Stepford Wives with Birkenstocks

There’s almost a formula for expat couples in the Middle East.  The man works all year round, takes two weeks off in summer for holidays and the woman looks after the home and hightails it back to Ireland or the UK for a two month hiatus from the intense climate and the hot weather!

My motive for emigrating to the Middle East was clear, it was to avoid financial ruin and escape the increasingly depressed media coverage of the economic downturn in Ireland.  Having always in the past, worked outside the home, it was one of areas which didn’t settle well with me when emigrating and since then I have steered away from Mum’s groups and coffee mornings.   Mainly because I wasn’t the card-makin’, cake-bakin’, homemade lemonade makin’ type of girl and frankly felt that we wouldn’t have much in common.  I have no immediate plans to join the “Stepford Wives wearing Birkenstocks” club.  This being said sometimes it’s hard to be a woman in the Middle East, particularly when you’re the child bearer and rearer and homemaker of a temporary home.   No adult conversation all day, no time for yourself, will I ever get to use my degree, bla, bla, bla, my life is so hard.   All those notions back in the ninties of women’s liberation and empowerment and the ideals of the noughties of being able to have it all, career, kids and contentment were flung to the side when recession hit and emigration raised its head.

As more and more Irish families come to Qatar, connections are being made between those who just arrived and those who already live in Qatar.  Every day Irish women are meeting up for the first time in Doha, sharing tips on life and living in Qatar.  Their established sisters giving all the information they know More and more of these women that are arriving in Qatar from Ireland, are leaving their careers in Ireland to support their husbands.    While there are employment opportunities for wives in the Middle East, most women decide, as I did, that given the already significant upheaval of migrating from Ireland that their time is best spent feathering the nest for their fledglings.   Admirable but not without a hitch.

Surely Mary is thinking, as she pushes baby Cian in his pushchair into yet another mall, where did her four years in Trinity go?   Or Amy, who is looking online for a second hand highchair online, is she wondering whether the promotion to Lab Manager would have come through if she stayed in Ireland another year?  As Sarah walks in the door of the nursery to read to a group of three of year olds (which she does for free every week) is she thinking about the sales targets she achieved six months ago.

The common ground with all these women is that ultimately the man’s career took precedence.  Viewing our society it may sometimes prove that professionals marry professionals and so as there is a large portion of our male professionals in the construction industry getting ready to flee the sinking ship are they also taking some of the best female stock with them?  In a magnanimous gesture to support Eddie the Engineer, Paul the Project Manager and Simon the Surveyor, Professional women all over Ireland are reluctantly handing in their letters of resignation because it is more important for Paul to be employed than Pauline.    So much so, that the family uproots and travels halfway across the world to enable Paul to work to boost his ego and self esteem while Pauline waves goodbye to hers, despite her having a lucrative career in Ireland, she leaves all she holds dear to give all your love to just one man.  Good girl Pauline.

For the first time I’m delighted that while my career had taken off, it never swooped and soared high about the clouds, leaving below a crowd standing open mouthed in wonderment.

So this week at a coffee morning of Irish women halfway across the world I sat back supped my half fat, de-caf, frothy latte and listened to the conversations of these brave women in the soft play area over the piped music which I’m sure went, “……and show the world you love him”.

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