I can’t believe more than a year has passed since we came home. Truth is I prepared another post about our year back and what I learned from it, but I changed my mind a few days ago. Anyway I realized that I haven’t really written more about being a Diplowife, which let’s face it, is what this blog is really about.
My fellow Diplowife blogger and friend had been planning on interviewing other Diplomatic Spouses and writing about it on her blog. She mentioned this to me again while we were skyping, and it got me thinking about what I would tell her about this life that we lead.
We talked about how some people might peg our lives as somewhat exceptional, balancing our many roles as wives, mothers, and maybe even share in the public service aspect of our husband’s work. How there is an expected notion that we are an extension of their rank in the Embassy, and with it comes certain duties and responsibilities; all this jet-setter style, while hob nobbing at parties in gowns.
There are also “the sacrifices” we made when we married into the Foreign Service, things we left behind in order to fully support our Diplomat spouses abroad. What has become of us wives in this life we find ourselves in, seemingly connected to our husband’s career, the perks and disadvantages it entails.
So I decided that I wanted to share my thoughts on it. But before I begin I must first make sure to do the disclaimer thing. The insights and opinions I share on this post and this blog are mine alone and is not shared by my husband, and the Department of Foreign Affairs. What these are mainly somethings I often think about. You might agree or might not, but since this my blog, so why not?
In being a de facto public servant, I personally don’t think too much about the fact that my husband is someone who represents our government in another country, and by default that makes me one myself. I would like to think that being Filipino is a huge part of who I am, and that no matter what I do, or where I go, whether I am there officially or on my personal time, I represent my country just by being. I am a product and proud of my culture and bring that with me and manifest its influence on me deliberately or subconsciously.
When I started this blog, I initially planned not to mention our nationality. I wanted to concentrate on my experiences as a trailing spouse. It went well the first few months, I got so good at it that I was reviewed in the Foreign Service Journal as a rookie Diplowife writing about funny anecdotes in her first posting in Libya no less. At first I thought it was cool to be recognized, but I later realized that they probably thought that I was an American. That did not bother me much, but since I was keen on writing about my take on the new culture I was living in, the only way I could assess it and write about it all was to compare it with the one that I was raised in and knew. And it got harder and harder not talk about my own heritage as point of reference, so I eventually and subtly outed myself as a proud Pinay. Now that I think about it, it was for the best considering I could only write about what I know. Especially now that I’m back home, I can share more about my country.
And that for me is as much proactive representation I can actually confidently do, everything else I do as myself without any preconceptions of being the wife of the Consul. Whatever public service I did when I was at post, wasn’t just something I did because my husband worked for the Embassy. I did it because I believe I was given an opportunity to help out in whatever cause and help out I did. Many Filipinos living abroad, some wives like me, not necessarily Diplomatic spouses, are also doing their share of help, surpassing even the capabilities of the Embassy itself, far more worthy to be called de facto public servants than I could ever be.
The many roles we play, for me it’s not very different from what many married women take on all over. It isn’t unique for a woman to take on many hats at a time, wives at the same time mothers at the same time career women at the same time side-kicks or partners to whatever else our husbands needs help with. It is the innate super power of every women, not just Diplowives like me. The only difference with us, is that all this comes with flying to a different country and embracing all the highs and lows of a cross-country-cross-cultural adventure.
As far as sacrifices are concerned, I think I already wrote much the same as what most wives like me often retrospect into. Careers, families, personal life goals and dreams that were left behind or had to take a back seat in marrying into the Foreign Service. In my case, coming along with JG was somewhat oxymoronic, a logically-emotional choice.
It was logical because back then I wasn’t really sure where life was taking me. I knew I wanted to do something along the lines of writing and/or research, but what lay ahead of me with that dream is one of a freelancer, a career that could only be realistically sustainable had I been an heiress, or someone who moonlights as a bandit stealing from the wealthy. I like money but I am not a fan of hoarding it, or spending my life making bucket loads of it. Climbing the corporate ladder was a part in life that I wasn’t really set on doing either. The emotional part comes with my mom, who is an unusual kind of a mother. Although we really did not have much growing up, she only pushed me and my brother to be happy, independent, but happy. She wisely explained that although she knew I would strive by myself and follow my own path without JG, she was sure that I wouldn’t be completely happy to part with him when he gets posted. Which was why, to even my utmost surprise she (perhaps with some reluctance) gave her blessing to have her eldest and only daughter marry at 24. She said that perhaps the path I was looking for me is connected to him, so might as well just go with and take a chance.
And if you think about it, all of it boils down to choices, and having them means that you choose one and not another. I wouldn’t consider it a sacrifice or giving up something, when with eyes-wide-open you opted for this life, which isn’t really a down grade, it’s just… different. I pondered about this a lot, I would certainly be happy had I chosen to live the life of a penniless writer, but who’s to say that I am unhappy living the life of a trailing spouse? In fact, not only was I able to travel and see the world, I have made friends that I could no longer imagine life without, made memories that has made my life a bit more colorful, and get to spend it with an intelligent, at times infuriating, but all in all a great guy who claims to adore me.
I think it’s a bit unfair on the part of our husbands to have to say that we made sacrifices on their behalf. I think saying that means you have regrets, and if you have them maybe you need to question your choices. Besides we aren’t completely barred to be ourselves or try to have our own thing. Admittedly there are certain restrictions, expectations, but again how is that different from any other life? How sure could we be that had we opted for the other way, we couldn’t have encountered hindrances it that alternate reality we left behind in choosing to be with our husbands?
It’s just a matter of making the most of what you’ve got, and if your husband doesn’t support you in a hobby, a part-time job, heck if he doesn’t respect the idea of you opting to go home or somewhere where you can stretch your independent wings, that’s on him, not on his job title. And if you find yourself feeling empty and stunted in the shadows of your better-half, that’s just on you entirely.
You get to choose to stay beside him or leave, no one is forcing you to do it, and you will most certainly not go to jail if you do. But hey we made a vow to stick together, more importantly we love our geeky, workaholic, patriotic husbands, thus the choice to pack up your life and live like nomads constantly moving from one continent to another.
One thing I do attest to is that living away from the family is kind of sad, heart-wrenching even. But I believe that family is family, wherever life takes you the bond will always be there, how you strengthen it is up to you.
Being a Diplomatic Spouse does have a certain ring to it, however, many of us blogging about it has continuously confirmed that it isn’t as glamorous or as exciting as most expect it to be. It isn’t exceptional because there aren’t as many Diplomats and then there are their wives who are an extension of their jobs. For me it isn’t exceptional at all. But I do find it amazing that there are not as many Diplomatic wives, individuals in their own right, who are all over, some out of place, others completely at home, exploring new cultures, meeting people, creating memories. A woman who married this guy who just happened to be a diplomat. She made a choice, she took a chance, and without regrets, making the grandest time of it…