Nate and I are equals. Neither of us is more important than the other, and we have a lot of respect for each other. Our relationship wouldn’t work any other way.
Unfortunately, this is not the case in the Foreign Service. Nate is the FSO, and I am the EFM (eligible family member), or, even worse, the “trailing spouse.”
I just started typing a list of why being an EFM sucks, but it was super-whiny and I don’t want to bite the hand that feeds me (too hard, anyways). So I deleted it. I’ll simply say this: being an EFM has its ups and downs.
The reason I mention this is because on a Facebook group for EFMs, FSOs, and others involved in the US’s diplomatic mission, someone recently asked if there were other EFMs that didn’t like the FS lifestyle. The moving, being far from family, living in other countries, etc.
Wow, were the responses interesting. Some people truly hate it. I mean, with a level of vitriol that I found shocking.
The Facebook post got me thinking about why we joined the FS and what my own EFM experience has been like. Spoiler alert: It’s actually pretty great. In fact, a lot of EFMs like the FS and appreciate the opportunities that it gives them. Not everyone is miserable.
Granted, I get annoyed sometimes by the fact that I’m an EFM, but it’s generally not that bad. It can be occasionally silly (like the fact that I can’t even request for the embassy to come and fix, for example, an air conditioner if it breaks), and I roll my eyes at FSOs that think they’re better than me, but I think of it as water off a duck’s back. It just rolls off.
Yeah, moving frequently sucks, and having to readjust to a new country every few years probably isn’t easy. And neither is being far from family, especially now that we have a baby. On the other hand, we get to explore new countries, learn new languages (which for some might be a chore, but I love it), and we have a nanny.
As with almost anything in life, there are positives and negatives to being an EFM in the FS. I have a portable career in public health, and there are lots of mosquitoes in Bangladesh, so that’s good; we both love to travel and explore new countries; and it is important to me that our children be raised overseas. So for us, the FS was a good fit for both of us and our family. If it wasn’t for Nate being an Officer, we wouldn’t get these opportunities. We are in this situation because of him, not me. I get that.
Am I content with my EFM status? Yes and no. On a day to day basis, and I happy? Yes. Can I ride out my EFM-ness because of the opportunities the Foreign Service gives me and my family? Hell yes.