After a pretty hideous week at work, including flying back to Hong Kong on a Saturday morning and thereby missing the three great loves of my life, Eve, rowing and riding the new motorbike, I found myself at a fortieth birthday party on Saturday night. Yummy Mummy doesn't get out as much as she used to so the prospect of free flowing booze while trundling around Hong Kong on a boat was all rather appealing. It also served to give me a reminder about the existence of professional trailing spouses.
I've not had much exposure to them lately, we've been here so long now that most of our friends are pretty "local" in attitude. I had rather forgotten the trailing spouse brigade.
The one thing that really struck me, as usual, is how little I have to actually say to these women. I had thought that now I have a child we would have more in common. Sadly not. After the initial "How are the children? Which school are they at?" comments, my life is so completely different from theirs that we simply have nothing at all in common to talk about. In the past this would usually mean that I would end up talking to the husbands about banking, but now I have a child they too treat me differently. For the first time since I came to Hong Kong I really felt like I was being judged for the choice I have made to stay at work. A number of husbands asked me why I decided to go back to work, one even flinched when I (quite honestly) said I thought I would go a bit potty on my own at home all day. I found myself having to justify my choice to keep working - I love my job, it is a good role model for my daughter, I have an excellent work-life balance in my job, blah blah blah. I started to feel quite upset as I soaked up the disapproving looks and comments.
Then, as we got off the boat, something happened that made me feel a lot better. One lady's husband was staying on the boat a bit longer to party whereas she was getting off the boat early with us. I turned to her and commented that one could tell who would be getting up with the children early tomorrow, to which she said "Oh no, I have two helpers so I won't need to get up tomorrow at all". Hmm, so you've not actually stopped working to look after your children then.