Welcome to April 2015’s #TrailingSpouseStories! This month, we played with April Fools and asked each other “What got you “fooled” into being a trailing spouse? What myths did you start out with and what did you discover in the process?” Here is my take on the matter.
There are many myths surrounding the glamorous and mysterious lives of trailing spouses (there are two right there for you). This is my attempt to set the record straight. So, in no particular order, here are five myths dispelled for you:
1) Being a trailing spouse is glamorous.
There are some people who manage to still look glamorous in thirty-two degrees of heat with high humidity. I am not one of them, and nor are most of the trailing spouses I know. There is nothing very glamorous about the lifestyle either: a night out (before I had a baby) was usually a night around someone’s house where you would have a high chance of being dunked in the pool; if you try to wear make up it slides off your face; and really there’s nowhere to go that necessitates getting dressed up. Most days pre-baby involved doing some volunteering, aerobics, supermarket shopping and teaching English. Nowadays my activities are mostly baby-related. Going for a morning coffee, which I know will be far inferior to what I can make at home, is as glamorous as it gets.
2) Trailing spouses sit around drinking coffee/getting their nails done/playing golf.
Some of this does go on, but anyone who did this as a full time job would surely go out of their mind with boredom? Not to mention the fact that the trailing spouse often has to do all of the other jobs while their partner is at work. Sometimes it’s very hard work. Those who say otherwise probably have a full-time amah.
3) Trailing spouses are just house wives/husbands.
Most women nowadays have a career of some kind. Many trailing spouses gave this career up, or at least set themselves back in it, to follow their partner. I am amazed at the skills that many spouses have, and often they are resourceful enough to find a way to use these skills in their new community by teaching classes or volunteering. Besides, I have discovered that there is no such thing as ‘just’ a housewife.
4) Trailing spouses are female.
In many ways, I think it would be a lot more difficult to be a male trailing spouse. In Brunei, the male trailing spouse is not recognised legally and so they are unable to hold voluntary positions. Also, many of the activities set up for and by the expats cater for women – would you want to be the only male in an exercise class? The male trailing spouse is definitely in the minority in Brunei, and they have my admiration.
5) Anyone can be a trailing spouse.
Although this is true in a sense, this lifestyle is not for everyone. It is quite tough to give up work and not know when you might get a chance to work again. It’s scary moving across the world to a country you have barely heard of and with virtually no idea of what it is like or what you will do. I’ve seen trailing spouses who couldn’t stand living in such a small place with barely any of the amenities that they were used to, and others who really struggled with giving up their job. I’ve also seen others, myself included, who thought it was one of the best things they had ever done.
As with many things, the reality doesn’t always live up to the image you might have but in this case I am happy that it doesn’t!
(Image from fanpop)
Why not read what the other trailing spouses have to say?
Didi of D for Delicious says that the trailing spouse life is attractively shiny, yet it is better to know that behind the glitter is a lot of grit. Read more in #TrailingSpouseStories: Falling for Fool’s Gold?
Elizabeth Smith of Secrets of A Trailing Spouse says that the reality of life as a trailing spouse does not live up to its image, but is so much better. Read more in You Could’ve Fooled Me: Common Myths About Trailing Spouses.
Shakira Sison chats with Didi of D for Deliciious We chat with Palanca winning essayist and Rappler columnist Shakira Sison to share stories of her foolhardy decision to leave for NYC. Read more in A Conversation on the LGBT Trailing Spouse Life in NYC with Shakira Sison.
Yuliya Khilko of TinyExpats says that quite often it’s not about being ‘fooled’, but about ‘fooling’ yourself. Read more in Assumptions and speculations – beginning of the trailing spouse journey.