When I wrote Independent Dependant last year I didn’t know it was only part one. To be fair, I didn’t know there was to be a part two until last week when a version of the original post was published by a Singaporean parenting website and I received ALOT of messages of love and support. Of course I’m incredibly thankful for all those messages, but it was also a bit unfair on the readers because last years head space is most definitely not this years. So apologies if I duped anyone into thinking I am still a miserable, lonely arrival because I’m not. Not at all. The metaphorical clouds of 2016 have parted, finally.
I finished last years post with a message of “I know what I need to do” (but that was about as positive as it got). I’d left it sort of in limbo. Unhappy in Singapore, going back to the UK for Christmas, what next?
Well, obviously, I came back.
I came back refreshed and with a renewed positivity for our Singaporean home, but that’s really the only major change. I am still a dependant – no developments to speak of there – and I’m still very much bound by the constraints of my Visa status. But here’s the thing, last year I felt trapped by that label. I was fighting what felt like an unfair assumption of me as a person. I couldn’t have a bank account, or a phone contract, so I was untrustworthy or irresponsible. But I wasn’t! I’m not! I was angry and frustrated, so much so that I couldn’t see the opportunities around me. When the updated post was published last week and those emotions threatened to come flooding back, they didn’t. Instead I felt a wave of relief that my feelings were shared by so many other women. There’s something strangely validating in having complete strangers message you to say thank you for putting into words how they have felt for weeks/months/years. Validating, but odd, because I was never knowingly speaking for them. And yet, in less than 1500 words I’d somehow summed up the newly arrived expat wife shock felt by so many, which I am delighted by, except that I don’t really consider myself a newly arrived expat wife anymore. So that’s when it dawned on me that a part two was very much due.
It is possible, it turns out, to exist perfectly happily without any significant changes. It’s a little (a lot) like conning myself into a false sense of independence, except that there are fleeting moments when it’s not false, it’s very, very real. Ok so what that I don’t have my own bank account here? Seriously, so the fuck what? Money is money in a marriage, it doesn’t come out of the cash machine with a “property of Mr K Abbey” printed on it. Once it’s no longer hidden behind a small plastic card with someone’s name on it, it becomes anyone’s. And no, I don’t have a phone contract either, but I have a pay as you go sim that I pre-pay my $30 bundle of calls, messages and data on each month. So I pay for it at the start of the month, not at the end. Really, not so very different (and no surprise big bills). When I don’t let it get to me – when I stop thinking about the differences – it’s all pretty much the same as life ever was. And no I don’t drive my own car here, but neither does Karl and neither do a lot of people. Driving in Singapore is both super ‘spenny and requires nerves of steel. I’m good with my Uber account and a travel card thanks. So whilst my bash at independence is a softcore version of the typical westerner wife life in 2017, it’s still a bash and that’s something.
I took my own advice as well. I joined pretty much every single social media group for women, wives and mothers in Singapore (both expat and local for a truly immersive experience). I’ve made friends with some really cool women who are the kind of women I’d be friends with outside of this bubble. So that’s something. Finding people to hang out with isn’t difficult (there are so many women here with so much time on their hands), but finding people you actually want to hang out with, drink coffee (wine) with and have a moan to with no judgments made and no grudges held is quite special. And that goes for anywhere, at any point in your life, but as a stay at home Mum it somehow feels all the more vital for my day to day mental stability and general welfare. Having those special ladies, the one’s I message to share daily victories with (today it was to share the joy of conquering the mountain of laundry), and daily woes (gecko shit removal), or just to be really silly and un-mum-like with (tomorrow evening I will mostly be hanging out in my undies at my mum mate’s house, getting spray tanned and eating pizza). It’s those moments and those women who make me realise that far from being a sad little lonely dependant, I’m the best version of me I’ve possibly ever been.
Not having a job, and an identity attached to that, has allowed me the freedom to create another me. I’m Emily- the wife, the mother, and (this is where it get’s exciting) the writer. I started this blog because I was miserable, and I couldn’t explain to anyone how I was feeling or why I was feeling that way without just crying and becoming frustrated that no one understood me. I was guilt ridden that we’d maybe made a terrible mistake but I didn’t dare tell my husband, and I was convinced that the children were going to be ruined by being at home with me and not in school like their friends were back in the UK. I started writing because I knew I always felt better afterwards, and I was much better at putting words down than I was at talking aloud. And then this blog has blossomed into something I adore, it’s allowed me to be sad, and it’s been part of the journey of emotions as life has got better here. Every single time someone messages me, or comments on something on here or on social media, I feel so proud and so happy that what was only ever supposed to be a little distraction for myself has cheered another person up, or made them feel less alone in this universe.
So now, six months into this chapter of my life, far from becoming accepting of my status as an independent dependant, I almost feel that I’m becoming independent of my dependant status. I’ve created my own life here, my own group of close friends, a happy balance between mothering and me-time, and my own version of work to think about. I may not get paid the handsome big bucks of my Employment Pass wielding husband, but I’m no less satisfied by what I have got. And this is the first time in my life I have hand on heart been able to say that.
I’ve created my independence, now the fun starts. Because if I can do that, what else can I do?