Trailing spouse... Give up on career and make do?

(13 Posts)
justwondering72 Sun 29-Jun-14 10:55:13

DH and I and two DSs live in Europe. DH is working, though a local job not an expat posting or anything like that. I've been a SAHM for 6 years since my first child was born. My youngest is in nursery pretty much full time now, and I finally have a bit of time to think about the world of work... And I am stumped about what to do.

My background is checkered, but includes a PhD and several years experience in academia and public policy in various countries. I don't speak the language particularly well where we live now, I have never worked here and I don't even think my qualifications would count for much. Everything I have read / been told anecdotally tells me that I would not be able to pick up work in my areas of experience here, as it's a profession that is reserved for citizens of the country and requires extremely good language skills.

Virtually every other trailing spouse here that works seems to teach English now - no matter what their former life / job was! I know a few who have carved out careers in other fields, they all have great language skills and have been here for a long time.

The only options that I can see ATM are teaching English, which really doesn't appeal, or moving somewhere that I will find work more easily. That's not an easy decision to make: DH and the children are all settled and enjoying life here, as am I, and we don't really want to move. Financially we are just in the black each year, we could really do with more money coming in as the children get older and costs increase.

I don't know what advice I am looking for tbh. I'm feeling lost about it all, and keep distracting myself with a busy home life and voluntary work. I'm early 40s - too young to retire! And we can't afford that anyway. Teaching English is the obvious way to go, but it feels like going right to the bottom of the hill and starting all over, scratching around for contracts, avoiding the really crappy employers etc.


OP’s posts: |
LizzieMint Sun 29-Jun-14 11:02:55

Hmm, I can relate to quite a bit of this, even though we are still in the UK. My H has quite a high-powered job, works away a lot and basically is not available during work time except for dire emergencies. He's also fairly limited in where he can work geographically as jobs are few and far between. I had quite a highly paid job in IT before giving up and being a SAHM mum, which i've done for 4 years now.
I don't feel that when the time comes, I will be able to go back to a similar job as any child-related problems will still fall to me (H is usually just too far away to be any help). So I've started my own business up - I decorate cakes - so that i can still feel like I'm doing something. When littlest is at school, I don't know what I'm going to do.
Expand on current business, start something else, retrain?
I wouldn't feel happy just doing nothing, I was brought up to think that if you can contribute, you do. Could you retrain? Or even take some time to study the language more, which might give you more confidence and more options?

MeMyselfAnd1 Sun 29-Jun-14 11:23:25

I'm afraid that no matter how educated you are, you are likely to suffer greatly of the effects of having a gap in your CV to take care of the children.

I'm sorry to provide this controversial advice but, if the salary or your DH can provide for the family, use this as a "scholarship" to focus in getting your career prospects improved before it is too late.

I'm surrounded by very intelligent women, many had made an impact in academia, some had very high level jobs, but most of them agreed to put that behind "temporarily" to support their partners/ex partners' career moves or to spend more time with their own children. All of us deeply regret the decision, as most of us are now still at home, doing admin jobs, teaching English, or even doing cleaning for other people after divorce, while yearning for our researching days (and the income that came with them).

If your career was important to you, Make it a priority again, for the sake of yourself, your children and your marriage.

Want2bSupermum Thu 03-Jul-14 05:36:34

I retrained as an accountant. I earn enough to cover my expenses and DH pays for everything else. We have 2DC and it is hard. I have our neighbour looking after the DC and I am about to hire a FT housekeeper as DH has been complaining about the state of the house.

If I were to do it again I would have done medicine not accounting. We are now out here in the US on a long term basis. I would have loved to have been a GP and could work on a part time basis.

CarolineWheatley Thu 03-Jul-14 05:55:07

Can you spend some time seriously learning the local language? That might make finding work much easier if you're not confined to English medium.

OrangeyTulips Thu 03-Jul-14 17:27:39

I totally sympathise OP. I moved country to come to the UK seven years ago because my husband got a permanent academic post. I have a PhD too but it was a case of one of us getting a job that was permanent as soon as possible. It happened that his area was more employable. I have picked up some work at a University but only very recently did I land a small temporary research post. We have a ds who is about to start school so I'm taking this year to do some courses in researcher development and project management and I'll aim to enter academic administration.

My advice would be to improve your language skills and don't negate the voluntary work that you have done. It shows initiative and that you have worked in the community. Also network like mad. It is impressive that you have worked in both academia and public policy jobs - usually it's one or the other.

I don't know what area your PhD was in so it is hard to advise in terms of other work that would complement your interests. I'm trying to keep my publications going for my own interest but I accept that I'll probably never have an academic post.

It seems to be a feature of academic marriages/relationships that one partner is going to struggle to get work in their chosen field. Where we are at the moment is pretty isolated geographically so it's hard to commute to farther afield Universities. Unlike your situation we aren't entirely settled where we are living and we wouldn't rule out a move in the future to allow me to have better career opportunities.

BeginnersLuck Sat 05-Jul-14 19:05:47

OK so maybe you can't get work in academia in your new country - but what about teaching on a distance learning course (in the UK, USA etc?). It could be a bit lonely working from home though.
Another option could be training up to teach english for academic purposes - I think once you have some tefl experience you can do a masters to specialise.
I'm sure there must be other options as well.


justwondering72 Fri 18-Jul-14 06:54:00

Thanks a for the responses. Learning the local language properly is indeed a no brainer, I think it really undermines my confidence to not be able to communicate well outside my expat circle - it's a big part of who I am, I enjoy networking and general schmoozing but can only do it in English!

I think it's also the starting again from scratch aspect that I am feeling down about.., but that's just part of life these days. Retraining holds a lot of appeal as I think I sleepwalked into academia / further studying and would actually prefer to be doing something far more vocational. Even doing a Tefl would be a step towards that I think.

Well it's the holidays here so that means no school and a constant stream of visitors to cater for! I'll put all this on the back burner, see what filters out by September. It's nice to not be alone in feeling this way.

OP’s posts: |
Bonsoir Fri 18-Jul-14 07:57:04

"Teaching English" can mean many things, from minimum wage classes to groups of no-hopers via dodgy schools to EUR 100+ per hour private one-on-one tutoring to university candidates. How many school leavers in the country you are in apply to UCAS every year? The market for university counselling and IELTS tuition is a much more vibrant and lucrative one than most.

Chewbecca Fri 18-Jul-14 08:02:50

- small business (reflecting a personal interest)
- home / distance working

BranchingOut Fri 18-Jul-14 08:22:06

I would ask, do you actually want to teach?

Identifying and meeting the needs of the learner
Overcoming barriers, including disruption
Working with individuals/groups

Unless you do, I think that training to be a tefl teacher is a bit pointless.

If you are 40 odd you have a lot of years left in the workplace - I suggest seriously considering some heavy-duty retraining (or language-learning), to come out with a path that you actually want to follow.

surroundedbyblondes Fri 25-Jul-14 07:02:22

Just to give you my experiences:
Moved to DH's home country in 2010 when DDs were tiny. SAHM for 2 years till DD2 had a pre-school place.
Started then to look/prepare for work which included language classes. Where we live the state provides free language classes to all immigrants regardless of their background. Through the school I also had access to career/study counselling.
Enrolled at the job centre even though I wasn't entitled to any direct benefits and got excellent advice about what kind of areas I might be able to find work in. Had been thinking "I can always work in a shop or do admin" but found out that there was serious competition for such jobs in our little local town. Got advised to consider civil service posts because of the government's commitment to diversity policy. Something I never would have thought of or considered myself qualified for. It took a while - continuing the language classes and working a crappy part-time job for a year, but last year I got into the organisation I wanted and have loved it. To top it off, a role came free in my local town, I applied for it and got it over 9 other qualified local applicants!
Good advice is key - talk to professionals who know the job market and job requirements. As you've said, the language makes all the difference. Good luck!

RedundantExpat Wed 30-Jul-14 20:01:06

Is there a professional (expat) women's association where you are? They may be able to point you in the right direction. I am also a trailing spouse and have joined the workforce after 10 years of trailing and raising DCs.

Just before getting a job, I did a MOOC which gave me a huge boost. Could you teach online courses, if teaching is what you do? Are there UK companies where you are?

Make a plan, list your priorities, and the areas you don't want to go.

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