I feel like I’ve been officially inducted into my new lifestyle. Yes, I’ve been a petroleum wife going on a few years now, but last week was different.
Last week, a member of the Company Wives Club reached out and invited me to attend a morning coffee meet-up at her home. This club consists of petroleum wives like myself who have accompanied their husbands on assignment in Calgary. This was the big leagues.
My first wives-only event as an official petroleum wife, I went in expecting a Stepford Wives rendition of expat living. Carrying a customary hostess gift, I was warmly greeted at the door. And so the exchange of stories and backgrounds commenced.
“How long have you been here?”
“Is this your first expat assignment?”
“Do you know when you’re going back home?”
“Where is home for you?”
Despite embracing my new status as a petroleum wife, I too have (or shall I say had) my own preconceived notion on what this lifestyle entails. While there definitely is an element of luxury in their lives, there was way more to this group of women than meets the eye.
A more accurate portrayal of American petroleum wives. Photo credit.
There were about 12 women at “the Coffee” as they called it. I was undoubtedly the youngest of the group by far, soaking in their stories with awe and admiration of their adventurous ‘go-get’em’ attitude. Above all else, I was pleasantly surprised at the diversity of the ladies that morning, and not just their backgrounds. Indian, Turkish, Arab-American, and Australian were some of the nationalities and ethnicities present at the Coffee.
Despite the thousands of expat families within the Company network, somehow my new community seems incredibly close knit. Even being relatively new to the scene, I managed to recognize a few names as the women discussed friends from past assignments.
From Singapore to Italy, Tokyo to London, their stories were enthralling. Reminiscing on where they had the most fun in the past, where the best Korean food in Calgary is because they want a little taste of South Korea again, and where their next assignments would lead them were just a few of the hot topics.
I spent most of the morning asking different ladies how they felt about raising their children abroad. Generally I’ve received such varying answers to this question which leads me to believe petroleum families have a love-hate relationship with the idea. Mothers tend to either love the cultural diversity and awareness their children are exposed to abroad, or they feel a sense of ‘home’ is lost to them as their children grow up as perpetual expats.
One woman actually moved 13 times. 13 times! Undoubtedly her husband enjoyed a long and fulfilling career. But even over the span of a 30-year career, moving 13 times across the different corners of the world with 2 children in tow is no small feat. I can’t begin to imagine the kind of adventures they must have had. Yet a part of me, a tiny small part in my heart, can only imagine how lonely this woman must have been. To constantly pick up and move your family, say good bye to good friends and embark on the process of making new ones must not have been easy.
These women consist of the backbone of their partners’ careers, working so hard to be successful. I don’t think our husbands would be able to fulfill their demanding work schedules and grueling pace without our full-time support. Someone needs to take care of the logistics of daily life while also keeping quality of life at an all-time high. That’s our job.
While you might think I would be intimidated by what the future most likely will bring for us, I couldn’t help but feel excited at the thought of exploring the world. So few people get opportunities to live like this. I’m going to make the most of it.