These Are The Women

The conversation was about schooling, not so much which was the better choice but what were the options. Waiting lists are long, was there really any point in applying? In the expat world it’s a huge roll of the dice. Do you make the move to Wherethehellisthatistan if there’s no chance of a school space when you get there. Home school? Excuse me while I reach for the gin, and the valium, inhale with peace, exhale with get me out of here.

I sat down with a cup of coffee and two women I hadn’t met before. They’d become new friends, they lived on the same compound, new neighbours. They giggled about getting lost together and cleaning their inherited filthy homes. I said something about schooling, how we were lucky our children had started at a school five years ago before things became too hectic.

My new friend agreed with the sentiment. “I remember moving to Hong Kong and the island we were on had one international school and there were no places. We’d only been there for a few days when we were struck by a typhoon. I remember standing with my little girl in the corridors of our apartment, it was in a tower and we were literally swaying, the building was moving and I was thinking what am I doing here?” The conversation went on – every day expat.

I was thinking the other day how much the bath had become a parenting tool when we were new in a location. When we were housebound in Libya with no transport and hot August temperatures a play in the bath could kill up to an hour, two if it had to. How on arrival with a new baby I’d walked kilometres in malls in Jakarta, and played solo in soft play centres in Kuala Lumpur. That feeling of arriving, being friendless and searching the room for someone or something that looked familiar. In all of our locations I’ve found a confidante, a soul to connect to, an ally for life. Women who have been just like me: scared, determined, lost but ready to discover.

These are the women whose stories I like to tell. The women who are often misrepresented, mocked and discarded. These are the women who get shit done. It’s not a coffee morning, it’s an intelligence gathering exercise. Where did you find a gynaecologist? Does anyone know of a speech therapist? My teen refuses to come out of her room, she says she’ll never forgive us for moving here. She says she hates me and I’m starting to believe her. Someone makes eye contact and provides a wink of solidarity while everyone giggles, you have to laugh the alternative is unbearable.

These are the women who drive with multiple licences in various countries with a child or two to add to the adventure. These are the women who give birth in random countries “I’ve backpacked all over the world but the toilet I had to use after giving birth in the local hospital was by far the biggest challenge.” These are the women who begin new careers, new businesses, new health care systems, and new landscapes on a regular basis.

These are the women I love.

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