When my husband and I accepted to moved to the US in March 2016 for his job, I was working full time in the same company and was very optimist that I would get a job for the same project in the US. I was about two weeks in the US when the company announced that the site in North Carolina would close within 3 month, and thus I had to kiss goodbye to my opportunities of get a local contract was gone. Suddenly I could no longer define myself by my job anymore, I was a 32 year old without children and without a job, far from my friends and home environment. I had become a housewife despite me and I was terrified of what those 15 month would turn me into.
My husband kept on telling me I should enjoy the free time and that he would be thrilled at the idea of taking a corporate brake. The truth is that I had quickly caught up on my Netflix watch list and got bored with day time television. Binge watching and internet procrastination was not stimulating me intellectually and it left my life empty and without purpose. Of course there were all those things which I always wanted to do but never actually had time to do, but lacking the daily work routine and the outside pressure of deadlines and objectives, I was wondering if I could manage myself to actually make the most of my time in the United States.
After exactly a year and as I am getting ready to return to Germany and my old job, I reflect on the past month and see how much this experience thought me. Once I had passed the initial frustration and accepted the situation, it pushed me outside of my comfort zone and experiment, it forced me to take a deep look inward and develop a few tricks to turn this setback into a positive experience.
- Build a healthy routine
The first 3 month in the US we were living in a hotel on the outskirt of Pittsburgh where the most exciting activity nearby was to do window shopping at Target. In a hotel there are only so many things one can do to keep its spirit up and it’s not possible to fill the days with domestic tasks, so why wake up at all? After a first week of binge watching, I started to wake up at the same time as my husband and force myself to go to the gym two days a week. Bringing some structure in my day, really helped in keeping my spirit up and discipline was key to achieving anything (e.g. completing online IT courses).
- Plan social activities in your week
Being alone at home for weeks when my husband goes on business trip was very hard for me. We live in suburbia where a week can easily go by without meeting anyone. Building a local social network required a lot of work and personal investment and I really had to push myself to look for meetup regularly and plan to go for social event at least once a week.
- Set yourself goals and experiment
At the beginning, I made a crazy paper list of all the things I wanted to do and learn while we are here. I wrote stuff like french pastry I wanted to attempt to bake, skills I wanted to learn and places I wanted to visit. Over time I added or removed stuff from the list but even if some of the stuff on that list were difficult and were pushing me out of my comfort zone it has been a fun and enriching journey. When things were unclear and I did not know if we would move to a different state or go back early I always went back to the list, crossing things of it gave me a sense of achievement and reassurance that my housewife life was not aimless and that I would grow out of it.
- Focus on activities that bring you value
The universe hates void and always find a way to fill it. Staying at home does not mean enjoying a life of leisure and enjoyment, it just means that one get to do all the house chores and since one has more time to do them, the stakes and expectations rises. While working I would only prepare a quick and simple dinner everyday, staying at home I am researching new menu ideas every week and cooking more elaborate meal almost everyday. My husbands now gets rabbit in mustard sauce with croque-en-bouche for dessert instead of the usual pasta and fruits for dessert. Having my list of goals really helped to stay on track of what I wanted to do, not loose myself in domestic tasks and ultimately, as we tend to define our self-worth by what we do, by reminding myself that I am not a domestic worker but I have my own priorities.
My mum is and was a housewife, she was always there to support my dad, me and my 4 siblings emotionally and with all aspects of domestic life. She is very social and knows everyone in my hometown of Amiens, she helped my dad’s career tremendously by building him a large social network without getting any social recognition for it. In all administrative form where you had to fill a job, my mum would write “cent profession” (100 jobs) instead of the homonym “sans profession” without profession. Being in my mother’s situation even if it was for a year and without having to care for 5 children made me feel closer to her and truly appreciate what she did and keeps and doing for all of us.
Have you been in a similar situation? I would love to know how you dealt with it