Stay at Home Dad…Abroad
Hi, I’m Dave. I’m mid-30s and married with two kids. I am originally from Newcastle upon Tyne, England. In 2018 I quit my job and moved to Malaysia to be a stay at home Dad….or stay abroad Dad.
I am going to talk about how we survive the heat, the cultural differences, the lifestyle change, the travel and all the other challenges that being a stay at home Dad abroad, brings. Although I try hard, I’m pretty useless, this blog has literally only come about because my ‘mam friends’ have told me to start writing down the many failings and sometimes ridiculous situations I somehow find myself in, basically they all get a kick out of it. But there’s some serious stuff here as well…..
Quick Rundown of The Last Ten Years
Me and my wife Ruth had decent jobs, I am a chartered surveyor and she is a teacher. I qualified in 2008 and then despite being promised a pay rise as soon as I passed my exams, my boss hit me with the classic line of ‘are you doing anything differently now compared to before you were qualified? you’re not getting a pay rise’ . That went down well.
I started looking for a new job but England at that time was well into recession, there were no jobs and those that still had jobs were lucky to hold on to them. We stumbled across an opportunity to go and teach English in South Korea for a year, so we quit our jobs and moved abroad. It was one of the few places in the world that you can teach without a formal teaching qualification. It was amazing but I don’t have time to go into that now. I’ll keep that in my back pocket for when I can’t think what else to write….
Back in the UK again…
So in 2010 after dodging most of the recession bullet, we came back, both got jobs in Sheffield, about 3 hours outside of Newcastle. Ruth then gets pregnant and we move back ‘home’ with our new baby, L. We got new jobs, then a couple of years later, throw new baby T into the mix and a 3-bed semi in suburbia and we have the makings of a very 2.4 children style of living, very comfortable, very stable.
The problem was, the year we spent in South Korea had planted the seed of ‘wanting to move abroad’, the ‘travel bug’ that people bang on about is real, I had been to about 5 countries in the 24 years of my life before South Korea, now 10 years on, its probably 35-40. Anyway, everyone was happy enough, good jobs, kids settled, if it’s not broke, not fix it….right?
Anyways, after a tough few weeks of work and T teething for what seemed like forever, one evening Ruth was checking her email and come across a job for a recently opened school in Malaysia. Probably should mention we had been to Malaysia before on holiday and absolutely loved it, we both came back and said, ‘one day we will move there’, the usual pipe dream nonsense that people spout after coming back from holiday. Pretty sure I’ve said that about every place I’ve been to when the sun is out for more than 11 minutes at a time.
Should I apply for it??
You don’t need to convince me, I reply, just do it before you go off the idea, what’s the worst that can happen…………..?
So, a few application forms, interviews and more interviews later, everything goes quiet, for like a month.
We write the idea of moving abroad off, its obviously not happening, I mean why would you leave a very comfortable life and move abroad with two very young kids leaving everything and everyone behind anyway? Its probably a good thing the decision has been made for us, let’s forget that, lets do up the kitchen and convert the garage instead, that’s definitely just as exciting.
So plans for that were in place, tradesmen, building regulations, everything ready to go.
Then one morning, getting out of the shower, the phone rings….at 7.00am?
No-one would ring at that time….. unless the person ringing was actually sat having a mid-afternoon coffee.
I loiter around at the top of the stairs, listening in.
…umm…yeah…. great…ummm….thank you.
One thought comes into my head. Shit.
She’s only gone and got the job.
Let’s be honest, the only reason we applied was to make us feel better about ourselves, a bit of an extreme version of when you buy a book with no real intention of opening it, but because you’ve bought it then it feels like you’ve read it cover to cover.
What the hell do we do now?
Are we actually going to do this?
We can’t, can we?
I was in a flap.
How do we decide this?
In contrast, Ruth, who was always a bit skeptical about the whole idea, was well up for it, she wouldn’t even give me the get out of jail free card by saying she didn’t want to go.
So I went to work that day, did nothing, obviously, spent most of the day doing that tappy thing with a pencil that always annoys the person sitting next to you.
Life’s too short
Luckily a chance meeting at some traffic lights the following day, decided it for me.
It was a Tuesday, I used to cycle to and from work in the centre of Newcastle and on the way home I stopped at some traffic lights. Another cyclist pulled up alongside me and I yawned, he turned to me and said, ‘don’t worry only another 3 days to go’ (to the weekend)
I stopped and thought to myself (and in doing so, missed the green light), I mean I know people joke about it but is that what we’re all genuinely doing? Just waiting for Friday night to come around? Wishing 5/7ths of our life away so that we have a night either on the drink to then spend the next day in bed hungover, or in my case, sat in front of the TV with an ASDA pizza and a couple of cans of lager hoping and praying the kids don’t wake up!?!?
We then have a couple of days free to ‘get things done’ shopping, cleaning, washing the car (I never did that but I’m just trying to make a point), one of those days is then half-ruined because we all start thinking about going back to work the next day and we begin the whole process again!
Is that literally how life works?
Na screw that, lets move to Malaysia!
To the man on the bike, if you’re reading this. Thank you, I am here because of you! I hope you had a good weekend!
So with Ruth’s job lined up, what would I do? In Newcastle I worked for one of the largest surveying companies in the world who actually had an office in Kuala Lumpur, known as KL to the locals, I could potentially get a job out there. But then I figured, give it 6 months, the only thing that would change is I’ll be hearing ‘only 3 days to go…’ again, but this time it would be in a language I don’t understand plus I’d have sweat running down my face instead of cold North East rain!
By then as well, I had pretty much decided that I needed a break from sitting in an office making someone else money.
So I decided to give this ‘looking after the kids thing’ a go and try being a stay at home Dad abroad.
We quit our jobs, rented our house out, sold everything we had, and I mean everything, cars, furniture, toys, bikes. We all had a suitcase each and thought we’ll take the essentials and buy what we need out there. Tell you what, getting rid of all the clutter you have in your house is amazing, you realise how much you don’t actually need. We never did find a use for the spare rolling pin we kept, just in case the first one broke.
We said our goodbyes to family and friends which was horrendous to be honest and far and away the most difficult thing in the process. Someone once told me that moving abroad with kids is a very selfish thing to do, and that’s true to an extent, but at the end of the day, you have to live your own life, make a decision and go with it.
After a much easier than expected journey of about 17 hours, we arrived with two hot, jetlagged kids.
After a few days adjusting, Ruth started work, I was on my own…..