Thursday, 7 March 2013


I am going to a meeting tonight of the Trailing Spouses' Art Group where the theme is "Sacrifice and Gains" in reference to career sacrifices , which are often a necessity when relocating one's life according to another person's career trajectory. Cheryl, who is leading the meeting, asked us to make a word cloud using sourced material on this theme.

As my husband has just had to go to America for work reasons, for three months leaving me and the two boys behind in Germany, there are obvious sacrifices that we are all having to make. As we are relying on Skype to communicate as a family I decided to source my word cloud from instructions on Skype from the internet (see above). I can identify some of the sacrifices and gains in communication that Skype offers us in words like "mishaps", "private/public", "support", "clearly" that appear in the cloud.

The first attempt to Skype with my husband newly arrived in Washington DC was a disaster. I could see my husband but I couldn't hear anything. It was so frustrating. So I was holding up this sign, which said :

My husband's face was pixelated and kept on freezing. The freezing thing when your Skyping bugs me. You can be rambling on thinking the other person's lack of movement means they are being extremely attentive but in reality the screen has just got stuck and it will be only a couple of mins before the connection is lost altogether. It still can give you the feeling that their digital alter ego is being rather rude by ignoring you.

Not having a smart phone or ipad hasn't stopped me going to greater lengths to integrate Skype into our normal family life. I lugged my 19 inch computer to the dining table the other day so that we could all have dinner together, sort of.

Kids don't interact in the same way as adults so we have to be creative in getting them to sit in front of a screen. My son draws during our conversations and then shows his pictures to my husband while we talk.

In terms of the theme of the TS meeting "sacrifice and gains", while getting used to the new situation of being a temporary single mum, I am not really focusing on thinking about a career.  It is hard to imagine or plan one when we don't know where will be living in one year. And as for my husband, he has obviously had to sacrifice a lot to continue along his path in academia by not seeing his family.  Unfortunately the academic world is highly competitive. You have to take the chances you are given, or else you are out of it.  Being an academic today, as my friend once pointed out, is a bit like being a Diplomat (i.e. highly mobile) but without any of the perks!

 We can only hope that our present sacrifice is serving our future gain.

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