Claire is a French woman living in Spain who enjoys writing flash fiction stories you can relate to. She offers her services as a freelance content writer and copywriter for blog owners and companies who seek to make a difference with quality content. She can write in French as well as in English, is accurate, and conveys messages in a fun and original way. Here she writes about her own loss of identity as a trailing spouse.
Why I will never say I’m a stay-at-home mom. I should have known this would come… here I am, sitting at a table with total strangers, all staring at me waiting for an answer. The blond lady in her 50s on my left is a lawyer. The handsome young guy on my right is an entrepreneur. On the other side of the table, a couple who just launched their brand-new hotel listens attentively to the silence that now threatens to make everyone uncomfortable.
What do I do? Actually, I don’t know… Let me think… Do I do something?
This question used to be so easy to answer… I would put a big smile on my face and say: “I am a project manager for European ventures…” And then I would wait, just for a few seconds, before adding in a joking tone: “And I am a mom of two!” Proud professional, proud Mom… Period. That would just be enough to say it all about me. But now, this is not an easy question anymore! I need to dig a bit deeper, get into detail.
The question can’t just be “What do you do?” It needs to be: “What did you do today?”
Today I went to the city hall to try and understand how to change my husband’s driving license. He is French, but lost his driving license when we lived in the UK, so he has a UK license, but now that we live in Spain I need to change it back to a European one. Anyway, I didn’t get to talk to anyone at the city hall, because they said I needed an appointment, so I tried to make an appointment but they said I should do it online, so I went back home and created an account to make an appointment but there was no appointment available. So, in the end I didn’t do much today. Ok, wait, so… what will I do tomorrow?
Tomorrow I will do some research online to see if I can figure out by myself how to exchange this driving license. I will also go to my Spanish lessons for two hours, and will come out of there thinking, languages just don’t stick anymore after 40. And of course I will take the kids to school, pick them up, cook, meet with the people from the bank and go to the pharmacy to get my son’s medication. But this is more everyday stuff, it doesn’t count.
The lady on my left clears her throat. The guy on my right looks up at the ceiling. The couple in front of me incline their head on the side, as if to encourage me to talk. I feel like I am in an AA meeting – everyone just explained they haven’t had a drop for two weeks; now it’s my turn and I am about to admit that I stopped at a bar before entering the room.
Isn’t this another ridiculous thing? To call a mom who doesn’t have a regular job a stay-at-home mom? When they actually do everything but staying at home? They spend more time outside walking on the street than any other person having a ‘regular’ job! They know the city they live in better than any member of their family! And I am not talking about the fancy places, the museums or the cinemas. No, I am talking about the pharmacy that’s is open 24/7, the paediatrician who speaks their language, the city hall and its various annexes, the best hospital for emergencies, the shop where they can find their kid’s favourite cereals, etc. The first time they found these places, they couldn’t help but come back home with a big smile on their face, like a hunter who just brought back some meat to feed their family: “You know what? I found a library where they sell books in English!” But their enthusiasm was of short duration. They quickly found out that nobody cared. As long as the books were there, it didn’t really matter where they came from.
But I am losing track here. So, let’s get back to my AA meeting… it is still my turn to speak, and I can’t bring myself to say I am a stay-at-home mom, because a stay-at-home mom does not stay at home. On the other hand, I cannot say, “I am a project manager for European ventures” either, because this is not what I do anymore. OK, I need to explore more options here.
No way! I am not going to say that! Of course I am working! I am a housekeeper, a bookkeeper, a cleaning lady, a nanny, an administrative assistant, a secretary, a handyman, a student, a cook, a chauffeur, an entertainer-in-chief, an event planner, a personal shopper, and sometimes even a psychologist (depending on how my family member’s day went).
And I am not even speaking about these things I do on the side. Nine months ago, I started writing a novel. I signed up for online workshops with a school in Paris and learnt about the mechanisms that sustain a good written text. I also stayed in touch with four of the alumni and am meeting with them on Zoom for two hours every other week to get and give feedback on each of our projects. I am nearing the end of version one of my novel now. Of course I am also house hunting, spending a fair amount of my time on platforms like Idealista looking for our dream house, and visiting places which don’t have anything to do with the ones I saw online. (For some reason the square meters seem smaller on site, and the description never specifies that the main bedroom doesn’t have any windows to the outside world, or that the kitchen is a corridor.)
Oh, and talking about properties: last week our tenants in France called because the roof had been damaged in a storm. I’ll need to check tomorrow with the insurance that this has been fixed!
I am tempted to take out my phone to make a note, but I restrain myself. I don’t want to look like I am overworked, always thinking of the next meeting, running a to-do list in my head even whilst having dinner. So unprofessional.
For some weird reason I am relieved to see Sue Ellen on my left taking a sip of her glass of champagne and the couple in front of me diving their nose into their wine. Ahah, bragging about being clean but still liking your little sip, eh? See, I am not the only one relapsing here! As everyone is still staring at me, waiting for some kind of reaction, I feel like they just made me the leader of the meeting, and expect me to snap their glass out of their hands.
This is when the president of the parents’ association takes the mike to launch the silent auction: “Dear parents, thank you for joining us tonight.”
Her voice brings me back to reality. I am NOT at an AA meeting, but at a parents’ dinner for my daughter’s school. And I have been asked for my profession.
“Well, I do many things… but mainly, I write.”
Isn’t it what I do?
Read more of Claire’s Stories
Read more stories and experiences from expat mums on our blog MumAbroad Life
So well-written and eloquent Claire. Hooray for celebrating all of those stay-at-home moms who do everything but stay-at -home especially when managing a multi-national expat family! Please keep writing : )