For years you may have supported your spouse in their career, transitioning yourself and your entire family into new countries and new cultures. A feat in itself! You have dealt with home emergencies on your own (probably in a foreign language) when your spouse was halfway across the world. You created a home and put roots down, no matter for how long. You comforted the children during the n-th goodbye, alone, again.
But you may be longing for a career of your own, a space where your dreams, passions and gifts can make an impact. It may be a passion you would like to pursue without it necessarily turning into a ladder-climbing profession. You may be wondering what you would like to do when the children leave the nest and fly away to their own adventures. You may have had plans that had to be put on hold because the next move was coming up and because you were not allowed to work in the country of your spouse’s next assignment.
There may not be a way back to your former career path but there is always a way forward. This is your opportunity! Your spouse’s many work absences cannot stop you from growing on a personal and professional level, even if it is just planting ‘seeds’ to see what grows.
“Be patient with yourself. Self-growth is tender; it’s holy ground. There’s no greater investment.” – STEPHEN R COVEY
Stephen R. Covey, in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, speaks about the difference between two Circles. This is a concept that changed my life.
The Circle of Concern encompasses all the areas in life that we worry about but can do absolutely nothing about. He writes that focusing on the Circle of Concern “results in blaming and accusing attitudes, reactive language, and increased feelings of victimization. The negative energy generated by that focus, combined with neglect in areas they could do something about, causes their Circle of Influence to shrink.” He recommends we focus our efforts and attention on our Circle of Influence, the places in our lives where we already have an impact, or could have one- I have found that the areas I can have an influence on are the ones I can work (and grow) within, which in turn has led me to what working in what I am passionate about. Does that make sense?
If you do not have much time, capacity or physical strength (the children may still be young, you are suffering from an illness, there is simply no time), you may want to start by planting SEEDS. This has the advantage of being flexible and expanding as children grow older and time permits.
The following steps walk you through the incremental process of planting SEEDS. Move from one to the other: Start-Explore-Eliminate-Develop-Strategise
· Start with something. Just pick one thing. Doing what you seem most attracted to and where you can be proactive: volunteer at the Women’s Club, join the PTA, take a class, do anything available that you might enjoy. Go where your interest is awoken. Make sure your involvement is on a trial basis so you have the opportunity to change direction. This is not about just ‘doing something, anything, just to keep busy’. This is about taking a first step towards investing in yourself for the future.
· Explore new roles, push your limits. Offer to speak at your local Expat group, work with children, youth, adults. This is the opportunity to try!
· Now, Eliminate the activities that are not thriving. After the first two steps of Starting and Exploring , comes the time to make a few choices. Notice what is growing the most, where you are getting the most fulfillment, and where you are getting positive feedback and having an impact.
· Develop, dig deeper into activities and roles that are the most promising. Ask your coworkers, the other volunteers to give you specific feedback. Start investigating possible training, Look into how the skills that you have and those that you may need can be developed.
· Strategise. You may now be in a position to have a 5- or 10-year personal plan. This will turn into more of a Personal Development Plan. You can use it for your professional life, to grow a set of skills, or simply to invest in developing as a person.
A mum I interviewed shared that she signed up to an online course on 'How to write your own book' at 3AM one morning! She just needed something that had nothing to do with motherhood or breastfeeding! It turned out, it wasn't the right thing for her, but it led her to what she is doing today, writing her own blog.
What will you start planting as your first Seed today?
You may be reading this and feeling overwhelmed with the fact your spouse is away for work. Download your free guide to '5 questions to ask yourself if your spouse works in another country'. It will help reduce the overwhelm and bridge the distance with your spouse.