Being an expat housewife in Jakarta has its own set of challenges even with all of the pros of living here. Loneliness is one of the biggest ones. When I feel it, I think that I am the only one. For so many reasons, it’s difficult to talk about it out loud. Who do I turn to? How do I describe it? Am I allowed to feel this way? Am I being ungrateful? Will I be judged for admitting this feeling? I have learnt that keeping this a secret adds to the loneliness so I am going to be brave by sharing this now.
I was lonely when I first moved to this new city because it was extremely different to what I grew up with. I was a mother of two young children, which on its own can be a lonely experience. Then to add an international relocation into the mix, everything suddenly became very daunting and overwhelming. I had to pick up and start all over again, building new relationships and setting foundations from scratch. All of these obstacles arrived while I was sleep-deprived and anxious.
Back then I was lonely because my husband immediately started his new job and I was left to build our new home here. He trusted me to do this, and as the expat housewife it was my role to fulfil. I had to find new household staff members (as if it was normal for me) and unpack our belongings. I didn’t know where to store our coffee mugs or where to position the crib, let alone whether I made the right decision about hiring strangers to join our household! This process was difficult because I hadn’t grown up with help. Handing over trust to someone else to take care of my babies and blindly following my intuition about who was the right fit for our family felt like a huge responsibility. I bore the weight of this responsibility on my own.
I was lonely because the simple tasks like grocery shopping, organizing playdates for the children, catching a taxi–all became a very scary ordeal. Scrambling around with two children in an unfamiliar city feels extremely isolating. Especially when you feel that you are the only one who’s lost. This feeling is compounded even further in such a big, bustling city.
I was lonely because I was the new mum in our condo’s playground, scanning the scene in search for new friends not just for me, but for my children also.
Now that I am fairly settled I am sometimes lonely because I feel the burden of taking care of my family on my own. Yes, my husband helps out and is a present parent, but I feel the pressure of being a mum. I am alone in my own thoughts, and trying to do the right thing each day. I am planning, organizing, delegating, problem-solving and questioning every move. I am keeping it all together for everyone else. I am hiding my loneliness.
I am lonely sometimes because I manage our household staff and my husband will never understand this burden or dilemma. No matter how much I try to explain it, he just won’t ever get it. And so I no longer share my issues with him and I deal with them alone.
I am lonely sometimes because my husband is being the man that I love, working hard to keep us happy. He is trying to better our future and exceed our expectations. And for that, he is constantly busy. He is travelling, studying, pursuing his dreams and trying to balance his work life with us. I am spending Saturday nights at home alone. And date nights are few and far between.
I am lonely sometimes because of the traffic. It isolates me, and holds me back. I have to decide between going out and sitting in traffic, or staying home and not socializing.
I am lonely sometimes because my friends keep leaving.
I am lonely sometimes because I missed that play date due to my baby being sick, again. And I can’t go to that girl’s night out because my nanny has quit.
I am lonely sometimes because everything is different here and I miss my home. I miss my old life and the little things that made me happy, like the sounds of my boots on the pavement. And listening to breakfast radio in the morning; how much that used to make me laugh! I miss the coffee that I had on my walk to work. Don’t even talk to me about my old job; that is just too much. I miss that life even more than I thought I ever would.
I am lonely sometimes because I am constantly dealing with my loss of identity, I’m now known as the Trailing Spouse who is no longer financially independent. Destiny’s Child would be ashamed of me, “…the shoes I’m wearing…he bought it!” When it’s no longer my own money, I feel guilty for buying personal items that make me happy.
I am lonely sometimes because I am bored. And I can’t commit to things because the prospect of leaving is always there.
I am lonely sometimes because my friends back at home have moved on and have learnt to live without me. My parents are getting older, my nieces are being born, and here I am, away from it all.
I am lonely sometimes because I want to pick up the phone to talk to someone and I have no one to call. My fingers are sore from messaging.
I am lonely sometimes because I don’t know what the future will bring. I don’t know how long I will live here or where I will move to next. The scariest thought of all is that I don’t actually know when I will return home.
All of these things make me lonely sometimes. And I know you’re lonely too. And that’s ok. Let’s be lonely together.