Friday, January 29, 2010

Quickie: Female Diplomats’ Challenge — The ‘Trailing Spouse’

Caitlin Kelly for True/Slant has a piece on the male trailing spouse: I remembered I actually know a “trailing spouse” and asked if he’d be willing to share some of his life with us. I’m delighted that he agreed; his answers to my many questions are below.

Michael Barrientos started out as a photo editor for The New York Times, which is how I know him. He and his wife are heading back to D.C. soon for two years, awaiting their next posting. I have always wondered what it’s like to be(come) the trailing spouse and know that many ambitious women with global careers and ambitions face these issues as well.

As you might imagine, it requires tremendous flexibility and grace to manage a marriage, two careers and kids while moving from one unfamiliar nation and culture to the next. Thank heaven for such men!

Excerpt from Michael Barrientos:

The toughest challenge has been leaving my job and career.  I really loved working at The New York Times. I had the highest regard for the newspaper, what we did, the people I worked with, and hated to step away.  We had a lot of conflict early on.  I was resentful about leaving a job that I deeply enjoyed and was very satisfied in.  It was a hard transition to becoming an instant stay-at-home father and trailing spouse. 
Gradually, I have adapted and gotten used to it.  I had been in newspapers for so long that it was tough to get used to being out of the industry.   There were a number of issues at play, such as Mexican-American family pressure and lack of full support of my decision to step away from my career.
Advising a Foreign Service spouse would be difficult.  It’s an individual decision and not everybody is cut out for it.  I have seen a number of spouses and foreign service officers who could not handle the changes in lifestyle, culture and being away from family and friends.  I had grown accustomed to it over my career despite growing up in a tight-knit family.
Our income has been affected.  I was paid well at the Times and it was tough giving up two incomes to become a dependent while contributing with my supplementary freelance money.  Our marriage has had tough challenges.  Not having support of family and friends is tough.  The Internet helps tremendously with Skype, social media like Facebook and Twitter, blogs and e-mail.  We stay involved in the diplomatic community and established a daily family routine.  Families in the Foreign Service are often close because of its nomadic nature.

Read the whole thing here.

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