How to Maintain Your Identity When Relocating for Your Partner’s Job with Cindy Marie Jenkins
Welcome to this episode of The Determined Mom Show. I am your host, Amanda Tento, and I’m here with the lovely Cindy Marie Jenkins. I’m very excited that you’re here and I would love before we get started to hear about you and how you got started.
I know you have a very interesting background from what I heard on our pre-call. It’s very unusual. But it’s so cool. So tell us about it.
Sure. Long, very long story short. I grew up in theater but was always writing and always creating. And about the time that I became a mom and moved, I was switching to writing full-time versus marketing and I’ve lived in New York, Los Angeles, Orlando, Beijing, and back in Orlando now.
Wow. And the interesting part about all of that is you moved because of my husband’s job. Interesting.
Yes. Something that I don’t think I, I never considered would be the case and I don’t think he did either.
And it’s not when you think about it. Position. There are some positions that, like you go into and that okay, this is a job that I’m gonna have to travel a lot, or I’m gonna have to relocate and you already consider that.
But then there are some positions where it’s a surprise or a better opportunity or like another level or something, comes up. And I think that might be the case with your husband. Is that true?
Yes. He had been working in theater and then theme parks. Right after my son, our son was first born. He went on a two-week trip that turned into a four-week trip. And when my son was like four months old, not right after, but that was a really big wake-up call for us.
And he really had to adjust, how he looked at his work and me. Had to realize how difficult that was with a child while continuing to work with me and then how to relate again when he came back. Cause you have to factor jet lag into that mix.
There’s actually a lot to factor in. It seems a baby changes so much in that four-week period, especially when they’re only four months old. The difference between a four-month-old and a five-month-old is huge. So that’s interesting.
So let’s talk about what we’re gonna get into today, and that is how to maintain your identity when relocating for your partner’s job, which it seems that you are definitely experienced at. I’m glad that you’re here to talk to us about that.
So how do Maintain that identity? You’re working, you have the baby, you have kids, you have whatever is going on, but you’re here, and you are following your spouse in your case, around the world.
So one thing that was really challenging for me was that when I lived in Los Angeles, that’s when we got pregnant and I really shifted motherhood. Like I just expanded my identity into motherhood and I worked in social media, so I am in the family theater.
So it was so easy to be like, Hey, even my baby can see this show. What I heard from people was very, was empowering and showed them that it was possible to still work and have a baby. And what was fascinating when we first moved from Los Angeles to Orlando I was murky about what I wanted to do.
We were murky about how we were gonna like Orlando and I didn’t have a really good idea of what I wanted to do. And I really leaned into the mother and what human resources sometimes call the trailing spouse, which is such a horrible term.
So I leaned into motherhood and we also, and got pregnant with our second child quickly after the move, but it wasn’t until after he was born. My second child is me. It wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough for me. I wasn’t able to talk to my husband about anything except for diapers and what I had to do first was find some kind of community.
So one of my friends that I had been working with on marketing was a writer. And she found out that’s what I wanted to do. And she introduced me to this entire online community of freelance writers. It really changed me and changed my ideas because it’s one thing to want to write.
It’s one thing to write, but then to know how to become a professional writer is completely different. And because I wasn’t able to. Pursue it as much at that time with two kids under one or two kids under the age of three, which is ridiculous. I just leaned into the research.
And so by the time I was offered the chance to be a freelance writer and to work with a business on their blog, I knew the business. I knew how to work with an editor and I knew what I needed to do to take their idea and say, but you actually need three blogs a week. And at the same time, I found an in-person community in Orlando, which was massive for me.
I had figured out the parenting side of the community. But there was this group called the writers until here. And they are just so welcoming. I could bring my still nursing child and they loved it. And there were workshops and that was mostly fiction writing, which isn’t what I was really doing, but it just helped me see another side to the business side.
The community was really huge. Like when I moved to Beijing I wanted to do nano Remo, the national novel writing month, and they didn’t have an active chapter. And I found people to create an active chapter. Like made deals with cafes so that we could stay there without paying the like coworking fee and stuff. It was really wonderful and introduced me to some of my best friends.
That’s awesome. And that sounds like what has been a key to keeping that identity and maybe even finding your new identity after that first move, that’s awesome. I think that’s a great tip.
It was interesting cuz after moving there was when friends would visit, I remember how. My husband and I had a new outlook on even our own identities because we were in context with our friends. If that makes sense. Being with our friends that we’ve known for years really helped us. Remember who we were and what we wanted to do.
And those are people that you can talk to about other things other than diapers. So that is very important. They knew us way before that. So having those people in your life who know who you are at your core is also amazing.
I think that I can see how that could really help to solidify that and maybe even sort through the mom. The mom identity, which we all seem to acquire and either, cling to, or, just allow to take over us.
And it takes a lot to, it takes a lot for a person to be able to just say, I’m a writer when people ask. I used to qualify for it, but I do marketing and blah, blah, blah, blah. And I just stopped. And if they wanna know more, I can tell them more.
That’s awesome. You’re right. It does take a lot to give that broad statement and make sure that people understand that this is what I do. I’m not gonna fluctuate out of that.
I think if you move abroad, particularly, there are a lot of assumptions that are made because you’re an ex-pat. You’re probably there if you’re an ex-pat and you’re married, you’re probably there either to work or because your spouse is working.
And I remember my Mandarin tutor who was lovely, she was so amazing. And she would teach me the first word. She tried to teach me where my husband was at work. He works very hard. He’s very busy. I have two kids. I’m so tired. oh my goodness. I know.
That’s an interesting choice. Let’s just back that up a minute. She had trouble figuring out how to say I work from home. And I think we ended up on, I work on my computer. That works. Let’s see. That was a major revelation.
That’s awesome. One thing that I’m gonna mention, I’m gonna go back to what you said about finding a community where you were able to bring your still breastfeeding child.
I had a challenge with that myself when I got back into it well when I made that decision five years ago to quit my credit union job. And, go ahead and start my own business. I started going to these business networking meetings.
I couldn’t be away from my daughter for that long, cuz she was so little, I mean she was under six months and she was still breastfeeding and she would breastfeed whenever. Like it’s not like she had a particular schedule because I was with her all the time.
Going to those meetings was really hard. I found one that they said they would, no problem bringing your baby. That’s fine. And then. The next meeting after that, they were like, no, we cannot allow children at our meetings anymore.
And I was like, okay, you know what? I’m gonna create my own networking group just for mom business owners. So screw you on that one. So I did that. So it’s just, you just have to really search and really dig. If there isn’t a community. Like you did with the nano Remo, create it.
I work with the national women’s theater festival who’s based in Raleigh and them. I just went to their conference a couple of weeks ago. And for me it was like, my husband literally said, I am buying you a ticket. Don’t do it virtually go have you don’t get to travel for work. You should. And, but if I wanted to.
I could have brought my kids because they had thanks to a grant from pal, which is the parent artist advocacy league. They had an onsite child-like nursery for the smaller ones and an arts camp for the bigger ones. It was incredible. And they really they’re. One of their goals is radical inclusion in that way, because. So often parents can’t go to conferences.
And I feel like people are finally starting to get it in general that, our kids are important to us and we don’t wanna just leave them at home or we don’t wanna just neglect their needs just because we also want to do this other thing called making money and running a business and helping other people like we shouldn’t have to sacrifice those too. So I’m glad you brought that.
I’m glad that with the prevalence of zoom now, I feel like it’s become a bit more acceptable that if your child comes in, it’s just okay, talk to them, give ’em a snack you’re done. With certain meetings and having that Liberty has been really nice that you don’t even have to explain it anymore.
Yes, that has changed a lot since the pandemic. Thank you, pandemic. I do think that the pandemic and zoom have become like the zoom is one of the best things to come out of the pandemic in zoom etiquette and things like that.
Things have gotten a lot more relaxed and a lot more real like humans, they were before. Awesome. So what else can you share with us about maintaining that identity?
When I was really thinking about it, one thing that helped me so much is when I still had young kids, even when my oldest was in preschool. I eventually figured out how much nap time really gives me.
And it’s not a lot. And I normally just wanted to watch Netflix, but I realized that if I started with writing topics and started pursuing writing for publications that I really knew. That had editors that were willing to work with a new writer in a way. So I’m an editor now, but I knew grammar, and I knew AP Chicago styles.
I did not know writing in terms of essay writing and making your point as well. And I started writing for a theater magazine that was just incredibly patient and wonderful and taught me so much. And that helped me cuz I was also writing about theater for young audiences and quick things.
Sometimes when the Tony awards didn’t have a sound designer category. And because I didn’t have to think too much about the topic and didn’t have to do that much research. I knew the context, it was easier for me to experiment and really find my voice. Even things like, how do you make sure you get pictures that can be cropped to the right size?
Do you want the landscape or horizontal, that kind of thing? And something that I’ve always been good at, but it took me a minute to really do for writing is not waiting for permission. And once in a while, my husband will catch me on this and be like stop waiting if you’re pitching it.
And it’s a good idea and people aren’t taking it, just write it. And I did that for theater. I was self-producing right out of college because that’s what you do to get your work seen. And so I started using Facebook and Instagram as a bit of a blog. Which is not new. It’s not a different idea, but I was writing about being a work-at-home parent and I had worked from home for years before being a child.
So like working before being a child before having a child. So working from home was one of the topics that people would think of me for, but then to add kids and people were always asking how I did it and I made so many mistakes. Found so many ways that it could work sometimes.
And I just started every Monday posting, making it work Monday and just trying to help people understand that it’s okay to go to the library and bring them to the playroom of the library and just have your laptop there. And you know that you have to take advantage of nap times if they’re in the car. And it might mean the drive-through at Starbucks and then just parking for a little bit to write.
But it, is just that short-term gratification of people enjoying it, even if they weren’t parents, even if they didn’t work from home, but just like understanding a little insight into that life that helped keep me going that for me I have long term projects, but the short term gratification of just writing something, spending some time editing it or someone editing it and then post just posting it, just having it out there.
It’s just so exciting. And it’s so nice. And even if the comments are bad, they are like, don’t agree with you, which I’ve had quite a bit. It’s just exciting that people care. And that maybe I’m helping. Maybe this is helping. Maybe somebody feels a little better. Feels like they can do it a little more.
Like I started writing about relocating. Specifically as with a family. And that helped a lot of my friends understand what I was going through. And it also helped me process it and helped me feel like my experiences could be helpful to people.
That’s awesome. And it probably also allowed other people to find you and to be able to ask you questions and things like that. If there was a question about relocating, cuz relocating is no joke, relocating to another country is like, crazy, I got a job because of that.
Like because I’d already written about it. And when we got back there after COVID I pitched an editor of Beijing kids about having kids in quarantine cuz they were doing like a real two-week quarantine in China before you could go.
She came back to me and she was like so I looked up and we have a deputy editor position. Do you wanna apply for it? And that job really changed my entire life. Such a good job.
That’s awesome. So keep yours. Options open. Sounds like another great tip. Like you never know what’s gonna come out of that new community that you’re moving to. And just always stay true to what you love to do and what you’re interested in and passionate about.
And it sounds like for you sharing your own experiences over the years has really worked out for you and really opened the door for those new opportunities.
And sharing. When people are listening, just, you never know what that’s gonna bring. Who’s reading it? There are a lot of pitches or calls for pitches where I see people say, it’s okay if you just posted it on your blog, you just wanna see what you, how you write.
That just continues to work on it even. Even if you’re not seeing, you’re not getting published or you’re not, you’re getting rejected. Cause there are so many rejections
That is very true. And in every field and every business and everything, that’s very much a part of owning your business and doing your own thing. And I think we are all familiar with that, but getting used to those is a little hard, but it’s definitely worthwhile.
Awesome. So I know that you have a download that people can use to hopefully make things a little bit easier. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
So before I left Beijing they did the Beijing kids, which is now gen kids international. They had a home and relocation. And they knew that I had read theirs and that’s how I prepared for it. And, in 2018, basically, they handed me half of the relocation guide to writing. And the one thing that I was thinking I was looking through past issues and I’m like, no one has what to consider before you move.
And I just sat down and I. It was such a long checklist. They were, I went over my word count, but, it was, it’s everything from, do you get, are you asking for a relo fee? What are you usually doing with relocation? You get some kind of cost of living increase. If that’s the case, what are you gonna do with that extra money?
Okay, so you’re moving as an employee. How do you feel about the fact that you’re uprooting your family as the spouse? What are you gonna do? And then other details about finding schools, things that you need to really look at and that we had the time to look at before we moved to China before we even took the job, cuz we moved to Orlando to move to China.
So before we accepted the job in Orlando, we thought ahead to what we were gonna do in China. And how was it gonna work out? So really considering it from everyone in the family’s perspective and being okay with not having answers sometimes. I feel like it’s just that, the downloadable checklist is just one of the ways that you can really make sure you’re making a good. And that everyone understands what the choice might mean.
And also those choices that you make are not permanent, but sometimes they’re harder to undo. So making sure that you think about them a little bit more ahead of time is gonna save you a lot of headaches going into the actual move itself. I love that. That sounds like a great resource. Where can people find them?
If you go to my website Cindy Marie jenkins.com. There’s a tab at the top that says relo down low and it will be the featured post. And I’m gonna make a, there’ll be a link at the very top that you can just download it directly.
Perfect. That’s awesome. Thank you for sharing that resource with us. Do you have anything else that you’d like to share with the audience before we end our session?
The main, I think, is to just keep at it. What helped me when I was floundering or when the kids would be in bed and I was wired or exhausted was just understanding that this was my dream and I’m still working for it.
It’s still a huge effort every day. But being able to explain to your kids why you have to work and why you wanna do it is so important and that helps them give you time and be proud of you. And I think that’s a really great relationship to build.
That’s awesome. I love that. And keeping that in mind while you’re relocating for your spouse’s job is. Gonna be, like a key to that whole topic that we’re talking about is maintaining your own identity. So I love it. Awesome. Thank you so much, Cindy Marie. It was very nice talking with you.
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