Trailing Spouse. Dependent Partner. Accompanying Partner.
However we choose to refer to the trailblazing, long-suffering, endlessly resourceful problem solvers that make going on international assignment even vaguely possible for the primary visa holder, one thing is clear.
In legal, financial and practical terms, we are very, very dependent. And it scares the bejabbers out of me.
Take my own story. I have a Bachelor’s degree, a Registered Nursing qualification and a Post Graduate Certificate in Education. None of which are of the remotest use now that I am 14 years and 4000 miles from my last salaried employment and even if I did retrain, I am pretty darn sure that notification of our next move would coincide exactly with the arrival of any new and shiny certification. In interview situations it’s even more awkward, as interest in your geographical journey swiftly turns into the realization that no, you can’t say how long you are going to be staying in the country…
A recent article in the UK Telegraph highlighted increasing rigorous reporting requirements for US and US taxpayers. Not necessarily the topic that would trigger a call to action amongst my readers, but it should.In the fight against #expat overwhelm, we sacrifice the things that define us as individuals, with rights and… Click To Tweet
Things like a bank account in our own name, in a country where we have the legal right to live and access social services, regardless of whom we are married to. Where all our support and privileges are not conferred by our partners’ employment or visa status.
I’ve been working on a program behind the scenes for a while, that helps expat women get a backup plan in place. It’s born out of both personal discomfort with how vulnerable my own situation had become, but also the growing number of stories I was hearing about women who were in far, far worse predicaments.
I am aware that I am not unique, but I am incredibly lucky. Unlike many I have talked to, I have not been victim of domestic violence or acrimonious custody disputes, I haven’t gone through divorce and none of my family have had any serious medical issue. (Although the Other Half does get Man Flu, which as we all know, does closely resemble a near death experience…). My husband is still employed by the same company he has worked for since graduation; a company that treats its employees with care and respect. And finally, I have my own bank account, my own right to residence in the US, and my own business.
It all sounds so horribly serious, doesn’t it?
And yet the steps to creating a more secure life are not as tricky as we might imagine – in fact they are a common sense balance that we all know – but somehow forget or lose track of in our focus to take care of everyone else.
It’s why I’ve created the Global Girl’s Guide to Creating Your Back Up Plan – a series of resources (some free, some paid) that will support you in building security into your expat life.