The trailing spouse – what’s next for them?

The year we left Australia, I was one subject away from finishing a Professional Writing and Editing course. Everything was working out perfectly – final assignments due in October – around the same time as the baby.  I’d started to do some corporate writing for the marketing team at work – the area I wanted to move into and I was negotiating part-time employment after maternity leave. And then we found out we were moving…in the July.

No maternity leave – I resigned; no diploma – the course wasn’t offered off-campus (and now no longer exists) and the 18 month secondment somehow turned into 10 years.

Some companies understand the career sacrifice that trailing spouses make to support their partner and offer retraining programmes – I had a close friend who become a qualified yoga instructor during their two-year stint in Brunei. Unfortunately this is the exception rather than the rule and didn’t apply to us. Realistically though, as we moved on average every two-and-a-half years and acquired three kids in the process, there wasn’t much time to study or try and find a job.

We’d also made a decision that one parent would be in the country with the children at all times. My husband travelled a lot, so that was my role and that was fine. But now we’re moving home, I’m starting to think like the kids – what about me? How employable am I now? And what would I do? What roles are available for someone in my position?

Certainly my skills have changed, particularly in the areas of multi-tasking and time-management. Roomful of toddlers over for a play date? No problem! Give a talk to a class of Grade 4’s about descriptive vocabulary? Sure thing! Juggling three kids in two different schools? Just part of everyday life.

So why does the thought of a formal interview process bring me out in a cold sweat? Is it the fear of being judged and found lacking after a 10-year hiatus?

Anyway, I still have a while to ponder over the intricacies of re-entering the Australian workforce. We’ve got the move to sort out, a settling-in period to work through and another school system to navigate first. But that niggling thought still pops up with alarming regularity – once everyone’s sorted, what will I do?

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