The realities of being an expat wife…
I am not a fan of titles. I have never been one to get hung up on being something for long because life has taught me how quickly things can change. I used to be ‘The One That Never Wakes Up Early’ and now I am ‘The One That Wakes Up With The Chickens’. I used to be ‘The Daredevil’ and now I am ‘Not Today, Thanks’.
I got married quite young (for most of society’s standards) and at 20, I hardly was a trophy wife. In fact, looking back, I can’t believe what a brat I was and how there isn’t some sort of law that dismisses bratty people from marriage. Either way, I grew up quick (three kids does that to you) and before I knew it, I became ‘The Wife Of A Corporate Guy’. Dinners, functions, mingles and everything in between was our life.
Then the most unusual thing happened, we were sent to Dubai for work. And by “we”, I refer to my husband and by “work”, I mean hubby’s work. I submitted to leaving my beloved home country (Australia) and took the time to get acquainted with The Sandbox – cosmopolitan Dubai.
I wore the title of Expat Wife for nearly 4 years and then I wanted so badly to hang up my hat. I was done. I wanted home, common ground, free education and most importantly: family. I was done with the sand, concrete jungle, the heat and calling tomato sauce “ketchup”. We packed up our life and headed home to start fresh.
Fast forward five months after that, and life has done it again. We were offered an awesome opportunity and we said yes and we packed up and came back to Dubai and I resumed my title as Expat Wife. More so, after doing some research, I found out that there is a new title for people like me. I am known as ‘The Trailing Spouse‘. I am a trailing spouse because I am only drawn abroad due to my partner’s career and although most Western books and movies glamourise it, few people can understand the pain of the unique challenges and sacrifices that being an expat presents. Couple it with being a Trailing Wife and you have a recipe for disaster.
Most days, it’s a torment of “why am I even here?” mixed with “I feel so guilty not working” added with a dash of “I have pride”. When it was certain we were returning to Dubai, I knew that I had no choice but to suck it up. I was to resume my old title and there was nothing I could do about it, because I wanted my family to be together.
Side note: it does not help when well wishers say to you: “but you’re so lucky, think of all the people who are worse off” and “at least you can get a nanny!” and other mundane statements. Instead, I reached out to people that had gone through expat life and whined until my heart’s content.
So upon my return, I walked through Dubai International Airport armed to the brim with mantras and affirmations. I was not going to wallow in being labeled a ‘Trailing Spouse’ and therefore behaving as one. You know that feeling when you travel to a foreign country and then wish you could go back again because now you know certain things that will make your stay even better? This is what I felt.
The difference is now I am no longer a novice. I am that person that knows it’s a BAD idea to get onto Sheik Zayed Road at 9am and 3pm, rain will mean schools will close, Dubai becomes a ghost town from June to August and never, ever think that a cashier will have change for a 500.
I am that Expat Wife that knows all too well how most conversations with hubby end with “…but you never know when the company will start sacking people” and friends will teach you the proper meaning of cultural differences. I am that Expat Wife that has accepted the life of privilege my children are receiving. Beaches are at their footstep, people carry bags for us, everything is clean and safe and hardly do they need to worry about seeing the underprivileged.
My kids can calculate exchange rates faster than a blink of eye, their passport is thicker than most adults I know, they know geographical locations that I have barely heard of and they’ve had the most rigorous training for life: starting new relationships.
I am accepting being called The Trailing Wife and my children are probably Third Culture Kids but it all doesn’t matter because we are all together.
So, I said goodbye not too long ago, here.
Now I say, we meet again Dubai, and my you still look glorious.