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. 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 😉
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. 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): …you’ll see her [the expat wife], leading the way with her trailing spouse behind her, she’ll be showing him how the city works and what she’s learnt during the week, because in reality we all know who the real trailing spouse is.
Until next time… 🙂