They say moving abroad can be hard on spouses. For the most part, it hasn’t been too hard for me…except for one area. I’m having trouble finding female friends. The issue is children, or rather, our lack of children.
We don’t have kids. We’re not going to have kids. The reasons why are not anyone’s business. And yet, people think they have the right to question and even judge our life. This is a global way of thinking. It certainly came up a lot in New York. It comes up a lot more here.
From the general Kenyan point of view, our life is totally unnatural. Many people have a hard time understanding it. But, and this is crucial, they accept it even if they don’t understand it. It’s just a little annoying to have to address it so frequently.
From the expat point of view, it’s really frustrating because many people don’t accept it. I am expected to be a baby machine. One couple actually openly expressed disappointment when they learned we don’t have kids. In that instant, they wrote us off. They are otherwise nice people, but they don’t want friends without kids.
I should note that we like kids. We gave an open invitation to that couple to come by anytime and bring the kids along. They’re not interested. That rejection was actually a good thing. We dodged a bullet.
That particular woman is a stay-at-home mom whose life revolves around her children and her husband’s career. She doesn’t have other interests. I can’t relate to someone like that, and she can’t relate to someone like me. She’s not the only one who can’t relate to me.
I’ve gotten this reaction from a good number of women I’ve met. There is a complete lack of understanding as to why I don’t have children. There is also a disapproval of my career. Child rearing and being a wife is supposed to be enough for me. I change topics or go talk to another person right around the time the conversation starts to shift to, “What makes you so special that you need to have something of your own?”
Traditionally, this has been the norm for the expat lifestyle. Women follow their men. They care for the children. They don’t stay anywhere long enough to forge independence. (There have been outliers to this norm. My mother-in-law, for example, had a career, a family, and maintained her own identity while living abroad.)
All this is changing in the expat world. Many more spouses are working, volunteering, or doing something that interests them. They have their own lives. They have their own identities. I’m trying to find more of those women.
I’m also trying to meet more professional women. And I’m looking to find more social groups that are activity based, like SCUBA or hiking. I’m even looking into nearby gyms so I can find other women who are health and fitness minded.
The social outlets are not as vast or varied as they are in New York. It’s not as easy to find groups and clubs and start meeting people. But, I know I can do it.
This is a big and diverse city. I can find women with common interests. It’s just going to take a bit more work.
PS Yes, male friends are fine too.