Trailing and not Failing: How our relationships can sustain us in expatriation?

As many expatriate spouses do, I gave up my job when we decided to start traveling the world with Foreign Service.   I had a great job — the one that paid well and the one that was interesting — but then my husband got an opportunity that was too good  to pass on.  And so we decided that I can perhaps find something as we move from place to place.

The first country we went to ended up going through the recession less than a year after we got there, so getting a job in my profession in the local economy was not an option.  And that’s when I decided that I needed to re-invent myself.  Instead of looking for professional opportunities every place I landed, I decided to carry a professional “opportunity” with me.  That’s how I came across what I do now and I became an expatriate entrepreneur.

As it is with every type of entrepreneurship, succeeding financially takes a lot of time and a lot of effort.  It also takes working on the computer at night, having odd tasks at odd hours — especially if your clients live in different time zones — and taking some time from the family.  It is not a “9-to-5” kind if job and that’s where spouses and their attitudes come in.

How so?

In various ways.  But here I am going to focus on two: understanding and encouragement.

(1) Understanding. When you forgo a full-time job and choose working out of your home, you pretty much stay at home.  And, for some people, staying at home means that you are responsible for all the home tasks out there — cleaning, cooking, ironing, etc.  If you are working on a business, you probably have just as little (if not less!) time for all the home tasks than you fully-employed spouse does.  Yet you are expected to do them.   This expectation may create guilt on your part and criticism on your spouse’s part.  The same feelings surface when you work at night.  In the end neither your business nor your relationship benefit from them.

(2) Encouragement. We all know making money on an idea takes time.  Time and a lot of work.  So when you spend your mornings and your afternoons and your evenings growing your business, the last thing you want to hear from your spouse is the reference to how your business isn’t really a business but rather a hobby since you have not really made a dime.  Doesn’t do a lot in terms of encouragement, does it?  In fact, those comments often shut you down, even if they are meant as a joke.

What are your thoughts on this?

People who read this post, also read:

Culture Shock Revisited or Is It Really Just About Going Through the Stages

How to Leave without Regrets

7 Behavior Choices of a Happy Expat

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7 responses to “Trailing and not Failing: How our relationships can sustain us in expatriation?

  1. I am also an expat entrepreneur and will draw attention to the fabulous website, http://www.expatwomen.com, as I also say that I was just profiled on the home page this month. I just point that out because if I can do this, so can others.

    Someone told me before I launched my own company that having your own business – if you are serious about it – is like having a new baby in the house. That is an understatement!! I work for a new boss now – me and my clients – and I’ve never worked harder, longer hours in my life.

    My brief advice for anyone thinking about this path is:
    1) Find your passion – if you love what you do, it won’t be a burden. It’ll be fun every day.
    2) Be prepared and lay a strong foundation
    3) Grow a fabulous network
    4) Have role models, mentors, and cheerleaders
    5) Join a national or international organization that supports your profession
    6) Be an active part of your organization – you will continue to learn and you never know where the next referral will come from
    7) Be prepared to work harder than you ever have before
    8) Enjoy the ride and the satisfaction that comes from having developed something that is truly yours.
    9) Be professional no matter where you go – even if it’s just the supermarket. You ARE your company, and that means at all times. I was reminded of that when I had just moved to a new country and was running errands. I ran into a former client in Aisle 9 right next to the canned tomatoes!
    10) JUST DO IT!

  2. Ditto, Becky,

    Not only am I an expat entrepreneur but I wrote three books on the subject: Career in Your Suitcase (now in its 3rd edition), Expat Entrepreneur and Find Your Passion. I discovered a while back that entrepreneurs and expats have much in common and that is why I believe expats, particularly women, make such great entrepreneurs. Those traits are:

    1) independent thinking
    2) flexibility
    3) love of problem solving
    4) positive thinking
    5) self-motivated.

    By the way, all my books can be bought on Amazon and my website http://www.joparfitt.com has links to them all. My website http://www.career-in-your-suitcase.com is packed with free stuff, so take a look. Jo

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