Welcome to the April run of the #TrailingSpouseStories. This month’s topic revolves around the classic April Fool’s. What got us “fooled” into being a trailing spouse? What myths did we start out with and what did we discover in the process? Scroll to the bottom of the post and click on the links to read the other entries.
My husband was filling out some paperwork yesterday and essentially asked how many years I’ve been a trailing spouse. Six years and eight months was the official count when I finally said it out loud.
After six years of trailing, you’d think I’d be used to it by now. I’ve gotten such sweet compliments about making it look easy, and adjusting so smoothly. Thank you for such kind words! I think it’s basically the fact that I enjoy my independent, autonomous family life outside of Manila that gives it that feeling. However, what you see is only the tip of the iceberg (don’t they say that Facebook depicts everyone’s perfect life?). Beneath the surface is the usual coping with the challenges… and then some.
You see, I’m a create of habit.
I like the predictability, the routine, and the forward planning. I like to think “ahead of schedule”, so much so that I can tell you what my schedule is for the whole month. If decisions have to be made, I like doing them quickly and pinning down details immediately.
All that said and done — I’m not very good with change. Whether it’s of the good kind or the bad, somehow the unknown and the “what’s next” always puts knots in my stomach and bags under my eyes. It’s a true test of patience and a lesson in suppressing panic, because I can’t visualize exactly what’s going to happen (Ironically enough, I married a man full of “we’ll see…” replies. Makes our lives more interesting, you’d think! ;)). Now you understand the onset of the three-week Spring Break that had come to pass.
I like knowing and preparing as much as I can beforehand. You know those roller coaster rides, or the ones with the surprise drop at the end? I can do them, but it’s the anticipation that gives me cold sweaty palms and a tummy ache. I’ve learned the art of the brave face on the outside; but truthfully, I’m a ball of stress on the inside.
That’s the irony in this entire situation. Because a trailing spouse’s life is riddled with constant change and so much uncertainty, for someone like me, it’s always a roller coaster ride. You never know what loops and drops it’ll take you through.
Ever since I became a trailing spouse, so much has changed. And the change hasn’t stopped! The pause button is broken.
My family is currently looking for a more “permanent” home (as we’re currently renting). Still within California, yes — but just the whole process of looking at houses and talking to the realtor is making my head spin and my brain shut down. There are implications to everything that we’ve set up here with respect to the kids, from schools to extra curricular activities and more. It’s funny — I knew this from the very beginning, and yet I still can’t seem to wrap my head around it. It’s yet another change in such a short span of time.
Given the number of times we’ve moved, you’d think by now it would be easier and I’d know what to do. But there are still so many unanswered questions that can really only unveil with time. Who’s the fool for believing it would be any different this time around?
But wait. There’s more. Two weeks ago, Jamie finally started her full day schedule at school, five days a week. In the beginning, I couldn’t imagine what I’d do with her when I picked her up at 12 noon everyday. I couldn’t wait for her to turn 4 and be considered for the whole day program.
Of course, now that she’s in it, I miss having her around. It seems as if she was ready when I wasn’t. There have been no complaints thus far. She likes eating lunch with her friends everyday, and she doesn’t look back after I drop her off.
I’ve longed for this “freedom” for quite some time, however now that it’s here, I’m faced with the paralyzing question of: what do I do with myself now?
I used to think I’d be one of those parents who would have a list of all the things I could do while the kids were in school all day… and I do have it. But without them to care for and worry about all day, that list somehow seems so much shorter and easy to finish. Another good wake up call, which made me realize how much I’ve neglected the “me” bubble since we moved.
My husband expects the house will be cleaner (maybe I shouldn’t have told him about the full day switch! ;)), but then what? I realized: It’s been six years since I had whole days to myself! Even in Manila when the girls were going to school, one of them was always home by lunch. Maybe it’ll be awesome, but I haven’t gotten the hang of it yet. Another bit of uncertainty, which can only be resolved in time.
Time. It should be our friend… but then again, you never know where the trailing spouse life will lead. And by the time you’ve resolved and gotten used to what it is you want to do, then change creeps up again and turns your world in a different direction. Then we’re back at square one.
I definitely need to get that pause button fixed. Or is it foolish of me to think that’s even possible?
Clara of Expat Partner Survival thought she knew what it would be like – she didn’t – she wrote a book to help others not to get fooled too. Read more in Trailing Fools?
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 Delicious 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.
Tala wonders if being a Trailing Spouse was her escapist dream come true, or not? Read the verdict in Ambition: Expat’s Wife.
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.
April 20, 2015 at 9:10 am
I don’t think there’s one.. I also feel like things just race and you always have to make decisions on the go. I guess, this is the real life, right?
April 20, 2015 at 11:20 am
It could be the real life, yes. 🙂 Takes time to get used to it. And thanks for the twitter tip, let me check on it. Sometimes it’s wonky!
April 20, 2015 at 9:12 am
Oh and for some reason, I don’t think the twitter button is working here – tried to share, but doesn’t work.
April 21, 2015 at 8:12 pm
Hay. I am the same. I love the routine and predictability of life, and change is a challenge. I am not one of those people who can always wing it to win it. But, as they say, the only thing constant in this life is change. So I guess we do have extra practice with the trailing spouse life?
But even with all that practice, I still say that it doesn’t make it easier.
April 22, 2015 at 12:40 pm
Yes, practice should make perfect, but it is different everytime yes? It takes getting used to!
April 22, 2015 at 4:53 am
We’re coming to the end our first expat posting soon and I’m not looking forward to having to move and start again. There’s no way you can plan for such a leap into the unknown and I’m not sure it will be any easier having done it before.
April 22, 2015 at 12:39 pm
I know exactly how you feel. Good luck with the move. If anything, it should be exciting! 😉
April 25, 2015 at 9:34 am
Love this post, Jen! “Trailing” is really the wrong word for what you do. More like “pioneering” – you forge a happy home life no matter where you are! Saludo!
April 26, 2015 at 7:27 pm
Thanks Trin! Haha, yes, I’m not fond of the term “trailing” either. 😉
May 14, 2015 at 9:56 pm
Yo DO make it look easy Jen! Haha! And I guess being super organized helps it noh? But yet, there are so much more you really can’t plan for! Hay. So I need (naks need talaga) an update on what’s next! I shall PM you! Hugs!
May 18, 2015 at 12:48 pm
Thanks Tal! Yes I’ll wait for your update!
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November 2, 2015 at 9:00 am
I like the predictability, the routine, and the forward planning. I like to think “ahead of schedule”, so much so that I can tell you what my schedule is for the whole month. If decisions have to be made, I like doing them quickly and pinning down details immediately. —> I can relate.This is me too, so when my husband and I were finally living our new lives here in Turkey, the first few weeks were full of negative emotions. What have I gotten myself into, I’d ask myself. I’m starting to think more positively now because it just gets tiring too..mabigat sa loob. 🙂
November 4, 2015 at 10:36 pm
oh gosh! There really is an adjustment period! I hope you’re all better now!
November 4, 2015 at 11:01 pm
im not really sure, the feeling still comes and goes. some days im totally happy, some days i just miss my life back home. i hope im able to suck these in completely. 🙂