The Story Of A Trailing Spouse
By Ausra Larbey
Packing up their children and their home, Ausra followed her husband from Australia to Norway and became a trailing spouse in the process. This is her story…
I managed to become ‘a trailing spouse’ without realising it. Out of perpetual free spirited independent traveller whose decision was the last and final in matters of destination and mode of transport, I somewhat miraculously transformed into one who lived in places and adhered to the schedules laid out by my husband’s work.
Until one day, while surfing the internet I came across the term. Yes, I fitted the criteria to the T! I was a spouse and I trailed my husband like a tale of the comet with our children, all my knick knacks, my books and selected assortment of our kitchen utensils in tow.
Establishing a Temporary Home
By default I found myself immersed deeply in the fine art of establishing temporary (however, at the same time pretending to be a very permanent) homes in various climatic and cultural conditions. I worked at constructing multi-tiered structures consisting of kindergartens with their compulsory working bees, immunisation programs, children’s birthday parties, visits to the local shopping centre and the dentist as well as lengthy discussions with the local telephone company about the need for us to have a working phone in the house.
The Dreams Department has always been my strongest point. In my mind I had our next destination painted in the most beautiful shades of pink. We will surely sample most exquisite local specialities and inspect all historic sights, make numerous friends who will lead us by hand into the inner sanctum of their traditions and lifestyle.
It’s been six months since we came back to Melbourne. All four of us. Plus books, photos and our kitchen utensils. Minus extended assortment of warm coats, all-in-one rain suits, woollen gloves, scarfs and the rest of the inventory that we used in Norway and gave away to the neighbour the day we boarded outbound plain.
‘It does not snow or rain much in Australia and it is not going to be cold’ – reasoned we. We were all set on spending our days on a sunny beach, taking leisurely swims in the bay and having grilled prawns for lunch. None of this happened to the extent we would like as most of time we were busy organising the house, furniture, researching local schools and shops, memorising ‘Melways’ (printed street directory) and finding out what is ‘Medicare’ all about.
Our plans still stand. Maybe we will achieve them next year. By this stage I can pack and unpack boxes with my eyes closed and children ask not whether but when we will move to yet another house. We have lived in a red house, then – in a blue one, yellow, than in red one again. Why not continue and try out all the colours of the rainbow?
As it happens, as I write these very words we occupy a beautiful red brick abode where we intend to stay for ever. We are back home now. But as it is impossible to step twice into the same water of the running river we came back to a different Melbourne. Here I have in mind much more than recent development at Docklands and changes to speed limits. We have changed too.
The Effects of Expat Living on Children
After his first day at the pre-school our 3 years old to my anxious ‘How was it?’ sighed with exhaustion: ‘It was OK, only I had to speak English all day.’ He likes his pre-school very much. It is surrounded by trees and is set on the edge of a beautiful native bush reserve.
When I think of it: he didn’t complain about any of all five kindergartens and pre-schools he attended prior to enrolling into this one. And we still keep in touch with the children and their parents that we met at each one of them. However, there is still a vital need for thousands of hugs at bed time followed by repeated reassurances that ‘Mum and Dad love you very much.’
As parents we have to prove over and over again that our love for each other and our children have not been left misplaced somewhere among the half unpacked boxes and missing toys. Luckily, our both boys make friends easily – a skill, no doubt, well learned. As a bonus they can read the map of the world without hesitation. For example, they know where London is located and are quite confident that all bridges there are strong and sound – none of them seems to be fallen down.
Developing Skills As You Move
My personal experiences equipped me with certain skills of my own. The ones that come to mind – dealing with issues swiftly and when not being able to do just that – without any hesitation storing them into a ‘never to open and discuss’ box.
Another skill that benefited me and our family a great deal is willingness to make the first step no matter what’s the situation. You would be surprised how many people are more than happy to do their bit efficiently and meet us half way!
Not getting upset and not resorting to blaming someone else in case of annoying delays or failures – another useful trait I have learned. I don’t talk much now. Instead I tend to listen to people – this one was a hard one to master! It’s not because I have some secrets to keep, simply one day I realised that there were more people around me who knew more about the world than I could imagine.
Whatever are the reasons for moving into a ‘different colour house’ – one’s work or family commitments, studies, adventure, seeking safer life, better climate or any other, being a newcomer at any place and at any time teaches one passion and compassion.
It also teaches resourcefulness and flexibility, opens doors to inner world not known before, allows you to step into a flowing stream at numerous entry points while grafting every little fragment of the changed environment onto a broad and rich canvas of one’s life contributing to that illusive feeling of fulfilment.
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