Clover Stroud: ‘Why I Prioritised My Husband’s Career’

Clover Stroud had an established career and strong ties to the UK, but uprooting her life has had a surprising effect on her marriage.

by Clover Stroud |
Updated on

Standing in my kitchen in Oxfordshire, I heard my husband’s voice speaking to me from a different time zone in the US as he enthused about a rental house he’d looked around that might be the perfect new home for our family. Pete had always travelled for work and had been spending a lot of time in Washington DC. We have five children and a big, busy life in England. I loved my freelance career as a writer, but I also spent long periods of time alone with the kids at home while Pete was away. I didn’t want to be apart and was proud of his career in environmental work, but I also loved our home in the UK.

Then, last year, we reached crisis point. Our three youngest (Evangeline, 11, Dash, 10, and Lester, seven) were growing up and needed their dad, but Pete’s work in the US was expanding. The only way we could be together was for me and the kids to move. Meanwhile my two older children from my first marriage ( Jimmy, 23, and Dolly, 20,) would continue their studies at university in England.

But where Pete saw opportunities abroad, I saw the loss of the stability of a home we loved and the support of a community where we were settled. I was worried about what we’d lose if we followed his career to America. I wasn’t sure who I’d really be –as a writer, a wife, a mother – if I was transplanted to an alien city to which I had no connection, with a massively transient population where I knew no one. In our fractured, insecure world, community and a sense of belonging have never felt so vital.

All my memories of my sister and mum, who are both dead, are woven through my relationship with this part of southern England, too. Wrenching myself away from the places they loved and where I’d go to be close to their memories was scary, as if I was almost losing a sense of them aswell.

But Pete and I had done long distance for so long: for several years when the kids were very young we conducted long periods of our marriage on WhatsApp, chatting at weird times, with Pete eating a solitary supper in the States while I was making packed lunches and the kids were having their breakfast. It was chaotic and I was often lonely, but I compensated for his absences by creating a powerful sense of home for our family.

The decision to make the move didn’t happen quickly. We talked and argued it through for many months. Of course I resented the amount of time he spent away and being on my own with the kids. Continually fitting my writing time around domestic life has always been really hard. We’re a team but, when one partner is constantly travelling, it puts a strain on any relationship.

But I’m also realistic about the imbalance that occurs in a marriage between work and children. Like renowned author Brené Brown, I don’t think a 50/50 split of labour for a couple is realistic. Real life just doesn’t work like that. As Brown says, ‘energy, investment, kindness and patience’ create better harmony and more empathy than the score keeping of an even balance. Despite the time we spent apart, Pete and I have a strong, connected marriage where we both support one another in different ways.

Like all strong marriages, we made the decision by reaching a compromise: our move isn’t forever; we’ll return to England in a few years. In the first few months of living in the US, I cried over the frustrations of building a completely new life. I miss the fields of home and the community where we belonged, but now we’ve started the process of making friends and creating memories here, I’m feeling more settled.

A move of this size is a huge readjustment to a marriage and to a family, and Pete has made it easier for me by supporting me completely by acknowledging what it was that I gave up in our move, and also encouraging every tentative new step I’ve made into our new life. When I’ve felt lonely or homesick, I haven’t buttoned up and pretended it wasn’t there, and he’s made it easier by spending more time with me.

His job is still incredibly demanding and he works long hours, but watching the joy he gets from spending more time with the kids, and they with him, is a truly beautiful thing. I’m excited to support Pete’s work but I’m also delighted to find myself creating new professional connections with my own work. Our relationship is stronger for what we’ve been through, and the sacrifices we’ve both made for one another. I don’t see my move to follow my husband’s career as anti-feminist. We support one another in different ways.

Part of the joy I find in navigating a long-term relationship is learning how to be malleable enough to weather challenges and changes like this. We’ve grown as a couple in this move, and I’m certain we will grow again when we move back, too. Making the decision helped me focus deeply on what home really means, which ultimately showed me my sense of home is with Pete, even if that is in America. Clover’s new book, ‘The Giant On The Skyline’, (Penguin) is out now

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