Make It Happen

Each year when International Women’s Day rolls around I make the mistake of not thinking of it as a womens day which is celebrated internationally, but a day to celebrate 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 coffee, and at conferences. Here in Qatar, women gather each year for the  “How Women Work” conference, with over 50 separate nationalities within the one room they discuss business, media, marketing, planning and sales – each has a different accent, a different culture and a different perspective.

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.

A couple of years ago I 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 recognised 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.

This is something which happens regularly in my expat community. We begin again, and again, and again. We start from scratch, we make new friendships while mourning the loss of those we left behind or those who have moved on to a new location. We begin small businesses, volunteer, take our place in the corporate world. We do all of this by beginning with a fish out of water experience; we learn new rules, follow a new protocol and gradually find our comfort zone. We leave our parents, our siblings, and find our support within our friendship groups. We cry at traffic lights while thinking of home: a missed birthday, a friend’s new baby, a funereal. We get lost regularly, we search endlessly for items we didn’t realise we were going to  miss (vanilla extract anyone?).

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 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 once asked (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”.

The theme this year for International Women’s Day is #makeithappen

That’s what expat women do each and every day. They make it happen.

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

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