Champagne & Bon-bons (or: the life of a trailing spouse)

20120214-080729.jpgA fellow spouse posed a question to me the other day, perhaps out of curiosity, “What do you do with your time?” Some people ask me that from the point of view of an employee, secure in their routines or duties. Sometimes the question comes from family members, wondering how I can have “left my career.” Sometimes from other newbie trailing spouses wondering if they are “doing the right thing” by staying home, with or without kids. I can just imagine some of them, fresh out of school, or perhaps having worked a few years, sitting in their diplomatic bubble, listening to the din of the generator outside, scanning facebook, and wondering just what the heck they’ve done.

To sum it up, I steer a course between “whatever the heck I want to” and “whatever the heck I have to do” all while keeping a good attitude, a healthy sense of humor and the occasional martini.

I consider this life, relocating every two-three years, wandering exotic locales, not being exposed directly to the American political or socialization process, the best. This is the other side of the escape hatch that so few people see. I’ve had a lot of friends say to me, “That’s so awesome you guys are doing this,” and while some mean it as “I can’t believe you’d do this,” others mean “I wish I could too.” You can…only if you want to live adventurously though.

My day is a myriad of 20-minute projects, all interwoven based on the four quadrants of “important” “Urgent” “unimportant” and “Long term”. Breakfast for the kids is “urgent/important” whereas buying frozen meat is “important/long term.” And so on.

My typical day:
Early Morning

  • get up, drag kids from bed
  • kids’ breakfast, make coffee
  • realize that something needs to be done I should have done last night (kid lunch, find library book, have Lucas finish homework)
  • kick kids to front hall for shoes, coats
  • kids, Jean out the front door to get to school, work.


  • Make sure I’ve got dinner lined up, either that I’m cooking or having the Didi cook
  • Get shopping list organized, or assign shopping to Didi
  • Check load-shedding schedule. Am I staying home b/c we’ve got power or not?


  • Stay in and do computer work (photo editing, movie editing, finances, vacation planning, social dinner planning
  • OR

  • Ditch the house with the bike or car (do I need to do shopping? =car)
  • Get stuff done: buy clothes for kids, shopping, etc.

LUNCH! Eat at a new or tried and true establishment. Maybe see Jean at work.

  • Realize I have scant hours before picking up kids. Panic.
  • Pick up kids…all afternoon
  • get dinner done


  • dinner
  • kids: homework, baths, stories, bed


  • Where did the day go?
  • Read, watch TV, get ready to do it all again 🙂

Did you see anywhere in there the word “bored?” Me neither. If you’re contemplating a move into this lifestyle, or feel mired in it as an EFM/MOH and are in a rut, get a hobby. Or ten. Explore the city on foot if you can. Stuck in a compound with high security? Write a children’s story about it.

There’s a lot of room for movement in my schedule, and there needs to be. I need to be ready to drop what I’m doing to pick up a sick kid from school, do something urgent for Jean, scrap my entire day due to a bandh(strike), etc. It’s different, exciting, and engaging.

Of course, sprinkled throughout my day is the profound thankful realization that my wife gave up all of this do do what she wants to do. She’s given me these moments with the kids. She’s given me the poolside relaxation and physical fitness opportunities, the mid-week bike rides. The ability to eat lunch at a new restaurant all the time. The time to do this blog. The time to manage our whole existence here.

Thanks, Jean. I will continue to text from poolside “Thank you for the life to which I’ve become accustomed.”