Weekends Are the Mega-ly Worst Part of the Week

The weekend is abso the v worst time of the week for an expat wife. The awfulness kicks off first thing in the morning, when you have to get up megaly-early, or it looks like you’ve been having lie-ins all week. Saturday is bad, but with the helper’s day off, Sunday is soul-destroying.

A big part of the problem is having to spend too much time with the children. Well, Max tends to keep himself to himself, but I mean Milly really. The most annoying thing about Milly is that, for a three-year old she is extremely self-centred. She probably gets this from Don, but I suspect that there is also a link with the breastfeeding. Until she went on to solids, Milly was exclusively breastfed, and since then the only milk she has is still lady milk. Not from me, of course, but from the help. That was on my list of requirements when we hired her:

1. Must not eat spam
2. Must not be too hot
3. Must currently be lactating

It was a horrible shame, but I had to stop breastfeeding after five weeks because I just wasn’t seeing Milly often enough for her to rely on me for food (and pumping is too disgusting to persevere with unless you have a really great party to go to).

Max, au contraire, was only ever breastfed by yours truly (we didn’t have full-time help in the UK), and he has really turned out far nicer than Milly. Whereas she takes after Don, Max is totes more like me in most respects, beyond his passion for Minecraft. I feel certain that there is an interesting piece of research to be done there, to determine whether excessive breastfeeding – or the wrong type of milk?? – can turn a child into a nasty little dog-torturing turd. I think I should pursue it, as part of my future studies in child psychology.

Another problem with weekends is that the husbands just swan around, from golf to tennis to the cigar bar, and the wives have to take up the slack around them. They never want to come to social/ whole family engagements that either they or their assistant didn’t arrange. They don’t trudge the kids birthday party circuit, year in, year out. Yet, all of a sudden they’ll come up with the brilliant idea of taking the children to Universal Studios or something (UGH), and hey presto, they’ve won the best parent award.

Then it gets to the evenings, and we either have to go out or, worse, stay in. Nightmare. You hear all this self-pitying “flying solo” tripe from the single expat mothers (and I think you’ll find it should be flying solA, girls, didn’t you pay attention when you holidayed in Spain?), but frankly babeses, what you’ve got right there is a breeze.

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Musician or Hedge Fund Manager?

Last night, Don and I went to see a band called Snarky Puppy. They were playing in the most un-Singaporean venue I’ve been to here thus far. Honestly, I felt like I was back at uni in the 1990’s, it was so grungey. I didn’t realise they had grunge here at all. I thought that sort of thing was caned out of them at school.

Bless them, there are so many band members in Snarky Puppy, I suppose they had to book a cheapie venue to break even on their travel and excess baggage costs (a lot of instruments!!). At least they were super-clever, in that they flew to Australia immediately afterwards, and didn’t have to pay for accommodation here. It was sweet that they mentioned going for chili crab at Long Beach. Definitely a crowd-pleaser.

What I loved about the performance was that these young chaps really played their hearts out. There were quite a few bits when I thought, “Ohforgodssake, is there a tune here?”, or “No one is enjoying this solo/ duo as much as you are”, but all in all, I thought they were abso loverly. I really liked that keyboard player centre-stage. Mmmmmmmmm. Don’t tell Don!! (Or Will : ))

The interesting thing was that they all looked so young. I’m young myself, of course, but it made me think about my aspirations for Max. Max plays the violin and the piano, and although I am aware that he has no great gift (like I keep telling him, he’s awful), when I see how much fun these musicians have on stage, I think how wonderful it would be for our little boy to have a passion for an instrument.

Then I think, do I want Max to be financially challenged, unable to settle down, and behave like a narcissistic child for the rest of his life, just because of a passion for music??

No, I don’t think so. I would prefer that he speaks fluent Mandarin and manages a hedge fund. Isn’t that what every parent wants for their child?

The Who-Has-Lived-in-More-Countries Competition

I feel really really really peeved today, following a conversation with one of those irritating expat wives who thinks she knows it all. These women get on my nerves. Let’s call her “Betty”. (I know she writes a blog too – about her fascinating travels, of course – so I wouldn’t want her to be identifiable.)

Anyway, so I was at a lunch with a few ladies, having a nice chat with Michelle (argh! should I tell her about what her husband did?! Awkward!!), and then this Betty pipes up and starts going on about their last country, and all the other ones she has lived in. She listed all the countries, and while other people were trying to talk about something else, she just kept at it. So annoying and immature! I’ve lived in more countries than you, Ms Betty Boo, so you can just stfu!!

Finally, someone else managed to get a word in, and the topic changed to expat/ third culture kids, and how fun it is for them to move around all the time. Then, Betty threw herself with full force back into the conversation, but this time tried to tell everyone how her kids are so much more third culture than everyone else’s!

My kids may be younger, but they’re just as TC as hers. I hope she leaves soon, and then she can add another country to her stupid list.

The only thing that is making me feel slightly better is that I noticed they’re opening a new Vietnamese restaurant in the Paragon. There’s really nothing like a good pho.

Helper’s Day Off and Husband Away!

It is Sunday night. I am abso exhausted, and my hair looks more shocking than anyone who knows me would think possible. I have spent the whole day with my children.

Every Sunday, helpers in Singapore have the day off. It has been enshrined in law since January 2013, before which it was one day a month. They were loathe to enforce the requirement because of how much it would inconvenience people who have help. Interesting article about it here.

Now, I do know that you can ask them to work anyway, and either give them a day off in lieu, or pay them. Our helper asked me if I needed her this Sunday (given Don’s absence), but she only did that to humiliate me, so I thought, “No way! I’ll give them a great day! I’ll show you!”

As soon as Max bounded into my bedroom at 6 o’clock this morning, I began to regret my decision. A little. (I was out last night with the ladies, so I felt a bit jaded, and could have done with the usual lie-in.) The regret, however, served only to strengthen my resolve!

I reflected on that fascinating paradox as I dozed off, having told Max that he was free to play Minecraft until Milly woke up. Milly’s a sleeper! Like Don and I have always said about children, “A sleeper’s a keeper!” Mega LOLs : D

Both of them complained that breakfast was not how the helper makes it. The pancakes were too soggy, and the chocolate milk wasn’t the right temperature. (Even my green smoothie was disappointing. I didn’t want to bother with juicing the hard veg, as well as using the blender, because I didn’t want to have to clean the damn juicer myself. The blender is one thing, but life’s too short to clean a juicer!!)

It was raining, so the traffic was hell, and I was late dropping them off at their respective golf and ballet classes.

After that, I took them to the Botanical Gardens for lunch at Food For Thought, and a run around. Who should we see, of course, but the helper! Happy as Larry, and having a lovely time, eating deep-fried MSG-laced food with her friends. The children dashed over to her, and honestly, you’d have thought that I’m no fun at all, the way they hung around, wanting to stay with her. Ingrates. Especially after I’d gone out of my way to spend the day with them.

Next, I took them to see a Pixar film at the suites, and although Max was engrossed, Milly was so comfortable in her reclined chair and duvet that she kept falling asleep. I spent most of the film trying to keep her awake by prodding her, plying her with sugar-free sweets, and pulling her hair. I didn’t want to be up all night with her!

We had dinner at Marché in the basement of Somerset, so that the ingrates could play while I uploaded photos of today’s fun activities to Facebook (I made sure the pancakes didn’t look soggy by covering them in berries, and did some heavy editing). Because of my claustrophobia, I find that place quite difficult, but I was willing to risk potential trauma for Max and Milly’s enjoyment. That’s sacrifice for you.

Milly spoiled it for everyone though (maybe she isn’t a keeper after all) by repeatedly kicking a Japanese boy, and then, without my knowing, she snuck some rösti off my plate (hangover food haha) into her pocket, and smeared it in the boy’s face!! Oh Lordy. I don’t know where she is getting this behaviour from : ( First Froo Froo dog, now this!

I wasn’t ready to leave because I still had a few more pics I wanted to post, but when the rösti incident occurred, I really had no choice as a responsible parent other than to grab Milly, and tell her that she had utterly ruined the whole weekend for everyone ever.

Luckily, I speak Japanese, so I was able to apologise profusely to the boy’s mother in my most gracious, culturally appropriate dulcet tones.  I did want to say that she should tell the boy to grow a pair, but I’m not one to make a scene.

Bedtime was the usual murderous drama. I don’t even want to dredge it up by writing about it, it was so stressful.

Once Max and the Millster were both finally asleep, I started to process the deleterious effect that today has had on my psyche. I decided to meditate, but that didn’t help. So, I did some chanting, and that didn’t help either.

Then I opened a bottle of NZ sauv blanc, and began writing the above. That helped. Expressing myself freely through the written word does seem to be both my great talent and my great saviour. I think Virginia Woolf said something quite similar. Great minds, and all that!!

But then, dear reader, my refreshed serenity was suddenly dashed against harsh jagged rocks… I got a text from Michelle’s husband: “Hey, you. We should get together some time”.

Argh!! What a creep! He must know Don’s away. I’ve no idea how to respond. Shame he’s so nice. Actually, the more I’ve thought about it, Michelle must be a difficult person to live with. Maybe he’s lonely in his marriage. That’s still no excuse though. Right, dear reader?

I Can Spot Them a Mile Off: Blingy Rrrrra-Shons

Something so wonderful about expat children is that they are so aware of, and so accepting of, all cultures and nationalities. My children don’t care where their friends come from, and I think that is just beautiful. If all children were expat children, maybe there would be more joy and unity on this planet. One big happy family from every nation. Nice.

This morning I was making my green smoothie as usual. I juiced the organic Australian beetroot, the organic Dutch carrots, a chunk of ginger, and one of those nice apples from Japan. Then I put the juice in the blender with the organic kale from New Zealand, the organic Malaysian red dragon fruit (never a white one of course, they taste like napkins), yoghurt imported from Greece, and half an American banana. One of the things I love about organic food is that it is so much better for the environment; none of those nasty polluting pesticides getting into the soil and our souls.

It was at that point that I realised I was all out of Chia seeds. Argh. So I popped to the basement of the Ion to get some, and went to grab a skinny decaf latte on the way, and there in the queue – I could tell from before I even went into Coffee Bean – were a couple of ladies with crystals on their jeans (yellow jeans, mega-LOLs: no, ladies, just NO!!!), bleached hair, excessively lined eyebrows, huge lips, and enormous LV handbags. Here we go, I said to myself, Rrrrrrra-shuns! They’re everywhere! When exactly did this happen? I’m sure it used to be just us, but now they’re here too.

So, no offence to the stylish Russians, but I’m finding that I’m seeing blingy Rrrrrra-shons more and more among the Expaterati. One of my besties is from Russia, and she wouldn’t be caught dead in a yellow jean.

And again, no offence intended whatsoever, and I totes hope none taken, but wow, I can just spot them a mile off.

A Downer Day

I just haven’t been feeling like my usual fun-loving, sparky, gorgeous self lately, which is why I haven’t felt like writing. Sorry, dear readers. Well, sorry Mummy and your aqua aerobics group, that is. I’ve asked her to tell her online Scrabble cronies about my blog (ha, crones more like, lol, jk Mummy!!), but she said it’s not the kind of thing they’d read. Hmmmmm. Not v well-read, these Scrabble people, then.

Actually, my lack of readers is part of why I’m feeling less than great. I’ve been blogging for over a week now, but I still haven’t gone viral : (

The more mis and emosh I start to feel about my non-viral state, the more obsessively I check my viewing statistics. Yesterday I must have checked over a hundred times, including throughout my lunch with Dull Kelly, and I just think it’s so tacky to be constantly fingering one’s phone when in company or at a restaurant. It’s so unlike me.

I’m also feeling down because I had a hard night with Milly. She was up twice, saying she’s worried about spiders in her room (honestly! I’ve seen more spiders in the UK than in Singapore), and she also had a nightmare that our dog had grown into a giant dog and kept kicking her. Then when we went downstairs this morning, Milly immediately laid into the dog to get her own back. Poor little Froo-Froo. I told Milly quite firmly that it’s just not on.

While all that was happening, Max was glued to his iPad, playing Minecraft, and although that’s partly nice because he’s less annoying when he’s occupied, it made me worry that he might be developing addictive tendencies. Parents are just powerless when it comes to new technologies.

Then I opened the dishwasher to look for my favourite mug (the “Best Mummy in the Universe” one that Max gave me for Mother’s Day), and lo and behold… There were plastics in the lower section!! I have told the helper about this at least a billion times, and she absolutely persists in continuing this insulting behaviour. I really think she does it to annoy me.

It all was so upsetting that I went back to bed for an hour, until Max left on the schoolbus, and the helper took Milly to daycare. So that meant I couldn’t go to meditation for the second week in a row, and I really needed to go today because of how I’m feeling at the mo.

I had better go for a massage and a facial instead, to nip this mood in the bud. I don’t want to feel like this while Don is in Dubai, and I’m on my own with two small children.

It’s times like this when I think that married men just have it so easy. They can just swan about (or fanny about, as my South London friend says lolol; it’s ruder in British English, but still funny-ish in American English), do whatever they want, go off to play squash or golf whenever, have interesting work nights out, and take trips all over the place. Then they pop home, like the big provider, and expect everyone to fall at their feet. Max and Milly think the sun shines out of Don, and they don’t understand that, as a mother, that’s extremely hurtful for me. I’ve tried to explain it to them, even crying occasionally to really emphasise my distress, but they still don’t get it.

Are Expat Kids Lucky?

Because of my interest, and growing expertise, in psychology, I have decided to start a new page, to discuss issues faced by expat children. From what I hear, some expat children and young people struggle with the transitions, so I want to explore that. Not my kids, of course. They’re totally well-adjusted and we’ve never had any trouble from them. They don’t even mind long haul flights; they just sleep, especially if I give them that anti-allergy stuff.

Saying that, since we got back from the UK in the summer, Milly has started kicking the dog, which is unlike her. She’s quite big (not fat, you understand, just bigger than other kids her age, probably because she was exclusively breastfed), and the dog is quite small.

So I’m not sure what that’s about. I hope she stops soon. The dog hopes so too LOL : )

Anyway, because I don’t have any readers’ questions, I thought I would start this page by asking Clara what she thinks is an important issue for expat kids, and then discuss that. She mailed me yesterday, and we had our first Skype session, hence… (drum roll please lol!)….. On the Skype Couch with Emma-Jane. My first topic is whether expat kids are lucky, and you can read it here.

 

Expat Kids

I was Skyping yesterday with my cousin in the UK, Clara. She’s a v cool and v knowledgeable woman. She started out as a clinical psychologist (I should have done psychology instead of blooming law because I’m so empathetic; often I can just tell that people are sad or upset without them even saying they are), and then she became a full-on psychotherapist – she trained at the Tavistock so she knows her onions – specialising in children.

Because of the 6-month counselling course I did, and my natural empathy, Clara and I have some great chats about expat kids. She was an expat kid herself, and although I don’t always agree with all the stuff she comes out with (no offence Clara, but sometimes therapists can just be so know-it-all and patronising… Not you Clara!! Love ya!), she has some super interesting insights.

So after talking to her, I was thinking that I might do another course in child psychology. Maybe a much longer, more in-depth one this time, like a year.

What I’m also thinking is that I could add a page to my blog of Clara and Emma-Jane discussing expat kid issues. Then people could send in their questions, and I could ask Clara for her expert opinion, as well as adding my own perspective, from an expert expat on the ground, as it were, thereby developing my abilities as a psychologist. I could call it On the Skype Couch with EJ and Clara.

Leave a comment if you have anything you would like me to ask Clara about expat kid issues!

Shoes for the Under-Priviledged

I still just love those shoes where you buy a pair, and then someone somewhere who can’t afford shoes gets a pair too. Win-win : )

I hope it’s sustainable though. If their margins aren’t high enough, there won’t be any more shoes for poor people, and that would be a terrible shame. Maybe they would have to change the system, so that each time they sell a pair, the poor person gets just one shoe, either the left or the right, and then has to wait for another sale to be made to get a shoe for the other foot. Then there would be an administrative problem though, and they would have to spend more money, hiring people to keep track of which shoe the poor person still needed. God, I hope they have thought this through.

I wish Prada would do something like that because that’s where I mainly like to get my shoes from. I guess that if they did, they couldn’t afford to have such nice stuff because they couldn’t pay the designers enough to make it worth their while.

When Max got home from school today I had to take him to buy a present for his little friend’s birthday at the weekend. He was quite tired because he has mandarin after school on Thursdays (one hour a day as part of the curriculum just isn’t enough; 6-year old brain cells grow at the speed of light, and we have to get that Chinese in there asap because our children absolutely must learn the language to compete in this global economy), so I decided to go to the Toys R Us which is 5 minutes’ walk away, instead of the slightly bigger one which takes 7 minutes to get to, or the really huge one which is a 12 minute walk.

Bless him, Max was feeling a bit sad. He was talking about how much he misses his big cousins back home, and that he wishes he could see them more often so that they could help him get to the next level on Minecraft. So sad, poor thing. I hate it when he says he wants to go home.

When we were choosing the present, he wanted to get the same thing for himself. First I thought, ok that’s not a good habit to get into; but then he got all sad again about wanting to go home, and asked why we’re here anyway when all our family are somewhere else and we have a perfectly nice house in London.

It is just so hard to be an expat kid, I suppose. So I bought him the toy, but I got him the bigger, more expensive version of the one we got for his friend (the friend will never know). He’s in his room now with the helper, playing fighting games with the new toy, and he seems much happier than he was earlier. No mention of going home at all!