The decision to quit my job and become a non-working parent after having a baby was a well thought out decision. I was unhappy with my job so I decided to take a break and look for the elusive happiness elsewhere. However, the burden of not being “gainfully employed” weighed heavily on me. I encouraged my husband to look for a job outside of the city we called home thinking I was ready for this new experience. In the last four years, we have moved three cities and as much as I hate the epithet, today I stand as a trailing spouse.
- Moving cities is a big job and one partner cannot be trailing in her responsibilities here.
- It is not easy to find your feet in an absolutely unfamiliar city without anybody to go to.
- The mother has to act as the shock absorber for all the cultural changes which come with such frequent relocation for kids.
As you unpack and try to settle in a new city the days go by really slowly, even when you have to take care of a demanding toddler. In an absolutely unfamiliar city without anybody to go to and with the husband buried under the responsibilities of his new job, I questioned my sitting at home many times. I was apprehensive of entrusting anybody with the responsibility of child care then, I still am, now. In my loneliness, I wondered about the many women who decide to marry a man knowing well that they will never call one city their home. Women who marry men whose jobs keep them away from home for months at a time and they are effectively operating as a single parent. And women who marry men and give up their jobs just because the company policy won’t allow them to work at the same place or to move countries. Have these brave women never questioned their decision? Have they never thought about their left-behind careers? Have they ever wondered why women always have to follow their husbands’ career graphs?
Moving cities is a big job and one partner cannot be trailing in her responsibilities here.
Many would argue that the decision of who takes the trailing role is based on the financial viability of the decision. However, in the highly gendered world that we live in, how often does a man marry a woman who earns more than him?
Moving cities is a big job and one partner cannot be trailing in her responsibilities here. Here, a lot of responsibilities fall on the non-working partner, many of which do not even qualify as work. Engaging house helps, internet and television connections, clearing that choked drain, fixing that odd light, are all her jobs. She does them without any acknowledgment as without all these things in place, your house cannot look like a home. Foremost she has to act as the shock absorber for all the cultural changes which come with such changes. Luckily my son was just over a year when we relocated from New Delhi to Pune, two cities which have a very different pace, culture, language and social set up. I am sure an older child would have needed a lot more time to assimilate these changes and find their feet.
As you unpack and try to settle in a new city the days go by really slowly, even when you have to take care of a demanding toddler.
So, once you have been moving cities every couple of years does this whole uprooting and re-rooting come naturally to you? I asked myself just eight months back while moving cities again. The answer is NO. However prepared you are it is heartbreaking to see your favourite piece of crockery broken, painting frames shattered, electric equipment manhandled. It takes time and effort to call a place home. It is not easy to take your child to the play area and then have nobody to talk to either of you. Repeat the cycle for days till either of you have been able to break the ice. You cope and hope that tomorrow will be a better day, and soon it is. Always beginning again is not easy. So let not the trailing spouse be an afterthought, there is a lot of emotional labour involved in this role.
The views expressed are the author's own.