Those of you who have teenagers will understand when I say that any moments that they choose to spend with you are rare and precious and should be treasured. What I didn’t realise is that sometimes, they have the power to change your life.
My story takes place last November. My daughter is 14, and we are sitting on the couch.
She’s showing me the most expensive property on the market, in the Beverly Hills, and talking about what it would be like to live there.
“Wouldn’t that be fabulous, Mum? I’d love to live somewhere like that.”
And on the tip of my tongue were the words..
“Well, you’re just going to have to marry someone really rich, aren’t you”
As I heard those words in my head, I went cold. Noticing my silence, Martha looked across at me and asked what was the matter, and I couldn’t answer.
Because in that moment, I could see my life, could hear those words in my head, and understood the devastating message that I was sending to my daughter.
You see, at 14, my daughter is
- a straight A student,
- a varsity athlete
- has moved through 3 continents, 5 countries, 8 homes and multiple languages without missing a beat and most importantly
- has an incredible ability to see what she wants and be willing to work until she gets it.
In short, she is smart, strong, fierce and and driven, and yet there was something inside me that didn’t see how she could buy that home for herself.
(My son, who is 18, is away at college studying engineering – I would never say something like that to him.)
I am an expat wife, who put her career on hold to move to Kenya with my family. It was a temporary one year assignment, and yet 14 years later, we have yet to go ‘home’.
But here’s the problem. With every move, every new country, I moved a little further away from not just my country of birth, my family and my home, but also my rights, my support and my ability to take care of myself.
My Kenyan visa read “temporary alien’, meaning that I was unable to get a work visa, open an independent bank account, and have access to state services that I had taken for granted in the UK.
In Los Angeles, it had a different name – resident alien – but still was unable to use my professional qualifications, establish any meaningful credit and thanks to the short term nature of the assignment, build any local personal stability. My security was built solely around my partner and his continued employment.
I was, as it had always said on my visa, a dependent spouse.
Now, in San Francisco, I am finally a green card holder in my own right, but because of our expatriate journey, I have no credit history, no recent resume, no assets, no access to independent healthcare and no pension. The plans that I had for my future – and my children – college, retirement, travel, security were all dependent on someone else.
It’s never what I dreamed of when I was my daughter’s age, and certainly not what I want for her, or any other woman or girl. What I have realised is that in taking care of everyone else, of the moves, the paperwork and the daily details, we have forgotten to take care of the most important piece of the puzzle – ourselves.
The Global Girl’s Guide to Creating a Backup Plan was conceived from that moment when I realised that I was no longer the role model that I wanted to be for both my daughter and my son. I didn’t want them to believe that if they chose to travel, or to take a career break to support their families, that they had to relinquish all personal independence, identity and security. Or that it was ok to put entire responsibility for their future in someone else’s hands, no matter how much they love them.
The really startling thing? When I started to look around me, I realised that I was far from alone. And something needed to change.
to find out more about the Global Girl’s Guide to Creating a Back Up Plan and how it can help, click here.