Out of office notice: I'm on a sabbatical
We moved to Algeria. And, for the first time in 21 years, I don't have a job, nor do I have prospects. My profile on LinkedIn says that I'm not actively looking, but that's a lie: I'm not looking at all.
I've been planning on writing this post from the moment I knew we were moving. There were so many thoughts and fears involved in the process that I decided to share them with you—my predominantly female audience, hoping that my post would resonate with you. I gave myself 6 months to do so. What motivated me to write it now, only 4 months after I quit my job, is the talks about women's choice to be housewives (I prefer the term homemaker) going up and down my timeline. The discussion prompted me to make share my views. This helped me sift through my feelings. And the idea for the post congealed.
While this blogpost is about my personal experience, I'd like to make these general notes regarding the topic at hand.
Our decision-making process does not happen in a vacuum. Most, if not all, of our choices are influenced by our environment (call it society, institutions, family, what have you).
It is not by chance that women are most likely to choose that role.
Women should be able to choose, and they should not find themselves in a precarious situation because of the choice they make.
Another important note. I'm speaking from a place of privilege. I'm an educated woman who could still earn money if I chose to (remote work, contract work). I have options. Plus, we're able to sustain a decent lifestyle with a single salary. Also, we don't have kids.
I was raised by a single mother who raised me to be financially independent. She taught me that financial independence makes it easier for women to exit uncomfortable and abusive situations. As a teenager, she always gave me "mad money" when I went on dates. Just in case the boy would start to act fresh. "If he says it's because he paid for the movie, give him his money back and walk out." I never found myself in a situation to do that, but it felt good to have an exit plan.
I wasn't surprised when my mother's face dropped when I told her that I'd be quitting my job. She had once made a similar choice, and it didn't work out. To give her peace of mind, I talked about the options I had career wise and my plans to obtain a masters' degree. I told her that I would always be able to earn money. I didn't delve into the details of how Hubs and I were going to handle our finances. She didn’t pry. My mom worries. That's what she does. All she needs is to know that I'm OK and that I'll remain whole. I'm grateful for her.
I’ve been in Algiers for close to 3 months and out of a job for 4. Honestly, I'm happy with my new life. The luxury to wake up whenever I please. The ability to take the time to do one thing at a time. Not being pressed for time. The impression that I got off the proverbial hamster wheel. Watching my stress and anxiety levels drop. Blasting music on the radio while I slowly go about my morning routine. Waking up and not having a single plan. Nevertheless, some mornings, I wake up with a pit in my stomach and a series of what-ifs on my mind. What if the relationship fails? What if the financial burden creates tension? (In North America, money is one of the top 3 reasons people get divorced.) What if he expects me to be more domesticated? What if...
To be clear, Hubs and I went through the what-ifs at least a dozen times prior to leaving Ottawa. Feeling secure and safe was of the utmost importance for me. To put it plainly, I wasn't about to uproot my life if I couldn't trust him. Funny enough, I've always felt secure and safe with him—we’ve been through major life changes together. But the thought of not making my own money shook me. I needed reassurance. (Tell me you have daddy issues without telling me you have daddy issues. 🤪)
It's sad how fears can creep in and put a damper on happiness. It’s been a life-long dream of mine to be able to take a year off and write a book. I've talked about it so much that, early in our marriage, Hubs promised to make it happen. (He also promised to buy me a Mercedes Benz SLK. One more to go, Hubs! One more to go.) He delivered: I’m taking the time off AND living abroad. I may come across as being ungrateful, but I see fears as an element of survival, when you don't let them overpower you.
What made the transition easier and allowed me to fully embrace my new life is that Hubs and I had—and continue to have—open conversations about finances and expectations.
When it comes to finances, our discussions were more about whether the numbers made sense for us to become a single-income family. When we got married 16 years ago, we had opted to combine our finances: joint accounts, a single budget which includes our financial responsibilities towards our respective mothers. When we got married, we didn't have any assets or debt. So, yeah… It works for us. In my opinion, trust and trustworthiness are key to successfully combine finances. And, yes, we are both fully aware of the risks. This spared us the discussions about my receiving, er…an allowance, for lack of a better term. Except for our RRSPs, we've never had his or her money.
Our discussions about expectations were interesting and fun. They allowed me to have a clearer idea of my upcoming new life. And, y’all, I may have fallen in love all over again. 🥰 When I brought up the subject of cooking, Hubs went to the point: he didn't expect me to become a whole new wife who would cook every day. He said, and I quote: it's not you. “Plus, you’ll be busy writing, studying, travelling and doing much more interesting things.” Dude was slightly annoyed. When I tell you I teared up… I blame social media for my reaction. All these nonsensical discussions about "wife material" had gotten to me somehow. In fact, our expectations aren't that different from those we had expressed throughout the years. And, because I'm Haitian and a tad bit superstitious, I almost rewrote this paragraph. Because when one is so happy there might be impending doom. I choose to bask in my happiness NOW and deal with whatever later.
As I’m re-reading this, I realize how paranoid I may sound. Maybe I am. But I’ve gotten into the habit of reassessing our relationship on a regular basis. And this major life event warranted an in-depth discussion about “us” and our lifestyle. People and relationships grow and evolve, we acknowledge this and try to face them head-on.
Let me be (even more) candid. I see this new chapter of my life more as an opportunity than a sacrifice. It's a chance for me to do what I like without the pressure and constraints of a 9 to 5. I'm aware that this is a privilege. One of the few I'm afforded as a black female immigrant in North America. Also, I see this new experience as a chance to live differently, to take a step back from North America's excessive consumerism and fast-paced life. I see it as me taking a break. A well-deserved break.
When I'm going through the steps of my skin care routine, carefully wrapping my wet coils in a t-shirt, binge watching a series, or writing the stories I want to tell, I am undeniably satisfied with the life I chose. And, most importantly, I'm happy.
***This one is for my Facebook cousins Soph and Deb. Every time I whisper "real housewife sh*t", I think about you.***