The Julia Child Dilemma


This week, in one of those “it feels perfect for moving into fall” themes, we’re exploring Should I Stay, Or Should I Go, that middle ground where we’re forced to make decisions and figure out who we are and what we want. This first post, from Stephanie Early Green, explores the same ideas we touched on last week: balancing two sets of careers and dreams, and how we learn that being a team isn’t a zero-sum sport. If one of us is winning, that does not mean the other one is losing. And usually, we even (eventually) realize that.

The Julia Child Dilemma | A Practical Wedding

My husband Alastair and I got married in May (*insert jump for joy here*) and we are moving abroad in October. His company has a program that allows certain employees to work out of two of the company’s foreign offices for six to nine months each, and there are about ninety-seven offices to choose from. The world is our oyster! After much deliberation and debate, we finally settled on Johannesburg, South Africa, followed by London—nine months each. It’s official.

Almost everyone to whom I’ve mentioned this opportunity gushes. They say things like, “Oh, how exciting!” and “What a cool opportunity!” and “The world is your oyster!” They’re right, of course. It’s an incredibly exciting opportunity. But up until very recently, whenever I thought about our upcoming adventure, about which other people seemed so positive, I felt apprehensive… and negative… and bummed out. Then I felt guilty about feeling apprehensive and negative and bummed out. Why are you being weird about this? I’d ask myself. This is awesome! Appreciate it, damn it! (As it happens, berating oneself does not generally help change one’s feelings. Who knew?)

It wasn’t that I was scared to go abroad. I’ve lived all over Latin America, most recently working in São Paulo for the second half of 2010 while Al was working in Nairobi (we are—not to brag—really good at Skyping). We also travel a lot together, usually taking one or two international trips a year when we can swing it, and I’m pretty comfortable being thrown into the deep end with languages, cultures, and crappy public transportation. I’ve got all that covered.

It also wasn’t that I was scared about living somewhere new with Al. Quite the opposite, in fact. Over the almost five years that we’ve been together, we’ve both lived all over the world—but always separately. I’m thrilled to bits at the prospect of living abroad with him, at having some little apartment with a weird bathroom with the drain in the floor by the toilet and a bidet (… probably).

So what was wrong with me? Why wasn’t I excited about this?

I wasn’t excited because I was creating a lot of false dichotomies for myself when I thought about our adventure abroad. I had it in my head that in order for me to travel somewhere with my husband, for his career, it would imply that my career was somehow unimportant, that I was following him around like an aimless puppy while he pursued his dreams, that I was giving up myself in order to support my partner. In our initial talks about the going-abroad idea, I kept saying in a voice that was only slightly whiny, “But what will I do? I don’t want to just do yoga for a year.” I asked that even though no one had ever suggested I do yoga for a year. I don’t even do yoga now.

My thinking was, I’m an attorney—I’ve slogged through seven years of higher education and tens of thousands of student loans to get where I am. I passed the California bar, for Pete’s sake! I can’t just give that up and follow someone around while my career languishes.

I thought this way despite the fact that I have never, not for one second, pictured myself working long-term at a law firm, and, in fact, never enjoyed it. I thought this way despite the fact that I wouldn’t be “following someone” somewhere, I’d be accompanying my husband, the person I care most about in the world and who supports me unconditionally. And I thought this way despite the fact that there are abundant opportunities for me to find fulfilling, interesting, challenging work abroad, or even to make that work for myself, wherever we end up going.

In retrospect, my attitude seems absurdly negative and self-defeating.

I was choosing to ignore all the wonderful things that moving away represented while focusing on the negative and worrying that I’d somehow lose my identity by compromising. In my head, my career and Al’s career were zero-sum. If one flourished, the other would have to wither. Rather than thinking of living abroad as a great adventure for the two of us, I thought of it as a sacrifice I would have to make for him. I was making myself into a martyr even though no one—least of all Alastair—was asking me to do so.

As it turns out, it took a while (months) for me to break through my haze of unhelpful negativity and change my thinking. Part of it involved realizing that my two choices for my life are not: 1) wearing yoga pants and eating bonbons as I watch Wheel of Fortune (or the foreign equivalent thereof) or 2) wearing a power suit and pearls as I claw my way to the top of Big Law, leaving a trail of crying paralegals in my wake. (Oh.) Part of it also involved embracing the fact that, actually, I don’t really even like being a lawyer. What I love to do and have always loved to do is write, and a year and a half abroad might be the perfect opportunity for me to actually give the whole professional writing thing an honest-to-goodness shot. Huh.

This shift in thinking was also influenced by the movie Julie & Julia. There is a really wonderful scene in that movie where Julia Child has just moved to Paris with her husband, Paul. They’re sitting in a red-leather booth in a Paris restaurant, tucking into something delectable, when Julia, cutting her food agitatedly, asks Paul, “What should I do, do you think?” She muses that she doesn’t want to return to government work and thinks she really ought to find something to do. “Wives don’t do anything here,” she says. “That’s not me.” Of course, we know what Julia Child ended up doing in Paris. She found something she loved and created an amazing career for herself at a time where that type of initiative was not expected of wives. The world was truly her (buttery, delicious) oyster.

What I’ve finally realized, thanks to chats with wise people, self-reflection, and Julie & Julia, is the following: My career does not need to fail if I don’t want it to. I do not need to strap on a permanent pair of yoga pants (unless I want to). And I do not need to martyr myself on a pyre of self-pity. Instead, I can use our time abroad as a springboard for making the huge (and, yes, scary) leap into something I’ve always wanted to do. As I contemplate the same question that Julia faced (“What should I do?”), I vow to Julia Child the crap out of any situation I’m thrown into and embrace living abroad with my husband as what it should be: an opportunity for me and a fantastic adventure for us.

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  • http://meaghantothemax.wordpress.com Meaghan

    What a wonderful post! We do often see our careers as somehow pitted against our partners’ (especially when moving is involved), but it’s true – it’s not a zero-sum game.

    My partner is in your position – my job involves moving abroad to a different country every 2-4 years, which makes it difficult/impossible for him to hold a steady job here in our home base city (or any of the foreign ones, really – people aren’t interested in hiring you when you don’t speak the language, want to get paid way more than everyone else, and will be leaving in 18 months).

    For a little while, it seemed scarily insurmountable… until he realized that he had an opportunity to become an independent consultant. Now he works from home, gets to fill his spare time with exercise and hanging out with our dog, and should be able to easily work from wherever we end up, so long as we have an internet connection. The real test will come next summer, when we leave for the first time, but if it weren’t for the impetus of the looming issue, he’d still be working at a 9-5 like a sucker (me: I’m the sucker).

    • Alicia

      So true. My husband is awesome enough to go with me around the world, but we know this makes his goals harder to achieve. However, he’s focusing on starting a new, non-hospitality career that will hopefully give him skills he can use anywhere.

      Enjoy your first post!

  • Laura

    What a great post! I, too, am learning about the shifts in attitude and thinking that marriage sometimes requires. I am quite jealous that you get to go abroad! Have a wonderful time and become the Julia Child of whatever field you embrace. :)

  • Moz

    I would like it very much if you came back and told us about it in 18 months.

    Great post.

    • http://tubetopix.wordpress.com Steph

      Will do!!

      • Alicia

        I just checked out your blog and felt like I was reading a blog that I was just to lazy to write! I lived in Sao Paulo a few times and fell in love with the city. Now we’re based out of DC until we move abroad in two months. Boa viagem!

        • Steph

          I live in DC, too. :)

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

      Or in the middle of your experience?

      • http://teffsinbrasil.blogspot.com Steph

        Sure. I will also be blogging (starting in mid to late October) so keep an eye on my blog! :)

  • Viv

    The book is even better than the film, everyone should read it :)

    I’m thinking something similar but in relation to coming back to work after I have my baby. I can come back to my current job, but there are other things i’d like to do and i’m going to use the opportunity of change to go for it and try it out.

    Thanks for the post.

  • http://smittenimmigrant.wordpress.com Pluis

    You’re telling me all the things I need to hear in the long runway to our own taking off to another country.

    I’ll go watch the movie / read the book.

    Thanks!!

    • Catherine B

      I strongly recommend My Life in France, the book on which the “Julia” half of Julie and Julia was based.

      Julie & Julia is fun too, but more about a girl cooking in a small city kitchen, rather than life inspiring, at least to me.

      • http://tubetopix.wordpress.com Steph

        I read Julie & Julia and I have My Life in France sitting on my Kindle. I will read it as soon as I need an inspiration boost/finish the six books in the queue in front of it. :)

  • http://minnesota-chic.com PA

    Part of it involved realizing that my two choices for my life are not: 1) wearing yoga pants and eating bonbons as I watch Wheel of Fortune (or the foreign equivalent thereof) or 2) wearing a power suit and pearls as I claw my way to the top of Big Law, leaving a trail of crying paralegals in my wake.

    I laughed. I laughed not only because that’s a genuinely hilarious set of mental images, but because I have also gotten myself stuck in the false dichotomy of, “Well, I have to pick ONE of these two miserable choices, so which is it going to be?!”

    And–no, I don’t. I really don’t, and that’s not in spite of the fact that I’m getting married, it’s especially because I am getting married. Now I have someone to say, “Yes, you can!” when I get terrified about pursuing my creative writing,* someone who comes home and asks, “Hey, did you get any more chapters done? I really want to see what’s going to happen to _____!”

    So rock on, and enjoy South Africa and GB, and write! Write a lot!

    * Writers unite!

  • KB

    I love this post! I agree, sometimes “following your boyfriend/husband” is actually an opportunity in disguise. The way I think on it is that I wouldn’t normally move to another city/state/country on a whim – I COULD, but in reality, I would probably think, “Well, I have a job here, it would be complicated, etc. etc.” But if you have to move “for” someone, you might seize a fantastic chance that your complacency otherwise wouldn’t let you go after. And, even if you don’t end up becoming the next Julia Child (or her equivalent), you’ve pushed the boundaries of your own life, which is awesome. And I bet you’ll have great stories to tell as well!

    • Meghan

      Been lurking for awhile now, but this post and comment were what I needed to bring me out of the shadows…

      Couldn’t agree more! Three-plus years ago I “followed” my then-boyfriend to a new state so that he could attend law school. I took a lot of grief for it from a bunch of different groups, mostly focused around how I was cheating myself by leaving my home state/job/etc. to “follow a boy.” So many people encouraged me to look at it through this silly zero-sum lens! Fortunately, I am stubborn and have always taken a kind of quiet joy from bucking expectations. So off we went.

      Flash forward three years and two months: I am still working in the same job that I found when I moved to “follow my boyfriend.” It is a once-in-a-lifetime job that I actually never would have found/taken had we not moved. My now-husband likes to joke that I made out better on our move than he did. (I say joke because he did just fine, believe me.) And oh yeah, we’re now back in our home state and I get work remotely at the job I love. And silently laugh at all those once-critics who thought I was throwing away my life and killing feminism in one fell swoop.

      Also – I highly recommend Julie and Julia – book and movie both!

      • KC

        Ditto! Or at least similar.

        Moved “following husband” to somewhere I wouldn’t have even thought of moving to otherwise, realized that this was the location of Dream Company, found job at Dream Company, which then (when we moved again) became a springboard into starting my own small business-y thing which, since it’s remote-capable, will move with me everywhere. I may never have to interview for a “regular” job again! Bwahahaha!

        (I do recognize that it doesn’t work this way for everyone, and some moves just suck for one or both people in the couple, but… so far, our moves have been uniformly career-springboard-y, not career-stifle-y).

        • http://meditatingontherain.wordpress.com Aine

          I am hugely curious about these jobs that morph into work from home or grow into own a small business- what fields do you all work in?

          I also moved countries to follow my husband, mostly because we did the “well, you *have* a job, we should live where we’ll have money” sort of logic. Most of the time, its been exciting, being this far away from where I grew up and in the country where every story I read as a kid happened. A lot of my new life is full of wonder and magic.

          And sometimes it sucks, because I’m working in a field where I’m still not sure I want to be, but it’s hard to change direction from here when I don’t know what the goal is. I keep worrying that even if time and money make an internship or something feasible, I’m too old to start finding my niche.

          How do you fight that fear? How do you decide when to stop fighting it, and accept that you may just not like the “work” part of your life and just focus on enjoying the rest of it?

          • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

            I also used the same “well, you *have* a job, we should live where we’ll have money” logic to move to my now-husband’s country.

            I don’t have any answers, but I personally think it’s never to late to find your niche and do work you love. However, I also think it is perfectly okay if somebody decides that a job is just a job and they don’t have to feel inspired deep down in their soul about it.

            Good luck with whatever career(s) you decide to follow!

  • http://safarimama.blog.com Manya

    This post hit home in a lot of ways that are too complicated to go into here. I’ll just sum up by saying that it’s really hard when things you value tremendously (like personal professional achievement and having a marriage where you physically live together) seem to conflict. I like the way that you take the paradigm of dichotomy and turn it into a paradigm of a different kind of opportunity.

    We live in Nairobi currently. My job was the one that brought us here, and my (now) husband moved here to be with me because long distance became completely untenable for us. We are physical people who express and understand love through spending time together. We knew the move was a necessary investment in us, but it has ended up being so much more for Brian. His career is just flying, and now it’s me who is in a (really good, solid, grateful to have it) job that might not be all the challenging that it could be if I was willing to move anywhere on the planet. Sometimes I feel conflicted about it–wondering what I might be achieving in another circumstance. But I’m also finishing up my MBA, thriving in an incredibly healthy and happy relationship, and in a place where my kids are blooming. Every opportunity contains within it the roads not travelled. The key is to fully experience and revel in the road you are on.

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

      “Every opportunity contains within it the roads not travelled. The key is to fully experience and revel in the road you are on.”

      True. And hard sometimes…

  • Granola

    Filing this post away for the future! Odds are I’ll be the party precipitating the move, and it’ll be good perspective for my partner. Or, if the roles are reversed, me. That false dichotomy is so seductive, especially when you’re miserable or feeling like your back is to the wall. At those times, I tend to mistake “What is currently an option I can think of in my limited perspective.” for “All of the options that could possibly exist.”

  • http://depend-a-potamus.blogspot.com/ Kamille

    Hm – maybe I need to see this movie/read book.

    I love your perspective, since I feel like I’m in the same boat myself. I think it’s time I stopped looking at moving with my soon-to-be husband as a detriment to my career, and started seeing it as an opportunity. But I’m still wondering myself, an opportunity to do what, exactly?

  • http://theroadto92912.blogspot.com Molly

    Thank you for this post! I graduated from law school in May and am currently unemployed. I’m looking for a job, but my fiancé is supporting me right now. I sometimes have a hard time remembering career success isn’t a zero sum game and that it won’t be like this forever.

    Good luck with your move! You should come back in 18 months and tell us all about how it went.

  • http://nickandnoragettingmarried.wordpress.com Annie

    Such a wonderful post, and I think it’s easy to relate to the issue of moving for a spouse even if you’re not going to another country. My husband and I have talked about where we want to end up eventually (which is crazy because you never know when/where big life opportunities will present themselves), and part of me is nervous about going somewhere I wouldn’t necessarily go otherwise. But this post (and the last line in particular) makes me feel a lot more Julia Child about any potential moves that come our way.

  • http://fourblackstars.blogspot.co.uk/ Hayley

    Thank you for this post. I moved to Cambridge with my new husband (married in July!) just under one week ago! His job brought us here, but we made the decision to move here together. I was lucky to get my US therapist license approved here in the UK so I’m allowed to practice, but now I have to find employment (easier typed than done). Even though we’ve only been here a few days when he goes off to work I’m left in our wee bitty, awkwardly furnished apartment on my own. Each morning a feeling of being less-important, or dependent upon him starts to creep over me and I get down in the dumps. The bank has me listed as a “housewife/home-maker” and my visa is a “dependent” visa. Considering I have two Master’s degrees and have worked long and hard at my career for the past 6 years, I’m having a hard time swallowing the pill of reality. (He’s got a job, I don’t).

    I’m trying to focus on all the things I get to do while he’s stuck at work like: lovely 9 mile bike rides through a beautiful, historical town, attend craft clubs and tea times with women from all over the globe, write on my blog, make art in my journal, etc. I know I’ll find balance in my career/life here, but in the meantime your post really hits home. Thanks again for writing it. Good luck in SA and if you’re ever in Cambridge . . . :-)

    • Emily

      Hayley, I’m a few months ahead of you – married in June, moved at the end of that month for my husband’s job. I just wanted to tell you it does get better as you find your way. That creeping feeling doesn’t hit me very often anymore. Best of luck!

    • KC

      You are very much not alone in being sort of weirded-out by having the bank classify you as homemaker. I have no idea why they do that, honestly. If one identifies as a homemaker, that is great! It is a huge and challenging job! But if one has a different primary profession, it’s weird to be listed as something that is *not* your profession – for me, at least during some portions of time, it would feel much more accurate to be listed as “unemployed” rather than “homemaker” – and I feel that way even though I enjoy cooking/baking/sewing. It’s just not my career/calling/job in a professional or primary sense.

      If it makes you feel any better, they also classify grad students as “homemaker” when they’re on the same account as a bringing-in-a-paycheck person, even when the bringing-in-a-paycheck person is on a dependent visa and even when the grad student is male. (my husband’s completely-aghast face when he was told that he was being classified as homemaker was honestly kind of hilarious, although I perhaps shouldn’t have enjoyed his suffering quite as much as I did…) So at least it’s not personal? And as soon as you get a job, you can get them to change it. :-)

      • http://meditatingontherain.wordpress.com Aine

        When I got my first bank account over here in the UK, they said putting me as “housewife” looked better as far as a credit score works than “unemployed”.

    • Sarah

      Hayley! Cambridge! (I just lurked your blog looking for a contact email address but couldn’t find one).

      If you’d like to grab coffee or a pint with a friendly expat APW-er in Cambridge, send me an email: sarahben2012 [at] gmail.com. B. and I would love to have you and your husband over for dinner sometime too. We’ve been here for four years, though sadly we’ll be heading off to new corners of the globe soon.

      • http://fourblackstars.blogspot.co.uk/ Hayley

        Wow. Everyones comments have already made me feel better! And I wasn’t even feeling that down! Thanks APW crew. What a nice corner of the world to be a part of!

      • http://meditatingontherain.wordpress.com Aine

        And Hayley, if you’re ever up in the Coventry/Birmingham area, give me a shout at aiwhelan at tcd dot ie and we can compare notes!

  • http://onegirloneguytwocats.wordpress.com/ Heather

    This was a well-timed post for me. My husband and I are at a point in our relationship where with one child, we are deciding when to have a second and realizing that from a financial aspect it might make more sense for me to become a stay-at-home mom. I understand it… I don’t have a career yet, and my income would pretty much pay for day care and not much else, so why send them at all, but the idea somewhat terrifies me because I kind of like having a job to go to. What on earth would I do at home with two babies all day all the time? Who is to say I can’t finish my degree and go on to do other things, or perhaps discover some hidden joy that will become a career for me one day when the kids are older?

    • Diane

      My cousin and his wife are in a similar situation and she was a stay-at-home mom for just over a year. This year, she went back to work half or 3/4 time teaching high school (she teaches business and technology courses so the school didn’t need full time but was happy to have her back half time). I think they probably break even on her salary but she feels like a happier person and a better mom when she is working. Their kids are great (well, the one year old keeps struggling with the fact that toddlers’ heads are too big and bonking her face into things, but that comes with the territory…) and having fun with their “school” and my cousin is embracing the “happy mom = happy family” concept right now. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t stay home, or that you should, just that I think it’s easy to feel trapped by the idea that unless there’s a great economic reason for you to work, it’s your duty to stay at home. Let’s face it, our culture never tells dads that they *should* stay at home with the kids if their jobs are near break-even once daycare costs are included.

    • Polina

      My mother quit working when she made a similar calculation about daycare costs. She was a great stay at home mother who never complained, but I really felt that she was wistful about missing out on her career. Now that we’re all out of the house, she’s bored. She poured everything into us kids and now that we’re independent, well-adjusted adults, she doesn’t know who *she* is. When I have kids, I refuse to make the same mistake. Parenting should not have to be a zero-sum game.

      Ask your husband in what way he’s going to slow down *his* career, or adjust *his* schedule while your kids are young. You’re not required to shoulder 100% of the child care responsibilities just because you’re the woman. That’s why your kids have TWO parents.

      Some women are cut out to stay home full time with young kids. I think a lot of women are not, and recognizing that you are a better mom when you are working doesn’t make you a bad mom. Quite the contrary! I think it’s actually worth it to *lose* a little bit of money on child care if working is what keeps you sane.

      It’s also really important that as women we ASK our employers for the work situations that work best for our families. Some jobs these days allow you to work remotely, part time, or other flexible hours. ALL jobs need to be this flexible, not just the lucky ones. Ask for it! We can’t change the working world for our daughters if we all give up and assume it’s 40+ hours or the highway for us. A 5-year gap without working is enough to derail your career permanently in many fast-changing fields. Quitting “temporarily” just isn’t an option for many parents, and that’s a reality that our generation needs to find a solution to.

      • Sarah

        Too true that some women are cut out to stay home with the kids. My amazing mother has told me that from a young age, it was her dearest ambition to be a mom, and she has done an outstanding job raising three kids. When we all left the house, she went back to school, got a diploma in visual merchandising and now works for international companies doing window and in-store displays. I never think of her as missing out on a career, because at every point in her life she has followed her passion and is one of the happiest people I know.

  • Lauren

    “I vow to Julia Child the crap out of any situation I’m thrown into and embrace living abroad with my husband as what it should be: an opportunity for me and a fantastic adventure for us.”

    Every time I read APW I feel like the posts are written just for me. My fiancé just discovered that his degree program of choice may force us to move away from our (beloved, shared) hometown. We’re both kind of scared, but I think a chance to “Julia Child” it up is exactly what I need, especially since finding a job here is so tough in my field right now. Thanks for an awesome post!

  • http://hitchdied.com Robin HitchDied

    Thank you so much for writing this post. I feel like you wrote it so I don’t have to. I also moved to South Africa (Cape Town) for my husband’s job and left behind an unwanted (and in my case, non-starting) legal career figuring I could use this time abroad to write. Eerie!

    I wish you all the best in your move! Email me or check out my blog if you ever want to chat ZA living and the daily battle to change out of yoga pants.

    • http://tubetopix.wordpress.com Steph

      I definitely will! Would love to speak to you more – sounds like we are kindred spirits! xx

      • KM

        I would love to get in on this support group, please! I’m likely going to leave my (never fulfilling, don’t even know how I got here) big law job to accompany my partner to Africa in a few months. Her work is in emergency response, probably South Sudan, and not South Africa, but we are looking for connections and work opportunities for me broadly across the continent. I don’t have writing plans (or skill) so I am still looking for work that keeps me out off the couch and out of yoga pants, because I know that as much as I love the idea of accompanying my partner on her adventure, I need an independent purpose for myself as well.

        • Steph

          Feel free to email me – eteffi@gmail.com. South Sudan does sound like an adventure!

      • Littleredcat

        And what Robin isn’t saying about life as a spouse in SA (but that i think she could write on quite well) is that the visa situation for a spouse here is HARD and that can make life really tough. My husband followed me here at the beginning of the year and he just got a work permit last week. I think when we came here we told ourselves it would be hard, but we didn’t mean it. We thought, well, this will be tough, be we are awesome people so it will be fine. I wish my husband had Julia Childed the crap out of SA, but it has been a lot harder than we ever thought. As someone who is just on the other side of being on the other side of where you are, I am happy to join the support group. Also, my biggest piece of (perhaps totally unsolicited) advice is to find something concrete to do before or just when you get here- and don’t expect to get paid, at least not at first.

        • Steph

          Luckily I will have a spousal visa through my husband’s job, so that is taken care of. I plan on working for myself (i.e., finishing my novel, continuing to freelance) so I don’t need a S.A. work visa, and I feel grateful for the amount of flexibility I have.

    • meg

      YOU DO HAVE TO WRITE THAT POST ROBIN. No cheating and getting by on someone elses hard work :)

  • Leslie

    *looking up from Wheel of Fortune whilst wearing yoga pants and eating bonbons* Crap.

    You’ve spoken to my soul this morning.

    Thanks for sharing, this is a great perspective. I also want to point out that it seems like a bit of a pattern for women wanting to avoid that “following around like a puppy feeling” is to pursue their own of creative and/or entrepreneurial endeavors — which is awesome!

  • http://www.snippetsof.blogspot.com Sarah E

    Amen to “accompany” rather than “follow”! That change in vocabulary can really change perception. I say this an empowered young female who accompanied her boyfriend (not even a ring!) halfway across the country for his schooling. I’m secure with my choice, but I tend to throw in self-deprecating jokes when people in my new city ask what brought me here.

  • Nina B.

    This is now one of my all-time favorite APW posts. Thanks so much and good luck!

    • http://tubetopix.wordpress.com Steph

      So happy to hear that, thank you!

  • Megs

    “As it turns out, it took a while (months) for me to break through my haze of unhelpful negativity and change my thinking. Part of it involved realizing that my two choices for my life are not: 1) wearing yoga pants and eating bonbons as I watch Wheel of Fortune (or the foreign equivalent thereof) or 2) wearing a power suit and pearls as I claw my way to the top of Big Law, leaving a trail of crying paralegals in my wake. (Oh.)”

    EXACTLY! I’m not sure if it’s something about lawyers, or if this is a bigger problem in general, but I myself had trouble changing my way of thinking from this oh-so-unhelpful dichotomy recently. Looking back, it’s a dichotomy I’ve clung to since I was a child (but without the Big Law aspect because at that age I was blissfully unaware of what that was)…perhaps because those were the two primary cultural narratives out there? In fact, I’ve recently realized that my husband clung to a similar dichotomy in terms of our future–only in his dichotomy, he would be wearing the yoga pants and eating bonbons in the long-term, although he probably wouldn’t phrase it exactly that way.

    But a dual-career family is not a zero-sum game. And we aren’t faced with choice number 1 or choice number 2—neither of which would actually define a successful life for me. So cheers to the realization that this isn’t a zero-sum game and changing the cultural narrative!

  • http://newlyla.blogspot.com Ashley

    I totally feel you on this one. My husband and I have been talking about trying to live abroad for a little while, but I’m a Big Law lawyer too (and in California, too!), and I’ve been struggling with that “I don’t want to just do yoga for a year” mentality myself (and I don’t do yoga either!). I love that you are seeing your move as an opportunity to change your career, rather than abandon it, and I so admire you for deciding to give writing a real shot. Thanks for this!

  • nicole

    THANK YOU for this. I too am moving abroad (for 4 years – gulp!) next summer because of my husband’s job and it has taken me until now (or maybe I’m still getting there) to start looking at this as an opportunity for me to really focus on my writing full-time (a true gift) or who knows what else. Life will not suddenly stop because I have moved away from my ft job (which I don’t really like anyway) and I may end up working ft there, who knows! I am going to start saying ‘accompany’ immediately, rather than ‘for’ or ‘follow’. Already that makes me feel so much better …

  • Carly

    I really needed this post today. I just moved to CA for my husband’s job. We had lived in NYC for seven years. I didn’t work in BigLaw, but had a well respected government lawyer job. We now live two blocks from the beach and everyone is so excited for us and yet I feel a weird sense of depression. We don’t have the financial luxury of my strapping on yoga pants and watching Wheel of Fortune every day, so I have to find another job (which is hard since I’m not licensed to practice law here). I’m working really hard on seeing this as an opportunity to do something different and more enjoyable. But it’s really hard and it makes me feel better just knowing that this is difficult for someone else too.

  • http://dylanandsarah.com Sarah T

    Steph, please look me up when you’re in London! We moved here in January, after my husband and I got married in September 2011. Before that we’d been doing long-distance for two years, so the Skype story is familiar.

    • Steph

      Yes, would love to!

      • Molly

        I’ve lived in London for coming up on 19 years but would love some ex-pat company! If there’s anything I can help with or offer, do let me know!

        • Peabody_Bites

          Ditto, ditto. I’m dual US/UK and have lived in London all my life (barring some longish international stints with Big Law, leaving my now husband in the UK. That would be my now husband who can’t use Skype and doesn’t like the telephone.)

          So please ask if there is anything you need help with, or if you want to get a drink in London sometime. I am particularly useful if you might want to do pro bono work of any kind, or even straight volunteering.

          Edited to confirm that I have never made a paralegal cry, though I fear the pearls are a permanent feature. Just so that you know what you might be getting into….

          All my email addresses have my full name in them, so I can’t post them but if you do want to be in touch, leave me your email.

          • Steph

            Yay! My email is eteffi@gmail.com. I would love to meet up with any London/S.A. APW-ers who are willing! xx

          • http://stephanieearlygreen.com Steph

            I am finally in London but realized I have no way of contacting all the lovely APW-ers who offered to meet up once I was here. Oh, well. Here’s hoping some of you guys are still checking this (very old) thread. xx

  • LaurenD

    Gah! I love this so very very much!

    “I vow to Julia Child the crap out of any situation I’m thrown into and embrace living abroad with my husband as what it should be: an opportunity for me and a fantastic adventure for us.”

    Ah.Maze.Balls.
    Much luck to you and yours, enjoy your adventure!

  • Jashshea

    Great read for all, but esp for all the lawyers upchain – check out the blog http://thekathmanduo.com/

    Flips the script a little – he’s the big law guy, she leaves the US to do work for Kiva in Nepal. They’re back in the US now, but a great read. And he pretty much did yoga (and hiking and blogging) for the year. Really good stuff.

    No affiliation, I just read his biglaw resignation letter and started following the blog.

  • http://www.ruthmadison.com Carolyn

    Awesome post!

    And if you’d like any advice about writing as a career, that’s something I’ve been working on for the past several years and I’d be happy to talk with you about it!

    RuthMadison82 at yahoo is a good way to reach me. :)

    • Steph

      Thank you! I will send you an email. xx

  • http://blindirishpirate.blogspot.com Blind Irish Pirate

    I’m grinning because I’ve created some false dichotomies for myself, quite damaging ones. I can’t describe them in the same clever way that you can at the drop of the hat. :) Either way, somehow in this past year, I’ve managed to realize that these dichotomies were not working for me, that I can, in fact, not be successful at choice A., B., or C., and therefore I am simply just aiming for mediocrity.

    How depressing is that? Look, before I get a huge lecture on reaching for the stars, please hear my deep, dark and twisty sarcasm. (har har)

    OK, now I really am laughing.

  • Carolyn (with the ego boat)

    Steph, from one wife-accompanying-her-husband to another, it sure is a bitch to realize that we are our own toughest critics, our own harshest judges, and the only ones holding ourselves back from seeing an amazing opportunity for what it is.

    I love my new life on the moon(/Canada) and wish you all the joy your opportunity holds.

    • Steph

      Thank you. And, btw, Canada is awesome. My husband is from Ottawa and I love it there. Please have some Smarties and wine gums on my behalf!

  • Molly

    I’m pretty excited for the writer here – I understand her apprehensions completely but what I would give for the chance to do what she’s doing…

    The reason I’m mainly commenting is that I love someone admitting that a movie gave her clarity on her own life and is actually contributing to life decisions she’s making. I love movies and I love the impact they can have on my thinking but more often than not find a cultural narrative that dismisses pop culture as shallow and trivial. So nice to know I’m not the only one :)

  • http://mymorninglemon.blogspot.com Morgen

    So funny! I just finished My Life in France and have had Julia in my head for weeks now. She is a great comfort! I actually just wrote a post about Julia and Paul’s relationship which I so admire: http://mymorninglemon.blogspot.com/2012/09/balance.html

    Thanks for the post!
    M

    • Steph

      I liked your post! I can’t wait to read My Life in France. Maybe I’ll read it on the plane to South Africa…

      • Morgen

        Thanks! Sounds like the perfect time to read it!

  • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

    “I do not need to strap on a permanent pair of yoga pants (unless I want to).”

    I just wanted to say that sentence cracked me up.

    And good luck with everything. I’ve discovered my own move has brought some new discoveries, but also, in some ways, it has challenged me more than I expected to be challenged. But it’s good…. and a long process. I wouldn’t have it any other way though.

  • Ashlee

    Oh I SO needed this encouraging post today! Thanks so much APW!

  • Rose in SA

    Steph – welcome to Johannesburg! I hope you and your husband will be happy here. The good news is odd bathrooms with bidets and drains are certainly not the norm :)

    Also, if you do decide to take up yoga, I highly recommend Yoga Warrior (www.yogawarrior.co.za) – run by a UK expat who was also an executive head hunter in NY.

  • Allyson

    I really needed to read this.

    I’m currently in a city that I’ve never lived in before, far away from friends and family (or at least close friends and family… I have a cousin, and a few people I went to highschool with that live here…). I don’t have a job. I’m living in my fiance’s hotel room, when we agreed we weren’t going to live together before marriage, because we want to be in the same city, not provinces apart. He’s here for 6 months. I have skills and whatever else but I can’t find a job.

    I’ve been snippy and snarky, especially anytime my fiance mentions me applying for EI, or anytime someone says ‘so, you gave up your career to follow him, that’s nice’ …. and I haven’t been able to articulate why.

    I feel useless and silly… unfortunately, my degree and passion lies in marine biology. Currently, I am nowhere near an ocean. I have skills in the administrative assitant/generic office job way, since that’s how I paid for my degree… and despite being in a large city with many offices, I can’t find a job – partly because we’re only here for a few months. The sort of upside, or at least, one of the reasons I came, is that my job was done (it was a contract job) in the last place I lived, so I would have needed to find a short term job anyway (since the next place after this is not where we lived before – unfortunately, also lacks an ocean). I don’t know what to do with myself. I know that we can’t survive on his limited income forever, and I feel useless, like I’m playing at being his wife when I’m not even that yet.

    I still don’t know what to do. Move in with my parents? That will drive me nuts (I adore my parents, but not how crazy busy their household can get, and they also don’t live near an ocean), and I’ll be a several hour plane ride from my fiance. Not awesome. Move back to the oceanside city where my fiance and I used to live, hope to find a job until he’s done here, then move to another city where I also won’t be able to find a job in my chosen career?

    I love this man like crazy, and we both agree will end up back at the ocean one day (he’s in the military, and owes them a few years, so it’s not up to him right now)…. but am I just sacrificing my career for him? I don’t know what to do in the meantime.

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