Interview: David, the stay abroad dad...

Published 2019-10-23 13:20

He left his office job to become a stay at home dad in Malaysia while his wife is a teacher in an international school. And he has been pretty busy since: from following people into supermarkets because he might have spotted new friends for his young daughter, to his very first dress up day… David tells us about being able to take his children swimming everyday and about the difficulty of not being the breadwinner anymore, among others.

How did you end up being a stay at home dad all the way in Malaysia?

My wife and I taught English for a year in South Korea in 2010 as we looked to escape the 'financial crisis' at the time. We both loved it but agreed that it would only be a 12-month thing so moved back to England in 2011. From then we'd both had itchy feet but before we knew it, it was seven years later, we had two kids a big house and a bigger mortgage. A job then appeared one day in my wife's spam email and she jokingly said 'should I apply for it?'. Eight months later, we were here. Although I had always worked full time in England, we decided the move would only really work if one of us stayed at home with our youngest child, so given it was my wife who got the job first, it was my turn to be a stay at home parent.

What did you do as a job before?

I am a chartered surveyor and worked in one of the largest companies in the world back in the UK. I qualified straight after university in 2007 and apart from the year in South Korea, I had been doing it since.

How was the transition from your office job?

A lot of people told me that I would miss the social side of things and whilst I did to a certain extent, I was that busy with my son that it didn't affect me as much as I thought.  Probably the biggest difficulty in that sense is going from being the one bringing in the money to ultimately being the supporting partner, that took a bit of getting used to.

Was it an option to work when settling in Malaysia?

Due to the various visa requirements, the only real way I would be able to work in Malaysia is if I were to get a job as a surveyor. My old company has an office right in the centre of Kuala Lumpur and there was the opportunity to explore a role further. There were two main reasons we decided that I would stay at home, however. For one, on a good day, we live about 30 minutes from the centre of Kuala Lumper. On a bad day (basically every weekday morning and evening) you are looking at a 90-minute journey each way. Whilst I know that is quite normal for a lot of people, our present situation is that I stay at home and play with my son. I then pick my daughter up after school and we all go swimming together. I love that. If I was working, that would stop and we would be back in the same rushed lifestyle that we had in the UK.

Secondly, my wife works in an international school so gets a fair amount of holidays. Malaysia is really good for getting around South East Asia so we have managed to explore a lot. The annual leave entitlements as a surveyor do not compare at all, so again, if I were to work then our opportunities to explore would stop.

Was it an easy decision to leave your job to follow your partner abroad for her job?

I'd had itchy feet for a while and was also getting to the point in my job where I knew that if I didn't leave when I did, I would probably find it harder to leave in the future due to career progression etc not to mention the kids being settled in school. It wasn't an easy decision but when we were making our 'pros and cons' list as to whether we should go or not, 'we'll regret it if we don't' was top of the pro's column and outweighed all the cons.

What is your favorite thing about life in Malaysia?

We go swimming every single day. Our kids love swimming but back in the UK it was a chore taking them to the pool. It was always cold, expensive and took forever getting there and back. Here we just leave our door and are in the pool five minutes later. They are brilliant swimmers now. My 2-year-old can swim 25m (when he's in the mood) and my 4-year-old can swim 100m without trying. It's one of the best life skills and you know that if they ever get into difficulties in the water, they have a very good chance of getting out of it alone.

Also, the travel, we have visited so many countries since we've been here and our kids have seen and done things they would never get the chance to do if we were holidaying from England

And your least favorite thing?

Sometimes it can get too hot to be outdoors for long periods so you have to plan your day around the heat and if you mess that up it can be a bit frustrating that you have to head towards a shopping mall or somewhere similar to avoid the midday sun. Also, mosquitoes. There are quite a few around and Dengue fever is an issue here so you have to be extra careful.

How do the children enjoy Malaysia?

It took our eldest a few months to adjust as she missed her friends etc but now they are both fully integrated. They love it now, the only thing left for them to get used to is the spicy food which may take a while, but we never struggle to feed them good food! Hopefully, as they grow they will continue to want to travel and see the world.

You also blog about the joys of stay at home dad-hood. How did that begin?

I do. I started The Stay Abroad Dad only a few months ago and it all came about from my other parent friends. When at the school gates, they would all ask what I'd been up to during the day. My answers gave them great entertainment as I always seem to find myself in ridiculous situations which all gave them a good laugh at my expense. They suggested I do this, so I did.