Thursday, 24 March 2011

That old toad, work

I've had a couple of job interviews this week. I got one but turned it down (poor pay and conditions) but the other one is looking promising. I have a further assessment for it next week. Our son is 11 months old now, and I feel it's time to try to give a bit more time to my career, and put some more money in the family pot. But golly, it's a hard thing to get my head around.

The irony is, when I was in the depths of post-natal depression, all I wanted to do was get back to work. It was all about regaining control, I think. My job was something I was good at; from my perspective, motherhood was not. It was also about being able to be an individual, something that I felt I would never be able to be again. I desperately wanted to be like my husband, striding out of the door in uniform off to perform a useful function for society. Now, of course, I realise I AM performing a useful function - what could be more useful than bringing up our son?! And the idea of separating myself from my son, even for a few hours, feels like torture.

Add to this the usual childcare challenge of being married to a pilot. Unlike an "ordinary" family, I can't rely on my husband to be able to get our son up or put him to bed every day, because he's often away, sometimes at very short notice. On the plus side, he's often here for long periods of time - but not within any set pattern. How do you fit a job into that? I have no idea. So far I've been doing very occasional work from home when he's been around. But these jobs I've been for this week require me to find some sort of daycare for my son. I'm just not ready to put him in nursery yet - we have decided to send him there in September. In the meantime, my friend had previously offered to step in and look after him occasionally, but today she told me that she'd changed her mind. The only other option here really is to get a full-time live in nanny, something neither my husband nor I want to do. It's a huge move having someone live with you. Yes, it would allow me to go back to my previous career and work all kinds of wacky shifts, but it would also mean giving up our privacy and allowing someone else to play a huge part in bringing up our son.

What to do? I have NO idea.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Pilots and marriage - a cautionary tale

I spotted this the other day when doing a search for other sites about being married to a pilot. It's a hilarious take on what NOT to do as far as relationships are concerned.

There's always a running joke between my husband and I about how many failed marriages each of his Captains have had. But really, it's not so funny. Amongst the humour, there are a lot of very sad kids out there with divorced parents. Sigh...I hate it when pilots live up to stereotypes! Anyhow, here it is. If you don't laugh, you'd cry...

Subject: Life of a Pilot

22 years old: Graduated from college. Go to military flight school. Become hot shot fighter pilot. Get married.
25 years old: Have 1st kid. Now hot shot fighter jock getting shot at in war. Just want to get back to USA in one piece. Get back to USA as primary flight instructor pilot. Get bored. Volunteer for war again.
29 years old: Get back from war all tuckered out. Wants out of military.
30 years old: Join airline. World is your oyster.
31 years old: Buy flashy car, house and lots of toys. Get over the military poverty feeling.
32 years old: Divorce boring 1st wife. Pay child support and maintenance. Drink lots of booze and screw around while looking for 2nd wife.
33 years old: Furloughed. Join military reserve unit and fly for fun. Repeat above for a few more years.
35 years old: Airline recall. More screwing around but looking forward to a good marriage and settling down.
36 years old: Marry young spunky 25 year old flight attendant.
37 years old: Buy another house. Gave first one to first wife.
38 years old: Give in to second wife to have more kids. Father again. Wife concerned about “risky” military Reserve flying so you resign commission.
39 years old: Now a captain. Hooray! Upgrade house, buy boat, small single engine airplane and even flashier cars.
42 years old: 2nd wife runs off with wealthy investment banker but still wants to share house (100%).
43 years old: Settle with wife #2 and resolve to stay away from women forever. Seek a position as a check Captain for 10% pay override to pay mounting bills. Move into 1 bedroom apartment with window air conditioners.
44 years old: Company resizes and you’re returned to copilot status. 25% pay cut. Become simulator instructor for 10% override pay.
49 years old: Captain again. Move into 2-bedroom luxury apartment with central air conditioning.
50 years old: Meet sexy Danish model on International trip. She loves you and says you are very “beeeeg!”
51 years old: Marry sexy Danish model for wife #3. Buy big house, boat, twin engine airplane and upgrade cars.
52 years old: Sexy model wants kids (not again). Resolve to get vasectomy.
54 years old: Try to talk wife out of kids, but presto, she’s pregnant. She says she got sick after taking the pill. Accident; sorry, won’t happen again.
55 years old: Father of triplets.
56 years old: Wife #3 wants very big house, bigger boat and very flashy cars, “worried” about your private flying and wants you to sell twin engine airplane. You give in. You buy a motorcycle and join motorcycle club.
57 years old: Make rash investments to try and have enough money for retirement.
59 years old: Lose money on rash investment and get audited by the IRS. You have to fly 100% International night trips just to keep up with child support and alimony to wife #1 and #2.
60 years old: Wife #3 (sexy model) says you’re too damned old and no fun. She leaves. She takes most of your assets. You’re forced to retire due to Age 60 rule. No money left.
61 years old: Now Captain on a non-schedule South American 727 freight outfit and living in a non-air conditioned studio apartment directly underneath the final approach to runway 9 at Miami Int’l. You have interesting” Hispanic neighbors who ask you if you’ve ever flown DC-3′s.
65 years old: Lose FAA medical and get job as sim instructor. Don’t look forward to years of getting up at 2 AM for 3 AM sim in every god-forsaken town you train in due to the fact your carrier can find cheap, off-hours sim time at various Brand X Airlines.
70 years old: Hotel alarm clock set by previous FedEx crewmember goes off at 1:00 AM. Have heart attack and die with smile on face. Happy at last!

Ain’t aviation great?

Friday, 18 March 2011

Wow, by Holly McNish

The following is a poem featured on BBC Woman's Hour, written by the performance poet Holly McNish. It's her newly composed poem for the Women of the World conference, and it's about motherhood. I found it very moving, and thought I'd share it with you.

My body is amazing

I can almost hear her saying it

As she stands naked at the mirror

Hands clapping in applause to it

Naked, bold and proud

Her mouth open wide and round like


My body is amazing

She is one year’s old and loving it

Full belly sticking out, thighs like mini tyre towers

And when she looks at her reflection she always shouts aloud like

This body is so great!

Gazing down now

I try to do the same

Ignore the plastic advert spreads

That pass me on the way

I say ‘my body is amazing’

Despite what some might say

I say my body is amazing

Despite the claims you make.

The nip and tuck and cuts and sucks that fill my walk to work each day

Enhancement ads and happiness will only come with curves this way and

if I lay in front of you today

Clothes dropped to the floor

You’d prescribe me what I could have less and what I should want more of

A tick box what could be chopped off with red pen ready hand aside your eyes deciding what to slice from lips and cheeks to bum and thighs

The lines below my eyes you say

I ought to peel or pull away

My breasts will start to sag one day

My breastfed baby there to blame

She came into the world you say

That’s great

but now behold your face

your saggy stomach, baggy eyes

Stretch mark stripes you look and sigh:

My eyes, tighten

My legs, inject

My thighs, cut back

My head, perfect

My stomach, flatten

My breasts, enhance,

Don’t smile, too much

Oh God, don’t laugh.

As you mark me like a canvas page in circled bouts of red

I feel the need to tell you you might praise this skin instead

Cos as you chat about corrections, your plucking cuts and lasers

Briefcase stuffed with time relapses, scalpol led erasers

I take up your red pen to my cheeks and mark two stripes on either side

A naked painted warrior could be a sorer site for eyes cos

I am ready for your battles now

My body’s felt the worst

No scalpol cut intense as that last damn push of birth

And I have learnt with awed amazement what my body brave can do

And now I’m marked like tribal tattoos with the tales my flesh went through

But those stripes that line my saggy stomach mark me like gold

And the folds by my eyes tell a tale just as bold

My laughter lines are deeper now because I smile twice as much

so if you palm read these first ‘wrinkles’ my life would light up.

Your official position is that smoothness is queen

but without any lines there’s no reading between them

A storybook opening

My life’s just begun and

Once upon never plays

If you cling to line one

As you try to cover the living I’ve done

As a human, a woman, and now as a mum

But your red pen can’t rub out the night’s I’ve not slept, the parts that I’ve bled or the laughter I’ve wept, the baby I held in the stomach that stretched, the breasts that got heavy so baby was fed, the parties I’ve had out, the sleep I’ve missed out on, the dinners I’ve stuffed down my throat like a python,

As you pile on the pressure to cover my life

I wonder what on earth is so wrong with your sight.

If my mind and my memory can tell you my tales

Then why can my body not tell them as well?

As our babies lie naked,

Applauding their skin

I can’t wait for their lives and their lines to begin.

Hollie McNish

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Two years and counting

Today is the second anniversary of my departure from the UK, and the beginning of our new life. Then, I'd just packed my job in, packed away our belongings and put our house on the rental market, and was being driven to Heathrow by my parents for a tearful farewell. I'd never visited the country I was moving to, and had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that my missed my husband like crazy - he'd moved out two months ahead of me to begin his training.

Two years on, we're very happy here. We have our beautiful son, who we both believe wouldn't be here if I hadn't downshifted so much and removed all career-related stress from my life. My husband has a stable job that pays very well and has good prospects, and I have loads of friends, I'm back working (very) part-time, and we have a lovely place to live.

If I'd seen this coming two years ago, I'd have been ecstatic.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Settling in

It seems a bit ridiculous to write "settling in" as the title of a post written two years after we moved to the Middle East, but there you are. In many respects, it really has taken this long to feel "at home" here.

Recently, for example, my husband and I finally cancelled our mobile phone contracts in the UK. We'd been hanging on to them, saying they were useful when we went home for holidays - but really, it was because we both thought, in the back of our minds, that we might not last out our time out here, and might need them if we moved home. Finally, though, we have severed those ties.

Moving into our villa has helped massively, too. We've just come back from a week's holiday in the Seychelles, which was paradise on earth. But when we arrived back at the airport yesterday morning, we both said to each other, "it's good to be home". Finally, we feel that our house and our city are the place where we belong. Getting back to our own bed, our kitchen, our comfy lounge and growing collection of garden plants, felt right.

It's not been an easy road, by any measure. And many other families I know out here are still struggling with it. There's an inevitable cultural shock, and things are done very differently. You're miles away from your families and old friends. And it's very, very hot here during the summer. Some of the people we know out here are desperate to return to their home countries. It's very easy to get sucked into negativity about the country and the company. There's a lot of bitching about terms and conditions, and I think moving away from company accommodation has removed me from that, which has helped hugely. Living so close to all my husband's colleagues and their families reminded me so much of boarding school, in so many respects - and they're not good memories!

Still, I feel very comfortable here now. Partly, that's because I know my way around, know how things work, and have a base. I've always been rubbish at change, and it takes me quite a while to adjust to new things. And it's also because I really do like where we live. It's not perfect, by any means, but neither is the UK, which is very financially depressed at the moment (and that's an understatement.) Here, the sun shines every day, we don't pay tax, we have a great house, we're 20 minutes from the beach, and we have some lovely new friends.

We won't be here forever, but - it's home for now. And that's a great feeling.



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