True Life: I’m an Expat Wife

I write a lot, or one could argue always, about the idyllic or interesting events, places, trips of our short time in the UAE, but what you don’t know is that that is intentional. Social media is a double edged sword, isnt it? You pretty much only put the “good” things going on in your life out there for your friends, or even the world, to see. The hard stuff isnt as exciting, as photogenic, as happy, as the romantic holidays, the gorgeous scenery, the new outfit. ย But I’m going to tell you something exceedingly personal (I am a sharer after all, much to my husband’s chagrin): our life in Dubai isnt perfect – not by a long shot – it’s not all trips around the region, new restaurants, family in town; I should post most of my everyday life of running errands, volunteering in sweaty gym clothes, watching a movie alone on the sofa (but I will spare you those shots…just use your imaginations instead…)

Moving from the states to Dubai was a huge adjustment in a lot of ways. Certainly there were the obvious changes (cultural differences, why aren’t there any Target stores in Dubai, missing friends and family – fear of missing out is neverending, etc); however, the major adjustment that I wasnt prepared for was how I would act and ultimately, react to what others thought, to following my husband to Dubai, not work in corporate America, and essentially be an expat housewife. This has been my biggest challenge to date living in Dubai: this internal and external struggle with what one believes to be a societal “norm” – all of my friends from university, it seems, fall into three camps: in the work force, tending to their small children at home (a taxing, challenging and rewarding job in it of itself!), or pursuing a graduate degree. I fall into none of these categories (*briefly tears up even typing that sentence*).

When people here ask “and what are you doing here?”, I am always very quick to reply that I want to work – would work! – but I just recently received my visa (sponsored by my husband, labeled “HOUSEWIFE, NOT ALLOWED TO WORK”), we’ve had visitor after visitor in town, I’m going to the states for three weeks next month, and then another trip in May, etc, etc. During these discussions, I oftentimes feel like a small child offering excuse after excuse as to why they didnt want to clean their room or something – ashamed, small, wrong. I fear what they will think, of their potential judgement. (When in reality, its more of me judging myself…)

The expat wife is ubiquitous in Dubai – there’s no need to explain oneself. In fact, more often than not, when I start my litany of “excuses”, I am stopped and told that there’s no need to explain myself – they get it. That does make me feel a bit better, I have to admit – because then its just the voice in my head that I have to deal with ๐Ÿ˜‰


My mother, a former expat wife herself in Singapore and Calgary, recently posted this article on her Facebook, “Life of an Expat Wife“, or “trailing spouse” as the author so PC-ly puts it. Reading the article, I literally felt a weight being lifted from deep within my chest – this author got it. Now, I am not a mother, so some of it didnt necessarily apply, but it did make me feel better, validate me a bit…I wasnt alone in some of my sentiments. Yes, I dont hold a job right now, and yes, I did follow my husband halfway around the world for his job, but that isnt what defines me – this wasnt just “for him”. There are other ways to fill one’s day, to contribute to a household, to give back to a new community – and no, I suppose compared to most, what we’re doing right now isnt the “norm”, but who wants to be normal anyway, I suppose.ย Kirsty, the author of the aforementioned article, ends the post with this, which gave me pause and allowed me time to sniff back in those alligator tears (or at least sprout some happy ones):ย …youโ€™ll see her [the expat wife], leading the way with her trailing spouse behind her, sheโ€™ll be showing him how the city works and what sheโ€™s learnt during the week, because in reality we all know who the real trailing spouse is.

Happy, happy, happy

Until next time… ๐Ÿ™‚

19 responses to “True Life: I’m an Expat Wife

  1. Abby, I love reading your posts and this one hit close to home. As a military spouse I always looked forward to our next adventure. This was a job in and of itself. I understand how you feel at this point in your life, not having the job, children, or getting an advanced degree. The adventures you are having right now are like getting an advanced degree and will serve you well the rest of your life. You grew up moving around and this only adds to the person you are. Enjoy the ride and don’t look back. Looking forward to your next post. Love to you and Barr, Louise Petro (Army wife w/11 moves under her belt)

    • Thank you so much for your kind reply, Mrs Petro – reading this and hearing such positive and thoughtful feedback means the world to me. Hope you are doing well with your gorgeous grandson xoxo

  2. I think for some reason, women are quick to judge each other. I say… enjoy! You will look back at this time and remember how lucky you were. Make the most of it and don’t worry about what others think!

  3. Abby, I love following your blog and this is my favorite post yet! So honest and beautifully written ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thanks, Corinne! I love hearing that people are reading and following along – makes me have a teensy bit less FOMO ๐Ÿ™‚ Hope you are doing well!!!

  4. Karen Simpson

    Well said Longhorns and Camels! Life is too short. Enjoy and embrace your experience there…. coming sooon

  5. Abby, you know when you hurt, we hurt. Life can be tough and lonely at times, but we are so happy you are Barr’s wife. You are a wonderful addition to our family and we loved being together over Christmas. You should never feel secondary to anyone–you have amazing skills and talents and have given so much to so many. Take care, hang in there, keep Barr in line, and enjoy Mom’s visit. Love, David

  6. Hi Abby, this is such a lovely post. I guess I’m a bit of a veteran now at this expat wife thing (11 years!), which has just flown by, and believe me, I’ve done the highs and lows! I totally get everything you said and it’s always really refreshing when someone is honest about it – as it’s what so many of us wives here go through. You are not alone! You’re doing everything right – I can recommend a great book about Dubai expat wives by a wonderful author who also has a blog (Jo Parfitt) – it’s called Sunshine Soup – nourishing the global soul. I couldn’t put it down! Also, a few of us bloggers here have just started a little network, Bloggers in the City (still in progress, but website is We’ve had our first dinner and I will let you know when the next one is! Circles x

    • Thank you so much for these nice, nice words and suggestions! I’ll definitely have to check out Sunshine Soup and the site as well – keep me posted on the next blogger dinner; Id love to join – it looked like a blast and putting faces to all the wonderful local blogs is such an empowering and fun idea ๐Ÿ™‚

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  8. Expat wife here for almost 15 years now with 2 kids- a teenaged daughter and a sweet almost 6-year old boy with autism. Life is anything BUT easy for us expat wives and I’m happy to have reached this point in my life where I am totally unapologetic for the life I have. It is tough but it is wonderful. There are good days and bad days- hey, that sounds like the life of a wife (expat or otherwise). Anyway, hang in there! You’re doing great ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thank you for commenting, and what nice comments they were ๐Ÿ™‚ Made my day…it’s always refreshing to know that you arent alone in your sentiments!

  9. I experienced so many of those emotions just choosing to stay home with my children and homeschooling them. Moving to a new town where a higher number of men worked out of town and came home on turn-around gave me a taste of, “I get it.” I think it’s awesome that you are there experiencing Dubai. Keep writing! I may join you shortly, you can be my guide. Anything you wish you had thought of before leaving home?

    • Thanks for your thoughtful and kind comment! I think it’s always nice to know that youre not “alone” in your sentiments ๐Ÿ™‚ I think the main thing I wish I had thought of before I left home was bringing more pictures from the states – we brought a handful, but just seeing those around our apartment in Dubai makes me feel less far away from things.

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  11. I am so late reading this, but had to share how much I appreciate and respect your honest sharing and vulnerability! We are funny creatures, because I often have felt like the one who needs to explain herself because I married my husband a few months after graduating college, worked for a few years, and now am a stay at home mom to two sweet girls at 27. There’s nothing else in the world I would rather be doing and I feel incredibly grateful and blessed, but I do compare myself too much to others I graduated with and feel perhaps “behind” (lack of better words), either in work, education, traveling, etc. I know it’s not true, but it’s easy to get caught up in feeling the need to explain. Thanks for the reminder we are all right where we need to be, no excuses or explanations needed ;).

    • Thank you so much for commenting – I think it’s always nice (for lack of a better word) to know that other women are going through through the same or similar doubts, thoughts, or concerns. I love seeing pictures and posts of your sweet daughters and husband – so great to reconnect via the internet! ๐Ÿ˜Š

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