In my home culture I am a professional with qualifications at the Master’s Degree level. I command a high salary and have the flexibility and autonomy to choose my hours and working conditions. I have operated my own business (a private Clinical Psychology practice) for the past four years. I am what most people would consider “successful.”

In my new culture I am unemployed. My qualifications do not translate directly to the USA leaving me unable to work in my chosen field. Whilst I could go through a process of accreditation the cost and time involved in doing so may not be worthwhile if we return to Australia. Ah … what to do?

This is an issue faced by many ‘trailing spouses’ – wives and sometimes husbands who have left their own career at home to support their partners’ opportunity in a different country. Once the settling in period has passed the question for the trailing spouse becomes “What do I do now?”

For me the reality hit two fold about three months after our arrival here. Firstly the cost of living in the Bay Area and some unexpected expenses at home meant some extra income would have been extremely helpful. Secondly, although I love being a Mum and never considered myself a person who ‘needed’ to work to be happy I found that once the option to work was taken away I didn’t really like the feeling that was left behind. I found myself feeling frustrated and somewhat worthless as I was unable to ‘contribute’ to the household. My frustration only increased when I perused some job websites here to see whether there was some part time work I could do. The options available to me, without undergoing the accreditation to utilise my qualifications, were low paying and used none of the skills or knowledge I have worked so hard to develop.

At this stage my job search is on hold until our youngest daughter commences school at which point my hours of availability will increase and I will not need to take childcare expenses out of what may be a fairly small income.

In the meantime I am trying to remember that, regardless of income, I am still contributing to my household. I am assisting the children to settle into their new environment whilst also maintaining the connections to their friends and family back home. I am supporting my husband to commit fully to his work which is demanding both mentally and time-wise. I am learning American history so I can help the children with their studies and teaching them Australian history so they know where they come from. I am volunteering at the school and making the most of the extra time I have to spend with my family and new American friends. And finally, I am managing the budget so my lack of an income makes less of an impact!

Returning home for the summer - managing expectations
Are you in Culture Shock?