“In March, the whole company is going to San Francisco for a week,” my husband Andreas told me one night last January.
We’d been living in Copenhagen since 2008. I didn’t have a job lined up when I finished graduate school in the U.S., and since Andreas did, I’d moved with him back to his native Denmark.
I hadn’t been home to the States in two years, so when he mentioned San Francisco, I shrieked, “We’re going home!”
The move to Copenhagen was meant to be temporary—a sort of gap year for me to write and explore. Nearly three years later, Andreas’s company had become a hit in the start-up world. Since we couldn’t walk away from the opportunity to see his work through to the next phase—and because I could be based anywhere as a journalist—we hadn’t left.
His and Hers Entrepreneurs
When Andreas and I met in 2006, he’d been building collaborative online software with two friends as a side project. By 2009, he’d joined his friends full time. Although we didn’t expect him to make much money, we agreed it was a great opportunity. He loved what he was doing and felt lucky to work with friends every day. How could I not support that?
At the same time, I was struggling to get my freelance writing career off the ground. Being one half of an entrepreneurial couple should have been reassuring, but it made me increasingly self-conscious instead. No matter how many hours I’d clock in front of my monitor, sending pitches and letters of introduction to editors, Andreas would usually work just as much—or more—than I did. Since I often had less to show for my efforts, I felt that I had to work even harder, which seemed impossible.
What bothered me most was the constant assumption that I—the woman—would readily take one for the team.
We also didn’t have financial reserves to fall back on. The cost of the move to Europe, and the associated immigration bureaucracy, wiped out our savings. For the first few years—especially as I was struggling to make what I considered to be enough—we were terrified.
At night, we’d lay awake, unable to sleep, talking about the best- and worst-case scenarios, wondering if we should be doing things differently.
Why I Was Convinced I’d Made a Huge Mistake
While some people relish the opportunity to live overseas, I initially loathed it with a fierceness that was bewildering and unbecoming. Life in Europe is supposed to be glamorous and exciting, but the pain of being so far away from home—without knowing exactly when I’d return—permeated my emotional core.
What bothered me most was the constant assumption that I—the woman—would readily take one for the team. Putting my career on hold, as if my aspirations were less important, actually seemed to make sense to other expat couples we met. Most of the wives followed their husbands’ jobs from country to country, and it didn’t seem to occur to any of them that we might be getting the short end of the stick.
I worried that, despite our best efforts, Andreas and I wouldn’t be able to undo the precedent we’d set—that his career might always come first or his ability to make more money would somehow determine how we prioritized our goals. Shortly after moving, I’d realized that my career could only grow so much without opportunities to network in person. I was concerned that, in the long term, not being able to make a lot of headway at that time would mean that I’d forever make less money and have a lesser career—even if I didn’t entirely know what that meant.