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trailing spouse

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Survey: Expat spouses and employment

clipboards_Yet another couple of expat survey findings have been published that caught my attention. As you know from this post, I love each and every one of them. Surveys are necessary, helpful, informative; they shed light into detailed international corners where our individual flashlights don't reach, and they remind us that expats and their families are people, not commodities. Still, I can't help but wonder: how much more evidence does the world need that a happy expat spouse can make or break the assignment?

I don't have a brilliant and witty argument in reply to that question, instead I could go on about the perils of disregarding the spouse's needs. Employment opportunity is one aspect of the bigger picture, and no doubt an important one. The lack of it can lead to identity crises, boredom, resentment, strained communication, stress, marital breakdown, and depression.

"[The Permit Foundation's latest survey Expatriate spouses and partners employment, work permits and international mobility] provides evidence that a lack of spouse or partner employment opportunities adversely affects global mobility of highly skilled international employees." Well, what is it that is stopping the movers and shakers from providing excellent service to the entire expat family? Money? Time? Really? Could it be that simple?  'Cos that's what I'm here for! Contact me for a chat about how I can support your people! I can't give out work permits (wouldn't that be the day...), but I can make sure your guys at least have a more rounded understanding of the emotional roller coaster they're getting themselves into; and if they're stuck, we can figure out alternative courses of action that may just make the difference between early termination and finishing the assignment. And that, surely, is worth looking at, right?

If you have other ideas, let me repeat the question: what is it that is stopping the movers and shakers from providing excellent service to the entire expat family? Let's see if we can get a discussion going in the comments-section. I'll also be sure to bring it up at the FIGT Conference in March and report back. FIGT, of course, stands for Families in Global Transition, and yours truly is looking forward to giving a presentation as well as soaking in the general atmosphere of "expat families deserve all the support they can get". Can't wait. Why don't you drop by and we can share a cuppa? Early bird registration is still available until January 31st!

Expatica has awarded the ORC's survey on expat's work-life balance first place in their "Top 5 Industry Survey Awards". You can read about its main findings in this article. And another shameless plug while we're at it: find me on their expert's panel for personal coaching questions on Expatica Germany.

Wishing all of us in the US a happy Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. / National Service Day  (hear and read about it here and here) and happy (and glorious) inauguration. Til next week, have a good one!

Thanks to flickr's hownowdesign for the photo under Creative Commons License.

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Trailing spouses

Your spouse just got the opportunity of a lifetime: overseeing the development of the organization's newest international branch in Dubai. You have discussed the options in your family, your kids don't mind, the package is phenomenal, it's only for three to five years, and did I mention it's the opportunity of a lifetime? Obviously, you're a good and generous person, and you're happy for and proud of your partner, so you wouldn't want to stand in their way. You take the plunge and decide to leave your job and interrupt your career path to stay together as a family. Now, how are you going to tell your buddies you're quitting to be a stay-at-home Dad while your wife advances her career?

As a growing number of Expats know, it's not just the guys anymore that take advantage of international assignments. More and more female executives bring home a considerably-sized bacon themselves, and sometimes that involves moving and taking the family with them. Same rules apply, the sending organization will be able to sort out work permits for their employee, but might not be able to for the accompanying spouse. So how are we dealing with reversed roles? Is it even still fair to assume in this first decade of the 21st century that the idea of men staying home taking care of the kids is weird? By now, every man has learned how to load the dishwasher and change a diaper, right? Well, maybe, but that's not quite the same thing, is it.

When faced with the decision to follow your partner somewhere they need to go, think carefully about what this means to you and your family. If you're up for a promotion yourself and you don't want to miss out on the rewards you worked so hard to achieve, remember that you have the option of a divorce. That's where you'd be headed anyway if you go along but resent and blame her for having to give up your career.

Now, deep breath. Once you've had a minute to let those two extremes (giving up your work vs. giving up your wife) sink in, do take a look at the grey area. The important thing to keep in mind for everybody considering a life-changing event like an international move is to never feel pressured; there are always options. Making the decision might not be easy, but there's always a friendly coach around to support you in sorting through the questions you have. :-) For instance, you might look at deferring your move, let her go ahead and follow a few months later after you've finished that important project. That'll put you in the boss's good books and they might be more inclined to keep you on doing remote-office or in a consulting capacity. Maybe they even have a branch or a partner in Dubai where you could get busy while you're there.

In any event, and as difficult as this may sound what with testosterone and ego driving your perceptions, the stress of keeping up with the Jones's, and not wanting to look like a wuss in front of your mates, is the idea of taking some time out of the rat-race really so horrible? I mean, what are upsides here? You get to bond  more with your kids, your wife will be eternally grateful, you get a chance to pursue activities you never would have at home, you could find time to go back to school, or volunteer in local community projects - is that really so bad? Not every guy could do what you're about to, because not every guy is secure enough in themselves to put the needs of their family first. That's something to be proud of, and the reward may not come in the form of a brandspanking new company car, but in the love and respect of your family. Priceless.

There's so much more to talk about, so if you're an expat hubby and would like to chat or share your experience, do drop me a line at doris@buildingthelifeyouwant.com. Thank you and stay well, til next time!

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