“I need to justify my existence.”
Emma turned to me in the car as we drove to our Arabic class, her face earnest but her eyes sparkling with mischief.
“When my husband comes home at night I try to tell him how busy and productive my day is. Because I know I have been really busy, the day seems to fly by, but when I try to explain, I don’t know what I’ve done, or how I’ve contributed to the world. I need to be busy. I need to be doing something worthwhile and productive.”
“So what are you going to do Em?” I asked
“Well I set myself a 30-day goal to be more productive and busy.”
“And how’s that going?”
Well it was only Day 1 yesterday and I got really motivated to be busy and sat down and wrote a list of all the busy things I do.”
“That was it. I was busy writing a list.”
I hooted with laughter, and nearly lost control of the car.
“See? Job done. I was busy writing a list of how busy I am.”
By now the tears are rolling down my cheeks.
“You were busy, writing a list of how busy you are? Em, you’ve fucking nailed it!’
“Well then I have proof for my husband, that I am busy.”
“Of course, bloody genius! And then what did you do?”
“I was exhausted from all that list writing, so I had to sit down and binge watched Yummy Mummies on Netflix. I was quite proud of myself.”
And therein lies the problem: Trying to be busy is a full time job, and not one that is appreciated by many, including the husbands. And it may sound like an entitled expat first-world problem, all fluff and no substance, or as our mutual friend Jen says, “All fur coat and no knickers.”
But whilst on the surface it just sounds like an expat-woman whinge, boredom; and the need to justify your existence, dig a bit deeper with those freshly manicured nails and it can be a real problem. It leads to all sort of issues and heartache.
And don’t get me wrong, Em is an amazing woman who ran her own recruitment company in the UK; has been more productive in her life than her comments let on; has two amazing, polite, well-rounded kids who achieve great things both academically and on the sportsfield; regularly goes to the gym; is a fiend at pouring (and drinking) the best G&T’s; and keeps her husband fed, organised and erm, happy.
She’s not perfect by any means, ask her about her ears, her thumbs that double as yoghurt spoons, and her delayed onset muscle soreness…
But for her (as with all of us on this blog) being busy, or rather, contributing, is something she values.
And there is a real conflict here as expats, we have a charmed life for sure. We’re better off than some of the friends we’ve left behind in our home countries. We still hurt at the scoffing, and the comments of how we should ‘count ourselves lucky’ if we say we’re not happy, or something is wrong. So we stop saying it. We bottle it up. We make like we’re busy. We justify our existence. We get anxious we’re going to be ‘caught out’.
So whilst it’s seems like a pathetic, privileged, whine, and we’re poking a stick at the soft underbelly of entitlement, (and this is very tongue-in-cheek if you hadn’t worked that out already, we are laughing at ourselves too), we know there must be others out there like us who struggle with this very issue. Tell us who you are and how you make yourself ‘busy’.
Love, Kat xxx