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What I learned after becoming a stay-at-home mom in another country

A lot of people assume that the hardest part about moving overseas is leaving your friends and family behind. That was pretty tough. Others believe that starting fresh in a new city as a family is the greatest obstacle. That was not always smooth sailing either, but still completely manageable. The real difficulty for me about living abroad was adapting to staying at home after commuting to an office job my entire career.

For many trailing spouses, the decision to move to another country goes hand-in-hand with putting careers on hold. There are a variety of reasons for this, including laws preventing spouses from acquiring work visas and not having the certifications to practice specialized fields in your adopted country.


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The choice was relatively simple to make for me. It was a prime opportunity to spend more time with my children at a critical time in their lives. In practice, I found it so much more challenging to adjust. Some days were a lot easier and much more fulfilling than others. On the other days, I struggled over my purpose and usefulness to the people who mattered most. I know, dark. Over time I learned a few things to help me stave off insanity, and focus on productively using this newfound time. Here are the essential tips I picked up along the way.

Create a schedule:

It doesn’t matter if it is digital or written down on a giant whiteboard that you put up on the most prominent wall of your room. All that matters is that you find a system that makes it possible for you to stick to it. A plan for each day creates some order for the hours that stretch before you each day. The days can be long but, before you know it, time can get away from you. The quickest way for me to feel like I wasn’t making use of all this time I had was to squander hours of my day.

Set specific goals and commit to making little steps toward accomplishing them each day:

That schedule you make needs to include the small tasks you need to cross off each day to move closer to reaching whatever goal you set. For me, that means writing lists of what I need to get done each day – for the family, myself, and the household – to keep everything running like a well-oiled machine. It helps me prioritize what needs to get done and prevent multiple “to dos” from getting lost in the shuffle.

It also helps me carve out time for tasks related to broader goals. I have seriously found it to work great for anything I have wanted to accomplish. Want to write a book? Set aside a couple of hours each day to focus on nothing but work related to that end. Want to get in shape? Set a realistic workout schedule and stick to it.

Be flexible to stay productive:

It might sound a bit simplistic to say to set a goal and schedule in the tasks to get it done, and in many ways, it is that simple. However, I have learned that since my motivations change daily, I need to be flexible about my schedule if any of those tasks are going to get done.

Don’t drop off the face of the earth:

The combination of moving to another country and leaving the workforce can be particularly isolating. That isolation can take people to dark places – especially when things aren’t going smoothly at home. That is why I think keeping a bridge to the outside world to stay connected with what’s going on outside your bubble is so important.

Just like with any other decision, you’ve got to take the good with the bad. Even if it is a choice you make willingly, it’s hard to fully prepare for the reality. How have you adjusted to staying at home in a new country?

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