My wife makes cakes and she is amazing.  No kidding, she makes Betty Crocker look like a rookie donut maker.  She has this nuclear grade creativity packed into her brain which explodes every time she gets near flour and eggs into some unbelievable work of sweetness infused art.  She has even started a small business and is now known in our community as “The Expat Cake Lady” (click and go check out her awesomeness).  Here’s the kicker . . .

She loves it.

She comes alive when she’s making cake.  Every part of it, from the brainstorm to the delivery excites her, energizes her and gives  her a sense of satisfaction unlike anything I have seen in our 16+ years of marriage.

It’s her thang.

Not just her thing.  It’s her thang.  You have to say it with some enthusiasm and a little bit of attitude.  Go ahead.  Say it.


Ironically, a year ago she had no idea. In fact one of the most frustrating dynamics of living in China for the past six years has been the absence of a thang.  Statistically speaking her story is the most common one told among expat wives.

According to the Brookfield Global Relocation Trends Survey  (a crazy-amazing resource for culture vultures and stat hounds) apart from finding work with another company, the NUMBER ONE cause of failure for International business assignments is . . .


Spousal Dissatisfaction

A whopping 17% of assignment failures come as a result of a spouse who is not happy.  Next on the list is “other family concerns” at 11% taking the “family issues” category up to 28%  Know what the lowest on the list is?

(drumroll again)

Remuneration (pay etc.) at 2%.

Do you see the picture that the stats paint?  Husbands (80% of expat business people are men which is lower than it has ever been) get a good job offer in some foreign country.  The company has a nice brochure that promises, good pay, a nice expense account, a nice apartment, a nice personal assistant, a nice driver in a nice car,  the whole nice enchilada.  It’s just for a few years.  It’ll be an adventure. Who wouldn’t want to go?

The wife signs on.

When they arrive, everything that was promised is true.  Nicer home than you had in your country.  Money to spend.  Driver.  Maid.  Everything.

But . . .

The husband has a job that keeps him moving and busy while the wife is the one navigating this new culture.  He has personal assistant’s for the sole purpose of speaking a language that he can’t.  She has a personal assistant who doesn’t understand a word she says.  He is surrounded by people, he has a project and a purpose.  She’s on her own with nothing that really drives her.

He has a thang.  She doesn’t.

Lot’s of wives give up a career and find out that working is not an option in their host country.  Other’s never noticed how much they took the everyday resources of their home for granted.  It’s not nearly as easy, and sometime’s it’s flat out impossible, to do what they have always loved doing.  It’s harder to get around, harder to communicate, harder to raise kids, harder to do life.

That was us (apart from high pay and perks).  I have always had my thang.  I’m starting a business.  I’m teaching.  I’m training.  I’m meeting people.  I’m making relationships.  I’m managing projects.  There is never a lack of purpose or a lack of challenge.  My wife on the other hand was on her own.

She wanted to find her thang.  She tried.  Multiple times.

Learning Chinese.  Helpful but not her thang.  Teaching English.  Not her thang.  Cooking, sewing, scrapbooking, photography  . . . all things that she is amazing at but not her thang.

Then she stumbled on it.   She traded favors with another expat mom who already knew what her thang was (go here and check out her awesomeness too).  Her friend would be the photographer for our daughter’s insanely creative, birthday, spy extravaganza birthday party (also a product of my wife’s nuclear brain) and my wife would make a cake for her daughter’s insanely creative Alice in Wonderland extravaganza birthday party.

This is what happened . . .

WHAT?!! Who makes a cake like that?!

Just like that . . . a thang was born.

One year later . . .  a week rarely goes by when someone doesn’t call and say, “hey, it’s my kids birthday.  Can you make a cake?”  The wheels start turning and the lights go on.  She draws it all out, gathers her stuff, destroys the kitchen and what comes out is absolutely jaw dropping.

And I just sit back and smile because my wife has found her thang and frankly there’s only one thing I can think of that would be a better thang than making cake.

What?  Aw geesh – get your head out of the gutter.

I was talking about making steak.

Next Up: 8 Questions to Help You Find Your Thang

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