important for her to find something to do to keep her identity. Not as a mom or trailing wife but as a human being. If not, she might fall into depression. Why? The constant moving always forces her to leave behind her circle of friends and things she loves to do, which leaves her with little or no support in the new country. Doing it once might be ok, but being in a similar situation twice, thrice and more might crumble even the strongest spouse apart.  Depressed mom creates unhappy kids and husband, and it can lead to a disastrous marriage for a family on the move. Therefore, having something for herself might help to keep her spirit high. Ideally, she can hold onto this activity/work in good and bad times anywhere in the world.

[Certainly, there are trailing spouses who manage to keep on having employment consistent with what they've been doing since before following their spouses. There are also those who have enough courage to live separately from their spouses so they can keep track of their careers (and travel a lot to visit the husband/wife/family). However, those are outside the scope of this blog post]

Four years ago while living in Chicago, I was lucky enough to have found research and writing as something I enjoy.  I have published some articles and a book, but have been through loads of refusals as well. Still, I keep on writing.

I used to treat my writing for granted, as something that came naturally as a homemaker (who wanted to do something outside the house chores). Now I understand that writing and research is THE THING. It's my sanctuary, my source of happiness. It keeps my identity as myself, beyond motherhood or trailing wife. Writing is something I don't mind spending loads of efforts in, simply because I love it.

Me and writing is merely  an example. There are many other things a trailing spouse can do. She just needs to find a neglected hobby or a brand new thing she's been interested in  (but didn't have time in the past) and turn it into something more serious, long lasting and moveable. Photography, painting, playing musical instrument, needle work, teaching, pursuing another degree, the list can go on and on. Her choice of one or two might become her own miracle(s)!  

I hardly underestimate my role, but now appreciate myself even more after seeing it from this trailing spouse point of view. It gives me new energy to achieve things, probably because there is a taste of 'power of mommy' in it  :D.

And yes, we should avoid taking things for granted.

copyright Santi Dharmaputra

1. The Art of Crossing Cultures (Craig Storti)
2. The Expert Expat (Hess and Linderman)
3. A Movable Marriage: Relocate Your Relationship Without Breaking It (Robin Pascoe)


( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 26th, 2011 05:57 am (UTC)
Glad you have your "thing" everywhere you go :)
Mar. 26th, 2011 06:06 am (UTC)
Elo bukannya tengah malam buta di sono?
Kalau ngga nulis, gw udah gelo dari dulu kali heheh
Mar. 26th, 2011 06:22 am (UTC)
buta. Tp gara2 tadi sempet ketiduran di sofa, sekarang jd seger dah.
Mar. 26th, 2011 05:36 pm (UTC)
semangat, Mbak Santi!
saya senang dengan tulisan-tulisan mbak Santi,
nggak sabar pengen baca karyanya yang sedang digarap :)

Mar. 26th, 2011 08:03 pm (UTC)
Re: semangat, Mbak Santi!
Ow thank you, Alfi. Smart readers like you is all I need :D
Mar. 27th, 2011 03:53 am (UTC)
I found that your writing is very inspiring. And above all that you are a mother and a wife first. I envy you to be able to do what you love...writing and at the same time keeping you insane, being a mother and housewife is the hardest job!!!
Apr. 28th, 2011 12:15 pm (UTC)
Re: inspiring
Ooh thank you, Garile. You know, like any other chosen life, it's not always easy. I just try to make myself happy.
Mar. 29th, 2011 12:52 pm (UTC)
There will often necessarily be one partner whose career will prevail and a partner who needs disproportional creativity for having an career her-/himself.

I think it's extremely admirable if that he or she succeeds despite all the handicaps.

Well, therefore I admire you.

Apr. 28th, 2011 12:17 pm (UTC)
Ah, I'm still struggling and far far away from being a success. I'm just trying to keep my head above the water, you know :D. Thank you, Jerry, as always.
Apr. 28th, 2011 01:57 am (UTC)
Sdyney is beautiful

The mathematician wife here. Sydney is wonderful. It is a food heaven. The outdoors are great too. Enjoy Sydney and keep doing what you enjoy.
Apr. 28th, 2011 12:16 pm (UTC)
Re: Sdyney is beautiful
Sydney is an absolute beauty indeed! Can't complain too much here with the nice beaches and weather :D
Jul. 22nd, 2011 04:04 am (UTC)
What an enlightening and inspiring post!
Saya baru menjalani tahap awal sebagai trailing wife dan membaca tulisan mbak Santi, jadi termotivasi untuk menggali potensi yang ada. Thanks for sharing your inspirational thoughts :)

Jul. 22nd, 2011 04:07 am (UTC)
Hi again, Punky! Welcome aboard then. Kamu tinggal di mana ya?
Jul. 26th, 2011 10:46 pm (UTC)
Trims, mbak Santi. Sekarang tinggal di Port Vila, Vanuatu. Ada rencana liburan kesini mbak? Just let me know :).
Jul. 26th, 2011 10:51 pm (UTC)
Wow ... gimana ceritanya kalian bisa tinggal di pulau?
Jul. 30th, 2011 11:13 pm (UTC)
Suami kebetulan sedang bertugas disini mbak. Disini trilingual juga lho mbak, Inggris, Perancis, dan Bislama. Sayang, kami belum dikaruniai anak, jadi belum bisa mempraktikkan metode mbak Santi :)
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )

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