“So … what exactly do you do all day?”
This is a question I am asked frequently, in one form or another by friends and family, Belgian friends and by fellow expats.
However, it’s a difficult question to answer, because I understand the implications behind it. In North America, we tend to identify people with their jobs. The jobless are hard to categorize.
Without a Belgian visa, I am unable to work. Even when the visa does come through, I’m uncertain of the job prospects for an English speaker with lapsed French and Dutch equivalent to a preschooler.
Without children, I can’t even be lumped into the stay-at-home mom category.
Having said that, I often feel I am mom to five furry children who will never grow up — cleaning up cat hair could be a full-time job at our house.
While my domestic skills have improved being at home all day, I’m definitely not the housewife type — I’m just not neat enough. If you know what’s good for you, don’t look under my bed …
Boredom is not normally a problem for me though. I am a woman of many pastimes. First and foremost, I have my photography and writing.
Photography has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. Through it I am able to see things more clearly and share my views with others.
Keeping weblogs has also helped me keep my sanity. Not only does it offer me an opportunity to vent my frustrations, but I have been contacted by others in a similar situation.
I can’t tell you how helpful it is to feel that I am not alone in my feelings and experiences as an expat.
Then there are my less serious pursuits: I am a craftaholic; needlework, scrap-booking, rubber stamping, jewelry-making; if you find it in a craft store, I’m sure I’ve tried it. This is the first time I’ve been able to devote serious amounts of time to any project.
Finally, there is Andrew’s favorite. Given lots of free time in the afternoons, I cook.
I am prone to cooking elaborate feasts from around the globe and experimenting with foods that are unavailable in Canada. On any given night, he could come home to a Mexican Fiesta, a Curry Carnival or a Tapas Treat.
So no, keeping busy is not a problem. Nor is a lack of identity. I have never defined myself by my work (probably because my career has been more of a long and winding road than a path).
The hardest part to come to terms with, is not contributing to our family financially.
Being the ‘artist’ of the family, I have always earned less than my Computer Geek husband. It is something I’ve had to accept.
Not contributing financially at all however is difficult, especially when I watch Andrew go off to work every morning and deal with the pressures of his job.
Andrew is not bothered by this. He believes that marriage is about sharing. He also claims that my taking care of the house and ‘kids’ and offering him support and the ability to relax when he gets home enables him to excel at his job.
(Personally I think it all comes back to food. Andrew probably still has nightmares about the microwaved meals we lived on when I worked full-time.)
When the visa finally comes through, I will look for some form of work; not because I feel I have to, but because I believe it will help me integrate more fully in to our new homeland.
But if I can’t get a job in Belgium, I’ll still have plenty to do … and Andrew may just have to join a gym.