International Women

When you live in an expat world it’s easy to find yourself within groups of women of all nationalities. Often the organizations these women create and establish, begin with the title of International Women of *insert current country here*. Expat women know all about the differences in women’s rights all over the world. They discuss them in general conversation often:

“How much maternity leave did you get in Norway?”

“What was schooling like for girls in Ethiopia?”

“Do as many women go to International Universities as men in Qatar?”

These are conversations that are had by water coolers, at school gates, over coffees and at conferences. This week in Qatar, women gathered for the “How Women Work” annual conference. Women of all nationalities discussed business, media, marketing, planning and sales.

Many of these women were local, many were expats. Expat women.

I write often of expat women. We are the brunt of many jokes, often these jokes are made by men who I think unknowingly belittle us without even realizing.

“In my next life I’m coming back as an expat wife”.  I wish you well fellas. In my next life I’m coming back just to watch.

Sometimes we create the jokes ourselves. We’re unsure how to convey that although there are perks, life is really bloody tough when you’re moving and reestablishing your life and career constantly. Sure, for some it may mean help in the house or a chance to travel, but for many it’s learning to push through a feeling of isolation and loss while having to learn the machinations of a new country.

I’ve watched from afar as one of my very favourite bloggers Mrs Woog, made a move from her house in North Sydney to the burbs. I had a little cry when she discussed her sons transition to a new school. I recognized the pain of driving away from the school gates with a feeling of cement in your stomach. The feeling of wanting to turn around, pick up your children and just return to the old life, the one you really weren’t sure about leaving in the first place. Mrs Woog wrote honestly about the depression that came with leaving her home, about needing help from family.

Yesterday morning, a friend on my compound received the phone call from home we all live in fear of. Her father had passed away. Her husband was in Houston at a conference. She was here in Qatar with the children (one of which is a baby). Immediately a chain of events occurred; how to get her husband home, how to get her there, how to continue through the school run and the usual daily events when all you want to do is be home with your mother and the rest of your family who are all grieving together.

Another girlfriend of mine had made birthday plans this weekend, she’s married to a pilot so dinner plans are always last minute as he’s often not given much notice before flying. It was Murphy’s law that the moment she’d made the booking he got the call to go. We joked about both being desperate and dateless at her dinner, but it was okay for me, it wasn’t my birthday. To add insult to injury she developed a sciatica pain as the week rolled on which of course made solo parenting a joy. She has now had to cancel dinner due to the fact that she can’t sit down. Happy Birthday Karen – holy guacamole it has to get better, right?

When I look around at my International Women on this International Day, I think you’re all bloody amazing. We are women who pack houses, memories and friendships and hit the ground running. We arrive in unknown destinations and scramble to discover how to make the unfamiliar a home. We are women who work, women who study, women who parent, women who arrive solo and women who travel in a pack. We share one common theme, we need each other to get through.

I have felt enormous support from you. Someone asked recently (with their nose all squished up) how I felt about sharing so much personal stuff with you all.

“I hadn’t thought of it that way, it’s more like having an honest chat with a friend. No-one’s ever made me feel otherwise”.

Rock on International Women, your strength and stories are an inspiration.

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