Trailing spouse. Corporate spouse. Accommodating partner. None of these terms are complimentary. I prefer traveling spouse or, better yet, traveling family.
Our family doesn't stay in one place for long. We've just completed our third—and by no means last—corporate move. Successfully navigating constantly changing circumstances requires resilience, optimism and flexibility.
Most travelling families dread the inevitable "We have a new opportunity for you" phone call. My husband received his most recent relocation call while we were on vacation. I was sitting poolside, drink in hand, and his phone rang. Now that was great timing! I took a few sips and tried to swallow the news that our life was about to turn upside down, again. He tried, in vain, to hide his promotion-based elation.
Intentional moves are physically and mentally draining. Directed relocation moves can be down right crushing. Throw a few kids into the mix and the waters get even murkier.
All Aboard the Emotional Rollercoaster
Relocation is replete with emotional ups and downs. On one hand, travelling families are happy about the work-related doors that have opened. On the other, we mourn the loss of friends and community.
Notably, relocation means children are also being ejected from their comfort zone. Traveling parents bend over backward to help their kids adjust. When new jobs begin in the middle of a school year, families often delay relocation until the summer. This means one parent assumes full parenting and relocation responsibilities, while the other moves away to begin his or her new job.
Reading, Writing and Arithmetic
Setting up a new life entails a lot more than selling one home and buying another. If you have children, finding a great school is critical. The pursuit of the coveted "great school" involves extensive Internet research, school tours, and meetings with principals and other parents. After all that, you may learn that the best school isn't in the part of the city that initially piqued your interest. Oh, well! Education comes first.
Tall People Problems
This kid-centric relocation plan is flawed. Once the kids have started the great school and have made the great friends—and you have found the best pediatrician, dentist, soccer club, piano teacher, veterinarian, grocery store and babysitter—the traveling spouse begins to feel a bit lost.
After my most recent relocation triage period ended, I was overcome by a desire to flee the scene. My husband had found his new workplace comfort zone and my kids were excitedly telling me about their new best friends. As for me? I sat alone in my home office, pecking away at my computer, desperately longing for the familiar.
All traveling spouses experience their own fight-or-flight moment. How we respond to it is critical. Instead of hopping on the next plane back to Grand Rapids, I decided to give my new friends and new town a chance. I put myself out there. I joined book clubs, went to pool parties and chatted up anyone who crossed my path. And like any tried and true traveling spouse, I started to adjust. I'm finding my footing and have begun to enjoy my new "home."
Was this lifestyle what I pictured while attending college? Did I think I would be part of a traveling family when I chose a law career that required individual state licensing? Of course not.
Chances are we will move again—and if we are lucky, we will have plenty of friends to visit when opportunity rings anew.
Life's twists and turns sure do keep us on our toes. But let's face it: That's life and that's how we grow!
Written by Lisa Stickler, contributing writer for West Michigan Woman magazine. Lisa is a Michigan native who currently lives in Florida with her traveling family.