When I was pregnant with my daughther, I met a very interesting woman, who had been a stay at home expat wife for around fifteen years. She told me something very interesting, something I will probably remember for the rest of my life. She said the hardest thing about staying home was to give meaning to your life outside of the generally accepted standard that is work/employment.
It was indeed something I had been struggling with for a long time.
As you might know, I moved abroad straight out of university, I hadn't even finished my thesis by the time we got married, so I have never been employed in my field of 'expertise'. (I did a lot of different jobs growing up, from the age of 14 and onward, so it's not like I don't know what 'working' is like).
When I would meet Westerners, even the friends I had from uni, they would always ask me what I did. Then I would answer that I stayed at home. That I was not employed, nor chose to be. I always ended up explaining, as if staying at home is not a valid choice, there must be a million reasons behind it - and eventually, I must be bored off my ass.
I did set off to Cameroon with the idea of maybe volunteering at some NGO, but that was no option, as the only two existing NGO's were at an hours drive (we didn't have a car) and they both were involved in lawsuits against my husband's company. But more importantly, I didn't want to be away from my husband all the time.
And indeed, the first couple of months, I struggled being alone, in a strange country, 'unemployed'. Not 'having' to do anything unless I wanted to. I felt useless, and I had nothing to say when people talked, because 70 percent of all conversations with Westerners are work-related.
But after those first six months, I did find things to do I was passionate about, I was happy, I got pregnant.
When the baby arrived, I had a little less explaining to do, because everyone accepted the fact that the baby took up most of my time. Now, however, as she got older and we have a housekeeper, a nanny/cook and a gardener, people start to wonder - again - what I DO.
Employment - working for 'the man' is not the most important thing in life. Nor is it the most interesting or the most meaningful. Especially when you dread doing it. What you are doing in a company will be of little matter in the big picture. Mothering your child will, making a warm and cosy home will, weaving memorable moments and concocting delicious meals does.
I don't mind that much any more. I think I am doing the most important thing I could do. I am taking care of my daughter, I am present AND I manage to find time to do things I am actually passionate about, like this blog (and a couple of other projects currently stored in the fridge).
Image: Die Hausfrau - Ludwig Richter