Tale of a Trailing Spouse
Updated: Jan 14
I had been married for about six months when I had to make a big decision. When I got married, I was working in a leading news channel at a senior editorial designation with a pretty neat pay-packet. My husband and I had discussed the future before getting married, but everything was still in the “cross the bridge when it comes” stage.
My husband is in the army and during those first six months, he was in a place where I could not join him. However, as soon as he moved to a location near Delhi, the subtle pressure began. I would travel weekends to be with him and was back at work on Monday.
His seniors would keep asking, “So, when are you joining us permanently?”. His mom started suggesting, “Don’t wait too long to start a family.” And just like that, one fine day, I gave up my identity as Soni Sangwan, Deputy Editor, Headlines Today, and became Mrs. Sandeep Singh.
There is nothing about this decision that I regret. I love my life. However, the only thing I miss about giving up my job is the money! How I wish there was a way that I could have continued to work while being with my husband and still get my fat paycheque!
My life as a trailing wife is full in a lot of ways. Yet, there are times when I wish I had done some planning and maybe quit in a way that I could have still retained a professional presence in my workspace.
Over the years, as I have interacted with more women from diverse backgrounds, I have met many like me. There was a young computer professional who had moved from Pune to be with her husband, and she worked from home. A cousin had moved to the place where her fiance was working before they got married, networked, found a job and then got married. Another friend’s wife got all creative and set up a home-based jewellery business.
A friend who is a Masterchef finalist travels from wherever she is with her husband back to Delhi once a month to conduct professional cooking classes. Another one has started selling home-made soaps online. If you are in this position of having to choose between your career or family life, don’t stress. There are ways in which you can have your cake and eat it too.
Plan for the change
The first thing to do, always, is to work towards a plan. Figure out your work options at the place where you are relocating. Start this planning process early. Do not think that you can just land up in a new place and then find a job. Think of Plan B – in case you are not getting an opening in your line of work, what else can you do.
Discuss the situation with your spouse. If there are no options for you, is it possible for him to try and find a new job at your location? If both of you are earning equally well, then it is only fair that he becomes the trailing spouse!
Network for your professional self
Use your networking skills to the maximum. Tell your friends to spread the word that you are looking for work in the new place. You will be surprised at how many vacancies are filled up by references rather than cold calling.
Get in touch with head-hunters. Another place to explore is your spouse’s workplace. Find out if there are any openings at his office. A lot of firms now encourage both spouses to work in the same firm as it makes for relatively stress-free employees.
There are several communities online, such as Life on my terms where you can share what you are looking for and get actionable advice.
Upskill to be relevant
In case you do not find anything worth your while in the new location, use this time to upskill. Upskilling is relevant not only for a trailing spouse but also for anyone in the workforce. With technology and businesses changing rapidly, employees of today need to prepare for skill sets that the jobs of tomorrow require.
Go back to college. Join a skill-building course. So when you do get back to a job, you will not have a gap in your CV – the time you were not working was gainfully spent.
Often, these new courses can be a valuable source of power networking. You could also use this time to do something you always wanted to do, such as volunteer your time for a cause you believe in.
Build an alternative career
You may not find a profile to match the one you have left behind but learn to adapt your skillsets for another career. A friend of mine was a teacher in one of India’s most prominent schools a long time before she had to move with her husband. She could not bring herself to work for a pittance in smaller cities, so she used her previous network and teaching skills to become a teacher trainer and story-teller. She travelled once or twice a month to conduct workshops around the country.
I used my writing skills to become a content writer. An enterprising friend creates wall art. Another friend specialises in hand-stitched dresses for girls.
An acquaintance sells home-made pickles and masalas she sources from local women. The pay-packet you may lose may not be compensated as you start. There are several mompreneurs who you can learn from to scale your business or upscale your side hustle.
Getting started is the key and know that your progress and happiness is something that only you can craft.
Build your emergency fund
Before you quit your job, take stock of your finances. Keep your investments going with your savings. Use your returns to reinvest. If you have been following the Basis blog, by now you would realise that the importance of an emergency fund cannot be stressed enough. Before you give up everything, ensure that your emergency fund is available to you.
If you have invested wisely, there is no reason you should not still keep getting steady returns on your investments even if you are no longer working full-time.
Want to prepare with an emergency fund for your possible career changes or to help you sail through your home business, download the Basis app to get started.