- Susie Csorsz Brown
I have a dream ... and I have one for my kids. They go congruently and, at the same time, in polar opposite directions.
I know what I want to do but what I want to do might be at odds with what I want for my kids. (And no, I'm not fantasizing of running off to join a circus or become a full-time yogi in Bali.) Instead, I'm having a dilemma, and I think it's probably one many other trailing spouses have do ... bear with me. It's about jobs. I have, as I see it, two options.
Option #1 - Do something meaningful but for little pay.
Isn't it, at some point, in this 'trailing spouse' life, time for me to have the opportunity to do what I WANT to do? (I know, selfish selfish.) But honestly, when do I get to do something that I might actually be trained for, and find meaningful and fulfilling and enjoyable? Isn't it, at some point, my turn to do something for me? I am really good at this job, too. I am an open-hearted listener with a bucketful of tools and trainings that I can rely on, as well as life skills that I've learned while, well, going though life. I feel like I've been through a trench or two while parenting, and can probably empathize with a number of situations other parents might struggle through. I feel like when I focus on coaching, I do better at home, too, because I am more mindful of my interactions with the kids, with my hubby, and with my life; in short, I feel like am I better at 'walking the walk' when I am actively coaching.
Honestly, the pay probably isn't going to be great, and there aren't any TSP payments when one is working for them selves.
But I get to do something that feeds my mind and interests, that helps me focus on being a better parent myself, and that lets me dictate when and where I work so then I have more time (and energy!) for my family. Also, aren't we trailing our spouses because we want to see and experience these fascinating countries we are posted to? If I am working a mostly-desk job, it's a little hard to have the time to venture out and explore.
Option #2 - Do something I'm good at but a little tired of that pays moderately well.
College tuitions loom. Even if I don't feel 'old', I'm not getting any younger and every other word out of Hubby's mouth is 'retirement' so ... how can I not feel the pressure to contribute to both of those gaping, bottomless financial holes? Back when we were in high school (yeah yeah yeah, back in the good old days, scurrying around those dinosaurs) you could go quite far, getting a high school diploma and having a plan. Nowadays, a bachelor's degree is a basic requirement just to get the proverbial door to crack open, never mind getting your foot all the way through. It's not a matter of 'if' our kids will go to university but 'where'; we NEED to save for this, especially as every year, the number on the price tags attached to a college education creep higher and higher. There are several jobs I can apply to and be well-qualified for at the embassy, giving me a familiar place to work, familiar set of rules to follow and a much appreciated chunk deposited into my TSP. All good. The downside? I'm good at the job, and like the people I work and interact with, but it's not really what I love to do and have spent literally years studying for. Pieces of it, sure, but it's not really feeding my motivation to try harder, do better, and learn more.
Don't get me wrong, I've worked a 'safety' job a number of times now, in different countries at different embassies, and have not only really enjoyed it but also felt like I accomplished a lot, contributed to my community and learned from the job and my role in the embassy and community. I feel like others have benefited from my efforts and that is important to me. But I also feel like I've had to make some hard choices following my hubby around the globe, most of them ending opting to go with options that benefit others more than myself. Not trying to wave the martyr flag, really, but it's true that often, we trailing spouses go along with what's best for the majority (family, etc) rather than what benefits us the most, purely because we are who we are. Is this another situation where we should pick the option that benefits the majority or the option that benefits us? Sadly, it is often one versus the other.
I feel a bit like I am on a gangplank: I can wheedle my way back onto the safety of the ship, do what I have to do, or do I take the plunge? I have a few friends who have done that - jumped - and they are so happy about it. They have truly portable, fulfilling careers. But ... it's a big unknown, right? It's a little bit scary. I have no problem encouraging my kiddos to take that step - 'be brave, it'll go well' - but I'm feeling a little gun-shy.
Ah, decisions, decisions. I don't even have either job at this point, just trying to really focus on where I should put my energy. Easy or more complicated, familiar or ground-breaking (for me, anyway), flexible or steady, ... each has bonuses, each has drawbacks. I guess the real question is: will I jump?