An Accompanying Spouse in Paris

accompanying spouse in paris

Becoming an Accompanying Spouse

Are you a woman who has recently moved overseas with her family as an accompanying spouse? Did you decide to make this decision in support of your husband’s career? Do you have young children in tow who you now primarily care for? 

You are not alone. 

We want to introduce you to Sarah, an accompanying spouse and new mom who recently moved to Paris.

Sarah left the US where she was a CPA, had a good job, family surrounding her, and a great community of friends. She was happy in her life and didn’t have any big pull to explore the world or move too far away. However, she knew her husband’s career could send them overseas at some point, so she would be an accompanying spouse.

Even though the idea of being an accompanying spouse scared her, she was curious about what it would be like. Living in a new country sounded exotic and interesting but also pretty frightening. 

How would she communicate? How would she make friends? What would life look like in her new home?

accompanying spouse in france

Well, last year, it happened. 

Sarah’s husband’s job offered him a three-year posting in Paris, France. It was well paid and included housing, international school for the kids, and even plane tickets to come home once a year for the whole family. 

There was a long list of expat benefits for the accompanying spouse as well as for the family. 

This was an offer both Sarah and her husband had trouble turning down. So with apprehension but also excitement, Sarah and her husband decided to make the leap and move to France. 

Being an accompanying spouse in Paris

Sarah moved to Paris with her husband and two small children last year. Sarah was excited about the adventure, she was also nervous about what lay ahead.

As a mother with young children, Sarah found it difficult to adjust to their new life. She missed her friends and family back home, and she struggled to find her place in this new city. Her days were filled with the stress of taking care of her two small children in a new and unfamiliar place, while also trying to support her husband's career. 

He was gone most of the day and evening, too. Paris hours start late and end late. Not an easy rhythm with two small children.

So Sarah was alone a lot and found herself eagerly waiting for her husband to come home each night.

One of the biggest struggles as an accompanying spouse that Sarah felt was the language barrier. She found it difficult to communicate in everyday life which made it challenging to navigate everyday tasks such as grocery shopping, going to the doctor, or even asking for directions. 

Each day felt like a battle that she wasn’t winning. 

struggling in Paris as an accompanying spouse

With two kids under three, Sarah found the city impossible to get around in. Nowhere was made for her double buggy. The metro was pretty much off-limits with its hundreds of up-and-down stairs. And the buses were inhospitable towards children…even leading her to be told off a few times by some older French bus riders. 

Though she couldn’t understand what they said to her, the message was clear that she was doing something wrong. 

She felt like an outsider, as she didn't understand the customs and traditions and nothing felt familiar. Growing up in Minnesota, Sarah was used to Midwest, American culture and values.

Paris seemed to be as far from that as one could get. 

Nothing seemed to make sense.

What was the problem if kids want to sing a little on the bus? 

Why is it not ok to eat an apple while walking down the street? 

Why can’t we order steak well done?

What is the issue if a three-year-old child falls asleep awkwardly in the buggy? 

Why is catastrophic to forget to say bonjour before asking a clerk a question? 

But it is not a problem to:

Publicly urinate wherever you wish

Drink alcohol in public parks

Smoke in kids' playgrounds

Not pick up your dog poo off the sidewalk

accompanying spouse in paris

There was a lot to learn and know in order to live by the unwritten social codes and conduct expected in Parisian life. And Sarah felt like she was a long way from understanding it. 

Another challenge for Sarah was the lack of support. She didn't know anyone in the new country, and she felt isolated and alone.

Something we, at Vibrant, frequently hear from our accompanying spouse clients.

It was hard to make friends and connect with other moms. French mothers go back to work after three months of maternity leave so it seemed like there was not a lot to do for stay-at-home moms, like Sarah, during the day.

Sarah started to question the decision to move abroad and to live this accompanying spouse's life.

That’s when Sarah decided she needed support. She needed an expat coach to help her find her way, provide accompaniment on this difficult new life chapter, and to give her tips for how she could start to feel better in her new home.

Sarah had never seen a therapist or coach before. But this was truly unchartered territory. She had never felt so much like a fish out of water. And she was starting to resent being an accompanying spouse and the choice to follow her husband's career. She knew it was going to be a tough move, but this tough?!

Sarah did the right thing. Before she got too far into the cycle of resentment, she looked for help. She sought out someone to guide her and support her. Someone who understood what she was going through and who could truly relate to her everyday trials. 

Despite her struggles, Sarah knew that she had to stay positive and focus on the opportunities that this new experience presented. She got proactive and she took the first step.

She hired an expat coach.

accompanying spouse in paris

Now, after three months of coaching, Sarah has a path forward.

Sarah has identified what blocks her in her expat life and how she can overcome those blocks. She identified what she needs to do in order to show up more positively as an accompanying spouse in her expat life. She has become more self-aware, and more cognisant of her needs as a mom, wife, and individual. And she has learned the tools of ikigai to bring her back to the center when she wanders off course. 

She knows now what she needs to do in order to fully enjoy and appreciate this expatriation.

It is still hard, as life with two small children in a big city comes with continued challenges. And expat life likes to throw us lemons.

But Sarah controls her situation now instead of her situation controlling her. 

As Sarah continues to adjust to her new life, she realizes that being an expat mom is not easy. It requires a lot of resilience, patience, and perseverance. But she also knows that this new experience presents a unique opportunity for growth and discovery, both for herself and for her family. 

If you approach your expatriation with intention, purpose, and clarity anything is possible.

Are you an accompanying spouse struggling to find your way? 

Do you live in Paris and are finding life difficult? 

If you are, we can help. 

Don’t wait for it to be so hard you start to resent it. Be proactive and forward-thinking. Get the support you need to not just survive as an accompanying spouse, but thrive

Karly lived in Paris with her two small kids too and knows the challenges Sarah went through. Read Karly’s expat in Paris story here.

If you want the support of someone who truly understands your struggles and can help you as a coach to overcome them, look no further. We got you.

Book your free call today and let's get you on the right path in your expatriation! 

Karly Christ

Karly is a certified NLP and Ikigai coach with over 15 years of expat experience on four continents. Vibrant Ikigai offers workshops and 1:1 coaching services to help expat women move through the ups and downs of this exciting global lifestyle.

Book your free call and let's chat about how I can help you live your best expat life!