There was a time when married women weren’t offered the opportunity to work outside the home or have a career, ‘her indoors’ primary and sole role was to run the house and raise the children. Then over time society changed and women were not only regulars in the workplace but the expectation grew to levels past acceptance, it grew to the where we are today that it is expected that women may work in order to contribute financially as well as having a family and a home to run.
Life for the expat wife in Qatar is ever so slightly different because in the majority of cases, expat couples are able to survive on a single income (not the case in Ireland). Many expat women in Qatar are in the glorious position of not having to work to make ends meet financially, and so they choose not to. Instead they indulge in having the great luxury of time, space and energy to spend with their children and focus on themselves and their hobbies. Those that choose to work have the benefit of being able to have a maid, a nanny and a driver, so there is no slack to pick up when you walk in the door at 6.30 and just want to kick off your heels and relax for a quality thirty minutes with the kids before bed. The decision to work or not to work might be this simple in theory but the reality is rather different.
Those who decide not to work are often haunted with the notion that they are wasting their life smashing sweet potato and wiping bums all to the never ending soundtrack of the Disney Channel. They feel intimidated but the women who ‘have it all’, a career and a family because ironically being a full-time mum you can sometimes feel a more diluted mum, without a break all week Sunday and Monday are the same and it’s no wonder that full-time childrearing can become jaded. And it doesn’t improve as the kids get older, when you realise that you have become a taxi-cum-short order chef, all without any of the unconditional love and cute moments you cherished when they were young – and still no pay.
Those who decide to work for their sanity if not salary ironically feel no better off.
(I will raise the point that there is really no such thing as not needing the extra money, fair enough you may be able to feed, shelter and holiday the family on one wage but on two you could have the fillet over the burger, shop in Laura Ashley not Ikea and holiday in the South of France as opposed to the South of Kerry. (not entirely best example as South of Kerry probably more expensive than South of France)).
Those that work in Qatar, despite the maid, nanny and driver, are still trying to juggle both home and work. That line that those smug stay-at-home mum’s dole out, ‘they’re young for such a short time’ plays heavily on the minds of working mums and it gets worse when the stay at homes declare, ‘now they are older they need me more’, it becomes a lose-lose situation for the working mums. Every day spent compiling marketing plans for Whatever.com is a day lost that you could have watched Ben doing his homework or Isobel enjoying her piano practise and over time guilt takes hold and all you can offer from the extras wads of cash left lying around is a couple of weeks in Disneyland to compensate, poor kids.
However there is an outright loser in the ‘women who-work’ or ‘women don’t-work’ tug of war. It’s the women who thought they could have it all and work at the school where the children attend. I myself am one of these women, I thought, it’ll work beautifully we’ll all go together each morning in the car and home again in the evening. I’ll get a salary and be a full time mom. However it doesn’t work like that, because not only am I working full-time I am also home full-time. So instead of choosing one or the other, I along with many more women who thought they could have it all, chose both and guess what we ended up with, nothing, neither a lucrative career nor a breezy home life. Never a moment alone, not even the comfort of a solo drive to work because you have a carload of grumpy teens and tired tots in tow. First eight hours of the day in smart work clothes and the next eight in a pinny, pinned between the cooker and sink, any remaining hours are spent having a slow-release nervous breakdown to the soundtrack of Whitney Houstons, ‘Didn’t we almost have it all’.