The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

The return to Gainful Employment

For over a year I have been meaning to write this post.

 

At first I thought I would write about the excitement and fear at the thought of returning to Gainful Employment after six and a half years away. I thought I would chart the slow journey to finding Gainful Employment again. The dusting down of a CV with a big gaping hole in it. Wondering about the creative ways I could explain how my new found experience in parenting, adapting to a new culture and building a support group from nothing would make me  a suitable candidate for consideration for this job.

 

But as luck would have it, the return to Gainful Employment happened rather sooner than I expected.

 

So then I thought I would write about those first few days being back in an office. Having conversations that I hadn’t had in six and half years. Seeking out vocabulary from the recesses of my brain that had been left dormant. Strategy planning. Objectives. Capacity building. Finding myself in a familiar and yet unfamiliar environment. So then I thought perhaps I better wait until I had passed the three month probation mark, just in case it didn’t quite work out.

 

Then somehow, before I knew it, it’s now been a year since I returned to Gainful Employment. An eventful year. With highs and lows. At home and in the office. Challenges and new experiences. It has taken this whole year to transition myself into this new role. There have been times a plenty when I have felt the need to explain my six year absence from Gainful Employment. Feeling almost apologetic that I had the opportunity to take time out and be with #1, 2 and 3. I will feel eternally grateful that I had that time.

 

I realise the feeling apologetic part is entirely my own doing. It is me that worried about whether my skills and contribution to my job was relevant. The only person who saw the gaping six and a half year gap was me. If I didn’t have the required skills, experience, relevancy, I wouldn’t have gotten the job otherwise. I can see now that I was out of practice more than anything.

 

I wondered whether having taken this time out that I would re-evaluate what kind of Gainful Employment I would seek. A career break is as good a time as any to assess what other options are available. I’ve seen other people take this opportunity to try something new. Build a new business venture with skills that were once thought of as just a hobby but with the click of a mouse you can have your own on-line store.

 

But as it turns out, at the core of what I want to do, the Not For Profit sector is still very much for me. The way I see it, the voluntary sector is full of great people doing great stuff for all those causes that need your help. And we are a giving and caring society who want to help those causes. Matching the two up together is what I want to do. Helping people and organisations do good and to do it well.

 

It feels good to be back in that space. At once familiar and unfamiliar. I’m in a completely different sector and on a huge learning curve absorbing all that I can about conservation, the environment, climate change and the cause and effect of how we currently live our lives and the impact it will have on resources available for tomorrow. With education comes more consideration. I am so enjoying this part of what I do. I get to share it with #1, 2 and 3 who all are learning about wildlife conservation and climate change. Being able to talk to them about my work is one of the great things.

 

At the same time, my return to Gainful Employment was a juggle for them too at the start. So used to having you at home and then suddenly not so much. The one to drop them off at school and pick them up afterwards. Sometimes even having time to do fun stuff instead of cramming it all into the weekends. But what softened the blow, is the fact that #1 and 2 started Big School last August and so with the longer school days, I wasn’t really missing out on that many hours. Well that’s what I tell myself. Truth is, you think that when they start Big School is when you will have more time to do your own thing. Except it doesn’t work out that way. There’s packed lunches to think of, packing the right school stuff for the right day’s activities. There’s homework, project work, reading, writing, maths practice to fit in. Where does all this fit in?

 

In the short space of time that you really want to spend asking them how was their day and not much else. Least of all rushing from one place to another and hurriedly start a piece of work that would take you or me about ten minutes to do but a whole lot longer for a 7 year old at a time when it should be unwinding for everyone instead of winding everyone up.

 

In an ideal world, wouldn’t it be great if you could work part time. Somewhere not far from your home so that you could still do the morning school drop off, be amongst Grown Ups and do Grown Up Things before finishing work in time to do the school pick up. So that for the small people you are there for them at all the right times. Perhaps a couple  of days a week you may even have time to yourself and leisurely do your weekly Big Shop as well as meet up with a friend for a chin wag and coffee.

 

I was lucky enough to have six months part time to ease myself and the whole family into my new role. I worked three full days and two half days so that I could still pick up #1 and 2 and get round to doing some chores. It helped enormously. By the time I was due to go full time, it felt doable. Even though I missed those two half days with #1, 2 and 3. I know how fortunate I am that I haven’t been juggling like this since #1 was four months old which is the standard maternity leave in Singapore. I marvel at colleagues who have done that. Some even returning a whole lot earlier to eke out their maternity as long as they can. When I think back to those early foggy days of new parenting where I couldn’t even string a thought together to get myself organised let alone look at Excel spreadsheets and Word documents.

 

And that’s another thing that has changed. Whilst Word, Excel and Powerpoint still exist, I’m still trying to catch up on a whole new world that has sprung up in the workplace. Things like Google Drive and Dropbox. Social media and EDMs. There appears to be no franking machines around because post goes straight to Inboxes. Which is a good thing of course. Saving the Earth’s resources. For want of sounding like the old person who says things like ‘it wasn’t like this is my day’ or ‘back in the day’ or ‘before you were born we used to…’.

 

It takes time to get yourself reacquainted with Gainful Employment. All these new terms and technology can sometimes shake your confidence a bit. But with anything, once you get back into your stride it’s like you’ve never left before. Thrive on this learning new things. It can seem a bit daunting at first but really it’s just a different way of doing something familiar.

 

When you’ve taken time out of Gainful Employment and as much time as I did, it can be a challenge to get back into it. Wondering whether you’ve still got it. Whether it’s ok to be thinking about other things like #1, 2 and 3. Whether it would be ok so take half an hour because #1 or 2 have School Assembly you need to attend. There were times I felt guilty about not having enough time with #1, 2 and 3 and there were times I felt I had to prove that I could still put in all the hours needed for Gainful Employment.

 

Where once it seemed like only certain professions were on call at any time. I’ve realised that office hours don’t really exist anymore. In the same way we engage with mobile phones and have laptops to take home, work is never far away. A quick check of an email here. A ‘team’ WhatsApp chat group there. We are more connected and closer to our work colleagues than ever before. If someone sends you an email at 10pm, do we reply to it there and then or do you wait until the morning. Will they know you have seen the email and what does it say if you don’t respond there and then?

 

After a year of this, I’m almost fully properly reacquainted with Gainful Employment. I can’t imagine not having this. Both for financial reasons and for fulfilling a sense of self. But do I feel guilty on the days when I’m getting in just before #1, 2 and 3’s bedtime? Of course I do. But I also feel relief that I have something else to occupy my mind and challenge it in different ways that parenting alone does. I like all the new things I’m learning and the people I work with. I like how I’m working for a cause I fully believe in and in some small way must be making a positive contribution to.

 

It can be riddled with guilt at times with feeling like you’re doing neither job as well as you think you should be doing but in truth you’re doing an amazing job of both. My priorities have definitely changed since the arrival of #1, 2 and 3. They have made me look at the world differently. More than ever, I feel that time spent away from #1, 2 and 3 should be time spent well. It’s not enough just to do a job to pay the bills. Choose something worth doing and do it well. 

Welcome back to Gainful Employment.

Earth Hour 2016

 

 

 

 

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So did Life Begin After 40?

Already it’s been a year and two weeks since I Embraced 40. Two years and 15 days since I started writing this blog. I can hardly get my head around the fact at how fast this last year went by. My Mum is so right as I remember when I asked her if she was excited about her Birthday coming up, she must have been in her early fifties at the time, and she said that Birthdays came around so fast, ten years felt like no time at all. Can you imagine being told that at the age of 11? The idea that a whole decade would feel like no time at all was just unthinkable when mere weeks dragged their heels and you couldn’t wait for the next good thing happen.

Of course, I still enjoy waiting for the next good thing to happen. It’s just that inbetween each good thing there are so many dull things you have to do and then you worry that there’s just not enough time to do all the good things.

That is exactly how I feel some days. What if I run out of time to do all the good things I want to do. And think about all the days and nights I’ve wasted on things that were just inconsequential. And how perhaps I’m now slightly better at doing just the good things. Who am I kidding, of course I’m not. I think I need another two decades to really reach that stage. Just the other day, someone I know asked me, “Are you still having to waste your time on that?”, I won’t tell you who said it about the that but it did make me smile and they will know who they are.

So one minute I was giddily Embracing 40 and then it was like 41 is calling and 41 makes Embracing 40 so much more official. I guess extending Embracing 40 celebrations for three months also helped to speed up the journey to 41. Plus spending seven weeks in the UK and filling it to the brim of so many people I hadn’t seen for three years and eating all the foods I’d missed out on too. Such a brilliant seven weeks people of the UK!

One of the things I had pondered before Embracing 40 was the notion that ‘Life Begins at 40’ that you often see on balloons, banners and cards associated with this landmark occasion. Does it really? But how? What would significantly change?

I know people who had a bucket list of things to do before Embracing 40 and I’m sure they probably did achieve all the things they set out to do. I could have written myself such a list but I didn’t, I may think of a bucket list at some point though. What should I do? What would you do? I like to have thoughts like that but equally if I think of all the places I would like to go to and all the books I would like to read, I think I may just get upset that the truth is we may find it’s just not possible to do everything.

I listened to Sir David Attenborough on Desert Island Discs in 2012, I think it must have been his third time on the show, (which I love and I’m still contemplating my list). In it, there is a reference to all the far flung places he’s been to and all the amazing sights he’s seen. There’s a throwback to a previous show where he talked about an ambition to climb Everest I think it was, or even just to get to base camp and he’s asked whether he ever achieved that. He replies No and now probably never would because of his age and I found that incredibly sad, even though he had done so much already.

And I think that’s what makes some of us embrace a milestone Birthday with such vigour. The very real idea of how fast time flows and how we take stock and freak out a little at how much we have done and how much more we want to do. Perhaps not all of us feel that way but sometimes there’s a real need to achieve more. Is it because we see on social media what everyone else is doing? All the places they are going to, the activities they’re involved with and does it make us question ‘Are we doing enough?’. Or perhaps why aren’t we doing more. I find social media a joy and a blight. As I’m sure most of us do at various times.

I think my Thirties were such a whirlwind of life changing events such as getting engaged, getting married, moving to the other side of the world and then becoming a parent that suddenly Embracing 40 was just there and I wasn’t sure what more Life there was to Begin after 40! I was very confused. But consider how easy going our Twenties were and how frenetic our Thirties became. What more could Embracing 40 bring? Well I think this next decade, the remaining eight years of it, will be a rollercoaster of activity, especially with #1, 2 and 3. And the irony of it all is that during this time, they will feel that time is passing by ever so slooooowly.

So how did I celebrate Embracing 40 (Plus 1)? Or 35 (Plus 6) according to Elbear who has only just Embraced 40 herself. I’m sure you’ll be pleased to know that celebrations were complete after four days this time. My Birthday was spent in my new place of Gainful Employment. #1, 2 and 3 gave and took back my cards and presents and opened them themselves. I got hideously intoxicated on martinis with my great group of female friends, I spent the next day hideously hungover. Husband and I went out for posh dinner at a place where you almost felt unable to order anything off the menu it was so expensive. Seriously.

And yes you did read correctly. I have a new place of Gainful Employment which is a post all to itself. For the first time in seven years I was celebrating a Birthday in Gainful Employment. I had forgotten how much fun it can be to have your Birthday be all about you. Celebrating it with lunch at a place for Grown Ups, having a Birthday sing song, cake and lots of people wishing you good things all day long.

What else have I done since Embracing 40? Well, it’s been well documented that I’ve tried to get back into running regularly again which has been so much fun! Even in hot, sweaty, tropical Singapore. I write my blog but not as often because sometimes I’m just busy doing other stuff. And yet writing my blog has become one of those things that I have to keep doing. It feels weird now not to.

So I guess for me, it’s not so much that Life Begins at 40 but more so I’m restarting many things I did before and adding it to all things I’ve been doing. So I guess this is why I was asked about whether I’m making use of my time doing good things because there is only so much time and so many opportunities to do the good things that you really shouldn’t spend it on the rubbish stuff. For now we realise the value of our time and time spent wisely is rarely wasted at all.
Life evolves I find and it’s how good are you at adapting to it.
  

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Living in the moment

When exactly did I stop living in the moment?

It’s never a conscious decision is it?

 

Just one of those things that creeps up on you slowly. The endless to do list. The finite hours in a day. The demands that pull you in all different directions.

 

The odd thing is that our quest to get everything done is usually to allow us the time and luxury to live in the moment. I should amend that to say to allow us the time and luxury to live in the moment guilt free.

 

We are never going to get the endless to do list finished. There will always be something we ought to be doing. Something we are forgetting to do. This need to fill all our time with something!

 

Then the other day, #1 not for the first time said to me, “Mummy, can you stay and watch us swim please?”.

 

#1 and 2 have swimming lessons every Tuesday afternoon. Usually I drop off them by the pool downstairs and spend that 45 minutes getting on with something else. I often watch them from upstairs every now and then to see how they are doing but from the start the Swim Coach had advised they are much more focussed if no parents are around.

 

Lately, #1 has started asking if I can stay and watch them swim and because I have already mentally planned how I’m going to spend that 45 minutes, there’s a moment in my mind of “But when am I going to do x?”.

 

Time to be still is such a rarity these days that it somehow feels wrong. I refer to long, lazy afternoons and late boozy nights and hours spent reading books and magazines, wandering around aimlessly and making spur of the moment decisions to do this or that as an era of my life in the very distant past.

 

How did this happen? How did this happen indeed.

 

There comes a time when suddenly time is no longer your own to squander as you please. Be it Gainful Employment, family, small people commitments. Something changes. I need to plan my time and be thinking several hours, days, weeks ahead.

 

We are so busy. And even when we are not busy we can busy ourselves on various handheld devices. Checking up on the news, social media, screen shopping. Scrolling down endless pages for nothing in particular. I could be reading a book or watching television instead of writing this.

 

#1, 2 and 3 are the busiest people I know. During their waking hours they are constantly doing something. Eating, playing, fighting, talking, watching television, pottering around. The only time they are truly still is when they are asleep or not feeling well. But their kind of busy is very reactionary to the present moment. They are truly living in the moment. No concern for the past or the future. It’s all about the now.

 

An example of this is the full on melt down from #2 yesterday afternoon. Each were in possession of a sweet that I said they could eat after dinner. #1 reluctantly was abiding to this and preventing #3 from wolfing down hers. #2 had already eaten hers after seemingly not having heard the terms and conditions. Now I hope to you and me, it would make sense that if you had eaten your sweet before dinner then you shouldn’t feel left out if I eat mine after dinner whilst you have nothing because you’ve already had yours.

 

But no, a full on meltdown ensued from #2 because ‘I want a sweet’. No amount of reasoning was going to cut it. This was repeated on loop with full on hysterics for quite some time. This is living in the moment extreme. 

 

I am not the first to admit this because I’ve heard other parents say the same thing. That when small people ask us to do something, we often reply with “In a moment”, “Not just yet”, “Later”. It’s just not always feasible to drop everything and tend to those needs and besides the Generic Parenting Guides advocate that small people need to learn to wait a little. But it’s when there are too many moments of “In a moment”, “Not just yet” and ‘Later”, that I realised what exactly am I thinking of doing that can’t wait until later?

 

I have become so accustomed to the process of doing and fulfilling the taking care of needs of #1, 2 and 3 that I am totally forgetting to take enjoyment and pleasure of living in the moment with them doing absolutely nothing. Slowly though, as #1 and 2 become more independent and I am not constantly worried about them falling off this and that or falling into that and the other that I can take a step back and focus on them. Rather than focus on keeping them safe. Or trying to have half a conversation with a friend whilst we are both keeping an eye on the small people. It’s a different living in the moment to the bygone era I recall but it’s bringing into focus the need to concentrate on the here and now.

 

So what exactly happened when I sat down by the pool watching #1 and 2 swim whilst #3 pottered around nearby? Absolutely nothing. I can’t even remember what I was going to do in that hour. Whatever I didn’t do obviously wasn’t that important. Instead, I sat on a sun lounger and just quietly watched them swim and play. For their part, I don’t even need to be in the pool with them, I just need to be there.

 

And how simply restoring it is to just sit quietly watching my children play on an ordinary day. Because there will come a time when I am no long chasing endless to do lists and have plenty of time to live in the moment which will probably be used reflecting on the past and I hope I will have many such memories to reflect upon.

 

NB This is not the pool downstairs before you think how incredibly spoilt we are!

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Happy Father’s Day (Belated I know)

I know Father’s Day was a week ago. But it’s been a hectic week shall we say. 

I didn’t have time to say much about the occasion last Sunday. The reason why is a thought for another time. 

Father’s Day follows closely after Husband’s Birthday. He gets to have two days in one month of breakfast in bed. 

But then nothing for the rest of the year. Maybes this could very well change once #1, 2 and 3 are more adept in the kitchen. Until then, when it’s mostly all my work that #1, 2 and 3 pass off as theirs then it’s not going to be a frequent occasion. In saying that, a bowl of cereal, milk and spoon in bed is still breakfast in bed right? Sometimes it’s not the fact it’s a full cooked breakfast that matters, it’s the fact you’re not up sorting out everyone else’s for them. 

What I do love about school is that they take care of the handmade Father’s Day card. Husband doesn’t know it but I have a Father’s Day card dating four years back that I keep meaning to give him but then forget about as the school has prepared one from earlier that is so much better.

This year with #3 throwing into the mix her handmade contribution, my work for Husband’s special Parent Day is done.

And as is tradition, it’s always up to #1, 2 and 3 to decide what we get to do on our special days. So on Father’s Day it was bowling. 

  

Have you ever played bowling with small people? It’s value for money on a cost to time-spent-bowling-just-one-game ratio. 

So that’s what we did for Father’s Day with #1, 2 and 3 to make Husband’s day special (if you take out the usual random outbursts of small people rage they like to display at their leisure). 

Every day is Father’s Day and every day is Mother’s Day of course. It shouldn’t be left to one day a year to show your appreciation. I imagine for #1, 2 and 3 true appreciation will come some years later. When as Grown Ups you realise just how much parents take care of things, the financial burden and the difficulty of whether you’re doing ok as a parent. 

I think of this a lot and the sacrifices and hard choices my Dad, Mr Li had to make and how he does worry whether he did ok. You did. More than ok. 

But for me, I would like to say that Husband is doing a great job. I rarely say it out loud because it’s what we’re expected to do isn’t it? As parents of small people. 

But it is good to feel truly appreciated.
So, Happy Father’s Day Husband. A bit belated I know. 

And most importantly Thank You. It’s been a busy week I know and you did great. 

Bowl of cereal, milk and spoon in bed next weekend for Husband it is then. 
With a cuppa tea thrown in for good measure too. Just so you feel really spoilt.
  

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Firmly Feeling 40

So you may or may not recall, I spent a bit of time talking about Embracing 40 last year. In fact the whole reason I started writing this blog had something to do with Embracing 40.  

And now all of a sudden, I’m closer to Embracing 41. In less than eight weeks time actually. That is how fast time can pass us by.  

 We can have a bizarre relationship with the passing of time. Sometimes it can’t go by fast enough or needs to slow down a little. Sometimes we’re so busy filling it up doing stuff. And even though sometimes we may wish to do nothing at all, time moves on regardless. 

There’s no question about it that Embracing 40 is rather a milestone in one’s life. Like all Birthday’s ending in ‘0’. And over the months I’ve seen friends mark this occasion in a number of different ways as they Embrace 40 their way.  

I rather enjoyed Embracing 40 as you could probably tell. Whilst it may look like I spent a whole year building up to what kind of party it would be, I enjoyed reflecting on much of my previous 39 years. 

It was a good time to take stock and remember, whilst I can, what brings you to where you are now, what you’ve gained, what you’ve lost. What you can be responsible for, what you can’t and what you want to change.  

So what now? 

What does Firmly Feeling 40 mean now that the party is a memory. 
Does it even mean anything significant or did I build it up to be something much more? 

On the one hand I don’t feel much different to how I did ten years ago. And I’m not the first to think that. I still like the same flavours of crisps, smoky bacon, Marmite and prawn cocktail but if pushed to choose just one flavour for the rest of my life then I’d choose ready salted because they really are the most versatile even if you think they seem a bit dull. I still like the same bands, actually I love Blur, I really do. Or do I just love Damon. I still like the same kind of humour, books, fashion and chocolate eclairs with fresh cream and not your shit fake cream. In fact, looking at things now I think I’m stuck in some sort of time warp because these likes stem from my early 20s as well. 

Some time ago I mentioned Husband likens your 30s to the Transitional Decade. It is quite true. Though I still haven’t fully transitioned, maybe in a couple of full moons time I will. On the days when the responsibility of being a Grown Up weighs heavily upon you, it’s impossible not to feel the change the last ten years have brought. On occasion I feel myself reminiscing what I used to do with my weekends or how I never used to have to referee pointless discussions between four and six year olds and how I feel like I could just give up talking about something I’m saying to #1, 2 and 3 that is having no impact whatsoever. 

Firmly Feeling 40 doesn’t mean that I feel the need to act a certain way befitting my 40 years. It sort of just happens. I am fast morphing into my Dad, Mr Li without me realising. I can hear it in the things I say and what values have taken precedence over others. When amongst young people, I just can’t emulate the way they interact and thankfully neither do I want to. I’m quite happy with my ‘It wasn’t like that in my day’ way of thinking. But equally I know I can’t afford to lag behind in how young people do interact, there are some things you need to keep learning and it’s not because I wish to ‘get down with the youths’ but to remain relevant in gainful employment and to keep in step with #1, 2 and 3 then you have to know.  

And how does 40 feel?

It feels quite comfortable so far. As many who have reached 40 before me have said, you now have the right kind of confidence and self esteem. Having seen some of the world has put much of life’s tribulations into perspective.  With solid experience in Gainful Employment, Parenting and Friendships it’s easier to make good informed decisions on your own without wondering what others will think. I’m much more mindful of what I say and the impact of what I do and I have a greater depth of empathy for others. Because at 40, everyone’s story is much more complicated than it was at 20.

And how does 40 look in the mirror? 
Well I definitely couldn’t say I look no different to ten years ago! But at 40, not much has significantly changed since 30. I still recognise the face I see in the mirror. Yes, there are dark circles under my eyes that have no intention of leaving, subtle lines are forming and cheeks and jowls are becoming softer. I noticed these things because I paid closer attention to see what I thought was different. But really I don’t want to focus too much on it. You should take care of yourself inside and out. You should feel able to take care of whatever you think needs taking care of in the way you see fit. But I agree with George Clooney who says that he doesn’t want to look young but just good for his age. And he is doing this very well which I’m sure you’ll agree. For me, I just don’t want to focus on the things that don’t please me because then you’ll notice something else and something else again. It seems a shame to undo all the work we’ve put into building our self confidence to break it down again with a tweak here and there.

And to be honest, after incubating #1, 2 and 3 I can’t even remember what my body looked like beforehand. I do know that my knees creak going up and down stairs when they didn’t use to but I think that’s more to do with running which is a well known enemy of the knee. 

And that’s another thing, after a break of seven years I took to running again last December and what I find is that it feels so much easier. I’m much more focussed and disciplined and I find this is a great time to think things through in my head. And I guess it also helps that I have a group of friends who also run and I don’t feel the odd one for giving up pub time. Not that I live a life nowadays with lots of pub time. 

Everything is different in the life that I lead compared to 10 years ago. I’m not even in the same country anymore. So how can it be that I am not different. Well I guess it’s because I still like all the same things plus a whole lot more. I still have the same group of friends and all of us have gone through some form of Transition. Not often at the same time or the same sorts of Transition but what brought us together then still applies to now. And I have a new group of friends I’ve met during this Transitional period which has made it a lot more fun. 

The business of Embracing 40 and taking stock of all that I have and had and talking about it here, has been like some form of therapy. Like most personal blogs are. I mean it’s no different to writing a diary, a mindful one at that, and sharing your thoughts with friends and strangers alike. It’s quite a bizarre practice really. I wonder what makes us do it? 

So, you know, 41 is now calling and I have quite a lot more stuff to be getting on with. I’ll let you know what all that stuff is another time. For now, I need to do something about eradicating those dark circles under my eyes with some eye brightening, dark circle reducing, fine wrinkle line removing state of the art technology in a tube eye cream.

Or I could just got to bed and get some sleep.

 

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So the UK voting population has spoken

So 66% (46.4 million) of the UK population eligible to vote went to the Polling Stations on Thursday, 7 May 2015 to make their voices count in this year’s General Election. 


As a free and democratic society, the people have spoken and the UK will be led by a Conservative Party majority government for the next five years.

 

 


Five more years of Conservative leadership. Five more years of David Cameron. 


Actually not necessarily in the fickle world of politics. Not quite Game of Thrones fickle but perhaps more Premier League Football Manager in charge of team one point above relegation zone fickle.  



There’s something about politics that grows on you as you get older. The importance to have a better understanding of it all that you didn’t quite have in your youth besides knowing who the main political parties were. I did not have a family that sat around discussing the government’s poilitical manifesto over dinner.  Though I’m quite sure my family did vote because that’s what you did when the polling cards dropped through your letterbox.  

As a result, I personally feel the conversation about exercising your right to vote needs to start early on. Perhaps #1, 2 and 3 are a little young right now. But come the next General Election, #1 will be 11 and by the time he’ll be able to vote in a General Election, he’ll be 21, #2 will be 19 and #3 will be 18. Will it be too much to expect their vote to be made based on a balanced view on issues that may not affect them directly at that age but for the greater good of the UK as a whole.     

More importantly, when listening to the views of every MP for every party, what it is that you need to listen out for. The translation of MPs telling us what they think we want to hear into what it actually means for us. Because quite frankly, I’m still confused about what each Party said they were going to deliver. This could be due to several reasons. 

  • I just do not understand politics.
  • I have been away from the UK for too long.
  • I have not been bombarded by extensive media coverage of the campaign trails these past months.
  • I did not have Boris Johnson and David Cameron personally visit my place of Gainful Employment.


And ultimately, if we don’t like what we hear and what it actually means for us then how can we go about changing it. So often, there’s that ‘what’s the point’ apathy that exists. 66% may have turned up to vote last Thursday but from the 1920s until 1997, the percentage was up in the high 70s and even 80s. We are much better informed and have far greater means to have our voices heard these days and we can say what we feel without fear of retribution unlike in many other societies, democratic or otherwise.  



I know they say never discuss religion and politics but I feel I could learn a lot from discussing politics because there’s just so much information to absorb. I could always do with a little more education in this area. I need someone to draw me up a crib sheet of each Parties main points so I can sit down and think about it. Gone are the days of Labour means fiscal policy and the working class and Conservative means monetary policy and capitalists and the Lib Dems in case you were just unsure. And just now there was UKIP and the SNP and whilst I wasn’t swayed by either of these parties, it’s just more and more information thrown at you.  

This is before even trying to decipher the voting outcomes. How UKIP can have the third highest number of votes at 3.8 million and have one MP but the SNP gains 56 MPs with 1.4 million votes. How Nick Clegg is shamed for losing 49 seats with 2.4 million votes (the Coalition did you no favours). How Ed Milliband accepts the defeat of Labour as purely his responsibility and yet would you say the success of the Conservatives was purely because of David Cameron? But Ed did you really stand a chance after the whole Ed/David Milliband for Labour Party leader?

 

 



So I’m not surprised even on the morning of Election Day, some were still confused as to who to go for or how to vote for the best outcome. It appears, like with most things in this modern world, we have too much choice.  

I listened to a debate amongst seven leading female MPs including Teresa May and Harriet Harman representing seven main parties who first gave a brief overview of what their Party wanted for the UK and then there was an open debate over some of the main issues like immigration, reducing the national debt, investing in the economy, free childcare hours for working parents and the effects of cutting welfare.  

The NHS was also a big thing. I don’t think there is anything like the NHS anywhere else. Having lived in Singapore for the last six and a half years where nothing is free, hence queues hours long for the most ridiculous things, I appreciate the luxury of a free healthcare system. I can’t remember the exact figure it cost us for the prenatal and hospital care for having #1, 2 and 3 in Singapore but it was probably around S$10,000 per child. Throw in an unplanned C-section and you’re looking at an extra S$15,000. For that you could choose to have your own private room or share with one or upto three other people for two, even three nights. My care was excellent, the hospital was like checking into a hotel and my room came with a flat screen tv. As you would expect from private healthcare.  

And I have had conversations with Singaporeans who are incredulous at the thought of how education is free in the UK. They think that’s amazing. Then they’ve heard about how if you don’t have a job then the governement will look after you. Yes that’s also true. What they don’t know is how much higher the tax rates are in the UK in comparison to Singapore. How much pressure there is on services and how the welfare state is not treated as well as it should be by some. That’s the thing. Politics is a complex issue. It’s also a hugely emotive issue.

  


Perhaps it’s more for emotive reasons than factual reasons that we discuss it less amongst ourselves. Because somehow or other, in one way or another, we feel and we have real experience of how we have been let down by The System. And it’s depressing reading and news to hear about all the shit stuff that the economy and measures of austerity have brought upon the UK. It’s not just about balancing the books and more spending on healthcare, education, housing and where is all the money going to come from but also about why there is pressure on healthcare like the rise in obesity and general unhealthy living habits. It was hard to hear and it was overwhelming before I could even take in what each Party was going to do about it all to turn things around. 

So now Election Day 2015 is over. The Conservative Party are leading with a majority which I prefer than having another coalition government. The reason why I feel this is quite simplistic. Every Party disagrees with each other on policy. Every Party sells you how they are different. Could you not agree on some things? Could you not just say, that’s a good approach rather than picking at it and shouting at each other across a room?  

I know that no one Party will have it exactly right. And I know that changing government every five years is not the best way to create stability. Especially if they can’t agree on anything and seek to change how things are ran as soon as they get into power. Singapore has been governed by the same political party for 50 years to rise from nothing to what it is today.  

It’s exhausting this idea of voting. And it takes a lot of time and passion dedicating yourself to being informed enough to make the right decision. It dawned on me the responsiblity we have. How our participation, and more importantly, our lack of participation affects not just us ourselves but the future of our children. It seems caring for our children is not about the day to day looking after, the instilling of good values or the education we can give them but also using our right to vote.  

So it doesn’t end here regardless of whether you are happy or not with the outcome. The dust will settle. Emotions will recover. It doesn’t mean we don’t need to pay attention for another five years. It’s only just beginning. To see what this government plans to do. What the Oppostition parties plan to do. What does it mean for us. And who will replace Ed Milliband, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage and whether David Milliband will return from the US. And will there be more female MPs in the Cabinet. And what will Boris Johnston do next.    

So will someone be so kind to write me a crib sheet please and we can discuss it over a beer or two.    


 

 

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International Women’s Day 2015: Make It Happen

I received flowers today for International Women’s Day. Not from Husband but from Mrs Cake Pops. Quite possibly an attempt to mask the smell of sweat I was emitting from doing this morning’s 10.5km Green Corridor Run. It was really hot! Husband does on occasion buy me flowers. Usually when they are meant for other people and we forget to give them so they end up mine by default.

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is ‘Make It Happen’. Such a strong, bold statement. I like it a lot. Don’t just think about it, ‘Make It Happen’. 

Despite in modern Chinese culture where the men still inherit the land, I come from a family of strong women. Perhaps it is because the men inherit the land that the women are such strong characters. My Mum and my cousin’s have made it happen by setting up their own businesses. If there’s a new skill they want to learn they go ahead and do it. If there’s a question they want an answer to, I’ve asked on their behalf, unless it’s in Chinese. They can ask it themselves. I once felt so self conscious being the interpreter for much of my family. Often too young to realise the importance of some concerns and the implications of others. But now, I realise this is the only way you are going to find out anything and make an informed decision or get anything done. 

Only by questioning things can you make changes. For if you don’t question something then how do you know it’s right? Or the only way to do things? Or how things should really be? Every time we question something, we challenge perceptions. And only by challenging perceptions can we make change happen. 

So in support of International Women’s Day, I’m going to ‘Make It Happen’. 

I’m not sure what yet. But every year when it’s International Women’s Day and we celebrate women all around the world and I think about what it means to be a woman for me, I firstly remember that I have a life of privilege.  A right to education, to vote, to be in gainful employment, to have opinions and voice them, to be with a partner of my own choosing, to be able to choose a partner of any religion, ethnicity or gender. Already I can make a lot happen. 

But I can make a lot more happen.

For myself with getting on and doing the things I’ve felt inspired to do but haven’t quite got round to. 

For others around me with giving them the support they need to ‘Make It Happen’. Encouraging them with a listening ear and as #3 says all the time, ‘You Can Do It’. Or she says ‘I Can Do It’. And then she gives herself a Well Done when she’s done it. Usually jumping in the air with two feet. 

For others not around me by wholeheartedly supporting the importance of campaigns such as Everyday Sexism, No More Page 3, He for She. By exercising my right to vote and to take notice of the wider world and the challenges faced by women in other cultures and the challenges faced by both genders. 

And whilst there is the issue of Gender Equality to address, I strongly believe that women and men have a responsiblity to themselves and each other to ‘Make It Happen’.  

Whatever that may be. 

No one else can really ‘Make It Happen’ for you.  

What will it be for you? 



 

 

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