There is one resounding lesson I’ve learned so far in Sweden: Diplomacy and public service is a team effort. The spouses of diplomats work just as hard and the embassy communities would not function without their support inside and outside of Embassy walls.
This was something conveyed to me in Washington, D.C. before we arrived at Post, and has only become more real and true as Mark and I have lived as a diplomatic couple. It’s been almost eleven months since we arrived in Stockholm and in that time I’ve had the joy and privilege to get to know on a deeper personal level many of the incredibly talented people that work in U.S. Embassy Stockholm. The past few weeks have also brought an influx of new Embassy staff and their families. I’ve had several opportunities to welcome them and hear their stories, and am continually inspired by the sacrifice and determination present in their marriages and partnerships.
Spouses are often called on to perform some of the least glamorous but most critically important tasks to making an Embassy run effectively. Whether it is working in the mail-room, running the USECA store, or acting as our deft community liaisons to organize events and help make people feel at home— spouses bring heart and cohesion to the community.
Both inside and outside the Embassy, spouses make connections with important local traditions and groups, and act as some of our savviest advocates for our children as they transition into the local school systems and Swedish lifestyle. One of the most inspiring elements of this dynamic is how the role of “spouse” has modernized and evolved. In our Embassy community, we have several men who are allowing their wives to shine professionally and shouldering the burden of taking care of the household and family while theirs wives work long hours in a demanding job. They create home-grown nursery schools and children’s cooperatives to help out the other families whose young children may not have childcare, and put their own careers to the side.
We have same-sex partners who pick up their lives, leave careers and family, and move around the world following their diplomatic spouse, happily contributing in all the ways they can to each Embassy they land at. Whether it’s being a school bus monitor in Sri Lanka, organizing a rental car service in Brazil that’s less expensive for diplomats or home-schooling 6 children as they move around the world, or just being there to listen and absorb the frustrations that come with a very pressurized and complicated job, I’m amazed on a daily basis by the resourcefulness and strength of all spouses in our community.
How many people wouldn’t find it difficult to give up what’s theirs—a lucrative career, aging parents, a beloved homeland— and move to countries where conditions can be very trying to sacrifice both for the spouses’ success and their country? As the wife of a U.S. Ambassador I have so many resources that unfortunately and unfairly the spouses of other officers do not. So I would like to celebrate everything that all the spouses, partners, girlfriends, boyfriends and children do to make this Embassy so special and dynamic. Thank you.