I’m not sure where in my last post gave the impression of the kind of life I lead, but I laughed out loud when someone sent me this message – “What’s there not to like about being a tai tai(rich, married woman who does not need to work)? ;)”
Alas, being a tai tai could not be further from the truth. For a start, I don’t have a maid. To put it more succinctly, I’m the maid – although I valiantly tell my kids that I’m not. I’m the driver – I send them to and from school, and sometimes pick my husband from work. I’m the cook, throwing dinner together at the last minute most days. I’m the tuition teacher (for Jason and his Chinese). And as if these jobs are not enough to keep me busy, I fill up other hours with freelance work.
I’m not complaining. I’m thankful to be doing all the things I’m now doing. This post is about all the work I’m doing, and why I continue to work when I can.
Before I became a journalist, I wanted to teach. Even when I was reporting, the thought crossed my mind several times. So I thought I had the best of both worlds when the opportunity came up to teach basic journalism to a class of JC kids whose CCA was the school’s editorial board. A lot of work went into the preparation of the sessions but it was well worth it. The kids were responsive, asked many intelligent questions and I had fun. After that, for a short while, I helped to mentor the students in my alma mater’s student newspaper, NTU’s Nanyang Chronicle. This was unpaid though. It was a trip down memory lane, going back to the student paper when I was involved in, and where I met my husband. Again, I enjoyed sharing with the students what I learnt in my years in ST.
I’m dabbling in corporate writing and copy-writing, writing letters, proposals, public communications materials. It’s a different ballgame from news writing, but corporates generally pay well so that’s important because I set aside a limited amount of time for work each day.
I just finished two projects for a philanthropic organisation, handling the public relations. I thought I would never go into PR, but never say never. I was interested in the causes they were doing – preschool education – and decided to try it out when I was approached. I learnt what I liked, and did not like about PR work. I like the challenge of coming up with press releases, it’s somewhat like writing a news story. But I didn’t like all the admin work then went along with it – media reports etc.
There is also some ongoing work with a few publications, short news articles very similar to writing for ST. These allow me to keep in touch with newsmakers, go out for interviews and file a story like I used to. There is also some work for schools and universities – press releases and more recently, speech-writing. I’m making it a point to try most types of work that come my way at least once, before I decide if I want to go back and do more of the same. Somewhat like a buffet, no?
So why do all this work?
The obvious reasons include wanting to earn some money, keep in touch with the world and use the skills I have. But there are other reasons I think it’s better that I keep working when I can. I don’t work more than I used to when I had a full-time job, because otherwise that would defeat the purpose of quitting my job. The work I mentioned was spread over 8 months. I am thankful for the steady stream of work, and the fact that I can decide how much or little I want to work (earn).
Like I said, I remind the kids I’m not their maid. But the truth is I now have more time for housework than when I was working. If I didn’t have freelance work to keep me busy, I might be tempted to do much more chores for them, for instance, put away their folded clothes, fill their water bottles etc. But because I keep busy, I make sure they do their part to help me with chores and not mollycoddle them.
Eight-year-old Jason is an early-riser and makes his own breakfast each morning, either toasting bread or getting milk and cereal. He sometimes helps five-year-old Shannon if she wakes up early. He has to clear away breakfast, wash his cup and wipe the table. Any oily stuff is left in the sink for me to deal with. He usually gets his homework done by the time I wake up. I try to revise Chinese with him a few times a week. I assign him work, but I don’t sit with him to watch him do it. I tell him I have other work, even if I don’t. So I keep an eye on him while I do some housework – sweeping the floor or putting clothes to wash.
With reminders, they make their bed. They also pack their schoolbags, fill their own water bottles and get ready for school on their own. More Jason than Shannon, but she’s getting there too. Apart from these, they have to put away their clean clothes which I’ve already folded. Weekends, Jason gets to swiffer the floor too! If my doing freelance work means they are getting to do more chores, I think that’s a perfect arrangement.
When work is something I enjoy, it gives me a sense of satisfaction and something else to do apart from my role as a Mum. A happier Mum can only be a better Mum. It makes weekend breaks that much more enjoyable. It means I appreciate any lull in work assignments even better. It provides a variation in life which is essential for me. And since I don’t take on work during the school holidays, there is no need to “apply for leave”.
Work gives me something else to talk about with my husband, apart from the kids. He loves to help me “strategise” on how I can better deal with clients etc. I tease him that I’m supposed to be a tai tai, he tells me, only half-jokingly, that I’m better off doing what I’m doing now, than being a tai tai.
In a way, it’s true.