The Not-So-Humorous Story of the Moving Wife

Diane Fitzpatrick in Jupiter, Florida on March 19, 2013. Photo by Doug MurrayI am grateful that I write humor. I am especially grateful that I write humorously about moving and relocation. Because I just read a serious analysis about why so many wives acquiesce and allow their husbands to move them all over creation for their jobs and it was so depressing, I made myself third and fourth pieces of peanut butter toast. I am close to ODing on trans-fats over my gender and our accommodating nature.

Of course this isn’t the first time I realized that moving can be depressing. I’ve moved something like 19 times in my life, moves that ranged from exciting new jobs in new cities but close enough to still see my Mom at least once a month, to convincing my son that it will be exciting to move to a new school across the country for his senior year of high school. Piece of cake. No big deal. Right.

After nine moves with children, all due to corporate relocations and new jobs for my husband, I decided to take my sense of humor by the balls and put it to work. I wrote a book about my madcap adventures moving, skipping all the depressing parts where someone is shooting daggers at me with facial expressions that say I Will Either Run Away or Kill You In Your Sleep, someone is standing in my kitchen with a clipboard telling me that our $7,500 entertainment center won’t fit through the door, someone is on the phone telling me that our corporate relocation doesn’t cover pool tables, pianos or dogs (and we have all three), and someone in my family is in ab-wrenching tears (most likely me).

Once I was able to delete all the depressing parts from my mental notes, writing a book about the funny parts of moving was easy. And fun. The book practically wrote itself. I tell people my book is not only self-published, it’s self-written.

The twist is that my book has been well received enough that I’ve been interviewed several times and invariably I get asked questions as if I’m a moving expert. So I feel obligated to keep up on all the news and stats about moving. And let me assure you, the news is not funny. It’s a downer.

The analysis ( http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.4919087.0010.106 ) that I just read about the number of women who “go along” with their husband’s moving plans is pretty grim. It’s 22 pages long, so I won’t bore you with the details, but you can get the gist of the analysis by this introduction:

“Using a feminist lens, this analysis considers the unequal costs borne by husbands and wives when a family moves for a man’s job. The paper, which looks at professional middle-class and upper middle-class families, suggests that there are multiple factors at play to influence a wife’s agreement or acquiescence to move including economic concerns, . . . the cultural belief that progress and moving-on are inherently good, a wife’s sense of powerlessness in the decision process, and a wife’s tendency to perceive her husbands’ endeavors as preeminent over others in the household.”

Feminist lens or not, the wives who participated in the study paint an honest but not-so-pretty picture as to what happens during most corporate relocations.

“Most of my respondents didn’t really agree to go. They just didn’t refuse. Also, although they continually identified how they themselves were concerned or unhappy about moving and their husbands were not, they still viewed the move as consensual.”

Eileen, one of the respondents, laughed and said, “I don’t know if we agreed . . . As I heard before, ‘It’s the right thing to do Eileen, the right thing to do.’”

Women, put down the knives and control your anger here. We are not as push-over-able as this appears. After reading some of the article, skimming some of it, and fighting a nap through most of it, I got to the nitty gritty: The wives who tag along with their husbands’ corporate moves have a very complex role, both in real life and inside their decision-making minds. You know that Internet meme that compares a woman’s mind to having a browser with 3,241 tabs open at the same time? When you’re being talked into moving for a better job for your spouse, make that 4,241 tabs.

You can almost visibly see the minds of these women churning. “Hey, Eileen, guess what, babe? I got a new job! In Detroit!” Eileen, meanwhile, starts the distinctly female process of considering every facet of her life, the life of her children, her parents, her friends, and yes, her husband. Also, everyone she knows within 100 miles of Detroit. She draws on every single thing she ever heard of the state of Michigan, has window treatments picked out, new seasonal footwear considered, and a mental list of people who might want the swimming pool toys. She has mentally walked through the actual move, pre-handling all meltdowns, breakages and the first day of school. The fact that she “goes along” with a move despite her own personal misgivings, is not so much acquiescing, but more like walking slowly through a field full of land mines. Going cautiously forward, stepping lightly but deliberately and reserving the right to put her foot down at any future moment – as soon as she’s sure there won’t be an explosion.

And when you think of like that, it’s not as depressing. Not as depressing, but still not funny, and it won’t be invited to my repertoire of funny moving stories anytime soon, unless Eileen shows up at kindergarten registration with two different shoes on with the wrong kid in tow.

Diane Laney Fitzpatrick is the author of “Home Sweet Homes: How Bundt Cakes, Bubble Wrap, and My Accent Helped Me Survive Nine Moves.” She writes the humor blog “Just Humor Me” at www.just-humor-me.blogspot.com. You can get to know her better at www.dianelaneyfitzpatrick.com.

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