I am the trailing spouse

What it really means to be a dependant expat wife

This week I have been discovering Doha, and with it, Doha bloggers.  You may or may not have seen on Facebook that I shared a post by Kirsty Rice from 4 kids, 20 suitcases and a beagle about The Expat Woman who in one paragraph summed up being a trailing spouse.

real trailing spouse

Which sums it up perfectly, and as all good writing does, got me thinking.

Doha is my second stint as an expat wife, a trailing spouse, a stay at home mum.  Moving here, for my husbands work, was a decision taken at the expense of my return to work as I knew it pre-children. That I wouldn’t be looking for a position that saw me re-enter my professional field of banking.  That my job once again would be that of a trailing spouse (and a blogger but that’s a whole other story).

As I sit and write this I am sat in a tiny cafe, sipping a juice, I wait for the immigration department to open to file our final pieces of paperwork to obtain our residency permits.  The permit that marks me as that trailing spouse.  The housewife.


The expat wife.

But what does it really mean to be a trailing spouse?

The stereotype of course is that you swan around, ladies who lunch, have maids to clean your house, to look after your children, head to get your nails done once a week.  But that’s not what being a trailing spouse is all about.  That is most certainly not what I am all about.

To trail suggests a meek and obedient spouse at the heels of the dominant one, I am neither meek nor obedient, yet I am a trailing spouse.

Without my husbands job we wouldn’t be in Doha, without his career guiding us on a Middle Eastern tour I wouldn’t be a trailing spouse.  But it has.  And I am.  We are here simply because he is here, ergo, we trailed after him.  Bam.  I am a trailing spouse and all that entails.

I am the one who stands at the door lies in bed grabbing an extra 5 minutes blowing kisses to the husband as he sets off to work.  Driving the route from our home to his office, day in, day out.  Following the routine, getting to grips with new systems, new people, new ways of working.  Expanding his energy on a job that he needs to understand, to enjoy, to excel at.  The weight of responsibility lying heavily across his shoulders for bringing us to a new city, a new country, for being the sole earner for our family.  I am the one who (mostly) helps to reassure, who puts on the brave face, who holds it together.  I am the trailing spouse.

I am the one who battles the school run daily.  Navigating the traffic, the random road closures and roadworks.  Understanding how a 10 minute journey takes me 35.  Parking, one baby on hip, one child dragged along as we run in and out of school.  Making the small talk at the classroom doors, bolstering confidence of the big one as he looks back uncertainly.  Gently pushing him through the doors, smiling, always smiling, at him, at the school mums.  Organising play dates, encouraging friendships, navigating birthday parties (and not finding invitations until after the event).  I am the trailing spouse.

first day of school and i didn't cry

I am the one who nagged the husband daily about documentation, visas.  That worked with the school as we waited for papers to be processed.  That went back and forth to various government buildings with the Baby in tow, that was recognised by the security guards I was there so often.  That went searching malls for passport photos.  I was the one who spent afternoons driving round compound after compound, seeing house after house, narrowing down a shortlist to see at the weekends.  I was the one who headed to the offices that were only open during working hours, taking pieces of paper here, taking copies of that there.  The husband was the one to set up the sports subscription…. but hey, life isn’t perfect!  I am the trailing spouse.

driving house hunting

Taking the husband to see the shortlist of houses

I am the one who sets out to explore, heavily reliant on Google Maps due to a poor sense of direction.  To see which shops are at which malls.  Soft plays.  Parks.  Getting lost, screaming children, sleeping children.  Exploring the city whilst my husband sits in his office.  I am the trailing spouse.

I am the one that is at home, all day every day.  With the boys, without the boys.  I am the one who heads out to coffee mornings, to organised play dates.  I am the one who pushes aside the loneliness of putting yourself out there and does it anyway.  Meeting people, making small talk, making big talk.  Asking questions that seem stupid but knowing that there are no stupid questions.  Laying myself bare, asking where the best places for children are, nursery recommendations, doctors.  Finding out what their husbands do, making family dates to broaden our social circle beyond school and work.  I am the one who lays the groundwork, and I know I will make friends for life, friends that I won’t know how to say goodbye too when the expat life comes full circle, but to put yourself out there is hard.  Friends for us all, the children, the husband and me.  I am the trailing spouse.

I am the expat wife.

I am trailing spouse, expat life, expat wife, middle east, qatar, dubai

 

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13 Comments

  1. October 14, 2016 / 8:20 pm

    I think you’re amazing for adapting to the change and coping with everything that you have to go through. You’re always really positive about it all too. And I’m sure that doing it will be great for you and the children now and also for your family life in the future when you are able to decide where to settle down.
    Nat.x
    Plutonium Sox recently posted…Thursday Photo #127My Profile

  2. Waqas
    October 14, 2016 / 9:20 pm

    I need to get myself a trailing spouse thing ….. which mall did you say they were available at?

    I salute you and wish you all the best. Know that’s tomorrow will be like today – only less predictable.

  3. October 14, 2016 / 11:24 pm

    You nailed it, I am a trailing spouse and you captured my world, sans baby but I do have a teen which provides a whole set of other issues. I do not/cannot work in Montreal but my now job involves being the glue the holds it all together, being the growth factor that builds friendships and relationships, being the navigator as outside the office my trailing spouse is lost. I have a nice expat life but it is not the middle east or Asian style expat life.

  4. October 15, 2016 / 11:27 pm

    Hi Laura, I’m surprised by the way you adapt to changes. I’ve definitely learned something new from your experience. Thanks so much for sharing. Cheers!

  5. October 16, 2016 / 10:55 am

    Hi there! Thanks for the lovely words. I don’t really understand why we have to have the term trailing spouse. I’m an expat. Plain and simple, expat.

  6. October 19, 2016 / 3:51 am

    You’ve just captured my life…I’m a trailing spouse who battles daily with sacrificing my career for the blur of play dates, baby groups and endless list of address changes to make!

    Thanks for sharing.

    • October 20, 2016 / 9:47 am

      Any time! We have to stick together, we are the glue!

  7. October 20, 2016 / 9:30 am

    I think being an expat mom is a way for being more independent . Your family so lucky for having a supermom like you .

  8. October 21, 2016 / 6:45 pm

    Sounds like you are doing an amazing job settling everyone in. You may have followed your husband and rely on him to financially provide for the family but he equally (if not more) relies on you and I’m sure he could not do what he does without knowing that you are there doing what you do, day in day out, for the family xx

  9. October 23, 2016 / 8:54 pm

    This is a really insightful post into the reality of the expat mum. Have you found it easier in Doha since this is your second stint in the Middle East? I hope that you are settling in well and meet some good friends soon.

  10. October 24, 2016 / 7:39 am

    You are amazing, I don’t know how you do it. Always so positive and making a brilliant lif for your children. I hope you settle in quickly and make some friends X
    Laura – dear bear and beany recently posted…Living Arrows… 43/52My Profile

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