Do you have what it takes?
Relocating - to boldly go where you and your family have not been before. The experience, knowledge, and qualifications to not only successfully move your family to an unfamiliar country but also to integrate them into the new culture so that they have a sense of belonging can be a daunting prospect. It is however not insurmountable. Acquiring a useful skill set and exploring your approach to yourself and life along with a good dose of wanderlust will be a great foundation for being a successful MIM.
If you are considering making the move, why not see if these 10 MIM characteristics describe you?
1. List maker extraordinaire
The ability to make and use check-lists gives you a great MIM advantage. Deciding which items should travel on the flight with you, which should be air freighted and which items can arrive later via container ship will go a long way to making the transition easier. Also ensuring that during the packing everyone else knows about the list too so that their usefulness is not undermined.
For example besides the passports, the most critical documents such as birth and marriage certificates, not to mention vaccination records, need to be kept with you on the flight, preferably in hand luggage with certified copies in your suitcase.
2. Friendly and outgoing
To make friends you need to know how to be a friend. Feedback from your current circle would be useful in this instance. MIMs operate without a family support network and therefore need to rely on friends to be there when their partners aren’t. Making friends however takes time and you will have to put in some effort. Joining expat meet-ups or setting up play dates can all provide suitable opportunities for you and your children to build a network.
3. Spontaneous and flexible problem solver
Despite all your planning and wonderful lists – things will go wrong. Something will be forgotten, misplaced or lost. Accepting the likelihood that this will happen makes it more tolerable when it happens. MIMs can improvise when they need to and look for solutions rather than sulk. The ability to do a SWOT analysis on the fly will help. For example, you may plan to enrol your children in the local school but if there are no suitable openings then you need to be ready to begin your new role as home school teacher.
4. Understanding that to ‘listen’ involves being ‘silent’
In the stressful time of moving, you and the rest of your family each have stresses, fears and expectations. You are the glue that holds things together so paying attention in particular to what the children are saying will help you address issues or empathise where necessary. MIMs can’t always assume they know the answers – they need to take time to listen.
5. Eternal optimist – grateful for the glass even if it’s empty
Positivity yields much better results when relocating. The reverse has proven this to be true. Wallowing in self-pity and misery is not going to solve any problems nor make the transition easier. If you are the type that will find something to be grateful for wherever you are and will always hope for a brighter tomorrow – you have the real makings of a MIM.
6. Not defined by your career
Work and worth can often have a complex relationship and when you have invested a lot of time and effort to accomplish what you have it can be hard to say goodbye. If you are someone who knows that your career alone does not define you and that moving into unknown territory can provide an excellent opportunity to reconnect with your passions then the MIM life is for you.
7. Ok with being a financial dependent
Not having a career is not the same as not having an income. There is an inherent validation when receiving a pay cheque. You have given of yourself and got something back. In most cases though you may have to rely on your partner for money and therefore knowing the value you add without seeing it in a payslip is essential.
8. A natural researcher and information gatherer
In a new environment one can take very little, if anything, for granted. If you’re fortunate enough to still be speaking your mother-tongue this will simplify matters as information is more easily obtained from other parents, teachers or authority figures. MIMs know that paying attention and observing processes in your surroundings will be beneficial. A natural curiosity and need-to-know will stand you in good stead.
9. Social media magician
Keeping connections with family and developments back home is great both for you and your loved ones. With options such as Skype, Facebook, WhatsApp and Viber and even Twitter there are ways to stay in touch. Often though some trouble-shooting may be required so you cannot be afraid to learn how these systems work and learn to weave some online magic. (This will even be helpful when connecting your nice new smart TV!)
You are growing and learning through the journey you have undertaken. You may not see tangible fruits of your impact but you are not the same person you were before you moved. You know what pushes your buttons and what helps you to unwind. Find the music, books or movies that fuel and renew your soul. Knowing how to cheer up and enjoying times of solitude will keep loneliness at bay.
The dialogue about the position of accompanying partner often stems from a place of seeking recognition for the difficulties, challenges and ability to overcome obstacles faced in a new country because being a MIM is a tough call. We know that MIMs are usually the unsung heroes of successful international relocation and knowing yourself and whether taking that leap into the unknown is right for you, goes a long way in making the journey more enjoyable and rewarding for everyone.
Vanessa is a freelance journalist living in California. She has relocated twice with her family, firstly from South Africa to Sussex in the United Kingdom and then to San Francisco. She is also an avid amateur floral photographer and blogs her photos at Fables and Flora http://fablesandflora.wordpress.com/