Carole Hallett is an expat expert and host of the Expat Ability Chat podcast and founder of Expat child. After having lived as an expat, she is now living in her home country while her husband moves on assignment. In her coaching practice she has often seen that frequent business travel is a part of the expat experience.
In This Episode:
- Carole explains about her various moves as an expat in Japan, Germany and South Africa. She tells of how she met her husband and came to live the expat life as a couple too.
- How companies do and don’t support families in overseas assignments, scenarios to be aware of and what to put in place to put the odds in your favour, such as building up a support network.
- The importance of clearly communicating each partner’s needs, especially in a relationship where one partner is often travelling.
- The challenges of moving with teens, how to change school systems with older children.
Resources Mentioned in the Episode:
Rhoda Bangerter (00:04):
Welcome to Holding the Fort Abroad, the podcast for expats with traveling partners. My name is Rhoda Bangerter, and I'm your host. I'm a speaker, author, and researcher on the topic of families where one of the partners works away from home a lot. Today my guest is Carol Hallett Mobbs, she's an expat expert, and she's also the host of Expatability Chat podcast and the founder of expatchild.com. Carol, welcome to the show.
Carole Hallett Mobbs (00:34):
Thank you so much for having me.
Rhoda Bangerter (00:37):
I'm so glad you are here. I'm very much looking forward to hearing what you have to say from your personal experience, also from what you've seen in your coaching practice. So maybe as we start, could you share a little bit about your background, what you do as a coach, how you support expats?
Carole Hallett Mobbs (00:57):
Of course. I'm not going to go into my background because we'd be here forever,
Rhoda Bangerter (01:02):
Carole Hallett Mobbs (01:03):
Back in 2006, my husband had his first ever overseas posting to Tokyo, Japan. Our daughter was five years old at the time. And of course I said ‘Absolutely, yes.’ And off we went. We ended up staying overseas for 12 years and collected various creatures on the way and moved back to the UK exactly five years ago.
Rhoda Bangerter (01:34):
Carole Hallett Mobbs (01:35):
So five years ago, on the 1st of February in 2018, we left South Africa in the middle of summer and arrived back in the UK in the middle of one of the coldest winters they've ever had.
Rhoda Bangerter (01:48):
Right. Bit of a shocker. <Laugh>.
Carole Hallett Mobbs (01:50):
That was a hard landing. I like soft landings. Thank you very much.
Rhoda Bangerter (01:54):
So you've experienced repatriation?
Carole Hallett Mobbs (01:57):
I have. I've done expat life both sides from end to end and from 12 years overseas in three different countries. So that's Japan, Germany, and South Africa. I was doing a personal blog in Japan. I used to be a freelance writer amongst so many other things. But as I say, I'm not gonna go into my background because there's a lot of it. So we went to Japan and I was personal blogging and having fun, and then social media had been invented and that was fun. And then on the 11th of March, 2011, the earthquake hit, and it was a month before we were due to leave Japan to go to Germany. Anyway, we were leaving anyway, so that time was spent almost 24/7 online talking to the media live blogging, the earthquake, the after effects, the support efforts.
So by the time we got to Germany, which was hugely traumatic, we were in a hell of a state, let’s say that. Before we left Japan, before the earthquake hit, I'd been searching for ways to help my then 10 year old daughter with a move, because when you are moving with a five year old, it's really easy. But when you're moving with a 10 year old who's then got friends and half her life has been spent in a different country, it becomes really, really difficult. And there was absolutely nothing online to support it was either deal with it or get counseling for something that actually hadn't happened at that point. And then of course, the earthquake made everything a million times worse. We arrived in Berlin and did our best to settle there. And I was burned out from writing. I was burned out from social media.
I didn't want to deal with it anymore. And so I planned to write a book, which I think everyone plans to do at some point in their life. So I planned to write a book, but after a while, I missed the tech of doing a blog online. And before we moved to Tokyo, I was actually a publisher printing hard copy magazines. So I thought, okay, how about a magazine online where people can share articles and information about moving overseas with children? And obviously the book didn't get written, but the website did. And that's how Expat Child was born. And that was in 2012. And that kind of took off and turned into supporting expat parents and partners with their move overseas. But also there's enough information on there for non-parents and non-partners and everybody in between, whether they're moving for the first time for the 10th time or moving back home.
And so that became incredibly successful. But then Covid hit and we got back from South Africa and I'd already started moving into helping people on a one-to-one basis while I was in South Africa. But the infrastructure there doesn't make that very easy because of the electricity and the internet. So I went to start that, back very much just before Covid hit <laugh>. And of course, nobody was moving at all. So I have various groups. I'm on most social medias and I have clients one-to-one that we just chat with informally. And I'll stop now because I do have a tendency to go on and on!
Rhoda Bangerter (06:13):
No, no, that's fine. That's fine. Fascinating. And because also I've been listening to some of the episodes on your podcast. Thank you. And you don't interview people, right? You talk on a specific topic and that was quite interesting.
Carole Hallett Mobbs (06:29):
That's right. I made that choice very early on because my podcast was basically a way of sharing expat child with a different audience. Now, oddly enough, I don't listen to podcasts because I don't absorb information through my ears. Tell me stuff and it will just completely fall out the other side without touching my brain or memory in the middle. But I did a survey and so many people wanted me to do a podcast. And so I thought, okay, well it's lock down. I need something because my husband was at home an awful lot. This was weird. So I needed a way of locking myself in my office and doing something different. So my podcast became my lockdown hobby. And of course, I get lots of people wanting to be interviewed on my show, but at the moment I have got plans for it. And my plans will be to interview who I want to interview. I've got a couple of fantastic friends lined up and there is a specific reason for me wanting to interview them. And it's what's best for my show.
Rhoda Bangerter (07:52):
Carole Hallett Mobbs (07:54):
That's what you do. I'm not just going to interview anybody.
Rhoda Bangerter (08:01):
Carole Hallett Mobbs (08:01):
I'd like to go into detail about some of the requests I've had and their absolute desperation to try and spin it so that it's for expat parenting. And it's like, well, no…
Rhoda Bangerter (08:13):
No, it's gotta be curated to what the podcast is about.
Carole Hallett Mobbs (08:19):
Yeah. And for my audience as well. So although I do create podcasts, I don't listen to them. So I feel a bit like I'm betraying everybody.
Rhoda Bangerter (08:32):
No, no, I don't think so. I mean, it depends on how we listen, how we…
Carole Hallett Mobbs (08:38):
How we learn.
Rhoda Bangerter (08:39):
How we learn. That's the word I was looking for.
Yeah. So I reached out to you because I was curious. I was like, oh, here's someone who's been an expat, who's worked with expats, who finds information for expats. And I was curious to know whether in your practice or in your personal life you'd experienced that when you become an expat, then one of the partners travels a lot. Or sometimes you become an expat and that person is even in another country. Or there's even choices of, you know, living separately or the one of the partners going as an expat and the other one staying, whether it's their home country or not. And I just loved your response because this is something you've seen, right?
Carole Hallett Mobbs (09:29):
Oh, absolutely. Yes. And you're quite right too. People don't talk about this enough and I thought that I had an unusual attitude towards it, but I think you have the same and it…
Rhoda Bangerter (09:44):
Carole Hallett Mobbs (09:46):
Go for it!
Rhoda Bangerter (09:47):
Carole Hallett Mobbs (09:48):
Just be a strong person and cope. And here are ways.
Rhoda Bangerter (09:53):
There are ways to make it work and there are reasons why it's okay to choose this. There are ways to make it work and you can make it work. Families are making this work all the time. I've said this a few times, but II've had people who say to me, ‘There's something wrong with me cuz I'm struggling.’ And I'm like, ‘No, no, it's not you. It's a specific situation. It's not something that we can’t apply the same rules necessarily as maybe other families or what we are told. But there are things that can make it work. So I love to hear you say ‘Go for it.’
Carole Hallett Mobbs (10:38):
But it does depend on the individual because everybody is so different.
Rhoda Bangerter (10:43):
That's so true.
Carole Hallett Mobbs (10:44):
And certain times of your life it will be easier than others, you know, when you've got older children, for example. But yeah, everybody is different, but knowing what you are signing up for in the first place is absolutely vital.
Rhoda Bangerter (11:02):
Carole Hallett Mobbs (11:03):
Think of military spaces, for example. You kind of know that you're gonna be left holding the baby, literally. And if that happens and you think that you can change your partner to leave their career so that they can stay home, then I'm sorry you are in the wrong relationship.
Rhoda Bangerter (11:25):
That is such a good point. But it's true. And I think one of the things, I mean, the fact that they travel doesn't mean that they don't love you. It's just because they love their job, they're good at it, they're passionate, it's their calling, potentially it's them. And a lot of partners that I speak to who are supportive and who say, ‘I wouldn't take it away from my partner. That's who they are. That's what they love doing. And it doesn't mean the fact that they're away doesn't mean that they don't love me.’ And I think that's the trick, to understand that rather than say, ‘Oh no, they don't love me because they don't wanna be around.’
Carole Hallett Mobbs (12:09):
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. And I mean, if I give you my personal love story, I met my husband while I was on a contract job in Hong Kong. He literally popped up from behind a desk and that was it. And it took us a while to get together because we were both traveling opposite ways around the globe doing a sort of a similar job. He was installing. I was teaching people how to use the new system. That's what I used to do. I used to be an IT trainer, so I was always sort of follow following him. <Laugh> I was trailing even before we met. But that was the job that he had been doing since he was pretty much 18, 19.
And we met late in life. I was 35, well he was 35 too, so we met late in life. So we both had formed personalities, which I think is really, really important. So if you are young and then your partner gets a different job than you were expecting or signing up for, that can be difficult. And I do understand that. And I've got a couple of anecdotes that I can share. So for the first year of our dating, if you like, we were very rarely on the same continent, let alone anywhere near the same country. And then fast forward, I got pregnant, ended up having to stay at home cause I wasn't too well and he kept traveling, which was fine with my blessing. This was his job. So he was in China until very shortly before I went into labor, which was a bit of a close call because she was premature and not long after she was born, I went house sitting for my parents while they went on holiday and he went to the Falkland Islands. So it was part of our life, but because I am a hugely independent person, it wasn't an issue. What does become an issue sometimes is when they come back home and they suddenly disrupt your well-planned routine.
Rhoda Bangerter (14:32):
Carole Hallett Mobbs (14:33):
And while we were overseas, he actually traveled less than he did when we were in the UK before we moved abroad for the first time. And there were still opportunities, but the business is changing constantly. And then lockdown, we moved back to the UK, he took a different sort of job and he was at home all the time. <Laugh> And lockdown happened and ‘Oh my goodness me!’
Rhoda Bangerter (15:07):
It's a different scenario, isn't it? Suddenly you're like, whoa, is this what it's like to have someone 24/7 <laugh>?
Carole Hallett Mobbs (15:17):
Yeah, and you could tell that he was absolutely bored stupid with the new job. His life is traveling. So then he had the opportunity to go and do this sort of cover if you like, but long-term cover and off you went. So one of the tours that he did, we spoke about this, was in Kabul in Afghanistan. And unfortunately he wasn't there for very long before it was taken. He got the very last plane out. It was a bit rough. It wasn't a good week, that one. And then he went to Delhi for a while. And when I say for a while, I don't mean like a couple of weeks or a few days, I think it was about six months.
And currently he's in Panama. Coming back next week for a couple of weeks before heading off again. So yeah, it's sort of roughly six weeks on and two weeks off for us, which is a lot of traveling for him. It takes him two days to get back and to get to work. Which was difficult last year because his mother died, and it took him two days to get back and he didn't make it in time. So Yeah.
Rhoda Bangerter (16:29):
That's rough. I think that’s the hard part, you know, that life carries on. Emergencies happen, crises happen, grief, bereavement happen, and while the traveling continues and there's chewing and throwing and that can be the added kind of element to this.
Carole Hallett Mobbs (16:52):
And I did talk about that on a podcast episode, because it all sort of happened roughly at the same time as Queen Elizabeth died. So I was quite proud of that particular episode.
So it's an interesting life and it can be done, but what can cause problems is when you are not able to predict how you are going to react to this. So I've got a couple of anecdotes and I always, any of my clients are entirely and completely protected. I never share anything that will be identifying. So let me just backtrack a moment. One of the questions you asked is is this experience increasing or decreasing? It's absolutely increasing. Corporates and companies are determined to save money and their ideal would be to send only one person on an overseas posting or on an overseas international assignment. That's pretty unfair to their families. And we are here saying, yeah, it's fine, you can cope. But in an ideal world, the companies would be supporting the families to move overseas with their partner to keep families together.
Because I think that we are, you and I, we are independent, and we can cope for a lot of families. And if I go by ratios, this is damaging more families than are able to cope with it. So the company in this particular anecdote was only going to support the husband to move. They were going to install him in a one bedroom flat. He had a wife and a baby. He went for the job. The company did tell him that if he wanted them to come over, he would have to pay for them and pay for their visas and pay for accommodation and pay for everything else that's involved. And he would also be working local culture hours, which is basically 7:00 AM till midnight. So it wouldn't have been a great situation for this wife and child. Then lockdown happened. He went for the job.
He went for the job and lockdown happened. By the time she was able to get there, he'd left her but hadn't bothered to tell her. So she was then stuck in a foreign country with the baby. Now that is entirely the husband's fault, but it was encouraged by the company. And that is quite an extreme example, but the fact that it happened shows me that it isn't unusual. And you know, this is just one person that's reached out to me out of everybody. And I don't obviously speak to everybody in the whole world. But that was just one person. So it is happening. I have spoken to CEOs of some huge companies about their preferences for global mobility going forward. They just want to send one person on short term six month contracts to save money. But what is the point? Six months doesn't give anybody the opportunity to settle into a job or settle into a new country. But it does mean that the families are deliberately being excluded from these overseas assignments.
Rhoda Bangerter (21:08):
Yeah. This is the topic of my master's that I'm doing right now, is because the traditional family packages of the traditional expat family who moves abroad, but they have absolutely no consequence for ‘What about if the family doesn't join the person who's gone?’ ‘What level of support is given to the family?’ Paying international school fees is not gonna help. So there are things that exist there. I think there needs to be an innovation in the way that the companies support and offer packages for these families where one of the partners is going and giving of their family time to the company. So I've gotta frame it and I've got to narrow it down and I've got to figure out which angle I'm gonna take it. But that's really one of my big concerns is that it should be the company's responsibility to support the whole family, whether or not the family is joining. And you know, companies have told me, well, you know, we'll only go as far as it's legally our responsibility. But you are like ‘Ouch. You're gonna lose people that way.’
Carole Hallett Mobbs:
And one of the main reasons for an expat assignment failing is the lack of support network.
Rhoda Bangerter (29:15):
Carole Hallett Mobbs (29:16):
It's so important to have a support network around you. Yeah. And maybe the company offers a bit of help, frankly, in my experience, not a great deal. It's down to you to find your tribe, to find your support network. Which sounds glib and it sounds easy. It really is not.
Rhoda Bangerter (29:38):
Carole Hallett Mobbs (29:39):
And it's much easier when your kids are little, you know, taking a five year old to school, for example. You get to meet the most wonderful people at the school.
Rhoda Bangerter (29:50):
Or playgroups, or there’s always kindergartens somewhere or…
Carole Hallett Mobbs (29:55):
Yeah. But only in some countries. In Germany, for example, the kids are expected to go off and do their own thing without parents hanging around.
Rhoda Bangerter (30:04):
That's very true. Even birthday parties in some countries, you're supposed to just drop the kid off and not stay. I found that really interesting in different countries. Like ‘Are we supposed to be being part of the party, or are you always supposed to drop them off or… <laugh>
Carole Hallett Mobbs (30:23):
Yeah. It’s these tiny little nuances of life that you don't know until you are suddenly in it. ‘Hang on a minute. I want to talk to an adult for a while. Please. I haven't seen an adult for three weeks now.’ And then your kids become older and you're not allowed anywhere near school. ‘Oh my god, mom, you're so embarrassing.’ Or you're in a country where they have the daughter take bus services. Which was a lovely experience for me until I realized that, ‘Oh, hang on, how am I gonna meet people?’
So it does depend on where you are. And somewhere like I call them expat hubs, so places like Dubai or Singapore, you're gonna find friends really easily. But places like for example, in America or in Germany, in my experience, it’s not so easy to find friends.
Rhoda Bangerter (31:20):
Carole Hallett Mobbs (31:21):
England I've heard is incredibly difficult. Which I would go along with, but I'm not an expat.
Rhoda Bangerter (31:29):
Yeah. No, I've experienced that too, that sometimes it's because… wow, I don't know! <laugh>
Carole Hallett Mobbs (31:38):
Yeah. We're not friendly.
Rhoda Bangerter (31:40):
No, no. It's because there isn't that obvious expat group. I think it's interesting what you said earlier, I think being warned… And one of the things that a colleague coach and I have started this year is the Expat Couples Summit, and she's a couple’s mediator and we are gathering experts to talk about the changes that happen when you move as a couple abroad, the opportunities, the challenges.
But I think there's this awareness, knowing that I'm gonna change when I move. You are gonna change depending on the culture of the country, it's gonna change. And then pre-warning people, you know, what the company said that your partner will be gone one week a month. It might be more, or there might be changes in the contract. So just being aware that. You might have signed up for a few days a month, but it might turn out to be different and there might be long hours. And there's that loneliness too of the accompanying spouse. And I was so happy to have my own passions, my own thing, if you want. Otherwise I would be sitting here waiting, you know, and having my supper alone because he's at a work meeting, you know, or a Sunday or something. So I thought important to have that and also to be pre-warned that there are going to be times when geographically or physically you will not be in the same space.
And having some sort of a connection or a system. But you can't control if your partner's gonna go off and completely ignore you. You cannot control that. I think you can only work who you are as a person. You can only work on finding your own network, working on yourself to feed in your relationship and trusting that the other person is engaged in this relationship. But when they get to a new place and they're pulled in all directions, that can sometimes be hard to say, ‘Hey, oh, there's us as well…!’
Carole Hallett Mobbs (34:34):
<Laugh>. Oh, exactly. But also I think that there is a definite space I'm gonna go there. Women do not say what they want. I am not like that. But we need to set our own boundaries and we need to specify in simple language what we expect from them and what we don't expect from them. For example, I don't need to speak to my husband every single day. We went through I think a very short time of doing that, and I had to tell him no because he was expecting me to be ready at whatever hour of the day suited him, which might be when I'm in the middle of work.
Rhoda Bangerter (35:20):
Carole Hallett Mobbs (35:20):
So now we have a set day and set time for the phone call, and we'll have a good old chit chat on the phone when it suits me and when it suits him. I don't need to check in with him every day. I know that he'll contact me if there is anything that he wants. Usually at the end of the month I have to sort out various bills and medications and stuff for him. And when he's coming back, there are certain things that he wants me to sort out ready for his return. I did feel a little bit like his PA yesterday, so I told him ‘You know, it's 10 o'clock at night, I am not doing anything else. I've sat down now I need to chill. Go away.’ <Laugh>.
Rhoda Bangerter (36:02):
Yeah. But I think you're right. I find personally that men do that naturally. So they expect us to do that. And they're not being unkind. They're just ‘Oh, well, why don't you say you couldn't do it?’ ‘Well, because…’
Carole Hallett Mobbs (36:20):
<Laugh>. Exactly. Yeah. They aren't psychic.
Rhoda Bangerter (36:23):
Carole Hallett Mobbs (36:23):
They're not psychic. Nobody is. Well, I am, but yeah. We can't expect our partners and I will take men out of the equation here. We cannot expect our partners to know what we want unless we clearly tell them. If we want a relationship where they contact us every lunchtime without fail, then we need to say that. We don't go saying, ‘Well, you didn't contact me enough.’ ‘I didn't know you wanted me to.’
Rhoda Bangerter (36:56):
That’s so true. And if they can't do that, then finding a compromise and saying, ‘Okay, well it doesn't work for you every lunchtime. I need every lunchtime. Let's see how we can compromise and make it work for both of us.’ But that is so true, having that communication, because if we don't… I've had to learn it. You know, if we don't say, ‘This is what I need, this is what I'm doing for myself’, not expecting our partners to be doing everything that we need. I think it's unfair to put it all on them. I think we need to find from other sources maybe emotional support. I don't think leaning too much the other way and completely ignoring them. I think there is something within the couple where it's important to lean on each other. But I think expecting them to be the answer to everything is…
Carole Hallett Mobbs (37:51):
Oh gosh, that is so unhealthy.
Rhoda Bangerter (37:52):
Yeah. And taking things into our own hands and saying ‘Okay, I'm in a new place. My partner's got a job to do. They're being pulled in every direction. I'm feeling extremely lonely right now. I've told them what I need. I'm also gonna take steps and measures too. And if it goes through a coach, right?’
Carole Hallett Mobbs (38:14):
Rhoda Bangerter (38:15):
Perfect. I've done it myself. I've reached out to coaches, to therapists to just get you going in the right direction, empower you, help you figure out what you want, how to express it. I think all of that is the power of the coaching and the therapy.
Carole Hallett Mobbs (38:35):
Yeah. And we're, we are grownups. We should be able to have grownup conversations with our partners. And that is something I think is very much lacking in general. The other thing that somebody did want me to bring up is the fact that due to all of their traveling, we cannot get a job overseas as well.
Rhoda Bangerter (38:58):
Oh my word right there. That is it. So there's not only the fact that we're expats and accompanying spouses, which makes it harder, the fact that the traveling just multiplied that. Can you expand on that more?
Carole Hallett Mobbs (39:16):
Sure. We've sacrificed our career to move overseas as a trailing spouse. And I know it's not fashionable to like that phrase. I don't care. It's easier for me to say than accompanying partner. I made it, but it's hard. So yeah, we've sacrificed something. Now luckily I have been self-employed since 1994. So I've got a portable career. I make a portable career. Luckily I had that, I did have to sell my business before I went to Tokyo for the first time, which was sad. I loved it. But the adventure was more exciting to me. So I knew that I was going to make a sacrifice. I knew that I wouldn't be able to get a job over there, but that was fine. I made up other work. I was freelance writing, I was doing tech support and various other things. But then so many other people aren't me. More people aren't me. They have a job, they have a career. They left their career to support their partner's career. And that is not often acknowledged. There's a huge movement at the moment that the company that sends the working partner should also give the accompanying partner a job.
Rhoda Bangerter (40:44):
Which the American embassies do. A lot of the American diplomats, their partners can find jobs.
Carole Hallett Mobbs (40:51):
And the same within the British Embassy, but they're generally couples that have met through the embassy.
Rhoda Bangerter (40:58):
Carole Hallett Mobbs (41:00):
Oh, they know the game. I am not that person.
Rhoda Bangerter (44:43):
Yeah. And I've come across people, I've spoken to people where the wife said ‘Okay, I'm stopping moving right now. I'm moving back to my home country.’ Or a country. One of the cases was she was happy in that country. She's like, ‘I'm staying here. You carry on. You can go back and forth. But I need the roots.’ And for the families that I've spoken to, it's works well for them. The traveling is still hard. But I think because the remaining partner of the partner who's the one that's holding the fort as I call it, or holding the baby, has got that support, is happy in the space where they are. I think it strengthened that call you were talking about. And then that helps the toing and froing.
Carole Hallett Mobbs (45:39):
And I think it also helps relationships.
And it happens mostly I've seen when the child reaches their early teens, which is an absolutely crucial decision, in my opinion, to make. Moving around the world with teens is tricky, as I'm sure you've discovered.
Rhoda Bangerter (47:27):
Yep. We have. We're very fortunate because their schooling years fall exactly where they would need to change system anyway. And it's funny because when my husband went to Kabul and we were talking about moving just before then, our oldest was crying. He was like, ‘No, I don't wanna, I don’t wanna move. I don't wanna move.’ So we were looking at different options and then Kabul came up and for many different reasons that's what we chose. But then that allowed him to stay where he was, our eldest son. But then two years later, same kid, oh, he's fine. ‘I'll move. You know, I'm fine to move.’ But also because all his friends were gonna move anyway. And he had come to a natural break in the schooling that then allowed us to move over here. And then thankfully both of them are then gonna move system next time we move, you know, it all goes to plan.
Carole Hallett Mobbs (48:32):
Yeah. And that is really key. And there is a difference between boys and girls. Girls don't cope so well, and I can say that with a huge sweeping generalization, okay. But boys, they just have to mention their favorite soccer team and they’re best friends forever.
Rhoda Bangerter (48:56):
With girls, it's a little bit more drama and relationships.
Carole Hallett Mobbs (48:58):
Can I just say one more thing about the saying no to the move?
Rhoda Bangerter (49:54):
Carole Hallett Mobbs (49:54):
In the UK we have an education system that is incredibly reliant on certain exams. They're the GCSEs and they are taken at the age of 15, 16. You have to be in the school system two years at least before you can take the exams. The schools will quite often actually reject you if you try and go in. So if you are moving with children or choosing to stay, it needs to be early teens, preferably before secondary school. And out of all of my friends and so many of my clients, that is the point where they are saying, ‘No, I am not going to move around the world anymore. The kid needs some stability. The kid needs to get through these last few years of school before university.’ And then once university happens, there’s another change. And of course, not every child goes to university. And that's something we need to remember and not pressurize them into. And that is the key point too. I think the change we've got, as our accompanying partner selves, we have then got to a degree of comfortableness in the relationship. We've managed to keep them around for 13 years or more, and we haven't killed them. This is a really, really good benchmark. So we know that we can cope. And we have a little more freedom for ourselves. Getting back into the workforce after being away for so long is hugely difficult. And something I've been talking to somebody else about recently. And that is often the point when the accompanying partner says, ‘Nope, I am just now going to be the partner. I am not accompanying you anymore.’
Rhoda Bangerter (51:56):
Yeah. And I think from everything that we've spoken about today, I think there can be a few encouragements for people and also a few warnings. The encouragement that it is possible that families do live like this. The encouragement to go for it. But also the warning that there can be loneliness. That we may need to reinforce that in a core with emotional support or help or strengthening it in some way that it is going to be called upon. And also the warning about moving, but also the warning and an encouragement of saying, well, you can say no to a move. It is possible for your partner to keep traveling, but for you to say ‘No, you know what? Right now the kids…’
And it's one of the top reasons why people choose this is to say ‘The kids need stability. I need the stability. I would like to go back into the workforce and it's okay, I'm gonna stay in this country, and you can move from there.’ And I think if people can feel encouraged by that, also encouraged that if they feel lonely because their partner's gone, that's a normal feeling. There's nothing broken about them. It's not the fact that they can't cope. It's something that a lot of us have lived through. Even when we consider ourselves, I consider myself independent. I always say like, I'm a cat. I like being around people, but then I really like my own independence. But I found it hard. I found it lonely.
Now we're living the other side of the coin when he's home much more. And it's interesting to see the other perspective go, ‘Oh wow, this is interesting! <Laugh> I have backups, like physical backup. But thank you so much for sharing all of that. I let you finish your sentence that you just started, and then if you could share where people can contact you and anything else you wanna add before we bring it to a close.
Carole Hallett Mobbs (54:21):
Awesome. Oh gosh. I could talk about this for ages. It's been absolutely fantastic talking with you, Rhoda. Thank you so much for reaching out to me. And I think social media has made it so much easier to have conversations online, but do talk to other humans once in a while. Otherwise you can end up like me where I have conversations with my animals because I need to have a decent adult conversation. <Laugh>. But yes, you can be incredibly independent and you need to tell people what you need and what you want. Be a grownup about it. Don't expect them to understand without being absolutely clarifying everything that you need.
Carole Hallett Mobbs (55:15):
And do think of what's best for the children. Which I'm noticing a little bit this year. But yeah, I'm everywhere on the internet. The main places I hang out and you can find my name anywhere. Just Google me and it's quite scary though. I have expatchild.com, which is my original website created in 2012, which is got about four or 500 articles about moving overseas and back home. There's also the Expat Ability Chat podcast, which is a little project and fairly fresh and new where you can just listen to me in your ears whenever you need. Find me on Facebook. You can find me on, LinkedIn is my favorite place right now. I have Twitter accounts, but I don't use them. I have Instagram, I'm basically everywhere.
Rhoda Bangerter (56:14):
<Affirmative>. So people can just send you a message on LinkedIn. That's, that's how I did it.
Carole Hallett Mobbs (56:19):
Right. Send me a message on LinkedIn. That's, that's a good way to contact me. Or if you're good at remembering email addresses, just email@example.com.
Rhoda Bangerter (56:30):
Brilliant. And I'll put it in the show notes too. You're a star. Thank you so much, so much, Carole.
Rhoda Bangerter is a coach who has lived abroad with a travelling husband for over 16 years. She helps home based mums and dads live an intentional life and build family togetherness even when their partner is away a lot for work.