Friday, January 31, 2014

Blogging, the Foreign Service, and "Secrets"

Some of you may have seen a post going around the interwebs called "The 7 Guilty Secrets of Trailing Spouses." It has created a lot of spin-off posts and debates amidst the FS community, and naturally, I have my own take on it too.

First of all, if you've never heard it before, "trailing spouse" is the term for folks like me: husbands and wives who follow their working spouses around the world. Obviously not all trailing spouses are unemployed, but it kind of has that connotation, like we're just sherpas lugging the suitcases and children behind our significant others. And, okay, sometimes it DOES feel like that. This particular article isn't geared toward FS spouses - it's more of a general expat post. And considering it focuses on Brussels, of all places, I can see why it rubbed some people the wrong way.

So, what are the 7 Guilty Secrets? According to the author, "expat coach" Louise, they are:
1) You are not finding fulfillment in your children alone
(Hello! Couldn't this be said about stay-at-home parents everywhere??)
2) You envy your husband's life
(See comment for #1)
3) You feel second to the rest of the family
(I'm starting to feel like a broken record, but...see comment for #1)
4) You feel ungrateful for your privileged life
(Isn't this where the whole "first world problems" thing comes from?)
5) You fantasize about going home
(Is that really a secret?)
6) You're frustrated about the gap in your CV
(Seriously, haven't we covered this already?)
7) You don't know what you want
(And I'm done)

Okay, so these "secrets" aren't really secret at all, and they are far more universal than the author seems to think. Does that mean I haven't experienced these things? Nope. I've experienced most of them, both in the FS and out of it (except for #2, because I would a) never make it into the FS and b) have no desire to, and #7, because I know exactly what I want in life - it's the "making it happen" part that eludes me).

Still, all the conversations and posts that came out of this article have been fabulous as far as I'm concerned. Some people saw it as a reason to get angry ("I'm not like that! How dare the author insinuate I want my husband's job!") and some saw it as an opportunity to vent ("Totally! I feel like this all the time!"). The beauty of it, as far as I'm concerned, is that it got so many so-called "trailing spouses" talking, and it made me realize how perfectly normal my reaction to everything in the past two years has been. This is why I blog, and why I read other family member blogs: because no matter how isolated you may feel at post, there is someone else out there who has gone through the same thing as you. It might feel risky sometimes to put it all out there (heaven forbid we jeopardize our spouse's reputation by not being happy about everything all the time), but when we air our "guilty secrets," we often find we're not alone.

2 comments:

  1. I'm not married to someone in the FS, but I can relate to all of these things from memories of being a SAHM. And like you, I knew what I wanted but didn't know how to make it happen. Actually, I still don't really know. ; }

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  2. I love your post, Mara. I can really relate to what you wrote about the things on this list not really being secrets. Or maybe they are, and too many people are just trying to keep them that way, thus increasing the isolation one can feel when one is a trailing spouse. I had never heard that term before, and the image is of someone chasing after her ambitious partner, hands full of stuff: suitcases, children, pets, etcetera, and with a disheveled and harried appearance. Certainly that is me at times... but I prefer to think of myself and the enabling spouse, the supporting spouse, and the one who helps make it all happen. ;-)

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