Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Few weeks ago hubby came home after a late dinner with his team and told me:
"Do you know what is the dream job for few female colleagues of mine?"
"Expat wife".
We laughed. 
I never thought I would say that few years ago, but now I am very happy to be a "stay-at-home"  (expat) wife, especially with the babies.  Even though we have Masha, I have the priceless opportunity to spend a lot of time with my girls, and I am not tired and overworked when I do so. In a way being a regular "stay-at-home" mom (btw silly term, not really staying at home every day, but let's just use it for lack of a better one)  and stay-at-home expat mom is very similar, but I don't imagine being a stay-at-home mom, while being stay-at-home expat mom I am quite satisfied with. 
The difference for me is that life away from home brings lots of challenges and excitement and in a way creates a whole occupation on it's own. 
For instance when we first moved to Moscow, as second time expats, we learned from a previous mistake and this time put lots of efforts to make a nice home, this time not only for us but also for the girls. We put a reasonable amount of effort in finding the right location. Then, instead of going to Ikea as most people here do for lack of better options, I put my, limited at the time, Russian in good use by going to local furniture stores. It took me about two months to furnish the place, but I am very happy with it. I had to deal with negotiating the price, ordering, deliveries, assembly, handy men. The place didn't even have lights. I remember hanging crystals to some elaborate construction, while trying to entertain the babies and while the handy man Andrey was impatiently waiting for me on a ladder in the middle of the room. Fun times.
Now, 8 months later, there are still a few small details that I want to finish. One of which is this fun decor I just got for the girls room. I am pretty sure I wouldn't have thought about that if I was working full-time. 
Then it comes all the travel. Hubby goes to places for work, we all had to travel for visas a few times, visit family and friends, besides the travel for fun. 
But the biggest difference as an expat wife, is the fact that there is a whole new culture to adopt and that takes a lot of time, effort and especially a lot of patience. We are taking language lessons, went to see the sights, the galleries, the museums, the ballet. Moscow is culturally the most fascinating city I have been in, comparable to New York, and in some ways, in my view, even better. 
But not even talking about the culture, going to the grocery store for the first time was pretty exciting. Auchan, the French chain, incorrectly pronounced "achan" in Russian, is the most popular local mega store. Going there on a Saturday afternoon was like being let alone in a jungle surrounded by hordes of aggressive babushkas desperate to grab the last pack of selyodka right from your hands. We spent 2 hours trying to figure out where is everything and how is it called in Russian. It took me a month to gather motivation to repeat the visit. Now I just shop online because they deliver to your door, and that saves us good 5 hours precious weekend time. 
Coming to a new country also means meeting lots of new people and introduce yourself many times. It's not possible to recreate your social circle from before and I still miss a lot people in NL and Portland. It's about staying in touch, while in the same time investing in new relationships and keep on meeting new people. As an expat you unavoidably get your heart broken. You lose people, places and homes. Of course you gain new ones, but it's a constant process of change, which is tough sometimes. 
Then there are the visitors: friends and family, the colleagues and bosses, sooner or later everyone comes to Moscow and they all end up at our dinner table. I got really skilled in fixing dinners for big groups and quite enjoying it. I can make 4 courses dinner from scratch, for 8 people in less than 4 hours. 
I guess being an expat wife is in a way my dream job too, at least at this stage. It combines the most important things in life for me: spending time with my family, immerse in a new culture, travel, getting to enjoy art and history, building and maintaining relationships, learning new languages, doing some good things for the society. 
I only wonder what would be the potential career path for that position. 

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