Being an oilfield engineer is tough. Yes, yes, indeed there is the glamorous side like being well-paid, especially when you work overseas as an expat, international training opportunities, and have a one of a kind pre-wed picture like I have above :p But let's face it, all of those fun don't come for free. Like any other things in the world, it comes with a price. And we are the ones who have to decide whether or not the price is worth it.
Before I got married, I never used to think much when I have to stay offshore or on site for a long time. Yes, I felt bored, yes, I felt a suddenly very urgent need of going to the salon (especially when I have to stay for more than 2 weeks) or hang out with my friends, but that's that. My parents lived in another island anyway so it's not like I literally have some one waiting for me to come home to my staff house. But being the only female in the field, my crews always told me jokes about how being away way too long from their family (particularly wives) can harm them. By then, I only listened and laugh with them and try to empathize although I really can't relate to them that much.
And then, time comes when I decided to take a one year maternity+post maternity leave from the office. I wanted to spend as much time as possible with littleM, and the other reason is that I wanted to know how it feels like living as a house wife. And boy oh boy I have to say that it is HARD.
The first four months of littleM's life was spent back home because baby can only go aboard an aeroplane once she is 3 months young. So me and Mr. Hubby went through a long distance marriage. We tried to make it work through frequent skype calls and messengers, and it did work. But whenever littleM reach a milestone, Mr. Hubby's reaction when I report it to him broke my heart: "yaaaah, aku ketinggalan perkembangannya littleM.". Now I can relate to the wives of my crew back then, when their husbands left them offshore only with their families or just alone with their kids. How sometimes you feel like you are doing all the parenting part alone. It's not easy being a parent with your spouse around, and it's a lot harder when you are going solo. But I have to admit being with my family, or sometimes his family helps. At least I have somebody to talk to or giving me comfort whenever I'm not feeling comfortable about anything.
And then, the time comes when I have to come here with Mr. Hubby. Being a stay at home mom in a small city where most people speaks Tunisian-Arabic or French. And when I say stay at home in this small city, it really means STAY AT HOME. I don't have any non-SLB friends, and in Sfax you can't really go anywhere anyways. So my only hope was weekend shopping with Mr. Hubby in Carrefour, or short getaways to nearby cities like Sousse or Hammamet (Alhamdulillah bangeeeet masih bisa kemana-mana jaman itu). So I stayed home, playing with littleM, sometimes when the weather is nice we go to the garden (which is our backyard) and play there. But that's about that.
Now I know how you feel, spouses of field engineers, who go with their husbands to a small city. You feel like you are doing everything on your own: cooking, laundry, trying to get the house clean, while at the same time trying to raise a perfectly cute baby. And then, hubby goes to location. It was far away with no phone signals so I can't text him or call him. The only thing I can do is wait for him to call, or text, or send an e-mail or a message (Thank GOD for internet), and that's that. And when I don't hear from him for several days straight, I worry. What happens? Is there something wrong in the job? Is there any incidents? Is he okay? All bad scenarios come in to my mind, especially when he was sent to the sahara where most of the Al-Qaeda people hide. I can only hope and pray that he will come home safe.
And then there is a problem in your house. A short circuit happen, some of your home appliance don't work. The phone bills never come so you don't know that you are paying late and the company cuts your phone and internet, your sink broke down, and the baby is teething, and you don't have enough sleep, and you wonder: why do all of these have to happen when my husband is not here? You are all tired and wanted to cry. But your shoulder to cry on is not around. He is in the field. With no connection to reach you.
And when you have everything planned up to welcome your husband home, but he called saying that there will be a delay of him coming back because there is a problem in the field. You are upset, and angry sometimes. Because you have prepared everything and now it all comes to waste. And what about that family vacation that you always wanted? Yeah, we'll have to reschedule everything now. When the only hope of seeing other people and socialize is ruined, you can do nothing but say that it sucks. And when you ask him when he is coming back he can only say that he don't know, it upsets you even more. You are angry. You want to come to his bosses or whoever that makes the problem and give him/her a pat on their backs. With a big hammer. And told them that his family needs him so you better bring him back to town now, you insufferable oaf! But off course you can't do that. So again, you just wait for him to finish the job soon and come back safe.
And then, your husband comes home. And he told you about the job, and you see a gleam of pride in his face. His eyes showing passion to what he does, that he enjoys what he do, and he is proud of it. You feel his pride, you share his joy. Especially when he comes home the next day and say that he got award for this, he got award for that. You can't help but being proud of him. And if your husband is a completions engineer or a drilling engineer, you can say to your children 5-10 years later. You see this area in this country? Your father / your mother drill / built the well there and help thousand of people in that country to get fuel. He/she designed it, and it's still producing until now. Dan hey, sebaik-baiknya ilmu itu kan ilmu yang diamalkan, jadi mari ber-husnudzon bahwa itu akan jadi amal jariyah yang terus mengalir selama umur sumurnya untuk suami/istri kita :)
So here's to you. All spouses of oilfield worker who stays at home, resigning from their professional careers in order to stay together with your husband/wife. Leaving your social life for a foreign place you know nothing of. Going, just with faith that you will find some familiar faces. And keeping that faith strong through the hardest of times just in order to be able to stay together as a family and to support your spouses at all times. I raise my hat. Respect. :)