A short list to consider:
- University Professor with PhD in Chinese Literature
- Family medicine doctor
- Molecular/Cellular biologist
- Chemical engineer
- Speech therapist
- Interior designer
Pretty impressive list of highly educated and successful professionals, right? I’d sure like to share the company of these people, engaging in interesting discussions and learning more about their respective life paths. Oh, wait. I do talk to these women. They make up the group of people at our morning bus stop.
As a trailing spouse living in China, many women must curtail their careers. Some have chosen to do so in order to raise their families. Others have to put careers on hold due to work visa issues, or because of their husband’s job. Regardless of the circumstances, many women are adapting to a new life – albeit, most likely temporary – and sometimes it’s not an easy adjustment to make.
In some ways, people (men are included in this equation as trailing spouses, too) can lose their identity when they aren’t able to continue with their work or outside interests. They often get involved in other ways – joining school organizations, volunteering in classrooms or local charities, learning the language and more. Some do enjoy the time off by exploring the city or going market shopping.
Yet others sometimes fade into a lonely isolation and can become depressed as a victim of circumstance.
One frustrating misconception that all of these women inevitably deal with is the perception that they are all fluff and no substance. That they gossip at the bus stop while making their shopping plans for the day, after their personal trainer workout, nap and spa treatment, of course. It’s an irritating assumption or stereotype that rears its ugly head — we all know it’s present, whether spoken or not.
While my own resume may not be as impressive as some on the list above, I occasionally have to remind myself that I had quite a successful career before deciding on a hiatus to raise my children. At 22, I was a television writer and producer, often appearing as on air talent. I switched gears and spent several years marketing multi-million dollar product lines bearing iconic American brand names. I hired and managed my own staff, and was earning a high five-figure salary at the time. Considering this was 15 years ago, I guess you could say I was climbing the ladder of success at a nice clip. I was and should be proud of that, as I am and should be proud of the accomplishments made since that time, both personally and professionally.
One blog won’t do it, but I hope that for the sake of the women I listed above and for the many others out there, people not in our situation will come to realize that, as trailing spouses we have to make some decisions – sacrifices, even. We aren’t flitting through the international lifestyle without a brain. While here, anyway, we are moms first – the most important job, even – and supporting our families in the way only a mother could.
Kudos to us all!
Photo by JASElabs of flickr.