Successfully managing transition from working mum in UK to non-working expat wife??

(20 Posts)
ExpatAgain Sat 02-Jan-10 10:05:06

Possibly/probably/maybe going overseas for a couple of years (SA) and would be a huge change for all of us, including (especially?) me. Am currently wohm a lot and enjoy challenge/status/independence of this. No good at the f/t with the kids thing (not knocking those who do by the way, just not my forte)...Kids would both be school-age

As an expat wife would be on a spousal visa w/o right to work in a country where it would be extremely difficult for me to find any work even if i could. Voluntary work a possibility.

Any tips from those who've made a similar change?


OP’s posts: |
christie2 Sat 02-Jan-10 11:42:05

My friend is from the UK and cannot work here. She has school age children and has volunteered in an area of interest she studied and worked at and also taken a few courses also in here field while here to fill the time. She also has reached out to make friends and is active in the school and church as well.

Amapoleon Sat 02-Jan-10 11:53:50

I think the important thing is to throw yourself into the community. It's very easy to become isolated. I invited a woman I had met on the steps whilst taking dd to school for coffee and it turned out she was on her own too.

I have joined kids groups, there are a lot of other groups on offer where I live, book groups, history, philosophy, scrabble etc..

There are often expat womens coffee mornings etc., not really my thing but you only have to go to a few to sort the sheep from the goats grin.

I also do some online work, wouldn't pay the bills but keeps my mind active.

ExpatAgain Sat 02-Jan-10 12:00:27

thanks for the tips, food for thought...

OP’s posts: |
Louise2004 Sun 03-Jan-10 07:48:36

You could get involved with the expat women's groups, interest groups, mother and toddler or baby groups etc. and volunteering, which are good ways to meet people and use your skills, as well as develop new skills or hobbies without actually working (and therefore you wouldn't need a work permit). There's also online work as Amapoleon suggested or online courses.

There are a plenty of good international expat websites like and that deal with these kind of issues and there might be some local ones for expats in SA too.

mimsum Sun 03-Jan-10 09:26:40

I did this when we went to the States for a year - to be honest the first 3 or 4 months were the most miserable of my life ...

I had underestimated quite how fundamental the change to my life would be - going from working 3 days a week in a high-status, well-paid job which I loved and having 4 days with the kids (which I loved too, in a different way) to being in a country where I knew no-one, being with the dc (then 3 and baby) full time and having no transport in an area where you needed a car to do anything at all.

What helped was throwing myself into the community there and joining everything going, even if it meant spending quite a bit of time with people with whom I had nothing in common - eventually I found a few like-minded people and got involved with a group setting up a children's museum. Just as I started thinking "I can do this for the next 2-3 years" (original plan was to be there for 3-5 years) dh got a job back in the UK!

good luck

StanleyFletcher Sun 03-Jan-10 23:48:48

You have to take up the inivitations that come your way. They are meant well as other expat spouses know what it is like to be new (don't form TOO strong loyalties until you have sorted the 'sheet from the goats (LOVE that expression!). People can be very forward and friendly which is not really the 'done thing' at home but it can be a life saver and you would soon find yourself approaching lost and lonely looking ladies pushing prams in malls and inviting them to the toddler group or to

If you get the chance I would say DEFO go for it. It is great fun, the kids will prob have chance of a lifetime, good travel, you'll meet lots of good people and you can always volunteer at an orphanage, with street kids or some such thing. good luck!


vulpes Mon 04-Jan-10 07:03:19

making the transition from working to not working can be difficult even if you arent moving.

i actually found it more difficult to reconcile myself with the change in status than i did finding 'things to do'.

all the ladies on here have given you good advice, it does depend on the type of person you are as to how hard it can be. i absolutely hate meeting new people (lol, sucks to be me!) and i have had to just get on with it.

i have loved my time home with DD.

canella Mon 04-Jan-10 12:33:42

i did this last year - left a well paid part time job to move to DH's home country where i dont speak the language very well so therefore dont work.

But i love it - think i was ready for a change and learning the language is a challenge. Think i had become a bit stagnant in my job (although i was very happy for most of the time).

I agree with the others - chuck yourself and your kids into everything. They'll be at school so you'll have time to meet others - go to the gym, go to expat things. Just take any invitation that comes and who knows who you'll meet.

I'm also rubbish at the F/T mum thing so i was glad my dc were at kindergarten in the morning - would have gone mad if i'd been home alone with them all day long!

Hardest part for me has been the loss of my own income but thats my issues (been very poor in years gone by so always like to have my own money) but DH has been great and made it as smooth a transition as possible.

Hope it all works out well for you!

TheMysticMasseuse Thu 07-Jan-10 20:45:37

Am doing it right now, arrived in a new country on Sunday, still unpacking and very depressed at the loss of job, occupation, career, social circle etc

but will let you know, hopefully things will start looking up soon...

coloradobound Wed 13-Jan-10 21:58:56

I'm about to do it - feeling alternately massively excited and absolutely terrified. I'm sure the first few months will be difficult, but my job is massively stressful so it'll be great to be able to concentrate on the kids a bit more and spend more time with them without being exhausted and spending my whole time on my blackberry. However, I fear I'm going to discover how stressful being at home full time with two small children is!

frakkinaround Thu 14-Jan-10 03:59:04

I've just done it but without the children! Arrived here 2,5 weeks ago and only got married the week before that. We know no-one here, live in a v closed residence, I can't work yet and don't even have children to break the ice, although I've been hinting to DH that it would be nice.

However we've just joined a gym, we're sort of on nodding terms with a couple of people and my social French is improving so there's hope. Plus I might have a job lined up which would be fab because I'm kinda fed up of being just a wife at the moment. It's rather challinging to be wifely by yourself for 12 hours a day...

At least you'll be in a country without a big language barrier which is a big plus. And I'm fairly willing to bet you're not as cripplingly shy as I am in RL so that's another plus!

The first month will be crap. Don't give up, though, because I'm told it gets better.

madwomanintheattic Thu 14-Jan-10 04:50:53

start a book club wink
and all else above grin

cultivate a sense of faint irony at your new situation and then throw yourself into it with gusto.

<nb - in six month's time, you, too, will be using words like 'gusto'...>

nooka Thu 14-Jan-10 05:10:50

I did this for six months, and it was just incredibly boring. Then dh lost his job and we had to leave (US, so everything tied up to the employer). Now we live in Canada and I'm the earner instead. Much better. Too much of my identity is tied up into my career. I like working, I like the social interaction, the status and the pay. My children are lovely, and they liked me being there after school, but I found that there was very little I could do whilst they were at school because it wasn't enough time to do anything much, and then I didn't have the money to spend either.

So I'd be checking to see that your dh's earnings would be enough for you to have a fair bit to spend if you wanted (and not to feel bad about) and that it is really secure. Then what voluntary opportunities are possible, and then see if you can get an idea what other non-working mothers do during the day, and whether you'd fit into that or not. Finally whether you could continue to use your skills for anything offshore.

tasjaSAmuminSA Thu 14-Jan-10 07:10:02

Would your visa be the same as my friends? She is from Canada and she cannot work for someone but she can start up her own business and work for herself.

Good luck. I hope it works out for you. Just remember, in SA school funds are expensive. Your DH would have to earn alot if you don't work, to cover school fees, car, house, food. not that I want to put you off.

ihearthuckabees Fri 15-Jan-10 13:28:58

Could you do your current job virtually and on a freelance basis? I got round the lack of visa by doing this but I also set up a limited company in the UK and all my fees were paid to that. Not sure if there would be tax implications in SA, as I was in the States when I did it.

Also did the book group thing and voluntary work thing.

funwithfondue Fri 29-Jan-10 15:07:55

I'd add to the good advice on here, say 'yes' to everything proposed to you (well, almost everything) wink for the first six months. That will make sure you're really busy, and that will help you get to know they place and get through the worst period that has the highest potential for depression.

After that, you can start to be more discerning.

Also, make sure your DH it utterly supportive, and is in agreement that the transition for you will be a million times harder than it will be for him.
He will have a job, with all the structure, support, meetings, adult conversations, and most importantly, status, that provides.
You will not have any of that, and you may well feel quite invisible for the early days.

As others have said, make sure you're both comfortable about finances - you don't want to not only lose the status you had through your job, then to be asking for your weekly allowance too. Make sure you hold the purse strings, and every penny he earns is absolutely joint.

Getting a job, even unpaid, part-time volunteer work, will be (IMHO) the best possible thing you could do to ease you into your new home. If you can organise a placement before you leave the UK, so much the better.

thereistheball Mon 01-Feb-10 08:13:40

Lots of good advice here. I did the same thing almost a year ago. Here are some things I've noticed:

- I enjoy looking after DD but I find the lack of adult conversation means I spend too much time on here / FB etc. Try to build up a social life any way you can. Friends of friends / nice people from DH's office / other MNers a good place to start.

- children are a really good way of meeting people. Get them to the park as often as possible and talk to other parents. Be shameless about asking for their mobile number and using it. (I found this easy because I moved to France, where everyone wants to practice their English or expose their children to it. I now give a couple of lessons a week to neighbouring children in return for their parents talking French to my DD)

- get to the local council offices to introduce yourself and find out what's around for families, eg sports for kids or libraries or drop-in groups. Maybe the school can advise on this too.

- I don't know if you will have this problem but the combination of moving to France (land of wine, baguettes, patisserie, cheese) and stopping working meant that I put on a ton of weight, which has been really unhelpful. If like me you have a tendency to open the fridge every time you pass it try to be aware of that and set up some strategies in advance to stop yourself. Generally I think learning to eat and shop well in a new country takes some time, so be prepared for that.

Good luck! I've only been to SA once for a couple of weeks, but I loved it and this is a great year to be going.

mumoverseas Mon 01-Feb-10 08:29:34

Agree with everything on here. Take up every invitation and get out and meet people.

I've been abroad for just over 4 years now and found it incredibly hard to start with. One week I was working in a high powered career with a busy social life, the next I was 'a wife'. Much as I love my kids I found it very hard going from a busy working mum to being a SAHM.
Over the last few years I started getting more and more involved in things on the compound we live on. I spent a year on the residents committee and have organised a few charity fundraisers. I now sell cards and books (things that are difficult to get and expensive here) and so have met a lot more people through that.
Towards the end of last year I set up my own business teaching baby and toddler sign language. Its just a few hours a week and the money is rubbish compared to what I used to earn but I feel I'm actually doing something worthwhile now and am 'ME' not just 'DH's wife'.

AnotherMotherNomad Fri 05-Feb-10 11:28:50

I would suggest getting involved with a local professional association... (if that is relevant to what you do).

I used to sit on the board of one in the UK, and we were always desperate for people to join committees helping us arrange conferences, events, assess qualifications, outreach to universities, judge awards, that sort of thing.

A few years ago I was in-between jobs and tagged along with my dh on a short-term overseas assignment for a few months. I got in touch with a local association and got involved in organising a networking event for them. It was great, I met tons of people with enviable jobs and kept my work brain ticking over.

If you can find something relevant in SA you would be staying involved with your professional area, meeting some people who are not part of your 'mummy-life', and who knows... even make contacts that could lead to a job there!

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