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The Invisible Role of Mothers During a Move

There is a slow but gratefully growing trend in female corporate relocations. It is estimated that only around 14% of global assignments are held by women. This can vary by industry and country.   With the recent pandemic, nurses and doctors can choose where they want to live and more often we are finding that our relocations are led by the wife/mother as opposed to “the dominant male of the house”.

Amid this trend, I notice that women take this responsibility much more to heart than men do.  I see women hold more guilt. Perhaps it’s because they are more open and conversational about this than men are? But I must be honest, in 12 years of helping families move, I have never heard a man say “I feel so bad for moving the family.” There seems to be a lot more “mom guilt” on show.

Don’t get me wrong. It is not that men are less sensitive. I do hear them say, “My family must be happy with our new home/suburb/school”. Women, on the other hand, feel bad for “putting the family through this” and for the family and friends they have left back home.  I also find women have a much higher sense of urgency to have everything in place quickly.  

In my opinion, women are the glue of relocation—the nurturers, the complaints department, the nurse, the cook etc.  It is more often the wife/mother that will notice something is amiss with the children or who is more sensitive to the mood of the family.  

But mums need to be careful. The mother needs to be calm and positive because those two characteristics are so easily mimicked by the children.  Balance and harmony come from mothers!

Mums’ Burdens

This does not mean that mothers need to carry this burden.  It is often a burden you may not even realise you are carrying until you relieve yourself of it. There are so many things a mother “just does” without ever thinking twice—just autopilot—such as making a shopping list because the dustbin bags are nearly finished, thinking about what to cook, making sure to run the washing machine, getting involved in the teenagers’ politics.

I was recently listening to the podcast “Expat Happy Hour with Sundae Bean” (Episode 185: Invisible Burdens) which I recommend. She talks about The Mother Manager.  How many jobs do you, mum, do without being asked to do them? Go on; list them. 

Who asked you to remind your husband to phone his mother? 

Who asked you to get involved in the teenager arguments?

How many of these jobs can you just stop?

But then, again, proceed with caution. As a business owner, mother and serial global mover, I think there are some things we should not just stop. The mother in me says, “Just keep doing it, sometimes it’s easier,” however the businesswomen in me says, “Automate or delegate!” 

We shouldn’t just “not get involved in the teenage drama” because then our children won’t come to us with what is worrying them, nor can we equip them with our aged wisdom to solve the problems.

What To Do Instead

I think we all need to take stock.  During an international move? Surely not? Well, yes, that is the time to consider all those jobs, how the children might have grown up and the new routines you might have ahead of you. 

You have heard the saying “You can’t pour from an empty cup” so you must take care of yourself. 

Start with a list

Sundae Bean talks about emotional, mental and physical load.

  • Emotional  – are you worrying on someone else’s behalf where there is nothing you can do?
  • Mental – Are you the one to remember and remind everyone about birthdays? 
  • Physical – Are you the only one putting out the trash cans and cooking dinner?

Moving country is a great time to set up new routines.  I get it; the first few weeks are stressful. This is why I am telling you to do this in advance. Start thinking about it. Lay the foundation with the family that things are going to change so YOU can deal with family life better.  

Be honest. If you are too tired from doing and feeling everything for everyone else, you won’t have time to adjust to the changes yourself. What will happen then is you will land up in the same routine. 

When your children were smaller you might not have expected them to do their washing – don’t keep doing it just because you are in that habit.  

What things do you want to change? If you highlight what you are doing, the family will be surprised and that is the point where you can start negotiating. Your new life in Australia is a time for a change, for new habits and let’s face it, let’s make it fair.

Delegate

Pick a night when someone else is cooking or a night of taking away. 

Pick someone else responsible for packing the dishwasher and someone else to unpack.

Pick someone else to empty the bins.

Pick a relocation specialist to do all the tedious work for you–finding a house, booking a removalist, setting up utilities, and even choosing a school for your kids.

Automate

Put all those birthdays on the family calendar so you don’t have to remind everyone to send wishes, but set the rule that they are responsible – because this is what your family rule is.  

A casual time to text or contacting family or friends far away, set the day of the week/month that this will happen so you can set and forget.  It is not hard, even if you want to chat about the weather, the week ahead or anything to keep the contact going. Stay in touch with those who are important to you.

Reward yourself

Once you have done all of this and managed to claw back some time for yourself, how will you be rewarding yourself?  What changes are you looking forward to?  It is time to invest in yourself too.  Be sure to make that list of rewards. 

Will you study? 

Take up a hobby or a sport to meet new friends?

I’d like to close by sharing this quote from Tony Robbins:

If you’re gonna make a change, you’re gonna have to operate from a new belief that says life happens not TO me but FOR me.

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