I am a woman of a certain age. An age, shall we say, when many of us start to think more about the big picture, and less about how to get through each day.
Options, in some ways are narrower. The childbearing years (at least the optimal ones) are over. It’s pretty clear I won’t go to law school and end up on the Supreme Court. I am unlikely to wear size 6 jeans ever again.
But, in other ways, the world is a bigger place. If I decide at 6 PM on a Tuesday night that I want to go out to dinner with my husband, then we just go. If wanted to work full time now, I could, with zero opportunity cost in terms of day care, nannies, etc. Thanks to living in a city with great public transportation, I am not even tethered to my kid by his need for rides. If he wants to go somewhere, he hops on the U-Bahn.
In short, I could make any kind of plan I liked–and you can bet I would follow through with it. I’m a planner, or at least I thought I was. I could go back to school, get a job, write a book, you name it.
But, I have no idea where I will be living 18 months from now.
Hardly anyone does in the Foreign Service, of course. But, usually, we at least know that we will be posted somewhere. Right now, we have no idea if my husband will even be in the FS by then!
At the same time, bidding season approacheth. You can’t get posted if you don’t bid, that much we know for sure. Even to DC.
And so, we have to suspend disbelief and bid.
The way the rules work, there is no point to him bidding at-grade positions. You know, that “up or out” thing.
So, at one extreme, we are talking about Deputy Chief of Mission slots, in which I will have to channel at least a little Martha Stewart (and trust me, that will be weird). Oh, but it’s OK, because in these places we will have “staff.”
I hate staff. I mean, I know, it sounds great, having people around to do stuff for you, but really I am not that fond of people. Especially people who always seem to want something from me. I figure: I had two kids, I paid my dues. And if that didn’t do it, four posts with maids, gardeners, nannies, and other miscellaneous minions hanging about all the time definitely did.
Obviously, I felt a bit differently about this when I needed babysitting. But now I don’t. So, I just don’t see the advantage here. Sorry.
Fortunately, my long-suffering husband has learned to accept this. He swears that, in the unlikely event he should actually end up in such a position, we’ll hire such awesome staff that everything will run on auto-pilot, requiring nothing more than I should just clean myself up and breeze through a reception or dinner party now and then.
We’ll see about that.
On the other extreme, and much more likely at this point, my husband will be involuntarily retired at the end of our current tour, and we go back to DC and possibly become staff.
Well, not really. I joke about getting a job as a barista, but in fact, it’s likely my husband will work on contract for a while, and I will keep working part-time and roll up my sleeves to get good and dirty finishing up renovations on our little house and yard. Unless we decide to keep renting that out and move into the city…since that’s now an option.
In between, lie other possibilities. Going direct to another post, but not as DCM and Mrs. DCM. Going back to DC for a year of language training, then going to another post. Going back to DC for a while, then moving to another US city for another job. (This is not really that likely, since we can’t agree on anywhere else we want to live, and appear to be fated to straddle the Mason-Dixon line for the rest of our days…) Going back to DC, getting a job with another international organization or agency and going back overseas again.
Oh, and then there’s our son, who is possibly the most random person ever. We really have no idea what he’ll be doing in two years, so we’re not even factoring that in–other than continuing to sock away money for his theoretical or eventual college education, of course.
So, anyway, it has recently occurred to me that this really a pretty strange place to be for someone approaching mid-life: a time when most people are just sitting tight and accumulating stuff in their garages.
My life is definitely weird. But I’m rolling with it.
Just before I left the FS, I had about six months of such uncertainty that, in retrospect, I’m surprised my head didn’t explode. I was finishing grad school and applying for jobs in that field (this with a crashing economy, so no guarantee of a new career in a new field). I was also bidding above grade, with all the campaigning that goes with it. That frantic balancing act continued until exactly one month before I left which is the point when I took the plunge to leave with no job offer and subsequently unshook my handshake. Fortunately, the job offer came immediately after. You know what one of my reasons for leaving was? I hated having staff. The management, the hiring, the firing, the finding a new family, to never having a house alone, etc. It wasn’t THE reason but I totally get where you’re coming from. I’m crossing my fingers for a Mrs. DCM spot for you!
Good luck with all that uncertainty. I am awful at it, and yet, it is such a huge part of my life. So I hear you on this post, big time. On the note of being a Mz. DCM, it’s not too bad you know in certain places. And there are DCM posts where there is NO help. (ahem, Iceland). I’m just sayin.
Rolling with it is about all you can do. I’m not in the foreign service, but I am a professional vagabond at the mercy of my husband’s company. I’ve finally gotten use to this roller coaster ride of a life. You have tow choices: Either grimace as you clutch the safety bar with all your strength, or throw your hands in the air and smile as you go through the ups and down. I choose the latter.