My parents and their adorable kids in the unfortunate 80s
One of those subjects that inevitably pop up when you hit the big 3-0 is having kids. When are you having them, how many, and how are you gonna raise them?
My friends and I haven’t gone beyond “reserving” baby names (nothing too hippie, nothing too British, and nothing that will twerk when it grows up). While marriage and long-term partnerships have crept up on us, kids have remained elusive save for one friend. At every birthday party we pile her kids with gifts and then bemoan how old we are getting and how fast they’re growing up. Yet our bellies remain empty and our timelines vague (Maybe next year? Next year? Maybe).
My mother once told me that there is nothing more fulfilling than having kids and raising them. I remember looking at her and then at my siblings and wondered about her ambitions in life. We’re not a bad bunch, but we’re not exactly… exemplary. But since it was my mother, my biological clock started ticking more loudly. I felt pressured. Should I write it down on my To-Do List? This worsened when I quit my job. Why not have kids? After all, it’s not like I was busy.
Before people jump out of their seats and wave their outraged fingers in my face, no I have plans on going to get myself pregnant because I’m bored and looking for direction. Duh.
What happened instead is that C’s best friend and his girlfriend got pregnant. As I listened to her talk about her “wild” c-section, my knees buckled and I knew that I was not good enough or strong enough for motherhood. No sir. Not yet.
Health, Wealth, and Family
I’ve asked my partner C about kids and he always responds with a wide smile and a reassuring, “Why not?”. We are both extremely close to the kids of our siblings. His brother has 2 rambunctious boys and my brother has 2 adorable girls. We love them to death and spoil them every opportunity we get. Yet there is an audible sigh of relief each time we kiss them good night and hand them back to their parents, riddled with sugar and possibilities. We’ll have kids, but not now. That’s how it’s been for the past 5 years.
When C turned 40 years old, I had a dilemma. What do you give a man who wants nothing and has everything he needs? At that time, I foolishly decided that he needed more attention, as his brother tends to hoard all the well wishes in the office. And what would cause more attention than an Audio Visual Presentation to be screened in front of the whole office, during his birthday party celebration? It sounded marvelous, so I asked the people closest to him, like his brother, best friend, and a bunch of his favorite employees to go on camera and send him cheesy birthday wishes.
What can you wish for a man who has everything? Well, apparently you could wish him kids. Yes, KIDS— the perfect gift for the man who has everything else. As I was editing every earnest interview, I wanted to throw up. Everyone kept going on about how wonderful he was with kids and how it was time for him to have his own. On the day of his party, my ovaries couldn’t take the pressure and seemed to close up within its self. When we were finally home, I asked him what he thought up about the AVP. I was met with the same wide smile. Of course they’re going to wish for me to have kids, he said, but right now I need new running shoes.
First off, I am not really a tai tai. Wikipedia defines tai tai as a “wealthy woman who does not work”. My partner is not wealthy, and neither am I. We are not Crazy Rich Asians, but my partner may be considered a Lucky Goddamn Expat who runs his own business with two other LGE’s. He drives a Rav4 and I drive a decade old Civic. We may live in the top floor of our condominium and we have a great view of the Alabang skyline, but we’re simply renting it from a Crazy Rich Asian Family.
The term tai tai originally referred to the “lead wife” in polygamous marriage. I am also not a tai tai in this definition. My partner is in a serious relationship with 3 things: his work, sports, and me— in that order. First Wife Work takes up at least 10 hours of his day and constantly reminds me of who is footing for the bill. So no, I am not a tai tai at all, not quite. The only reason my friends have bestowed the title on me because, first, I am Asian, and second, I don’t work to earn a living. I simply work. In my circle of friends, we are two “tai tais”. While we’re both lucky to have partners who support us, our monthly allowance may send a real tai tai reeling in despair.
Yet, we’re happy. I’m happy. I am also going a little insane. It’s only been 3 months since I officially became unemployed and it hasn’t been easy.
My daily life now consists of cooking breakfast, tidying up our place, heading to the gym, and then… nothing. And it’s only noon. Oh, I would sometimes go to the grocery, run errands, and once in a while I’ll go have lunch with one of my friends. But that’s about it. Sometimes I will help out in my partner’s company, by providing content for the programs and devices that they produce. While I am still able to do this pretty well, it’s hard to determine the line between “helping out” and working pro-bono. How can I close a chapter in my life when they keep asking me to edit it?
Tita Susan Miller advised me to stay put for the rest of year and just keep on planning for the next. Apparently 2014 is supposed to be my banner year, the year that will kick the ass of all the other years of my life. It’s the year that I will look back in fondness and talk endlessly about to my grandchildren. It’s apparently going to be that awesome.
That was precisely my plan even before tita Susan articulated in her monthly horoscope, except I’m not actively planning anything great or doing anything remotely in the direction of kicking ass. Instead I was watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians and getting emotionally involved in the Cupcake Wars.
My partner tried to help by upping the tai tai ante. He paid for a gym trainer go kick my butt into shape. He pushed me to take French lessons. He even took my on a whirlwind trip to Singapore for my birthday, two weeks after I’d just arrived from my whirlwind trip in the US and Europe. Heck, he got me business class plane tickets. He was serious about his commitment to give me the best tai tai life he could afford.
However, I was brought up middle class, which meant that while I wanted the privileged life, I don’t really know what to do with it.
Don’t get me wrong—I am grateful for all the sweet stuff that life has thrown my way. In my wildest daydreams, I didn’t think that anyone would just give me stuff and expect nothing in return. I grew up believing in two things about life: first, that there are no real free lunches, and the second, that the only things constant were death and taxes.
So how do I deal with being a tai tai? Well, I tried to give make myself worthy of it. I dieted, worked out, and cooked my partner healthy meals. I learned to say mille feuille and pan aux chocolat properly. I drove him to work and accompanied him to on his nightly walks so he could reach his daily goal of 10,000 steps. While I could definitely play the role of the housewife, I realized that I wasn’t very good at just being provided for. Is anybody over the age of 10 ever really?
I think that the challenge of being a tai tai is to not get bored and fade into irrelevance. I am in danger of doing so already, of sinking lower and lower into the La-Z-Boy sofa and letting Kris Jenner take over my life.