This post is the second in the Global Women Discuss Love, Loss, and Family Abroad series between the women of the Expat Coffee Club and Knocked Up Abroad. Click here to read the first set of questions and answers between the two groups of women.
Amanda: For the past three years, I have been working in the world of International Development. Since most of the work is contractual, I’ve also been doing the “long-distance thing” with my boyfriend in Canada during my last two contracts (five months in Ghana, and seven months in Bangladesh/Nepal).
This time, my contract is for an entire year in Bolivia, so my boyfriend agreed to take a year off work (he’s a Chiropodist—a foot and ankle specialist) to come travel with me. We both agreed that it’s a good chance to explore the world, work on our Spanish, and live outside of Canada to learn about a new culture. I know it’s really difficult to find someone to uproot their life to join you on your newest adventure, and I feel really lucky to have such a sweet guy here with me on my journey!
As women with families, how do you balance the needs of each member of your family (partner and kids included)? Assuming that you have different careers, different family needs back at home, and different friend groups—how do you come to a compromise?
How do you decide what jobs to take, where to live, how long to stay in one place, and how often to see your families “back home”? It seems a bit easier for us since we’re only two people, without a lot of commitments, and no kids or family responsibilities yet—but how can we make it work over the years to come? I would love to hear any tips, advice, or recommendations you have from your years of experience!
How do you accommodate the needs of two independent people, who are now a couple, but have different careers, family concerns, etc. when choosing where and how to travel for work?
Lisa: For us, one person’s career (my husband’s) has taken priority because his employment is what keeps us abroad. That doesn’t mean that my career isn’t valued, but it has required me to be creative and flexible. I took the time of moving abroad to spend more time with my children at home. It has changed my career path entirely but one in which I am personally and professionally very happy. I couldn’t have predicted this, but I love the outcome.
Lucille: We move every three or four years for my husband’s job. We have moved six times and have never been on different pages about where to go or if we should go. It is much more difficult when both people work, and in that case, somethings gotta give. Weigh up the pros and cons, and if one of you end up leaving your job for the other’s sake then be sure to know what you’re getting yourself into!
Vanessa: This is an issue we’re in the midst of dealing with right now. We’ll have all of our university debt paid off in January, which is incredibly exciting. We agreed once we pay this off, my husband would study Mandarin full-time, but he has been the one through whom we’ve received our family insurance, education discount, and housing benefits.
We’re limited at the moment in where we can go due to my job contract and nature of my work, but the goal for both of us is to move toward independent contractors so that we are our own bosses, and we can decide for the needs of our family and personal interests where we work and live, whether that’s in the plains and mountains of Western China or the streets of Hong Kong.
Nicola: How long is a piece of string? Each couple is different. Some couples ONLY move if there is a tandem opportunity (i.e. a satisfactory position for both to continue on their career track—this tends to work best for couples where both are teachers, diplomats, freelancers or if they both work for the same firm). Otherwise, one career tends to give. It could be the less ambitious partner, the one who earns less, the one who wants to change direction or to start a family or the one that can’t meet the visa criteria to get a work permit.
Rosemary: In my case, I had to give up my career for my husband’s for 27 years. I was never allowed a visa in any of the countries, with the exception of Dubai, in which we lived, and my husband’s employers weren’t too fussed about helping. It was hard coming back “home” after being “unemployed” for all that time.
Cristina: Hi Amanda! I think each couple finds a different way of dealing with it. I think that in our case, we focused on our common goals, values and what was best for our family at a given time. When we were just two of us, and I decided to go to the country where my partner at that time (now husband and the dad of my daughter) had an interesting career opportunity, it was a very interesting opportunity for me as well to grow my own company and do something that really mattered to me.
When we had our daughter, we made a decision to go where we thought it was the best place for her to live. We moved to four countries together, and we always decided together where to go. We manage to find interesting opportunities for the sake of us and for us as a family unit. We didn’t think in terms of my career vs. your career but more in terms of what can we do to make us all happy.
Want more insights?
Read the first post in this series, “Getting Everyone Onboard When Uprooting Your Family.”
Read more about raising families abroad in this free ebook!