The Corporate Spouse. It has a nice ring to it. Until you wonder if it also translates to The Good Wife. In a not so good way. The good one who supported the husband’s every move and will continue to do so even though she hates the constant change. The good one who will get her moment to shine at his farewell dinner from the Company where the room will accolade how he ‘could have never done it without her’, without ever knowing how she had to make up for his absences. The good one who sacrificed not only her own career, but in the end, also herself. For his sake. His career’s sake. And the family’s sake. The one who was good enough to know that complaining about somebody working, earning, and providing in abundance would not go down well with nobody.
The Present Day
We have evolved from the idea of one person slaving away so the other could have it his/her way. For too many years though, for too many couples, this was however their reality. And in many cases, this still is the case. To enable the one to have a successful career, there must be another who would make sure things would not fall apart at home in exchange for the privilege of staying home. Often leaving that person unfulfilled in her own needs and desires. And whilst there’s no doubt that both people in a marriage or relationship can have their dream career, it is still very common to have one person’s job or career take the backseat whilst the others’ takes precedence.
There is little to do around what other people think about the person who so willingly supports and sacrifice so that their other half can work. People think and will continue to think whatever they want for as long as they want. Nobody really ever understands the reasoning of anothers’ mind. The real work is in the mind of the one who signed up for this position. If one lets that ‘stay home’ stigma go sit in your clothes when somebody makes a snarky comment only to pick up the stink again when you get home and have to deal with the laundry, it can and will create mental drama. This stigma is still very real in society and lingers much in the air on the social scene. Those places where these questions usually arise upon introduction. You know them well if you are one of them ‘Stayhomes”. Those awkward, uneasy moments when the question gets asked, ‘So what do you do for a living?’. And the answer in return, ‘I don’t work, I stay home’ (thinking but never saying – ‘Yes. You heard right. I do nothing for a living and live off somebody else’s money’). Blank stares follow with awkward silences.
“Is this person lazy? Spoilt? Not ambitious?” the one who asked might wonder.
“Does he/ she think I am lazy? Spoilt? Not ambitious?” the one who answered often wonders.
And then the challenge. Where do you take the conversation from here?
Sacrifice and Courage
The Corporate Spouse took the decision to either quit a job or make the spouse’s career take precedent. It takes courage, commitment, and confidence to do so. That confidence often wanes when others question it but usually is quickly dismissed by the list of reasons why it was a good decision. The ‘position’ is one of power, privilege, and pride. That is IF you claim it, see it, understand it, value it and want it. And use it for and not against yourself. It’s not about simply dedicating an entire life to let another person shine. It is about being your own person who gets the rewards, results, and the remuneration that you so deserve. You have to name it and claim it.
All articles are written using the words ‘Spouse’ and ‘her’ to ease the reader flow but are interchangeable to the non-marital position of partner and gender references ‘him’ or ‘they’ as all of the above could be applied to a person who is in a relationship where the dynamics of job and career of one has an impact on the other.
About the Author
Ilze Oosthuizen is a Certified Life Coach who transitioned from a Career as a Chartered Accountant to being a Corporate Spouse for the past 24 years with 8 international moves including both relocation and repatriation in the mix. The content of her writing is not necessarily all her own experiences but rather a culmination from her interactions as either Coach or Confidant to many a Corporate Spouse that have crossed paths with her on this journey. Delivering 3 babies during this trek and getting them through College all added to the experiences of not only a Spouse but also a Corporate Mother.
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