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.
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. It is me 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.
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.
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.