Fancy a Houseman?

For the short time that I’ve been here, I learnt more things about the Malaysian community than my main purpose of academia.. But ain’t that typical?? Talk about losing focus at such an early stage.

Anyway.. what is it that I’ve learnt?

Most of those who are actually pursuing their graduate studies are the female ones of the household. Which means, the men are the ones who resign from their posts back home and willingly follow their spouses. To make ends meet or to simply earn supplementary income, most of them work as cleaners, factory workers, in restaurants, anywhere. I have heard about this occurrence, long before coming here, but I just didn’t realize its extent. Of course, there are also quite a number of women who ditched everything and accompanied their husbands. So what do they do in their free time? Organize and attend cooking classes, flower-arranging classes, ketupat anyam classes.. Basically perfecting their skills of being the model housewife, minus the killings and other dodgy elements of the Desperate Housewives.

I have high admiration for these people -those who selflessly let go of everything for the name of love or for the sake of the family, whichever you look at it, as I’m not one to do it myself. I have several reasons for this (putting my research writing skills to extreme use here i.e. giving justifications for everything, minus the reference though). Firstly, we know that it’s not easy to work professionally in a foreign country unless you’re: 1. a true expert in your field, 2. extremely lucky, or 3. at the right place at the right time with the right qualifications -then again, doesn’t this fall under ‘lucky’? But I’m digressing.. Personally, I know of only five people who are working in the UK, and not as cleaners. Two are doctors, one an accountant, one an auditor about to finish his last ACCA paper and the other is also an auditor who is lucky to initially have a PR status (*more about this guy later).

Many of these other househusbands do try to gain jobs according to their qualifications but to no avail. It’s not that they didn’t try. I asked several of them and the answers I get are similar -it can get discriminatory when applying jobs here. The Mat Sallehs didn’t want an Asian or Muslim engineer. This situation reminds me of the asterisk guy * above. He too resigned his post as an auditor back home and followed his wife (who is my good friend) to further her Masters. He tried and tried to get a decent job. Attended numerous interviews but left empty-handed. He was so frustrated, to the point of depression.. And he’s got a PR status as he was born in the UK. But nine months later, unexpectedly, he got a job. You can call it rezeki baby, ‘cos he got the job immediately after my friend gave birth to their first-born son. You can guess that after her Masters, my friend continued for her PhD -despite her university commanding her back to service- as good jobs are not easy to acquire.

Apart from working less than qualifying jobs, there’s also the pressure of finding a sense of belonging. I mean, while their spouses do have other responsibilities as students and need to go to campus, what do they have? No family around.. no jobs to go to.. I guess that’s why the Malaysian community is close-knit here. Only they know what the other is going through.

And not forgetting, what happens when they come back? Assuming that these female doctorates aren’t like my friend who is fleeing her university and the country, let’s say they do come back. What happens to their husbands? With 4-5 years of lost experience, even engineers need to start over. Their shelf lives become, well, unmarketable. Many ex-househusbands in the end join the business sector. Not too bad an arrangement, I suppose.. But not everybody has the knack for business.

So there are many risky aspects.

As mentioned, I for one, do not have that same ‘courage’, if you’d call it that. It’s not that my hubby doesn’t love me.. it’s not that I’m a cruel mother to have abandoned her 18-month old baby back home while she suka-suka datang UK jadik student.. it’s just that I can’t bear to see my husband, the main breadwinner of my family, release his job to accompany me. The job he worked so hard for to earn (out of over 300 candidates, he was among the 4 chosen, with two levels of interviews and written exam, no less), the same job that got him closer to me (we were weekend husband-and-wife before that).. and the same job that pays a lot of our bills. Though I love my career, I certainly love my husband and his career more. Bottom line is, I don’t want him to quit to support me. I need him to stay in order to reassure me. I need to know that I’m not the only one working my butt off (literally speaking) for our family. And that to me, is the best support ever.

So that was why I opted for this programme. It’s a new scheme under the 9MP and only those academicians who aren’t ignorant will know of this. I do apologize if I sound a tad bitter, it’s just that many do not understand my current situation and the minute they hear about the structure of my course, they look at me incredulously with either these statements:

“Abih baby camne? U tinggal ngan sapa?” <– ngan hantu, tak tau ke??
“Oh dear, I can’t function without my kids.. I don’t know how you could” <– I suppose you’re dead at the office ‘cos I don’t see your kids around
“Tak penat ke ulang-alik UK cam tu? Baik buat terus full-time”

Mind you, this is a full-time course, not those twinning degree programs where you spend only the last year abroad. I have two Supervisors here and a local one as my Co-Supervisor. That comes to show how serious I am to make this work. Oh well, I’m just gonna do my thang and hopefully He’ll be with me throughout my entire journey. To do the best research I can and get it done on time. Amin.

P.S Btw Zura, your second guess was right. As much as I’d like to think that I’m bright, Cambridge is way out of my league!

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