April 14, 2011
The thing about being a man doing what many consider to be a woman's job, is that the job is harder to do due to others unspoken attitudes. I have written about this before. I have not spoken about this unpaid job in Moscow before but only focused on parenting. Moscow is a big, impersonal, dirty, expensive city. There is a large and ever increasing expat community here. The expat crowd is a mixed bag of personalities and nationalities. It consists of contractors, short term contracts, single and married, foreign men married to and dating Russian women and permanent expats that have chosen to make Moscow their permanent home.
I try very hard to avoid speaking about personal things on this blog as speaking about the self could be seen as egotistical. I am not seeking to promote myself or to be vain, however a blog is personal no matter how hard you try to be neutral. This blog can at times be from the heart, this is from my heart and I share it with you, my unknown, voiceless, anonymous audience. Experience and opinion is individual. I want to share my experience here regarding being full time father, jobless and at home with a child in a place like Moscow. This may help other dads who are thinking of doing what I am doing abroad and help them to decide if it is for them or not. Read carefully if you such a man!
There are some men in my situation in Moscow. These men are either here looking after their kids for a short period, until they continue their unbroken high flying careers in a new job in Moscow or they have full time nannies while they sit at home playing the stock market or poker online. Many of these guys have a full time woman to look after their kid or kids. This seems to me to be a luxury for them. My wife would never accept such an arrangement. Her view would be, if you are at home all day then look after our kid. She is a tough woman. We cannot afford a full time nanny. We don't get any help financially with our rent and do not get any financial help with kindergarten or school costs. We are very unusual cases in Moscow. You may ask why the hell did we come here? The answer is simple, it was take a job in Moscow or have no job. That's the economic situation that we all now live in. We do what we can to feed ourselves and our families.
I must confess, I do think I am lucky to spend the early years with my kid at home but on the other hand I am a bit jealous of these other dads and expats in their situations. Jealousy is a terrible thing and something, I really try to suppress it but it's difficult in place like Moscow where money and wealth is all around you. At times, if you are real stay at home father in Moscow and actually looking after your kids or kids at home you will sometimes feel like a black man in America in the 1950's. Socially outcast and looked at with suspicion by others. Of course I cannot possible compare my situation with that of a black man, as I would not do the situation justice. I only use it as a metaphor for social comparison. This is how I often feel. A trick of the mind or a gut feeling? A gut feeling.
Before arriving here, I half imagined some friendly expat community, where people would meet, help each other out, host fancy boozy dinner parties, have picnics in the park with the kids and all stick together like one happy, smiling extended family. This naive illusion was soon shattered after about six months of living in Moscow. The reality is that mothers stick together while their men folk work. They often have part time or full time nannies, they meet for coffee and do activities together, they live the good life like a housewife in the 1950's. Some greet each other with a kiss on each cheek and practice the false bible of 'being'. Many women won't be friends with a man. This may be due to their upbringing or because of jealous husbands? Snobbery is prevalent within some expat communities, Moscow is no different.
A stay at home husband can raise awkward questions within the hen house and among the cockerels. They will ask themselves is he a drunk? How can he do that and still have his pride? Why does his wife accept him to stay at home all day while she works hard? How can he live off his wife? etc. What they don't realize is that situations change and couples adapt to life's needs. Couples swap and change roles subject to career opportunities and career dictates. Ignorance can still exist among some people and expats are no acceptation to this sad and ignorant belief. The truth is, you will lose some self pride and your role will destroy some respect you have for yourself and the respect others have for you. This is an unavoidable fact of being a full time stay at home father. It's part of the package, part of the deal, even if you don't want it to happen.
If you are thinking of moving with your wife to a place like Moscow and will be at home all day with your kid or kids, have a thick skin and a plan 'b'. Ideally, you will have a profession that is transferable aboard. You could be a doctor, dentist, 'banker', accountant or lawyer. If you are any of these things, finding a job abroad will be a lot easier even after a break for childcare duties. The chances of meeting many other dads in your situation is slim to very unlikely. Try to set up a business that you can take with you, maybe you are an web page designer, in which case you can simply carry on your web page design business anywhere you travel with your family. The key is is be tough and not care what other people think, this can be harder than it sounds. Try to get out make friends with other guys and take up a sport. You will need to hire a nanny at least for a few hours a week just so you can have some alone time. Alone time is vital to remaining sane, calm and happy in place like Moscow.
As for me, well I can't say I like my life style in Moscow and count the days to leave like a prisoner would do marking off chalk lines on his prison wall. In a nutshell, big cities are cold and unfriendly places. I guess I should have thought it through a bit more before agreeing to come here. As we say in English, you make your bed and you lie in it . In the meantime, I will just carry on as best I can and try not to get too depressed.
Daddy needs a happiness pill. A change in the weather may bring with it a more positive mood. Let's hope so dear reader.
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Labels: lonely Moscow life