Life in Singapore

The Traveling Husbands

We arrived a mere eight weeks ago, and I am shocked by the amount of traveling my husband has done. Most of these trips involved redeye flights and 36 hour weekends at home. Here is how he spent his last eight weeks:

    Week 1: Shanghai
    Week 2: India
    Week 3: Singapore
    Week 4: Singapore
    Week 5: Singapore
    Week 6: United States
    Week 7: Tokyo
    Week 8: Shanghai

Week seven was when our furniture arrived and week eight was when I unpacked and the kids were on school holiday for a week. Of course, this is complaint worthy, so when I was hanging out with my new friends, I mentioned it. Every single one of them agreed how hard it is, and they all tell me the same thing happens to them. In fact, at any given moment, at least half my friends have husbands who are off traveling for work.

What is the deal? Back home, there were some husbands who traveled sometimes for work, a week here or there, but nothing like this. I say husbands, and I am sure there are some moms who travel just as much and leave their husbands at home too. I’m not trying to be sexist, it is just that in Singapore, I have yet to meet a stay at home dad and a traveling wife. Here, especially, it seems to be mostly the husbands who are gone. Why is there so much travel involved in working in Singapore?

It seems that Singapore is where companies that hire expats have their regional headquarters. Because it is the hub for the whole region of Asia, which often includes India and Australia as well, the workers are based here, but a lot of their job is elsewhere, and they have to travel. It is not just the salesman who has travel, it is anyone who has a job and works with people in other countries. Sometimes the best way to make a deal is face to face, especially when you are dealing with multiple cultures.

One friend assures me it sometimes comes to a screeching halt when the economy slows and companies issue travel bans. For a month or so, all the husbands are home, and the wives get antsy because they are not used to having them around as much. Then the companies realize they have to send them out traveling again and it all starts over.

What do the wives do when abandoned for weeks on end, feeling like single moms? One way they handle the extra workload is by hiring a helper, Singapore’s euphemism for a maid or domestic helper. The helper lives in, and does all the cooking and cleaning for the family. Some helpers will look after the children. This enables the moms to take care of the children, socialize with friends and handle the logistics of the household. Personally, I am thinking this sounds like a fantastic idea.

Another thing the wives do is commiserate with each other. Who better understands being abandoned during the move than another trailing spouse? One friend today confessed that her husband has been absent for the last eight moves. I wonder if my husband even knows about the box list?

I guess at the end of the day life in Singapore has its pros and cons. Trailing spouses here need a strong network of friends. Meeting people here seems quite easy. Everyone is welcoming, they have all been there in your shoes, and they are open to new friendships. The international schools help create a sense of community and a social network. Our school has book clubs, dinner clubs, museum clubs, game nights, and so on. The downside is you will probably attend these events alone. At least the other moms will be there alone too!

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