My life as an expat - Part 1 - Guest column - Katja von Glinowiecki
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My life as an expat – Part 1 – Guest column

My life as an expat – Part 1 – Guest column

It has been 11years since I started my life as an expat. How has it impacted me? Probably have to do in parts cos it has been so long.

My Career

I studied hard, got a good degree in maths & economics, earned my CFA and was earning 5 figures (sgd) when I gave it all up to be a SaHM.

My parents felt the heartache because they spent my entire youth telling me my hands are meant to wield the pen and not a ladle. I never had to do any housework, not even to cook for myself a bowl of noodles because they just wanted me to study hard, get a good degree and a good job. Break the rut of being plain middle income. And in a way I did, right before I left I was earning 5 figures and 3-6 month bonus. I had regular headhunters calling me. I had enough of a good reputation in my industry.

Then I got married, left my dad’s home and was pregnant straight away. I continued to work till Hansel came along. I contemplated working out of KL. Jon relocated to KL a year earlier, and after Hansel’s arrival I would stay over in KL occasionally during my maternity leave (3months). One day we had dinner in KL a random lady came over to me and said: do you know baby boys retail for 15,000 ringgit. Now I would be crazy to pursue my career and leave my baby in the hands of a random stranger after this conversation. So I quit and stayed home.

Career decline and dependency

And I went from having a decent salary to getting cash from the Husband. It was so difficult adjusting initially. Because being in a foreign land, it was harder for him to get me a sub-card and ATM card so I was using cash initially and learning to Budget for a household.

Jon is generous and never questioned how I spent money. But it was just so so hard to ask for money. It felt like handout and I think that was the hardest period, adapting to losing my “financial freedom”. Took me more than a year to come to terms that being a SaHM doesn’t make me less of a contributor. That being a full time mom is pure hard work itself and I deserve a salary for it.

Also, I noticed that I had on-going commitments draining my bank account – insurance and allowances for my parents (Asian thing, I give them a monthly allowance plus cash of up to 1k sgd for special occasions like birthday, Mother/ Father’s day or Xmas. They don’t want gifts, cash is more practical. We are Asians haha). And I discussed with Jon and he agreed to transfer a fix amount to my personal account monthly as a source of income and also as our “joint cash savings”. He then managed to secure me his sub-card and ATM card and things got easier. And when he gets his annual bonus, I get a cut for my bonus. I am lucky because I know of some wives whose husbands feel they need to control the purse strings, no personal accounts for the Wife etc. Jon has been wonderfully supportive.

11 years, I use it on house hold expenses, bills and for the kids. But my own personal purchases, frivolous gifts for kids or gifts for him- I always use my own credit card linked to my own savings account. Makes me feel somewhat still an individual. He doesn’t need to see the cost of everything I buy! Not that I am wilfully extravagant anyway.

Back to the job market – is that worth it?

Kids are now 9 and 11. Technically they need me less and do I intend to work again? Honestly it is hard for me to return to the financial industry (forgot most terms, markets have progressed so much and I don’t have any more of the licenses needed to operate in this industry) but I have earned my baking license from ABC cooking school and I can be a teacher with them, or join some friends to run a business. I will play by ear but for now am busy clocking up “resume” as active parent rep in school. Going to start next academic term as the new PTA president. It will be a challenging year as we have 9 committee members to oversee everything and over 1600members with high expectations. Fingers crossed.

We are a Singaporean family of 4. Hubby (“Jon”) works in the financial/insurance sector. Son (“Hansel”) and Daughter (“Gretal”), so nicknamed because they leave a trail of their existence everywhere either in the form of misplace items or pure sloppiness, are aged 11 and 9 respectively. They have been studying in international schools since the age of 2. And I (“Jk”) have been a sacrificial Wife and Mother for the last 11years, working hard to maintain a sense of sanity and individuality while living up to the expectations of SaHMotherhood. 

Foto von Andrea Piacquadio von Pexels