Updated: Apr 12
What stops you from asking for help?
As an expat parent with a spouse who often works away from home, you may often feel overwhelmed, but who do you turn to at those times? Do you feel like you have a support network you can ask for help?
Dr Joanne Mutter from the School of Management at Massey University wrote her thesis on ‘The Impact of Contemporary Global Mobility on the Family who Stays Behind’. The families she interviewed were wives and children of professional yachtsmen. It is a fascinating read and one of the topics that jumped out at me was entitled ‘A Collective Reticence to Seek Support’.
She explains that from the surveys she conducted, almost two thirds of stay-behind partners would be reluctant to ask for help. The main reason being the inability to reciprocate. You feel like even if you could very much do with a hand, you would never be able to give a favor in return, and therefore it is easier not to ask. Because who wants to feel like an imposing sponge?! So most partners end up only seeking help when there is either an emergency or absolutely no other option. On the flip side, if they were able to reciprocate or ‘pay back’ in some way, they felt far more comfortable asking for favors.
Do you feel like you have a support network you can reach out to if need be? Or is there just no one you feel close enough to? What other factors influence your tendency to ask (or not!) for help?
Despite the challenges having a travelling spouse brings, it also comes with certain advantages to you and the family staying behind. The main one Joanne Mutter raises is that of continuity, in the children’s education and the stay-behind spouse’s career. In my survey ‘Holding the Fort’, one mother says “Children have not had to move schools. I have been able to stay in my current job.” There is a lot to be said for keeping stability in this kind of lifestyle. It also enables the growth of longer-term friendships and, depending on your situation, keeping contact with extended family.
In my own personal research, a few other benefits came up. One partner shares that “not having to factor in the partner’s routine when they are travelling allows for more flexibility”. Another says: “The frequent travel also means more miles for airlines and hotels which has meant nicer family vacations”. My favourite yet is "Time apart to enjoy the bed to yourself. Variety of experiences to share.”
What advantages do you experience by staying behind as you partner travels for business?
To hear more stories of families living this lifestyle I would be so grateful if you would take a few minutes to complete my survey ‘Holding the Fort’. The joys and struggles you experience and the wisdom you have gained along the way are so helpful to me and other families in similar situations!