The Foreign Service Journal, March 2019

86 MARCH 2019 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL FAMILY MEMBER MATTERS Melissa Mathews is the president and founder of The Mathews Group, a stra- tegic communications agency serving Fortune 100 clients. Her pre-Foreign Service experience includes work at CNN and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. As a diplomatic spouse, she’s lived in Guatemala, Saudi Arabia (twice) and Jordan. She has three children—four, if you count the dog. Which she does. T he celebrated American chef Julia Child is a Foreign Service legend. Assigned to Paris after WorldWar II with her diplomat- husband, she discovered the passion that made her famous. Cooking rich, buttery French cuisine was the profession she’d been looking for all her life, she later recalled. It also gave her what many modern diplomatic spouses dreamof—a portable, flexible career, and an identity all her own. Beyond boeuf bourguignon, Julia Child has a lot to teach the modern trailing spouse. Child was a trailblazer. Yet more than 70 years later, the rest of us are still slog- ging along a muddy, unmarked path. The obstacles are plentiful—bilateral work agreements (or lack thereof), licensure issues, language barriers, security restric- tions, frequent moves. The recent depart- mental hiring freeze and slow pace of clearances add to our frustrations. But I believe we’re at a turning point. There’s never been a better time for diplomatic spouses to take control of our futures. We’re seeing an explosion of remote-work possibilities enabled by new collaboration tools andmobile technology. The gig economy is thriving. I recently came across an oral history Child recorded for the book, Married to the Foreign Service: An Oral History of the American Diplomatic Spouse (Twayne Publishers, 1994). I was struck by how many of her struggles are still our struggles, and howmuch of her advice stands the test of time. Julia said of cooking: “I was passion- ately interested in it.” She recorded the oral history in 1991, but the importance of passion still holds true for FS spouses like Hui-chin Chen, a certified financial planner who advises cli- ents remotely. She developed her interest in all things financial shortly after her entry into Foreign Service life, which she used as an opportunity to explore her options. “Finding what was next for me was my priority, and I had a lot of time to try differ- ent things,” she says. “Financial planning was one that grew onme because every time I tried to pigeonhole what it is, I found new aspects that I never thought of before.” Andrew Sheves, currently based in Amman, sees opportunity as a trailing spouse. “Despite the challenges, there’s less financial pressure than if we were back in the United States. This financial freedom can be what allows us to pursue our pas- sion in the first place,” says the founder of software start-up . “Inmy case, building a software start-up was a pipe dreamwhile we were still in D.C. with a mortgage, etc.” Julia said: Break out of the embassy bubble—“It was very nice having a hobby and a profession at the same time because youmet all kinds of people.” Marcelle Yeager, founder of both Career Valet and Serving Talent, career services and recruiting firms, says work has enabled her to broaden her network and evenmake friends: “Approach the types of events you attend creatively. You’ll be surprised how often youmeet people running comple- mentary businesses.” Laura Ellsworth, a communications consultant and former journalist based Julia Child with her husband FSO Paul Child in Norway during his 1959-1960 posting there. This photo first appeared in an article, “Bon Appétit—Julia Child: From Foreign Service Wife to French Chef” by Jewell Fenzi and Carl L. Nelson, in the November 1992 FSJ . Recipe for Success BY ME L I SSA MATHEWS