Monday, January 31, 2011

Mrs. O Goes To Work

First of all, I am happy to be back to La Lanka and in the arms of hubby!  Manila trip got extended for various reasons – which I think made me a little heavier with all the Filipino food.  Hee hee!

Secondly, I started the new year with great news!  One of the blessings I’ve received this new year is the approval of my work visa. Yay!  In as much as being a housewife was an awesome experience for me (check out Interview with the Housewives), I realized that for this moment in time I am called to be a working wife.

So what can I say?

That was me in 2009 when I first visited the Colombo site.
Who would have thought I'd actually work here!?
I didn’t know it could be this tiring!  I don’t feel it during the day but once I get home, I feel spent.  I don’t think it’s jetlag.  My usual sleeping time is like 9pm and I don’t even get to wake up until 630am.   That’s more than the 8-hour requirement!  I don’t think it’s the workload – heck, I just started!  Maybe it’s the 25km drive… but I don’t even drive!  Maybe it’s afternoon nap withdrawal? 

It is tough running a household (without full time help) and working!  I had to make a few re-arrangements with my household Gantt chart.  We had to ask hubby’s driver to do a few cleaning activities (thank God he does a decent job at it!).  Hubby had to take over the kitchen a couple of times (thank God I’m married to a masterchef!).  To make matters worse, the washing machine broke down!  In as much as we outsource most of the washing and all of the ironing, we still do our own washing for the intimates and stuff that does not need ironing.  That’s quite a considerable load!  So I guess everything had to be off to the washers now! 

My online studies had to take a backseat as well…  As most of the classes are at night, I was too sleepy to go to any of those last week L

But there is a sense of happiness that I couldn’t explain.  It’s the feeling you get when you are doing what you love to do.  Do not get me wrong, I love taking care of the household and whatnot but I didn’t feel that kind of dynamic stretched me in the direction I wanted to be stretched.  Now I am involved in projects that engage my expertise, interest and those that had a significant effect (direct and indirect) on making people’s work lives a lot more gratifying.  And I know this is where I need to be.  Where I want to be. 

The first two weeks of work is truly an adjustment.  I’m sure it will be for quite some time.  But I hope I will be able to successfully transition quite nicely.  Being the person that I am – I need to be good at EVERYTHING I am involved in, ALL THE TIME (A 3 on the Enneagram!) - and feelings of inadequacy has already surfaced (mostly on the home front since that has taken a backseat).  And now I truly understand the tension working moms (ok fine, “half truly” since I am not yet a mom which is an even greater challenge altogether) face.  In life, something really has to give – but I am positive that there are ways of finding the right balance and the coping strategies (getting all the help you need, i.e. hubby’s driver’s expanded role!) right for your needs.  And that makes livin’ la vida Lanka all the more exciting!       

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Interview with the Housewives: Epilogue

Writing this post does not only signal the end of a series of a mini project but the end of a short era for me.  I dived into my fact-finding mission trying to find myself in light of being a housewife.  I was in denial and I thought talking to my fabulous housewife friends would help me embrace my situation a bit more.  I sought out answers, and I got beautiful ones.  I was lost… I had to be… I had to find peace with that… And found myself a bit more grown up (and I would like to think I have “aged” beautifully).

I journeyed through this era with 6 beautiful ladies who opened up a whole new world for me:

Diplomatic Wife: 
As unbelievable as it may seem, there are other aspects to one’s life and passions aside from work. 

Academic Wife: 
Do not be afraid to get lost.

Farmer Wife: 
You don’t need to be a domestic diva for husband to love you – and yes, you can ask him to help out at home as well.

The Real Housewife of New York: 
Financially depending on one’s husband in the greater scheme of things is really about the big act of surrendering.

The Real Housewife of Orange County: 
Being thankful for where you are – wherever that is.

Career Wife: 
“You have to nurture ‘you’ so you can be the best for them.”

Even if that means, at least for now, taking a break from being a full-time housewife and doing the great balancing act of being an awesome wife with a successful career.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Interview with the Housewives # 6: The Career Wife

As all good things must come to an end, so does the Interview with the Housewives series.  So let me bring you the last story about this noble profession of the so-called-life of a housewife. I think it is the best way to end my research – at least, for now or before I find another interesting topic.  Why – you’ll find out later.  But for now, without further ado, let me bring you, The Career Wife. 
Who wouldn't want to be a housewife with that beautiful brood!
I first heard of The Career Wife when hubby and I were still dating.  I vividly remember him asking me what I thought about having kids and how many (although hubby doesn’t remember asking this! haha!).  He was telling me about his cousin and his wife who are like a power couple in the corporate arena and despite of their high-powered careers are unfazed with the thought of having kids.  At that time, they had 2 boys with a baby girl on the way.  I was shocked and awed!  That was quite a handful to say the least!  And the strong career woman (her last full-time stint was as Regional Brand Director of Unilever) who was the other half of hubby’s cousin is Career Wife. 

Livin’ La Vida Lanka (LLVL):  What finally made you decide to become a housewife?

The Career Wife (TCW):  I've always contemplated shifting gears ever since we had our first baby, but I think, in hindsight I still had some things I had to achieve for myself. While I always yearned to stay home with the kids (2 at the time), I couldn't find myself taking the actual step yet. I still enjoyed the challenge and thrill in working for a high-powered corporation. But when I became pregnant with our 3rd baby, I just knew it was the right time.

LLVL:  You say you are the “housewife with part-time work” – how does that look like?

TCW: I am a Market Research consultant for a multinational in the Philippines and I also run a company with my sister. I started both roughly around the same time 3-4 months after giving birth to J.

Editor’s Note:  This is what I call you really can’t take the corporate out of the girl.    Haha!  Who says shifting gears means from 5 to 1???  Huh??? There are 3 other gears you can shift to!  Way to go TCW!  I am still shocked and awed!  It’s really amazing how you do that.

LLVL: How was the transition like for you shifting from your prior occupation to being a housewife?

TCW:  It was heaven at first. I had all the time take care of our newborn and 2 other boys. I relished every morning that I woke up without having to mentally prepare myself for the meetings I had to attend and presentations I had to make. But after a while, I started to feel like my intellectual growth was starting to slide. Having been used to constant pressure to 'up my game' for the past 10 years, the joys (and pains) of domesticity seemed not to be enough. I started to feel restless.

Editor’s Note:  I totally know what you mean TCW!  But I’m afraid in my case it was the other way around… noo ni noo ni noo… TV marathon anyone???  This is what I was afraid of! Haha!  Being a full-time housewife with all its hedonistic pleasures can be quite addicting without you noticing it...  But yeah, the level of intellectual stimulation is quite different. 

LLVL:  What made the transition easy?

TCW: It was easy because of all the upsides - time with the kids, time to run the household properly, literally enjoying the day (in contrast to working where I can only enjoy the 'nights' after work). I had time to shop, go to the gym, meet up for 'lunches' with friends!

LLVL:  What made it Difficult?

TCW:  Wasn't really difficult up until the time that I started to get restless. I needed to be mentally productive. While I greatly admire her and those like her, I am not a Martha Stewart who can spend endless hours doing creative and crafty wonders for the home. And while I love my kids dearly, I must be honest - talking to toddlers 24/7 can drive me crazy. I end up nagging my husband when he gets home in my need for adult conversation.

Editor’s Note: For me, in the absence of kids, talking to myself was driving me crazy! And I do end up nagging my husband (with much restraint on my part!) even BEFORE he gets home! Hihihihi!

LLVL:  So what do you enjoy best with being a housewife (with part-time work)?

TCW:  Having the flexibility and time to attend to the needs of my family while still being gainfully 'employed'. For me, this arrangement works best.

LLVL: What are the challenges?

TCW: Ensuring that my choices are always consistent with my priorities. It is still a constant balancing act… I still have to juggle meetings, date time with kids, pedia visits, dates with my hubby, going to the gym, and running the household.

LLVL:  What things you do that help you enjoy being a housewife (with part-time work)?

TCW:  My part-time work! It's the 'me' part in the whole arrangement. Being a wife and mom takes a lot from you because you always act on what's best for your family before yourself. And it can be so easy to lose yourself. Having part-time work is something that's mine, something that still allows me to grow as an individual. Plus, I still get to financially contribute to our 'nest egg' and have some extra for myself =)

Editor’s Note: Our housewives are onto something here which was just reiterated by TCW… in whatever you do, you must not lose yourself in the process.  And I can imagine how you can lose yourself with hubby, kids and everything else in between!  In TCW’s case, it was career. For other housewives it may be something else altogether but the trick is finding it and nurturing it – no matter what. 

LLVL: Any other tips to enjoy being a housewife?

TCW:  Look for something that you enjoy and are passionate about. It can't be all about being a 'housewife'. While it is something you should strive to be the best at, being a housewife is just one of the many roles you will play in your life. Really discern for yourself if it is the primary role you want to play in the long-term.

I thank God everyday for leading me to the place where I am now. I could not have asked for a better deal =)

LLVL: Any other words of wisdom?

-       Relish this special time with your hubby when it is still just the two of you. Cement your identity as husband and wife now, as it will go a long way once you face the challenges of marriage and parenthood.
-       Don't let labels define who you are. HR Manager, Housewife… those are roles you have, not the person you are.
-       Always keep something for yourself and yourself alone. Being in a marriage, and eventually, being a mom will make it so easy to just make everything about your hubby, kids, home. You have to nurture 'you' so you can be the best for them.

I have always believed that God gives us what we need – and after talking to six beautiful wives, I couldn’t have started the journey of married life in a new country in the best possible way had it not been for my housewife experience.  In as much as there was an initial struggle to the whole concept and it’s meaning to my being, being a housewife is a gift – for the time, cognitive and psychological resource to acclimatize to a new land, to focus on – as TCW said – cementing identity our as husband and wife and most importantly to focus on nurturing “me” for me.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Look Back At My 2010...

In as much as I don’t normally do a look back at my year (I guess I like looking forward better), for 2010 I just can’t help it.

For one, I finished my Master’s degree!  I really didn’t think I would graduate! A ping-pong of revisions just for style for crying out loud made me feel hopeless. But, with the help many kind souls and a good dose of heavenly intervention, I successfully passed my thesis revisions and was granted permission to march.

It's real!!! MA Psychology finally!
Second, it is the year when I finally took the “risk it took to bloom.”  From milk to make-up, after 7 years of life after college, I moved companies.  It was like leaving home and finding out that there is a big, wide, beautiful world out there! Oh, hello there!!!  Albeit my tenure was short (see point #4 below) - it was worth it!
With the big boss and my fellow newbies!
Third, I married the most awesome man in the world.  He’s just one of a kind and I am the luckiest girl.  And I want to repeat it here, as I said it in my wedding vow:

As long as I'm with you.
“Now as I stand here before you for the first time in a long time I face the future with no fear.  Comfortable with not knowing what tomorrow holds.  Even excited for the adventure that lies ahead.  Because in each journey, wherever and whenever it may be, as long as I’m with you, Paulo, I am sure it is where I need to be.”  

Fourth, Sri Lanka may be the farthest thing in people’s minds as a destination of a place, but for us it is.  It is my first time really living in another country, for being a housewife and for trusting my life to somebody else aside from myself and my parents.

With hubby at Bawa's Lunuganga
People have been telling me 2010 is the year that things really did happen for me.  I agree – especially on point #3!  Haha!  But really, it was also the year that I learned to let go (a mean feat for a self-confessed control freak) and look where it got me – to such an awesome place even beyond my imagination.  I grew up – I would like to say beautifully and happily so and without much drama.  And I look back at it with much gratitude to God – you really did surprise me Lord with the fulfillment of my innermost desires.

So here’s to the best year YET, 2010.  And to 2011…    

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Work of Christmas

In as much as Christmas is already almost a month ago, allow me to share with you my favorite Christmas song.  The Work of Christmas of the Bukas Palad Music Ministry (originally a poem by Howard Thurman) doesn’t talk about a white Christmas, chestnuts and reindeers.  These things bring the festive mood of Christmas and we need to hear some happy cheer at this most wonderful time of the year.  But Christmas stands for so much more and what I like most of the song is it talks about the true meaning of Christmas:

When the song of angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back
With their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost, to heal the broken,
To feed the hungry, free the prisoners,
To rebuild nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.

When the song of angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings of princes are home,
When the shepherds are back
With their flock,
The work of Christmas begins.

For me, my work of Christmas is our yearly visit to hubby’s college immersion family.  They are vegetable farmers in Madlum, Bulacan.  We usually go there during the Christmas break.  Hubby has been visiting them every year since his immersion 8 years ago.  The head of the family, whom we warmly call Kuya Robert is one of our wedding sponsors.  And during my 3rd visit, three things come to mind:

Hubby with Venice, Nana Kambal and Celine
1)    How awesome my husband is.  Hee hee!  Okay, okay – I know I just sounded like a groupie but not everyone who went through the immersion program in our university has this kind of a relationship with their immersion family.  I sure don’t.  I think it just speaks loads about the kind of person my husband is in some indescribable way. 

Our favorite Biya! Yum, yum, yum!
2)    Generosity need not come from material wealth.  Every time we go there Kuya Robert’s family prepare a feast for us – even when the recent rains have swept away months’ hardwork and they don’t have any vegetables left to sell for their livelihood.  I don’t know for you, but for me is just pure generosity.  

Beautiful Madlum
3)    Hope lives even in the direst of situations.  Kuya Robert’s family does not have a steady source of income.  Farming is very volatile especially because it is utterly dependent on the ever-changing climate. Ate Aning (Kuya Robert’s wife) is even in the process of finding employment abroad.  In spite of the hopelessness of their situation, and yes they are aware that life is more than tough for them, you will never sense desperation, depression or hopelessness.  I spend a month not working and I feel like my world’s falling apart.

After that visit, it really got me thinking what could be a more sustainable form of income for their family?  I just think it’s funny for a mini-messiah complex coming up within me.  But really it is a genuine desire to help a family and hubby and I do try.

The Madlum Family on a Wacky Pose
But really what our relationship with Kuya Robert and Ate Aning is not about alleviating their poverty, but for them as persons and as our family.  And because of our friendship, hopefully they will be a little enriched.  But one thing I’m sure of, that at the end of the day, just by our friendship, I feel a little bit more human and they give me something I will always be grateful for: they do their work of Christmas in me.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Home Leave

Before it reaches a month since my last post, I’m posting one now!  The reason for such an absence was that hubby and I made our way back to the Philippines for his (and mine!) annual home leave.  As with any vacation, things are just hectic before, during and after.  But it’s the kind of busy-ness that I like and am grateful for.  

Our Home: Mi Familia At Hubby's Send Off Lunch
For one, nothing beats spending the Christmas holidays in your own home country.  In as much as I love Colombo and my life in La Lanka, I just needed to be in the Philippines for the most wonderful time of the year!  The street d├ęcor, the endless yummy food (I gained 5 whopping pounds in just a week!), the meet up with friends, the family reunions, the shopping (hubby’s luggage was 25kgs over the limit – how will mine fare against his?) just to name a few all make coming home to the Philippines worth the 7 hour-flight (and a pretty much a whole day’s worth of traveling)!

Second, in as much as being a housewife is a “vacation” from “work” – it is a lot of work.  So when someone else does the things you normally do (and is better at it!), it is heaven:

1) To come home to my parents’ cooking.  Yes, both nanay and tatay are great at it and eating their home-cooked meals gives you that warm fuzzy feeling.

2) To have help with the laundry - I am super grateful for Manang France our laundry and iron woman!

Third, trips that allow you to take a step back from your daily grind are always a blessing.  It is a breather (we all need that once in a while) and an opportunity for you to see things from a different perspective or as they are and reflect on life and whatnots.  And yes, even amidst the flurry of events it can happen. 

As the home leave is winding down, a new year has dawned, I find myself leaving for home again.  This time for La Lanka.
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