Thursday, September 24, 2009

Spouse or career

Ten years ago, in mid 1999, my spouse was informed that he has been transferred to Newbury, UK to work for 3 years. At that time, we were newlyweds - just been married for 5 months. I was working in a bank as a senior IT officer. I have been working there for 4 years since graduating from a local university in the Pearl of the Orient. Many questions came to mind when I heard the news:

- Should I quit my job and follow my spouse to live in a foreign country? In 3 years time, when we move back, I would need to find a job and start my career all over again. What if I can't resume my career?

- Should I just stay in Malaysia and let him go alone since it is only for 3 years. I could visit him twice a year or vice versa.

- Should I just let him go first and once when he is up to speed with his work there and has saved up quite a bit, then I will join him.

At that time, I have just taken a staff housing loan of around 230 thousand (MYR) so if I quit my job, how am I going to afford the installment payment for my loan? There wasn't enough time for me to sell my condo unit before he leaves for UK. As his spouse, I was allowed to work in UK but the question was could I find a job in UK with my local Computer Science degree?

After thinking about it for a long time, I decided to quit my job and go with him from day 1. To me, this is what a marriage is about - to be with your spouse through thick and thin and to create experiences and memories together.

On hindsight, it all worked out. We lived in UK for 4 years, from 1999 to 2003. His 3-year UK work permit was extended for another 5 years to 2007 but we decided to cut short our stint in UK and return to Malaysia at the end of 2003 to be closer to our families in Malaysia.

The view from our place in UK during a white winter.

This is me (ten years ago), standing in front of our rental unit where we lived for 4 years. The rent was £575 per month and our landlord is a very nice English man (I think he may be Welsh not English) who did not increase our rent for the 4 years we were living there. He wanted to sell his place but decided to wait until we left.

This is my spouse, coming up the stairs to our rental unit.

Christmas 2000 in Newbury

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Happy 93rd Birthday 外婆 !

My maternal grandmother (外婆) will be celebrating her 93rd birthday tomorrow. It is on the 3rd of the 8th month of the chinese calendar.

She was born in Nanjing, China in 1916 and moved to Taiwan with her whole family during the war sometime around the year 1946. She is now living alone in an apartment in Taiwan bought for her by my aunt (her eldest daughter who is now living in Canada). My uncle (her youngest son) will visit her a few times a week and both of them will go shopping for grocery. She still cooks her own meals and will travel on the bus on her own to visit her friends for mahjung sessions. She is a very independent lady.

Although my grandmother has 2 sons and 7 daughters, she chooses to live on her own. Her children are scattered around the world. My mother in Malaysia, two of my aunts in Canada, another two aunts in USA and one in China. One aunt and both my uncles living in Taiwan visit her regularly.

I have only visited my grandmother 4 times in my 38 years of living and she has only visited us in Malaysia 3 times. She says Malaysia is too hot for her so she won't be visiting us here anymore. She speaks the Nanjing dialect so sometimes I find it difficult to understand what she is saying to me.

I wish my grandmother a very Happy Birthday and may she have the best of health!

Friday, September 18, 2009

A personal choice

I met some friends the other day and they told me that a mutual friend of ours, someone my age, just gave birth to her first child. Then they proceed to ask me when will it be my turn. Truth be told, although I love to hug and cuddle babies, although my heart melts whenever I see adorable babies smile, although I feel the urge to care for young children, although I feel warm all inside when I see parents bonding with their babies, I know from way back, even before I got married that I do not need to have children of my own.

In fact, right after I have gotten married, many well-meaning friends, relatives and acquaintances asked me when do I plan to have children. I answered them politely that I plan not to have any children. Some would snigger and say, "well, you'll change your mind after a while when your maternal instinct kicks in and you'll feel the urge to have children. You'll yearn to have them so badly that you'll feel the pain cutting through your heart." They then say to me, "if you leave it for too long, you may never be able to have children that easily as your biological clock never stops ticking, you will grow too old to have children easily. You will then need to undergo expensive invasive medical procedures just to conceive so please don't wait. You'll regret it later."

What they do not know is that I did not give my answer on a whim. In fact before my marriage, I thought long and hard about this question. I sought my partner's thoughts on this too as I know that a marriage will not work if one spouse wanted children and the other did not. Fortunately both of us agree that having children is not something that we could not live without.

I strongly believe that to have or not to have children is a personal choice. No woman should be coerced, threatened or pressured into bearing children if she is not willing or not ready to do so, not by her husband, parents-in-law nor even her own parents.

I also believe that people should be able to have as many children as they want as long as they are committed to bear the responsibility of bringing up their children to be happy and well-adjusted adults. They should also be ready to meet the requirements of their children financially, physically and emotionally. They need to understand that children are human beings with their own rights, with their own feelings and needs. Children need to be loved and cared for in a stable home.

There is no one particular strong reason why I choose not to have children. It is just that I do not see why I should have children.
Some of the questions and comments that I get from people when they know that I choose not to have children are as below and I have also put in my answers to them.

1. Aren't you curious to know who your children will look like?

I do not have a need to create a new human being from myself and my spouse just to satisfy our curiosity on who they will look like.

2. Don't you love children?

I do and my love for children could be put to good use by me helping out with caring for the children of my relatives.

3. Who will care for you when you are old?

I think it is very unfair to have children just because the parents are afraid that no one will take care of them when they are old. It is a burden to the child to be born just to be a carer and to be the sole provider for the parents during old age.

Save and invest wisely when young so that one can take care of oneself when old. Strive to stay healthy when old by eating healthily and exercise regularly when young.

4. Who will carry on your spouse's family name?

Can someone explain to me why is there a need for someone to carry on any family name?

5. Having a child will complete you. You cannot be considered a woman until you become a mother.

I do not believe that being a mother is a woman's highest calling. There are many other things for a woman to do apart from giving birth and being a mother.

6. Having children is the natural next step after getting married.

One do not have to follow the well-trodden path.

7. We need young workers to replace the old.

Just extend the retirement age. Many old people are still healthy and are still happy to work.

8. Your country needs more {insert race here} so you need to contribute to the {insert race here} population.

I am not a racist.

9. You are missing out on some of the most fulfilling experiences in life.

Being pregnant, giving birth and raising children are experiences that I do not mind not having.

10. How can you be so cruel as to deny your children the joy of living.

How can someone who does not exist in this world (i.e. my children) be denied of anything?

11. Nothing can beat the wonderful feeling of hearing your biological children say that they love you.

I do not mind not having that wonderful feeling.

12. Your children will bring such joy to your life. Having them in your life will motivate you to work harder and give you energy to work that you never imagine that you have. You will have a purpose in life.

Do you mean to say that you have no motivation to work hard, no energy to work and no purpose in life before having your own children? For me, I do not need to have my own children to give me all the above.

Those are about all the comments that I can remember. May all the children on earth have a happy childhood and grow up to be well-adjusted adults!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

My ideal age to die

In my previous post, I mentioned that it is my hope to die peacefully and free from pain between the age of 61 and 65. Currently, I am trying to live my life to the fullest. By the time I reach 61, if everything goes well, I would be very satisfied with how I have lived my life so I would be ready to say goodbye to this world then.

I would not want to burden anyone to have to look after me when I grow really old so that is why I have chosen the age bracket of 61-65 as my ideal age to die. Who knows, I may die much earlier than 61. I may even die tomorrow. It is not up to me to decide when I will die as I am not considering suicide. I can only hope.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A plan for 3 years

Now, I am in the midst of getting ready to move to my new house. So all my daily activities recently have something to do with this move. The plan is to move in at the end of October this year and live there until Dec 2012. My spouse and I bought the place 5 years ago but only received the keys from the developer mid 2009. After looking through the 2.5 storeys intermediate terrace house, we conclude that we do not need this much space for just the two of us so we decide to sell it in 3 years time when the housing market should have recovered. I feel fortunate that my spouse have taken a break from work since early this year so that we can jointly participate 100% in this event. Would we stick to the plan? Would we decide not to sell the house when the 3 years are up? Only time can tell.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Wo shi shei, 我是谁, who am I?

I am not going to write a review on Jackie Chan's movie entitled Wo shi shei (Who am I?)我是谁 here. This is about me.

When strangers meet me and want to get to know me, the two common questions they would ask me is what my name is and what do I do. What they really want to know from the second question is what my job is. So I will address the latter question here.

1. My job:

I have taken myself out of the job market voluntarily since August last year so I am jobless or jobfree at the moment and I do not expect to be looking for another job anytime soon until it is really necessary (read: low on fuel).

They would not ask me about my gender/sex because they can see for themselves that I am a woman. If they look at my hands, they would see that I am not wearing a wedding ring so they would think that I am not married. Well, in that case, they would be wrong. I have been married for 10 years now to a man whom I have dated since I was 20 years old. 18 years is a long time to be with someone but there are still two more years to go before:

his years with me = his years without me

After knowing all these facts, they would smile knowingly and say "Ah, so you are a housewife." Those who are politically correct would use the word "homemaker" while those trying to be smart would say "home minister" instead of "housewife". Then they would proceed to ask "how many children do you have?" to which I would replied "none".

At this stage, they would be torn between politeness and curiosity. In their heart, they would like to know why I do not have any children but they are afraid to ask because they do not know me well enough to ask personal questions such as:

a) Is it due to health reason?
- am I infertile?
- is my spouse infertile?
- what treatment have I undergone?
- what did the doctor say?
b) Is it by choice?
- If it is, why?
- whose choice - mine or my spouse?
c) am I still waiting for the right time while my biological clock is ticking away?

They are also afraid their questions may bring back sad memories of miscarriages (if there were any) so most of them would just stop at that.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Happy 38th Birthday to me!

Today I celebrate my 38th birthday by creating this blog to record my journey through life from this moment onwards.

The question that I am asking myself everyday now is how many more years do I have before I die. If I knew the answer, it would be easier for me to plan my future.

Would I die between the age of:

a. 38-40+
b. 41-45+
c. 46-50+
d. 51-55+
e. 56-60+
f. 61-65+ (my ideal age to die)
g. 66-70+
h. 71-75+
i. 76-80+
j. 81-85+
k. 86-90+

I sure hope that I do not die after 90 years old because I would be so old by then that I would not know what to do with myself. My ideal age to die is between 61 to 65 years old.

My father had diabetes and died at the age of 57+ after never recovering from having his feet amputated due to gangrene. His mother died when he was just 7 years old so I do not know how old she was at that time. His father died at the age of 67+ 72+ (congestive cardiac failure). 3 out of 6 of my father's siblings are no longer alive today. They all died between the age of 55 between 65 (approximate).

This year my mother is 66+ years old whereas her mother is 92+ years old. My maternal grandfather died a few years after recovering fully from a stroke. I do not know how old he was at that time but I will check and update it here. Update: 73+ All 8 siblings of my mother, ranging from 53 to 71 years old are all well and alive today.

So looking at the above information, can I hope to die peacefully and free from pain between 61 and 65 years old?