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  • 18 Jun 2014 9:45 PM | Deleted user
    This article was written by Susan Dellanzo, based on her personal experience and the work she does with clients globally. To view the article, please follow this link: http://globallivingmagazine.com/the-myth-of-expat-life/
  • 21 Apr 2014 10:21 AM | Deleted user

    In 2003 Lisa Belkin coined the phrase ‘opting out’ with her New York Times Magazine article Opt Out Revolution (http://www.nytimes.com/2003/10/26/magazine/26WOMEN.html). Since then many journalists have taken ‘pen in hand’ to write about the trials and tribulations of women leaving the work-force to raise families, and a decade later of them opting back-in.

    Judith Warner’s recently re-ignited the debate with her article The Opt Out Generation Wants Back In (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/11/magazine/the-opt-out-generation-wants-back-in.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0) in which she explores the provocative questions and consequences of the women who chose to opt out more than a decade ago – “Had [these women] found the “escape hatch” from the rat race that one of Belkin’s interviewees said she was after? Were they able, as a vast majority said they had planned, to transition back into the work force? Or had they, as the author Leslie Bennetts predicted in her 2007 book, “The Feminine Mistake,” come to see that, by making themselves financially dependent upon their men undefined particularly at a time when no man could depend upon his job undefined they had made a colossal error?”

    Joan C. Williams, the Founding Director of Work Life Law (WLL) sheds some light on who these ‘opting back in’ women are, and the consequences of their decision to have ‘opted-out’, in her Huffington Post article Planning a Career Break? Make Sure It's a Pause, Not a Dent (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joan-williams/planning-a-career-break-make-sure-its-a-pause-not-a-dent_b_3769626.html ), stating that “when women leave the workforce, one of three things happens: They get divorced and often plummet into relative poverty; they find it nigh-impossible to get back in; or they find new jobs post-haste and everything is peachy.”

    The question of ‘opting back-in’ after having ‘opted-out’ is particularly important and applicable to the 60 million women each year who become ‘trailing spouses’. Women who give up their jobs or careers because their husbands have been offered a job in another city, or even another country. Women who in cases of international relocations enjoy employment rates of 90% before their move, but are employed only 35% of the time after their move.

    One of the realities of these relocations, particularly the international ones, is that marriages are put under added stress and are more at risk of ending in divorce, a phenomenon that already affects ½ - ¾ of marriages in western societies. And, since divorce is the primary reason that most women are thrown back into the work-force, often post haste, the challenges these women face become particularly important.

    First, the myth of the divorcée who “walks away with it all”, getting the house, the kids, generous alimony settlements, keeping them in a life of luxury and ease with the poor down-trodden ex-husband out in the cold, slaving away to support his pampered, ‘do-nothing’ ex-wife (or wives) is exactly that; A MYTH. A myth perpetuated by society, fathers’ rights groups, and a male-dominated entertainment industry, which still sees the world through the lens of Father Knows Best & The Stepford Wives (modern day versions: Two and a Half Men & Desperate Housewives).

    Another common myth is that before becoming a ‘parasitic’ divorcée, the homemaker was a ‘parasitic’ toxic, trophy wife. The woman who, as Tara Winter Wilson in her article Don't Fall for This Deadly Honey Trap (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/features/3631601/Dont-fall-for-this-deadly-honey-trap.html) in the Telegraph, says “gives up work as soon as she marries, ostensibly to create a stable home environment for any children that might come along, but who then employs large numbers of staff to do all the domestic work she promised to undertake, leaving her with little to do all day except shop, lunch, luxuriate. Believe me, there is no shortage of the breed and I've been inundated with horror tales about them.”

    The toxic, trophy wife is only a small percentage of the upper-crust in our societies (1% of the population), and hardly representative of the majority of the stay-at-home moms who work extremely long hours with as much, if not more, dedication & diligence as those in the remunerated work force. Also, noting that not all of the wives of millionaires are useless ‘parasites’, spending their days sipping Chardonnay by the poolside (and sleeping with the tennis pro).

    Women like Princess Di, Kate Middleton, Princess Letizia, Melinda Gates…. Do these women in their fishbowl existence, and calendars filled with back-to-back tedious social functions really have such an enviable, pampered existence? And, what about our societies, who for thousands of years have prepared upper-class women to be nothing more than ‘trophy wives’, versed in the art of gracious entertaining and social networking? And, then the public and media, who are obsessed with even the most mundane daily tasks of these women – paying homage to them as if they were demi-gods?

    The whole ‘trophy wife’ existence, and pervasiveness of it in societies, is over-rated and over-reported. So what happens to those women looking to return to the work-force who do not fit into this crème de la crème/trophy category, trailing spouse or not? Who is she and, why is she looking to ‘opt back in’?

    According to Maria Angeles Duran, a leading Spanish sociologist and expert on non-monetarized work in societies, homemakers work 30.5 - 61 hours/week; efforts for which they receive no pay or financial benefits. They do a myriad of jobs in managing their homes and families, working 24/7 with no time off for vacations or holidays with diligence, dedication and love. If paid fair market value for the tasks they performed, they would receive almost $100,000 year.

    The valuable contribution that homemakers make to her families success (and thereby society) is documented in decades of research by the global mobility industry. As Sebastian Reiche, Associate Professor at the IESE Business School states, “the trailing spouse plays a key role during expatriation, influencing assignment success, expatriate adjustment and performance… [and] fulfills the biggest role in upholding family life” in his article Trailing Spouses: In Need of Organizational Support (http://blog.iese.edu/expatriatus/2013/03/20/trailing-spouses-in-need-of-organizational-support/)

    So why is it that when these women enter divorce courts, they and the contribution they have made to their family and husband’s career is treated with such disregard and disdain by the courts?

    Statistics show that while mothers usually retain custody of their children in about 85% of divorces, this reflects agreements of both parents rather than court decisions. Gender-bias studies by court systems across the USA, detailed in Are "Good Enough" Parents Losing Custody to Abusive Ex-Partners? (http://www.leadershipcouncil.org/1/pas/dv.html) by the Leadership Council, report that courts award father’s custody of children 70-94% of the time when they request it, even when the mother has been primary caregiver, and even in cases of documented domestic abuse.

    In addition to being discriminated against in custody decisions, women are also discriminated against in alimony decisions and the division of common property assets. Once again these gender-bias studies found that women received 25-35% of communal assets vs. 65-75% for husbands, largely due to “the failure of the courts to take seriously the rules surrounding discovery in family law cases”.

    This issue is particularly problematic for ‘trailing spouses’ whose common property assets are usually held under multiple jurisdictions, and/or off-shore accounts. Without proper diligence of a women’s legal counsel to subpoena the courts for complete financial records, unscrupulous husbands can easily hide millions of dollars in assets, declaring the family insolvent and/or bankrupt during a divorce, and defrauding the wife of what is rightfully hers.

    Unfortunately, most lawyers and judges “minimize the time, energy, and lost opportunities involved in being a homemaker and primary caretaker of children. Judges generally are reluctant to acknowledge that these contributions are a genuine partnership asset of the marriage. Moreover, the Commission found that [judiciaries] den[y] women the economic resources to retain competent legal representation. As a result, women are critically disadvantaged in enforcing their legal right to alimony, equitable distribution of marital assets, and child support.” (Florida Supreme Court Gender Bias Study Commission).

    This type of gender-bias is explained by the High Commission for Human Rights in its report Project on a Mechanism to Address Laws that Discriminate Against Women (http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/laws_that_discriminate_against_women.pdf), stating that“[when] a judge described a stay at home wife who was seeking to claim a share of matrimonial assets after divorce as “sitting on her husband’s back with her hands in his pocket” seemingly forgetting that the “cock bird can feather his nest because he does not have to spend all day sitting on it” or put differently, that a man is enabled to go out into the paid workforce because his wife is taking care of hearth and home for him…” With the Commission going on to state that t his situation constitutes “legal disenfranchisement” of women within the family and marriage.

    Statistical analysis of court systems in Spain by the Instituto Nacional de Estadisticas further document gender-bias in family courts, showing that only 10.26 % of women are awarded alimony settlements, with reported averages being $370/month for women after an average of 15 ½ years of marriage, and an average age of 42 years olds. With unemployment rates hovering at 26%, and gender-bias as well as age discrimination a serious problem for women seeking a job in Spain, the reality for these women is bleak, if not impossible. After having dedicated decades to raising children and helping husbands build careers and six-figure salaries, these women are condemned to a life of extreme poverty. But, if they dare to reclaim what is theirs under the law they are treated like ‘gold-diggers’ by everyone concerned. Few other workers in our societies are treated with such disrespect and disdain.

    The situation becomes even worse for victims of domestic abuse, as abusers can, and are readily using the elevated levels of discrimination against women within the courts to continue abusing their victims. Since economic abuse is probably the most effective way to intimidate someone, coupled with the fact that abusers are at total liberty to hide assets during a divorce, it is one of the most commonly used tactic. The victim is thrown into abject poverty and has the impossible task of defending herself in divorce proceedings, with the added strain of trying to keep a roof over her head, and food on the table.

    As stated by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in their report on discrimination against women, “Despite overall advances in women’s economic status in many countries, many women continue to face discrimination in formal and informal sectors of the economy, as well as economic exploitation within the family… While economic independence does not shield women from violence, access to economic resources can enhance women’s capacity to make meaningful choices, including escaping violent situations and accessing mechanisms for protection and redress.”

    Another common tactic of abusers is to harass their victims with convoluted court-motions, fabricated accusations, and Machiavellian-type manipulations, furthering taxing a victim’s precarious financial state and frayed nerves, as well as putting her job at risk for absenteeism. Many abusers will also harass and stalk victims at their place of employment, again jeopardizing her job security.

    The trials and tribulations of these women are further complicated if she is an expatriate and under a foreign jurisdiction. The biggest problem for the trailing spouse is that her residence visa, and work permit and job if she had one to begin with, is automatically revoked when she is divorced. She must return to her home country leaving her children behind, or look for work illegally in the country where her children reside. If she attempts to leave the country with her children, even if in her efforts to protect them from an abusive father, she risks imprisonment for international child abduction under the Hague Convention.

    Whatever the country or situation of the ‘opted-out’, stay-at-home mom, for those who have been out of the work-force for less than 10 years, re-insertion may still be possible, even without lots of expensive MBAs/PhDs and impressive pre-exit resumes. However, for the woman who gave up her career and/or educational opportunities in deference to her husband’s career, dedicating 20-30 years to raising a family, her chances of finding employment or developing a career, is nigh-impossible.

    In my own situation, the ace up my sleeve was my unique life experience as a life-long globe-trotter, my fluency in English, French and Spanish as well as my cultural agility, my many years of working in expat organizations and community development, my international marketing degree, and my entrepreneurial and innovative spirit.

    As Jo Parfitt and Colleen Reichrath-Smith author of A Career in Your Suitcase (http://careerinyoursuitcase.com/) advises “I looked inside myself, and decided I had to calculate which among my many careers had the most earning potential. I had to think hard about which of my skills would earn me the most money per hour and for which there was also a market.” After this ‘soul-searching’ in 2005, I came up with an idea for a start-up Internet company (Global Expats (http://worldpulse.com/node/44543) / www.global-xpats.com) that found a solution not only to my own personal challenges at re-insertion into the work-force, but also to the biggest challenge of employers around the world; the adaptation and integration of the relocating employee and his or her family. An added benefit of my idea is that it provides job opportunities for thousands of trailing spouses around the world, and assists millions more in their career maintenance while abroad.

    Additionally in my ‘soul-searching’, I foresaw the advent of the two most successful business models on the Internet today: social/professional networking, and local-search directories. However, due to my divorce in Spain which has been plagued by many of the pitfalls of an international divorce, my idea has been ‘shelved’ for the past 7 years. But, after much perseverance and hard-work, it is once again ‘getting off the ground’.

    Which brings me to the challenges female entrepreneurs face when they ‘opt back into’ the work-force after having ‘opted out’ decades before, particularly when seeking funding from Silicon Valley. The capital venture industry is still dominated by an ‘old boys’ network (even if some are women these days), who view the stay-at-home mom with the same discriminatory stereo-typing as family courts. While a career stay-at-home mom, such as myself, might lack the experience of corporate executives in building companies, or the IT know-how of young, techy grads, stay-at-home moms have more knowledge and experience in meeting the needs of families around the world than anyone else out there. The corporate world would do well to heed the advice, and tap into the knowledge pool of the primary decision-makers of the biggest consumer-market in the world, the stay-at-home mom and manager of the upper-middle class family.

    So as I continue to contend with my own personal challenges in ‘opting back in’ with a new start-up company, I am also making in-roads in bringing awareness to the plight of women within family courts (http://worldpulse.com/node/71182). Until, and unless, policy-makers recognize to what extent discriminatory policies in the courts are violating the rights of women, re-insertion into the labor force of the ‘opted out’ mom and divorcée, will continue to be less than ‘peachy’.

    By Quenby Wilcox, www.global-xpats.com

    Article originally posted on Quenby Wilcox's Blog on the Huff Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/quenby-wilcox-/opting-back-in-not-as-pea_b_4800328.html)

    Quenby Wilcox is founder of Global Expats, which assist expatriated families across the globe. She is also founder of Safe Child International, and publishes a monthly newsletter Family Courts in Crisis, advocating for the rights of victims of domestic violence.

  • 21 Apr 2014 10:13 AM | Deleted user

    Giving up a career to become a stay-at-home mom is difficult enough for someone who stays in the same city or country, but for the woman who moves abroad the challenges are ten-fold. So why would a highly-educated, professional woman give up her career and financial independence to follow her spouse into an unknown future?

    The past 50 years have seen revolutionary changes within work-forces around the world. No longer are labor markets dominated by manual-laborers, but are rather filled with service-based, skilled-laborers. Another radical change has been the participation of women in the remunerated job-market, with them moving en masse into every industry and sector.

    This change has been made possible in large part due to the feminist movement, which has promoted and advanced labor and reproductive rights of women through awareness campaigns, progressive legislation, and many high-profile Supreme Courts battles. However, feminists have done little to promote or defend women’s rights within the family, home, or marriage (in the USA or elsewhere).

    As a consequence modern women are still expected to assume the same roles and duties in the home as in past generations, while performing at par, or better, than their male counter-parts in the work-place. “Working” moms of today are forced to burn the candles at both ends in situations that excessively surcharges their time, energy, and resources.

    As Anne Braseby states in her doctoral thesis Adaptation of the Trailing Spouse: Does Gender Matter? … Successful career women want to perform like men in their professional lives, but men don’t have the pull of family responsibilities that career mothers do. Often women try to “do it all;” the supermom syndrome which inevitably leads to role overload… Competing pressures to be a successful career woman, a good homemaker, a good mother and a good wife, all driven by the ideals of the traditional sex roles, impact women’s lives tremendously. It is these competing identities that determine whether women will become trailing spouses, and will affect their adaptation once they have relocated overseas.”

    That is why we are seeing more and more professional women, with high paying jobs and careers they have worked so hard to build, giving up these jobs to follow their husbands half way around the world.

    Unfortunately, most multinational executive directors, HR managers, and those in the global mobility industry still see the expat wife as nothing more than an appendage of her husband, with no identity, career or influence within the marriage. As Braseby explains “Many of these early trailing spouse women, although educated, rarely had careers or professional identities of their own. They had been groomed to marry, take on the identity of the wife and mother and assume a supportive role to their husbands… Despite the “Feminist Revolution” of the 1970s, the business research on trailing spouses still held quite fast to what are now widely recognized as gender stereotypes. Thus, many of the initial approaches to spousal adaptation among expatriates were based on middle-class, middle-aged women who came of age in the 1950s when functionalist ideals of the breadwinner husband and stay-at-home housewife were normalized.”

    Contrary to this antiquated image of the trailing spouses, women today are a far-cry from their predecessors of the ‘50’s; they have different needs, different priorities and different perspectives. While they are willingly giving up their careers, they do not want to play the expat socialite, filling their days with meaningless activities and bowing down to the whims and desires of their husbands, or worse the dictates of the expat employer.

    This is why financial incentives and even the most luxurious of the expat perks of the past, such as large homes with a slew of domestic help, are not enough to compensate for the loss of identity that the trailing spouse feels when she loses her career.

    So the questions becomes: What do trailing spouses of today want? She feels discontent enough with the rat-race to sacrifice her career, but at the same time she wants to keep her own identity. Unfortunately, this is not an easy answer for anyone, particularly in a world that too often defines value and success in material terms, corporate titles, and high-profile award ceremonies.

    In her book A Moveable Marriage Robin Pascoe quotes Elizabeth Perle McKenna (When Work Doesn’t Work Anymore) ‘we have to be ready to switch from the accepted system of recognizable success to something more individually rewarding,” showing it is the ‘intangible’ rewards that propel women (and increasingly men) from the four corners of the earth to throw caution to the wind, and follow their spouses to a foreign country.

    In my own case, I did not lose my identity by becoming an expat, a trailing spouse, and later a mom, but rather I found my identity, my vocation, and sense of “self” in my globe-trotting, domesticated life. Long before most people had even heard of the word “expat” or “global mobility,” I had happily left-behind a promising career amongst the rich and powerful of Washington, Wall Street, and even later in international law (probably my true vocation of the three-and one I have now returned to) without any regret. This I believe was the “secret” of my success. I followed my heart, taking the road less traveled by, and in the process discovering a life filled with personal enrichment, adventure, knowledge and ultimately some wisdom-things in life that no amount of money can buy.

    By Quenby Wilcox, www.global-xpats.com, @GlobalExpats

    Article originally posted on Quenby Wilcox's Blog on the Huff Post

    Quenby Wilcox is founder of Global Expats, which assist expatriated families across the globe. She is also founder of Safe Child International, and publishes a monthly newsletter Family Courts in Crisis, advocating for the rights of victims of domestic violence.

  • 26 Dec 2013 9:34 AM | Deleted user

    In Memoirs of a Trailing Spouse, Quenby Wilcox explores the many challenges trailing spouse, homemakers face in their efforts to provide the loving & supportive environment the expat family needs in order to thrive, as well as the career challenges.

    To read this blog, follow this link: http://globalxpatsblog.wordpress.com/.

  • 26 Dec 2013 9:33 AM | Deleted user

    Quenby Wilcox is the Founder of Global Expats, which assists expat families, targeting the homemaker & expat mom. Her Huffington Post blogs are posted here.

    To read this article, please click here.

  • 26 Dec 2013 9:30 AM | Deleted user

    Quenby Wilcox is the Founder of Global Expats, which assists expat families, targeting the homemaker & expat mom. Her Huffington Post blogs are posted here.

    To read this article, please click here.  

  • 09 Sep 2013 2:10 PM | Deleted user

    Collar to Cleavage, by Judith Thomas

    The book deals with transitions. The author has lived in many countries, including the Far and Middle East. The autobiography deals with the pressures of living in an enclosed, corporate lifestyle overseas. It includes cross cultural adoption.


  • 11 Feb 2013 9:10 AM | Deleted user
    The Trailing Spouse Survival Booklet provides expat families with basic information about the logistics of their move, useful reading material & web links, & helpful address book.

    Click here for booklet.

    Versions of the Trailing Spouse Survival Booklet in English, French, and Spanish are available on our website, at the following link

  • 11 Feb 2013 9:07 AM | Deleted user
    Vividly sketches an itinerant global life thru 12 countries and 26 relocations. The challenges of expatriation from finding a home, school or a job are faced with equanimity. Places come alive with stories of people met and cultures learned.

    Apple Gidley
    Summertime Publishing
  • 11 Feb 2013 9:06 AM | Deleted user
    Global Expats is designed to assist accompanying partners in their jobs as home-makers, as well as their efforts to maintain careers. We offer practical & comprehensive advice and assistance, and hope you will join us in our on-going efforts.

    Click here to learn more.
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