Claire Hauxwell is a professional badass (accompanying supportive spouse), writer, and coach. A trained Supply Chain professional and ex-spreadsheet lover, she now puts her Type A personality to work by deconstructing the nuances of expat life. With more than a decade of global living experience, Claire shares her wisdom on the blog – My Theory On Blooming, and coaches female expat accompanying spouses to create fulfilling and intentional lives abroad. If she’s not roaming the aisles of the grocery store or meandering the forest with her dogs, you’ll find her sweating it out at CrossFit or having cocktails with friends. Claire and her family currently live in Switzerland, but return to the shores of Muskegon, Michigan every summer for a taste of home. On this podcast she shares her expat story through the lens of life with a partner who travels for work.
In this Episode:
- Claire begins her story as an accompanying spouse with a newborn and a toddler in a new city with a husband gone for work most of the time.
- Missing birthdays and big dates(stay tuned, this comes up again at 30)
- The importance of organising help with childcare.
- Transitions when your partner comes home from a trip.
- Keeping your partner in the loop when they are away
- What Claire would say to a new mum, in a new place, with a partner who travels.
Mentioned in this Episode:
Guidebook ‘Asking for help’
Rhoda Bangerter (00:09):
Welcome to Holding the Fort Abroad, the podcast for expats with travelling partners. My name is Rhoda Bangerter, I am a certified coach and the author of the book Holding the Fort Abroad. In this podcast, I interview men and women who live abroad and have travelling partners so that we can all benefit from their wisdom and experience. I also invite relationship experts to apply their expertise to this topic. Today my guest is Claire Hauxwell, Claire is a mum, she’s a coach for accompanying supportive spouses, she’s been an AS for many years, she’s a blogger at My Theory on Blooming and she’s writing a book which she will tell us about. She’s lived in Geneva, Brussels, Mexico City, Johannesburg and Zug. Claire, welcome to the show !
Claire Hauxwell (00:58):
Thank you, Rhoda. I'm so excited to be here.
Rhoda Bangerter (01:02):
Claire. I know that you know all about this life of being an expat and that your husband has traveled. Can you tell us your story from that angle? Because we don't get to hear it. Often when we hear stories of accompanying spouses, we don't often get to hear it from the angle of, of ‘Well, um, my husband was away a lot.’
Claire Hauxwell (01:30):
Absolutely. It's a good story to be told because I think it's something that happens a lot more frequently than we realize. so my husband and I moved abroad in 2009. We had a two year old at the time and I was pregnant. I was seven months pregnant when we arrived in Geneva, which was quite possibly the dumbest thing I'd ever done, but it happened. So I had a newborn and a toddler, in a new city, with a husband that traveled quite frequently at the time. He was opening a new office in Europe an so he was gone quite a bit. He had travelled most of our relationship, so it wasn't something that I wasn't used to. But when you moved to a new city in a new country with a new language and in, do you have new babies… It's a bit overwhelming.
Rhoda Bangerter (02:30):
Claire Hauxwell (02:31):
So, that was kind of baptism by fire, I think, when it came to that. So yeah, we did that for a long time. Then we moved, you know, as we moved around, kids got older, but his schedule will of travel just intensified. So, I mean, there was times when he was gone for two to three weeks at a time. And that was two, three weeks gone home a week. And so you kind of get into a groove, but at the same time, it's really tiring.
Rhoda Bangerter (03:07):
Yeah, for sure. So you, you guys met, you got married in the US, right? You’re both from the US?
Claire Hauxwell (03:18):
Yes, we’re both American.
Rhoda Bangerter (03:21):
And he was traveling at the time?
Claire Hauxwell (03:23):
So we met, and we both worked in sourcing and we traveled for work. As his career progressed, we kind of bounced around a little bit within the US and he'd always traveled for work. I mean, I can remember laughing early on in our marriage where I said, I don't think you've been home for one of my birthdays yet. Because he traveled to, he always had global responsibilities, so he was in China or Brazil or wherever it was that he was traveling. So it kind of became a joke. And then we got married and we had children and I was kind of like, oh, this is not such a great joke anymore. Like you're always gone. You're never home for the big days. So, I mean, for my 10th anniversary, he said we were supposed to go to the Maldives for our 10th anniversary. And instead he goes ‘Well, unfortunately, how about moving to Mexico instead?’ And I was like ‘Oh, okay. Um, sure. But you know, uh…’
Rhoda Bangerter (04:36):
I totally get it. I totally get it. And that's why I wanted to talk to you. And I've got two dads who have agreed as well to share because it's the other way, the flip side, where it's the wives who are traveling a lot and it's just not uncommon. It's not uncommon to arrive, for a mom, for example, to arrive in a new place, pregnant with a toddler. And within sometimes a matter of days, their partner's gone already on a plane. And I think it's super important that people who are living this realize that they're not alone. Because sometimes you're alone in your own community of expats. Now, did you realize that this was sort of something extra? Or did you just think, oh, it comes with a job, it comes with a territory?
Claire Hauxwell (05:31):
You know, I have to be quite honest. I had absolutely no idea. We moved overseas and we were the only people for his company. So there wasn't, it wasn't like I went into this network of other expat spouses that I could connect with. And our kids were so little that they weren't going to international school, they were going to creches. And so the connection really wasn't there because a lot of the creches were, even though it was Geneva and it was this super international place, it was a lot of local parents, which were great and very kind, but I had a hard time connecting, cause I didn't speak French and I didn't, you know, didn't know the customs and I didn't know the culture yet. And it was so overwhelming. I think the only place that I knew how to make community is I went and sought out an English speaking playgroup.
Rhoda Bangerter (06:33):
Claire Hauxwell (06:34):
And I didn't, I don't think I did it for me. I mean, for my daughter, I did it for me. I was like, I gotta find this because I didn't know how to do it. And this is before Facebook groups were huge and you know, you couldn't just look it up on the internet and find every blog. Like, it just didn't seem that… either I didn't know, or it wasn't yet. I mean I was still using like a directory book,
Rhoda Bangerter (07:02):
Claire Hauxwell (07:04):
For Geneva. This is like, you know, this is 13 years ago. It was a long time ago. So I mean, things have obviously changed since then. So I didn't know what I didn't know. And I think that added layer of the ambiguity of like what life is supposed to look like and what life should, like, I know what I would be doing if I was in my home country.
Rhoda Bangerter (07:32):
Claire Hauxwell (07:33):
But to put the layer of like, well, where do I go to do this? Or how do I get involved in here? Or like, just to a playgroup, wasn't just going to a playgroup. I still felt like an outsider. I didn't know how to connect. So I was very lonely, very, very lonely.
Rhoda Bangerter (07:49):
Claire Hauxwell (07:51):
And that affects the home life. So…
Rhoda Bangerter (07:55):
Tell me more.
Claire Hauxwell (07:57):
Well, it's just, if it affects the home life in a sense of like, I mean you and I will know you get resentful, I'm home all day. I'm stuck here. I can't go anywhere. I don't take showers. I, you know, I'm doing all these things that are like, by the end of the day, I'm just drained and I've gone nowhere. And you've had no outside contact.
Rhoda Bangerter (08:21):
Claire Hauxwell (08:23):
But that was Geneva. And that was a year and a half. When we moved to Brussels, my life dramatically changed cause my older daughter had gone to international school. And so, you know, it was just like, ‘There are other people out there!’, like it was just this amazing experience of ‘Oh, there's other moms!’.
Rhoda Bangerter (08:47):
Claire Hauxwell (08:48):
And dads, there weren't quite so many dads back then, but there were lots of moms.
Rhoda Bangerter (08:52):
Yeah. Those years where the children are really small and not yet going to school or kindergarten on a regular basis. It's really intense. And if on top of that, your partner's away and you’re transitioning into new places, it gets really, really a lot. So then you're saying it's got a little bit easier when she went to international school, you got a bit more of a network.
Did you realize still that having a traveling husband was maybe something extra that other people around you didn't necessarily have? Or did you just take it as part of the
Claire Hauxwell (09:34):
I took it as part of my life, but I was, I don't know. I kind of got to a point where I didn't, you know, you don't have the grandparents, I never had grandparents around us. We lived far away from grandparents and aunts and uncles and all that stuff. So I never really had, even when my oldest daughter was really little, we didn't have that, I always had to depend on myself to be mindful of like, how can I make things happen?
So we were really good about setting up babysitters and daycare. And we'd always done that. Um, but the smartest thing I ever did when we lived in Brussels and Dave was traveling 85% of the time, was I connected with some babysitters from the school who happened to be sisters.
Rhoda Bangerter (10:26):
Claire Hauxwell (10:27):
And they became mother’s helpers twice a week.
Rhoda Bangerter (10:29):
Claire Hauxwell (10:30):
And they would take the school bus home to my house. They were probably, I wanna say ninth and 11th, 11th and ninth grade. They were sisters, 14, 15, 16 years old. And they wanted to make money. And I was willing to pay it and they came over, and they came over from like 3:30, till 7:30 or four o'clock to eight o'clock. And on those nights I would go to the grocery store by myself. I would go have dinner with a friend. I would go to the gym by myself and just having those and I didn't have to give baths. I didn't have to put them down at night. It was just because there was no other person in the house to just do.
Rhoda Bangerter (11:20):
Claire Hauxwell (11:21):
It gave me that minute to breathe.
Rhoda Bangerter (11:24):
Yeah. What difference do you think that made overall?
Claire Hauxwell (11:28):
Oh, it made me better mother, for sure. And it gave me a chance to recharge when I was really low.
Rhoda Bangerter (11:41):
Is that you’re only thing?
Claire Hauxwell (11:44):
That was the biggest thing. I mean, obviously, I had lots of, my friends, many of my friends had kids the same age and I do find over time, it would you find like I'm just gonna make a big batch of spaghetti bolognaise. Why don't you bring your kids over for dinner? And it's those little tiny things that you can do for your friends that you don't, because their husbands are traveling too, or they work extra late, you know, like they didn't always have, you know, everybody around the dinner table for a family dinner every night.
Rhoda Bangerter (12:22):
Claire Hauxwell (12:23):
You know, moms or dads get home late too. I mean, they could be nine o'clock at night before some of the parents are coming home, the working spouse. So a lot of times we would just say, ‘Hey, let's just have the kids here for dinner. I'll make a big, you know, spaghetti bolognaise’, and we'll have a glass of bubbles and we'll just chill and decompress.
Rhoda Bangerter (12:43):
So you wouldn't wait for them to say ‘Hey, I'll take the kids off you for, for a little bit to help you because your husband's away.’ You'd say like, you'd invite everybody over and it would help you in the sense that then you're helping them and they're hanging out. And so you're killing one bird with two… No, what is it? Two birds with one stone!
Claire Hauxwell (13:04):
Rhoda Bangerter (13:04):
In a sense you're saying, ‘Hey, you know, I get adult company, the kids get fed. And we all get through this together.’ Is that what you're saying?
Claire Hauxwell (13:12):
100%. And I saw that happen a lot. Where it would be like, you know, one week it might be at this person's house and one night you'd then swap and go to the other person's house. And it's just, it gives you some sense of community as well. I mean, it just, when you're isolated, when you do have little kids like that, you can get so wrapped up in them that you forget that there's this outside world. And you're trying to do the best you can, but gosh, we all need a little bit of like, we need support! We need to be able to complain about our spouse. We need to like, we need those people to, to talk to. And they're going through it too. So misery loves company. Why not?
Rhoda Bangerter (13:59):
Yeah. It’s great advice I think. Don't wait for someone to necessarily invite you over, you invite them over, and just make a big party out of it. And maybe, you know, it'll help you get through that evening potentially. And it might even help them in the sense that their partner might be coming home late. Like you said.
Claire Hauxwell (14:26):
Absolutely. I mean, just because my husband used to work lots of hours, even if he wasn't traveling. So, you know, there's a lot of people that parent – single parent - by themselves a lot even though the spouse is there.
Rhoda Bangerter (14:47):
Claire Hauxwell (14:49):
I mean, I don't know how many times when I hear like ‘Oh, well the kids go to bed before he gets home’ or, you know, ‘He's out the door before they wake up in the morning’ or, you know, that happens quite a lot, I think. And these are little things that we can do for each other that, you know, it's just as easy to make two boxes of pasta as it is to make one.
Rhoda Bangerter (15:14):
That's true. That's true. So that's true. That's very good. So, um, the children were getting a bit older. You were in Brussels. He was travelling 80% of the time. That's a huge amount. So I call it like having a suitcase by the door. Was he literally walking in unloading his suitcase? You’re washing everything and then repacking it and he's off again?
Claire Hauxwell (15:42):
Yeah. Yeah. And especially towards the end of it. He took a new role at the end of our time. Then we were in Brussels and he is in Mexico. So that was our next stop. But he was part of a transition team. So he was gone for yeah, could be three weeks at a time and then he'd come home for a week. And it would be he's there, but he is jet lagged and he is tired and he, all he’s been doing is working. And yeah, the whole reconnecting part, it's hard! Like I got a schedule and now you're getting in the way. Not that you don't appreciate the help!
Rhoda Bangerter (16:25):
Right, right. That is one of the first things when we were talking about Kabul. I don't know if you've heard me say this before, but when we were talking about Olivier going to Kaul for like eight weeks at a time or more, the first advice we were given was by two different families was just be careful with the reconnecting time cause when he comes back home, yeah, just he's gonna mess up the rhythm and you just gonna have to go with the flow because, it's just the way it is. It’s a transition time, you know.
Claire Hauxwell (16:59):
100%. And when we moved, when we finally did get transitioned to Mexico, when my husband is not taking on a global role, he's more local and he will travel on occasion, but then it's reverse culture shock. You're like, oh whoa…
Rhoda Bangerter (17:13):
Claire Hauxwell (17:15):
Now you're home all the time. And now we have to figure out how to do that!
Rhoda Bangerter (17:19):
Claire Hauxwell (17:21):
And so we've done both, you know, sides of the spectrum. And there's no, you know, sometimes I'm almost like ‘Don't you have somewhere to go?!’ I'm like ‘Can't you go back to the office or somewhere?’, but it's gotten, I guess as my kids have gotten older it makes things easier. I say it make things easier. It's not easier. It's just different kinds of problems. The hands-on-ness of my kids as they've gotten older has obviously decreased. And that's where that exhaustion comes from, I think, as a mom, as a parent, when you're alone parenting.
Rhoda Bangerter (18:12):
Yeah. When they're young, it's very physical, isn't it? When they're older, it's more mental and emotional and you're supporting the transition into adulthood. But that's something that he can maybe get involved more at a distance it's more workable for the traveling partner to get involved with it.
And how did you navigate those transitions then? Any tips you've learned from experience or?
Claire Hauxwell (18:39):
Um, the transition back to home?
Rhoda Bangerter (18:42):
Yeah. You know, when he comes back home and sort of all the routine goes. Who was it? Someone said, you know, ‘I can handle the leaking roof when he's not home. I just can't handle him putting the fork in the wrong place when he's home.’
Claire Hauxwell (19:00):
Yeah. You know, it's sometimes, it's not, it's not so bad. I mean, to be quite honest, he and I are pretty, pretty good. I will say my girls are very much more independent, much more dependent on me. Because I've just been their constant. I'm always the constant. So that has been, I guess he does things that he knows from a perimeter, like ‘I'm not gonna screw this up.’ Like if I take a kid to school, if I say, does someone want me to drive him to school, that typically doesn't mess things up.
Rhoda Bangerter (19:44):
Claire Hauxwell (19:45):
But if he just decides I'm gonna do this and I'm gonna take, no, I take this child to school on this day, because then I go to my class that's right around the, you know. Like there are things, I think it's a little bit of like, ‘Hey, tell me if you wanna get involved, because then we can figure out ways to put you back into the schedule without interrupting it.’
Rhoda Bangerter (20:13):
Claire Hauxwell (20:14):
On greater proportions. Um, and I think it's also, they have to want to show some initiative as to what they want to do, because I think sometimes we, or at least me, I will have this expectation like, oh ‘You're home. Great. You can do all these things!’ And he's like, uh, no overwhelmed.
Rhoda Bangerter (20:38):
Claire Hauxwell (20:38):
I don't, I can't do all those things because just because I'm home doesn't mean that like I've got all the time in the world. So yeah, I think obviously communication between your partner is huge.
Rhoda Bangerter (20:52):
Claire Hauxwell (20:53):
It's just huge.
Rhoda Bangerter (20:54):
Yeah. And noticing those places where there's unease or where something's been triggered and you both end up in a bad mood and you're like, ‘Ooh, I wonder what happened’, you know, ‘have they taken over some space that was mine? Do I feel like squeezed? Or have they done something that's messed up the routine.’
And I think if both people, both sides, sort of are aware that during that time there's gonna be stepping on toes and readjustments that need to be made. I think that just knowing it, I think can be a huge help as well.
And like you said, I think you pointed out two very important things, which is you ask them, what specific things do you wanna get involved in? And I can, you know, we can work around that. And then them knowing, you know, ‘Oh, well, okay.’ And, and maybe us telling them, uh, ‘Listen, I'll handle this and I'll handle that because this is how it works. And I'm fine with it keeping working like that. You don't have to get involved because it's gonna mess it up, no offence.’ So I think those two aspects are really important tips for people navigating those times.
Claire Hauxwell (22:15):
Yeah. I mean, and it's also a little bit of, like, I would say is, I've not been the traveling spouse, but I would say from being the traveling spouse coming in, you have to be a little bit more aware.
Rhoda Bangerter (22:35):
Claire Hauxwell (22:36):
Of what's going on around you, because there is a well-oiled machine going on around you. And if you walk into something and you try to get involved, it's not that I don't, I don't, I don't think I would get, it probably comes off as upset or pissy or whatever he's gonna call, like whatever kind of emotion that shows out. It's not that I don't appreciate the fact that you're doing those things, but you're just not thinking about what it might do. So I think there has to be a little bit of awareness on the, on the traveling spouse’s side to just be a little more cognizant of what's going on and to watch how things are happening because your spouse has probably got it up fully under control. They would love to let go of some of that control, but you can't just like throw a wrench in it and be like, you know, we're gonna change everything now. And so they've got things moving the way that works for them. And you gotta work together.
Rhoda Bangerter (23:53):
And we can tell them that we can say, listen, I have a well-oiled machine here, and I'm happy to hand over some because it is a lot. But just maybe observe a day or two and then see what you, let's talk about what you can pick up because that would be helpful.
Claire Hauxwell (24:11):
Rhoda Bangerter (24:12):
Good points. Good points here. Very helpful, I think. So how do you, like, do you guys say good night, good morning. Do you guys like have regular communication plans? How does he communicate with the girls? Or is it kind of random? Does it matter? What do you think?
Claire Hauxwell (24:34):
Now it's weird because he hasn't traveled in so long. So we've, due to the pandemic, he doesn't, he's supposed to start traveling again here soon, so that's, we'll see how it goes again. But, you know, we went from, yeah, it would be, ‘Hey, your dad's on the phone. Do you wanna say hi?’ And I always feel like the kids are so, used to be so disconnected because it was, he's in a different time zone and he's trying to call us and we're always like in the middle of dinner or, you know, something is happening and someone's in the bathtub or I'm driving to go get something. And they're just trying to find a few minutes in their day to connect with you. And I did find for a lot, for a lot of the call or a lot of the, the travel that he did, we just didn't connect. Like, it would be ‘I'm okay. I'm alive.’ I would get a text.
Rhoda Bangerter (25:32):
Claire Hauxwell (25:32):
Um, just because the kids are in school when he would be awake or, you know, if we were in Mexico and he was in China, I mean, that's a 12 hour time difference. You can't, it doesn't work. Soyeah, there were a of those kind of like bumps, and I do think that we probably didn't handle that as well as we could have, but we did the best that we could at the time.
Rhoda Bangerter (26:03):
Yeah. How would you keep him updated with the girls? Like, would you keep him updated with the girls?
Claire Hauxwell (26:12):
Yeah. I mean, ‘How is everybody?’ ‘Everyone's good. No one's prob-‘ You know, it was more like if there was a big problem.
Rhoda Bangerter (26:21):
Claire Hauxwell (26:22):
We, I would communicate it, because when you have these little conversations throughout the, he's half the time, he's probably not even paying attention to me because he's rushing to another meeting. My bigger conversations. I feel like I would get more in, like if it was a weekend, I would get more with him.
Rhoda Bangerter (26:40):
Claire Hauxwell (26:41):
Because I don't always feel like those midweek, you know, he's going from meeting to meeting to business dinners to, you know, whatever it happens to be. And we're only getting the ‘I'm alive.’ Yeah. I'm not gonna tell you that, you know, Elise has a cold. Like, yeah. ‘Elise has a cold, we're fine.’ ‘Good.’
Rhoda Bangerter (27:04):
Yeah. Yeah. You know, and if maybe they're even working longer hours because they're not coming home to family. And so they're trying to cram it all in while they're there, before they come back. Right.
Claire Hauxwell (27:14):
Yeah. I do think that that was something that we struggled with, but when they were little, I would be like, ‘Hey, come say hi to dad.’ And, you know, luckily we had Skype and FaceTime and those things. So we were lucky. But there was a lot that he missed because..
Rhoda Bangerter (27:34):
I had that dial dilemma a little bit, well, more than a little bit. And I used to tend to write emails and do bullet points of things so that I catch him up on things. Because I I don't want to spend, you know, my precious time on online with him necessarily, you know, just blurting out everything that's just happened. But to keep him updated, that can be useful to just pop it in an email so that he can see it in one big go when he's off, you know, off duty, let's say off work.
Claire Hauxwell (28:08):
No, that's a great idea.
Rhoda Bangerter (28:09):
And there's Marco Polo as well, which have you heard of that? It's like a message app where you record a video and as soon as you stop recording the video, it goes, and then when they're free, they listen to it, then they can reply them. So it's like a non simultaneous conversation that you can have with someone. And one of my friends uses it a lot. And so she'll just like, cuz sometimes I feel they miss out on like, you know, first day of school and you ask the kid how it's gone and they're like ‘Oh, and this happened. And that, and that happened!’ You can never recreate that conversation. Because if he asks them an hour later, they'll have calmed down, they'll have forgotten half of it. You know, they're like, I've already said it once. So they don’t want to say it a second time. So sometimes recording those moments that the Marco Polo app, but then that's new technology, you know, that we can make the most of that.
Claire Hauxwell (29:13):
Well, now that, and now that my kids are older, I mean he can text them or call them.
And not get my kids are the best texting and calling kids. But um, you know, he can have his own communication with them. So that is kind of nice. Again, it takes me out of it, because I think they need to have that connection. And I enjoy watching, like now that Dave's been home for two years with COVID, he takes my daughter to school in the morning. I mean, and he's never done that before. And so to just have that is such a good, it's a nice thing to have.
Rhoda Bangerter (29:59):
Coming back to the anniversaries and birthdays and all that, how do you handle him missing those things? Because I'll tell you why I'm asking the question, because I think it happens a lot in many families, I think, but also because I remember when we were discussing Kabul, he was not gonna come back for Christmas. And I was rather upset about that. I thought, you know, Christmas is a non-negotiable. But then we were talking to one of these families and she said ‘Oh no, he didn't come back for Christmas either.’ And I'm like ‘Oh, oh, this is, oh, okay. This is something other families are okay about.’
And you know, not that you want to do it the same as everybody, you know what I mean? But, but it was kind of comforting to think ‘Oh, okay. It's not just my husband who's like a workaholic.’ I realized like, it’s the team taking turns to stay for Christmas so that they each get a turn to go back to their families. So it's looking at it that way sometimes. But I'm curious to see, and another mom, she said to me, her husband is a pediatric doctor and he does shifts in all sorts. And I said, and I, asked her the question, and she said to me that she just knew that he would do as much as possible to be there, if he really could be there, he would be there.
Claire Hauxwell (31:39):
Rhoda Bangerter (31:40):
No, I'm not saying that right. That he would do his best to be there. And as long as she knew that, then she was okay with it. I don't know what your take on it is.
Claire Hauxwell (31:50):
Well, so we have, one of our daughters is born in mid-March and my husband's company typically has a meeting every year mid-March.
Rhoda Bangerter (32:01):
Claire Hauxwell (32:02):
A big one. And he's missed her birthday quite a bit, he's missed my birthday for 20 years.
Rhoda Bangerter (32:21):
Okay, go ahead. She can move that around. It kept bouncing.
Claire Hauxwell (32:26):
Okay. Well, I think with his travel and him being gone and it kind of always hit in this time, we try to either, if we're gonna have birthday parties or whatever it happens to be, I like to try and at least celebrate it where he's… so he can go ‘Hey, I was at that birthday party’, or he's at least in the photos in the background, or, you know, we try to make it happen. It doesn't always happen. But, you know, we travel back to the States in the summer and my other daughter has a summer birthday. So I mean, we're not always there, but he's not, you know, we're not all always together. Um, and that's, I think hard on them as well, because they're missing out on those things that they wish they could be part of, obviously. But what we did, we've done a lot, is we've tried to celebrate early. We've never had to do Christmas, apart but we've done anniversaries, we've done all that stuff, but I think it's a bit of celebrating early. And it's a little planning. I mean, it just looks, it's like, okay, well, I like to know what his schedule is gonna look like for travel. And if I know that he's gonna be traveling then, okay. It's like, all right, well, when should we celebrate Alisa’s birthday? Should we do it before? Or should we do it after? Because you're not gonna be here during, on the day of, or whatever it happens to be. And so I do think that those things that we, we can do little things like that, just a little scheduling. And when they're little, it's hard, right. Cause it's their birthday and they want it to be on their birthday and it's always the birthday. And you FaceTime them in and you do it all and you take pictures and you share it with them, as best you can. But if you can make things happen to include them, I do think it's really important.
Rhoda Bangerter (34:27):
Yeah. I think it can, well, I don't know, that get real time really isn't it, sometimes it can be a social resentment, but for example, anniversaries, we've always forgotten ours, even if we're under the same roof. No, it's terrible, really, really bad. It's not romantic at all! Where we’re under the same roof and we're like ‘Oh wait, it was our anniversary two days ago!’ You know? And you're like ‘I can't believe that we forgot!’ But you know, for some people anniversaries are like super important and they're like, this is a non-negotiable.
Claire Hauxwell (35:05):
I mean, I think we're in the same camp as you two. We're not super, I mean, yes, I mean, we've made it 20th anniversary this year. So I mean, that's a big one, but I think it's just signifying, like just recognizing it. I mean, yes, I'm more of a recognizing - I don't need to have flowers and lavish thing. I mean, it's nice, but it's not… I don't need that to know that he loves me. But I also, you know, it's, it's nice to…
Rhoda Bangerter (35:44):
To mark it.
To mark it, it is.
Rhoda Bangerter (35:44):
You can mark it throughout the year. You can mark it at other times, it doesn't have to be on the day. And I think what can be helpful here is to say, well, you know, if he absolutely needs to be home and that he's doing all he can to be home, then that he would do it. And I think that for me, and it's been a source of conversation between us as a couple. You know, I need to know that if I do need you, you will be home. And it has happened that that has not been the case. And it's been tough. It's been very, very tough. But we talked it out and we forgave each other and you keep going right. And you say, well, okay, well we'll, uh, you know, um…woo! This is going a bit - I don't think there's an easy answer! I think if it's important to you, you have to make it clear. If you can do it, then they can arrange it… I think it's important that they arrange it and that they signify that they're doing their best to be there. And I think there's a bit of give and take on both sides that we say that you have to be there and therefore be there. No?
Claire Hauxwell (37:12):
I'm trying to think of a time where I was like ‘You have to be here.’ I can tell you, honestly I've gone on vacations by myself, because he couldn't get home.
Rhoda Bangerter (37:36):
Claire Hauxwell (37:37):
Or something came up or, and I've done it all and I've gotten that.
Rhoda Bangerter (37:42):
And you gotten mad?
Claire Hauxwell (37:43):
I've gotten mad, yeah! But I'm like, well, I'm not gonna not go because you aren't going, like, I've took my girlfriend instead to a trip to Marbella because I was like ‘I'm going on this trip!’ You know, you were supposed to come with me and this was important to me. I think we've always done what we need to do in order to hit the big ones.
We’ve had some tragedies that we've had to rearrange life for. But when it comes to that, my husband's like ‘You know what, I'm home, take advantage of me being home and you do what you need to do. I don't worry so much, I guess I'm maybe I'm a different animal, I don't worry so much about specific days, I think it's of the overall for me. It'd be one thing if like our daughter was getting married, right, that's a different, right? But if it's I need to go and do this. ‘Okay. Take care of it. We'll figure it out.’ Or we'll make a plan. And, and it's not ‘I'll make a plan.’ Or ‘You'll make a plan.’ It's ‘We’ll make a plan.’ When I hear a lot of talk about expat relationships, I think a lot of the time we lose that connection as a team.
Rhoda Bangerter (39:36):
Claire Hauxwell (39:37):
A cohesive team. To me that’s very important. Because it doesn't work unless we're both working at it.
Rhoda Bangerter (39:47):
Yeah. So what you're saying is he's traveling, but you're a team.
Claire Hauxwell (39:52):
Absolutely. 100%, still. Totally
Rhoda Bangerter (39:54):
Which is how we see it too. It's like we’re not under the same roof because of circumstances, or choice (because we've chosen split location), or because we've chosen for you to take this job and you are traveling, but we are a family. We're one unit, we're moving towards in the same direction. We're working together at it. Sometimes you can be home, sometimes you can't be home. But we're a team.
Claire Hauxwell (40:19):
Yeah. I am a big believer in that. It's just for me, I know that you can have all the smoke and mirrors you want about flowers and dinners and happy anniversaries, but the stuff that really matters is how you work together to make things work, or to keep 'em going in the right direction. I mean, it's not always working properly, right? But you're at least moving in the right direction.
Rhoda Bangerter (41:01):
So what would you say to a mom who's maybe got young children, who's just arrived in a new place and who's exhausted and whose husband is gone lots.
Claire Hauxwell (41:21):
I am a big believer if you can, and this is if you can throw money at the problem, if you can outsource whatever it happens to be… outsource your grocery shopping, outsource your babysitters. You need to take some time for yourself because you will run yourself ragged otherwise. I have done that for a long time, and I think that's what's made me successful at this. I know that that's not always possible for people. But ask friends, get creative on how to fix the problem. Split a nanny, find a playgroup that works for your schedule, a babysitter, whatever it happens to be. It’s time that you need to yourself. Because I really do believe an hour of quiet time, when you're a mom of toddlers or little kids, like you need that because sometimes during your day at home, you're not…
I love it. People are always like ‘You have all the time in the world!’ I'm like ‘I haven't stopped moving since the kid left this morning.’ Like it's 10 o'clock at night and I still haven't showered today.
Rhoda Bangerter (42:53):
Yeah. Yeah. I think a lot of parents whose partners travel don't… they compare themselves to another parent whose partner doesn't travel and they might not even be expats. You can't do that. You can't do that because you're in a completely different game. It is a lot. One mom said to me the other day ‘Oh, I thought I had a problem. I thought I couldn't cope because it was me.’ I'm like ‘Are you kidding me?!’
Claire Hauxwell (43:26):
Rhoda Bangerter (43:26):
‘Are you kidding me? You're in a new country.’ Even if it's not a new country, it might not be your country. So you're still adapting. Even if you've been there a little while, you're still adapting, he's travelling all the time. You've got toddlers or little ones, which is already an intense part. You don't have extended family around you. You are still making your circle of friends. I say to people like ‘Do you expect yourself to carry 24 parcels?’ ‘No.’ ‘So why do you expect yourself to carry all of this?!’ You know?
Claire Hauxwell (44:01):
Rhoda Bangerter (44:01):
It’s just unrealistic. So I think it's important that they hear that it's not a sign of weakness. It's not something because they can't cope. It's because that kind of life is unsustainable without a lot of help.
Claire Hauxwell (44:16):
You should not be shameful for needing break.
Rhoda Bangerter (44:24):
Claire Hauxwell (44:27):
We all deserve it. We're all worthy of it. I mean, no one would sit there and question. No one's gonna question you, we just put that pressure on ourselves.
Rhoda Bangerter (44:39):
Claire Hauxwell (44:40):
It’s that perfectionism. I have to be the best mom and I've gotta be the best wife and I've gotta be the, I mean, some days I'm just trying to get through the day!
Rhoda Bangerter (44:50):
Claire Hauxwell (44:51):
Without like ‘Oh, everyone's alive today. Awesome. Well we've survived and it's a success, so you're all fed. Great. Go to bed.’ Like…
Rhoda Bangerter (45:02):
Right. Brilliant. Brilliant! Fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing so much of your experience. A lot of your journey, you are writing it in your book. Tell us a little bit about your book.
Claire Hauxwell (45:34):
So I'm writing a book, it's called Badass Abroad. It’s a book about change. It's a book about being a flailing spouse and figuring out how to take my power back, and be happy. Find fulfillment again. Regain my confidence. Regain who I was. I think a lot of expat life and being an accompanying spouse, we do a lot for others in that process and we lose ourselves. Yeah. And work like what you're doing, I wish I would've known back then. But I didn't have that. And so I kind of came to a point in my life where my kids were older and I was like ‘All right, what the hell's gonna go on here? Like something's gotta change.’ So it’s a bit of about my journey, my expat journey.
Rhoda Bangerter (46:38):
And it's not only for people with traveling partners, right. It's for all accompanying spouses.
Claire Hauxwell (46:43):
It's for accompanying spouses. I would say diplomat, spouses it's for anybody that, I mean, it could even be for stay at home moms that have moved across the country. Yeah. Um, a lot of it, I,
Rhoda Bangerter (46:57):
Sorry, when is it coming out?
Claire Hauxwell (46:59):
Uh, hopefully it'll be out sometime this summer 2022. It's in the publishing phases now. So
Rhoda Bangerter (47:06):
Claire Hauxwell (47:07):
Rhoda Bangerter (47:09):
I'll it. Where can, where can people contact you?
Claire Hauxwell (47:13):
Uh, you can contact me at my website. Is Claire swell.com? Yeah. Or you show
Rhoda Bangerter (47:20):
Claire Hauxwell (47:21):
You can also follow me on Instagram at my theory on blooming. Um, and I'm on Facebook at the same, my theory on blooming.
Rhoda Bangerter (47:32):
Super. Thank you very much, Claire.
Claire Hauxwell (47:35):
Thanks. Rroda had so much fun talking about all these things.
Rhoda Bangerter (47:38):
Thank you. Thank you for sharing. That was, uh, that was wonderful. Absolutely.
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.