If you’ve read any of my posts you’ll know a few things about me. You’ll know that I’m not currently in paid employment and that I’ll respond in a less than positive way if you try to call me a lady of leisure. You’ll know I’m a huge proponent of expat women in whatever form they come and that I may have mild PTSD from being the new girl in various locations over the years. You might know that before we came here I had a career in London and that we made the decision for me to leave the job I was in to move here. I didn’t know it at the time but that was the moment I gave up my career.
The early days
When we first arrived Mr Wanderlust had a job with pretty decent hours. He was always there for breakfast and bedtime which many working spouses miss. He made it to parents’ evenings, school shows and Father’s Day celebrations at nursery. The kids were little and hugely demanding and I was still figuring out how to fill long days without a “real” job. It was amazing to have his support day in day out. We all appreciated it after him having a job in the UK with some demanding hours and a long commute. We all enjoyed the reduction in stress that came with me not working (and commuting – it was a killer) and we thrived on spending more quality time as a family.
Fast forward 3 years and things have changed a bit. I’ve no idea if I’ve shared this here so you may or may not know that Mr Wanderlust now travels alot for work. And I mean alot. Obviously there are people who travel more than he does. I have a friend who does 6-8 weeks at a time without her husband. Don’t get me started on the Army / Navy / Air Force spouses who, in my mind, are some sort of saints.
In the meantime, I’ve started this blog, found several volunteering opportunities and am the proud owner of some friendships that I never dared even hope for when we arrived. My days are filled with meetings, blogging dates, time at the gym, coffee mornings, school field trips, errands and several hours a day in the car. I’m busier here (or at least juggling more things) than I ever was at home. (This has come as a massive surprise to me!).
For the most part, I’d say I’m happy and fulfilled. I know nothing is ever perfect all of the time so I’d say we have a good balance. Most of the time. Most of the time I don’t mind that I gave up my career.
Most of the time
Back to Mr Wanderlust who has done something like 25 trips in the last 7 months. That’s still alot in my book so I feel justified in having a little pity party from time to time. And this week is one of those times.
I’m going back to the UK this weekend for a friend’s hen party. It’s not just any hen party – I’m her bridesmaid so it’s extra special. It’s been in the diary for months. I booked the flights and told all my friends both here and there. I arranged to meet up with family and made logistical arrangements for the Things. Mr Wanderlust told his work that he would not be available for travel for 2 days while I was gone. We were all set.
Except we weren’t
You know where this is going. He came home last week and said there was a trip. It’s a big one with important stakeholders going. Everyone understood, he said, that he couldn’t go.
But I knew, as soon as he told me, that he had to go on his trip. I knew that it was my plans that needed to change.
It’s not dramatic. So I’ll be returning after 2 days instead of 3. I’ll be flying with a hangover and probably no sleep which is less than ideal but (as long as I don’t miss the flight) I’ll be ok.
It’s not about the flight
This all happened last week and I’m still sulking. I’m irritating myself with my reaction as I know it’s not fair on Mr Wanderlust.
My friends have been amazing. The bride suggested I could cancel the trip altogether (NOT happening). My girlfriends here all had a good think about how they could make it work for me. But it’s not about the flight.
I’m not mad at Mr Wanderlust or the company. I’m not even mad at the timing although I guess that’s some of it. It’s more that this is the most in my face sign of everything I’ve given up to be here.
Don’t get me wrong. No-one made me do it. It was a decision we made together. Like I say, most of the time we are (I am) happy with the decision we have. Most of the time I don’t mind that I gave up my career for this.
It’s about what it stands for
I don’t know if it is the gruelling travel schedule that it taking it’s toll. Mr Wanderlust himself wondered out loud this weekend how long he can keep travelling week in week out without it killing him. I don’t know if it’s the solo parenting which sounds like a very “poor little expat wife” complaint given I have full time help and an army of friends on the compound.
Is it the mental load?
I don’t know if it is that the mental load which used to be much more equally distributed between us is now firmly on my shoulders because, well, that’s my job now. If the division of labour in our family to date has never been more obvious: That series of logistical arrangements that I’ve been putting in place for the 2 working days that I would have missed… It’s now me who is rearranging them to be just one day. He did reschedule my flight to be fair but I figured that wasn’t something I could face doing. He said it was the least he could do.
Is it jealousy?
Maybe it’s that I’m bitter because for all the toll the travel takes on him, he gets to sleep on his own for a couple of nights a week.* He gets to fly, by himself, in business class and watch a whole movie or even (usually) sleep. For those 2-4 days he doesn’t have to do the school run, cook food that the kids won’t eat or listen to any whining. He doesn’t have to break apart an argument over who got to get in the car first, sit and do homework for 45 mind numbing minutes or fight the urge to scroll mindlessly through his phone while waiting for a swimming / tennis / martial arts class to finish. For those 2-4 days he won’t repeat himself 563,429 times asking someone to brush their teeth or have to listen to any whining.
It’s not actually any of that
It could be a combination of all of that but it doesn’t usually bother me so I don’t know why this one thing would make it any different.
The thing about it was just a slap in the face when I realised that his travel plans take priority and mine.. well, they don’t. It didn’t matter that this has been in the diary for months or that he never asked me to change my plans. We made a decision many years ago that this was the route we wanted to take and so.. I gave up my career.
In a week
In a week I’ll have been to London and be on a plane back again. I’ll have missed the Things madly and spent every waking minute hoping they’re ok. I’m pretty sure after a couple of tube rides I’ll remember how gruelling my commute was. I’ll have some flashbacks to the stress of always being late for nursery pickup. I’ll have forgotten all about the whining (them) and the shouting (all of us) and the nagging (all me).
We won’t have looked up knock knock jokes together or had a move night. I won’t have seen the expression of pure joy on their faces when they find out there’s ice cream for dessert. Mr Wanderlust will have taken them off to get new school shoes and have passport photos taken. I’ll have missed their giggles when they make each other laugh which never fails to make me smile. My heart won’t have melted when I see them hug each other and tell them they’re each other’s best friends.
Because when I stop sulking and being a spoilt expat brat, I’ll remember that I gave up my career for this.
* Don’t think he has it too easy. He has to fly in the middle of the night both ways to his destination. Most nights on his own are interrupted and split between a plane and a hotel.