I knew the day would come. It’s the day that comes to every expat woman sooner or later. Yes it can be postponed, dodged, placed on the long finger but eventually there will come a time, when there is no getting away from it. A coffee morning. I had managed to side step every invitation so far, using what an old boss of mine in the past called “another ingenious excuse”. For the most part of my tenure in Doha, I have been working so that has excused me for a whole six months of coffee mornings, but since going on maternity leave and having a baby it seems that I’m a prime candidate to cackle around the cauldron in the mornings while the kids are at school.
Anyway the day came and I was taken completely off guard when outside the school a mother from the PTA, sidled up beside me and invited me to their coffee morning, the following morning. Quick as a flash, I replied, “He’s not great in the mornings”, was I ever sorry, she launched into a full speech that would make Gina Ford squirm, and offered to bring along her Contented Baby Book for me to borrow. Now I had to promise to attend the java gathering the next day or it would become common knowledge that I couldn’t manage my baby, that’ll teach me to blame to baby. Next morning, immaculately turned out and blissfully unaware that it was going to take more than a pair of harems and a juicy tube to disguise my post baby figure, I arrived at the coffee morning. I secretly gave myself a cap on the back for having remembered to bring something along, I had grabbed a packet of hobnobs ( unopened) and they rested in the shopping trolley of the buggy until I got inside. As the door of the school foyer opened, the waft of homemade mini quiches, bran brownies, raspberry and white chocolate muffins greeted me. I cleverly rescued my reputation by covering the offending hobnobs with a baby blanket, better to feign forgetfulness rather than admit culinary hopelessness.
Minutes into my maiden voyage on the “Good Ship Wifey” the conversation fell on the topic of their husbands careers. While this might seem a little pretentious in Ireland it is a fairly standard and often relevant question in Doha, as most of the men are employed as Engineers, Accountants, Pilots or Quantity Surveyors, the job gives you an indication of lifestyle, i.e. Construction workers work 6 days, Accountants work 5 and shorter hours, Pilots will be off during week and away for days at a time. It was when the conversation turned to what they did, that I became interested, one woman was a dentist, one a pharmacist, two were teachers, two were nurses, one was an accountant who had her own practice in Manchester and now all of the attendees had moved to Doha in support of their husbands and children to become “professional wives”. Frustration mixed with admiration overcame me. These women were actually professional wives, they had given up their careers, life in their home country and their identity as individuals to life under their husband’s sponsorship in Qatar. I thought coffee mornings were hosted by groups of bored housewives, not groups of well educated, economically bound and family committed family people, who are big enough to trade their blackberry’s for a Kenwood Chef. Then I realised, that I was the same, dedicated to raising my family and supporting my husband in his career crusade, at the cost of mine own. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the packet of hobnobs winking at me. Maybe not a professional wife, perhaps an amateur unwilling to turn pro.