Reflections on being a trailing spouse the past seventeen days

Daya and I arrived Thursday, July 29th. It is now Saturday, August 14th. We have been in Bombay for seventeen days. Half a month. Two and a half weeks.

This time has been great in a number of ways. I have enjoyed having more time to myself and expanding my mind to include new perspectives. By coming to India as a male trailing spouse I’ve had an experience outside of normal gender roles.If I forecast a further twenty years I can only begin to better understand what it must feel like to be someone who has sacrificed one’s own career ambitions for the sake of a partner’s ambitions. I think of the parents of friends whose mothers finished graduate education programs and then sacrificed promising careers to support those of their husbands. Then I think of women from cultures where it is assumed that the woman will forgo professional ambitions.

Male-centric and supposedly feminist mediums of popular communication portray house wives as more spoiled and shallower than their working counterparts. Children who are too young and inexperienced to understand what their mothers are going through probably think their mothers are lazy or have it easy because they do not have to go to work.

Perhaps some stay at home spouses mean it when they say they have it easy, but I suspect a lot of them are speaking in code. I look forward to future conversations with more experienced stay-at-home spouses so they can share some of their perspective and confirm or dispel my impressions.

To jot down some of the frustrating parts of being a trailing spouse:

  • Waiting hours for deliveries and workers who do not show up when they say they will.
  • Making subtle time-value decisions where I value my partner’s time more than my own.
  • Not having a straight answer for “what do you do with your time?”
  • Feeling embarrassed when meeting other trailing spouses who already have projects they are working on.

At the end of some days, I feel down on myself because I have not managed to get more done. There is a lot of “wasted” time in my days here. When I take a step back I realize that it’s only been seventeen days and adjusting takes time.

Now that I am more aware, I can channel my time and energy in a more intentional manner. I will start some sort of work out regimen this week. And I will make time to meditate. Years ago, I would set aside time to meditate each day. I will bring that back. Work-wise, I plan to apply myself to expanding the cosmetics and apparel businesses I am involved in. Additionally, I will look for educated people to research things, and experienced computer programmers to outsource specific work to. I look forward to seeing how effectively I will turn those goals into a concrete plans this coming week.

5 Responses to “Reflections on being a trailing spouse the past seventeen days”
  1. Judy says:

    Take heart! You are doing well to have already made such positive plans about how you will spend your time.

    Male trailing spouses are a fast growing group who are forming their own networks and being welcomed into the many groups for female trailing spouses. Check out Jeff Porter’s Trailing Spouse Network on LinkedIn and also his excellent blog

  2. Expat says:

    As a fellow male trailing spouse, I think you head the tail on the head with this post and your four bullet points listing the some of the frustrating parts our life. It’s even more complicated when we are men, as we are the minority not only among locals, but also among trailing spouses…

  3. Jeff says:

    Thanks for the reference Judy. I think this post points out the importance of Trailing Spouses starting their search for work or other activities prior to their expatriation instead of waiting until they are expatriated.

    Let’s face it, 17 days is a drop in the bucket. Finding your place, your sense of worth or turning goals into plans takes time, commitment and relationship building. Get started early…and keep doing it.

    We can choose to view our Trailing Spouse situation as a “sacrifice” and build endless lists of why life is hard, but that’s a destructive path. Find the positives. If you must list the problems, think of solutions.

    Some people here might be able to help further:

    — Jeff

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