Such was the response to last week’s article regarding “trailing wives”, a large proportion of which implied that the focus may be a tad isolated to the wife’s perspective with little regard for the husband and such is my own personal need for approval (an insecurity possible born from being a trailing wife) that I decided to write this week’s column about the life of an expat husband, any husband, not mine, per se.
The husband may possibly have worked in the local engineering practice, whose largest project was a waste water treatment plant back in 2008, during the boom. The promise of leaving the waste water days behind and concentrating solely on apartment blocks and retail units proved a pipedream when in 2010 the economy took a nosedive and he was laid off. Unsure of what to do without the sniff of a job opportunity, husband takes to looking further afield and resigns himself to the fact that he might need to travel, searching in Dublin first before finally realizing that most opportunities were in the Middle East of the world not the country.
The husband may have first left Ireland brimming with enthusiasm and self-confidence that there was a company out there who not only wanted a Civil Engineer but was willing to employ one. When he arrived in the Middle East to a lucrative construction industry and into a project that has more glass and marble in the foyer of the site office than the whole of Munster, it was a godsend. The contract period was for twelve months but given his track record, they’d surely keep him for the next project. To secure the possibility of same, he would work long hours six days a week, only to be told twelve months later, “Your contract is up, cheerio”. Quickly he re-gains his composure as he needs to secure another contract as his wife and family are now all set up in Dubai and talks of a move would unsettle same happy dynamic. However, the next contract isn’t in Dubai it’s in Bahrain a new country, a new company and a new contract, twelve months, again. Longer hours and still six days, but more money, husband begins to feel swamped because of all work and no play, which as everybody knows, makes Jack a dull boy.
His wife appears to be living the dolce vita and the children are enjoying private education and life with a swimming pool but the bank balance isn’t climbing like he thought it would and the possibility of job security is becoming more like an oasis in this desert. His only calls from home are from the building society, wondering about his loan repayment, the money they borrowed for the orangery, (not to be confused with a conservatory, the difference between the two being about Eu.12.000). He grows more and more dispensable from his children’s lives and only has his impressive employment portfolio to comfort him.
Without the time or energy to make a friend or enjoy an outlet like golf or watch a match in the local, he sometimes yearns for the full-time permanency of the waste water treatment plants of home. During yet another dinner party where his wife tries to force friendship with a Malaysian couple, to extend her friend/ fan base on Facebook, (as her focus this week is to appear more international), his mind fondly drifts back to the days of meetings with the County Council and cushy Friday afternoons home early. Wednesday night he’d meet Declan in the local and watch the premiership, Tuesdays and Thursdays he used to play soccer, Friday afternoon after work drinks and nibbles and Saturday mornings he’d take the kids to the park and then hang out in his mother’s house for a few hours, reading the paper in peace while she doted on her grandkids.
However the work /life balance has been snatched away and it becomes his sole purpose to financially facilitate the lives of his wife and children. He gets moved from project to project and country to country he doesn’t get to enjoy the job security he took for granted in the past, instead he gets to work harder than ever before. Sole breadwinner, but doesn’t get to taste the bread.