Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Inevitable Consequence

My wife is currently in China on holidays. She is with my son. She has gone with my blessing and my support.

It is a positive thing, given what we have just gone through recently. The fact that I agreed for my child to go oversease to a country like China without my presence, indicates something positive in an otherwise gloomy recent past.

What I mean by this should become very clear soon.

I guess it is at this point where I declare that we are in fact separated.

Anyway, it has been a very difficult last few months.

I guess you never really know someone unless you actually separate from them, and witness their reaction.

Our separation has for the most part been amicable, given the complex financial circumstances we were in.

I had come to the conclusion that our relationship simply would not work, and I realised that the longer I waited, the more vulnerable I would be to exploitation.

The fact that we just made a huge investment in a large house, although at first I thought to be a stabilising influence, made determining the genuine status of our relationship all the more urgent.

So it was I who separated from her.

Although I had planned to do this for a few weeks, when I finally did do it it was the result of a misundertanding on my part regarding a phone call she received.

I did not say anything but I assumed the worst, only to find out days later that it was an error on my part. It seemed I had grown weary and paranoid.

In any case, it didn't really matter. I did what I had to do, being the inevitable consequence of unresolved issues from our past.

The good thing is that during this period of separation, I have cleanly untangled my finances from hers, and managed to get a full account of her own net worth.

Wow!! I can't believe how much money she saved during our marriage, while I was paying for all her expenses.

Anyway, being separated, especially being the initiator of separation, gave me a strange sense of control. This is something that I had very little of for the bulk of our marriage.

I was able to request that she provide her true financial circumstances to me, as I did to her, in order to try and arrange an equitable financial agreement between us.

I was also able to make requests of my son's time, that were previously never afforded to me, regardless of how reasonable and just my requests may have been.

I asked for my son to stay with me for 2 days per week, and during this time my son has been actually able to visit his paternal family without interferance, for the first time ever.

One request that I have yet to have her agree to has been for my son to stay overnight with me.

It is hard to fathom that she objects to my 8 year old son staying overnight with me, yet she had allowed my son to go interstate on his own to visit his aunty for a whole week, without even blinking.

However, this is something that I have been working on.

I think I will just have to force the issue when they return from China, as it is not a genuine concern, of this I am sure. I believe that she is on some level at least gaming the child support system, which determines level of support on the number of overnight stays with each parent.

In any case, I must be patient and try and to slowly persuade her to the wisdom of sharing the load, and hopefully common sense will prevail.

I should also mention that since our separation she has written on 7 occassions asking that we reconcile. These have been quite detailed letters. She clearly has gone to a lot of effort.

However I am not seriously considering such a move, but on an emotional level it does make the separation easier to bare at least.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Hymn of the Tiger Mother

I post an article about the Parenting styles of Chinese mothers, a topic that has received a lot of press recently.

I have thought about this topic extensively, given that I have a young son.

I wish to elaborate on my views and experiences on the topic of parenting, in particular the cultural influences and values that tend to have an overwhelming impact on our parenting styles.

But first an article on the topic that has been in the news of late.


By Amy Chua

In “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” Amy Chua describes her relentless determination to make her two daughters successful by raising them in a strict fashion, contrary to what she sees as modern American standards of permissiveness and mediocrity. In this excerpt, she starts to explain her parenting philosophy.

Part One

The Tiger, the living symbol of strength and power, generally inspires fear and respect.

The Chinese mother

A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it’s like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I’ve done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

• attend a sleepover

• have a playdate

• be in a school play

• complain about not being in a school play

• watch TV or play computer games

• choose their own extracurricular activities

• get any grade less than an A

• not be the #1 student in every subject except gym and drama

• play any instrument other than the piano or violin

• not play the piano or violin.

I’m also using the term “Western parents” loosely. Western parents come in all varieties. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say that Westerners are far more diverse in their parenting styles than the Chinese. Some Western parents are strict; others are lax. There are same-sex parents, Orthodox Jewish parents, single parents, ex-hippie parents, investment banker parents, and military parents. None of these “Western” parents necessarily see eye to eye, so when I use the term “Western parents,” of course I’m not referring to all Western parents—just as “Chinese mother” doesn’t refer to all Chinese mothers.

All the same, even when Western parents think they’re being strict, they usually don’t come close to being Chinese mothers. For example, my Western friends who consider themselves strict make their children practice their instruments thirty minutes every day. An hour at most. For a Chinese mother, the first hour is the easy part. It’s hours two and three that get tough.

Despite our squeamishness about cultural stereotypes, there are tons of studies out there showing marked and quantifiable differences between Chinese and Westerners when it comes to parenting. In one study of 50 Western American mothers and 48 Chinese immigrant mothers, almost 70% of the Western mothers said either that “stressing academic success is not good for children” or that “parents need to foster the idea that learning is fun.” By contrast, roughly 0% of the Chinese mothers felt the same way. Instead, the vast majority of the Chinese mothers said that they believe their children can be “the best” students, that “academic achievement reflects successful parenting,” and that if children did not excel at school then there was “a problem” and parents “were not doing their job.” Other studies indicate that compared to Western parents, Chinese parents spend approximately ten times as long every day drilling academic activities with their children. By contrast, Western kids are more likely to participate in sports teams.

This brings me to my final point. Some might think that the American sports parent is an analog to the Chinese mother. This is so wrong. Unlike your typical Western over-scheduling soccer mom, the Chinese mother believes that (1) schoolwork always comes first; (2) an A-minus is a bad grade; (3) your children must be two years ahead of their classmates in math; (4) you must never compliment your children in public; (5) if your child ever disagrees with a teacher or coach, you must always take the side of the teacher or coach; (6) the only activities your children should be permitted to do are those in which they can eventually win a medal; and (7) that medal must be gold.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Song of the Sirens

Well, I finally have my wife's banking details. She has saved a lot of money over the course of our marriage, and before.

I did not expect her to so casually provide her bank account details to me, especially given her refusal to do so in the past, but she probably thought she had no choice.

This surprisingly does not make me feel relieved or satisfied. In fact I feel more frustrated than ever, especially when I consider why it has taken so long, and why there was so much resistance.

I sometimes think back to when we first met, and I wonder why I never picked up on her "Me not Us" view of marriage. Or if I did, why or how I let it get to this point.

I remember in fact the day that we met, and all the circumstances behind it. I had been about a year out of a long-term relationship, and my colleague and his wife invited me for dinner at a restaurant.

Once dinner was over, they surprised me by providing me a ticket, and dropping me off in the city for what I was to find out was a speed-dating evening.

Now I am not the most charming of men, and I often get tongue tied in these situations, so I felt quite uneasy about going ahead with this, but I thought it may be a good laugh if nothing else, so I gave it a shot.

I waited for an anxious half an hour in a bar with another 30 or so men and women, all strangers to me.

Most of the men and women congregated in small groups. It was obvious to me that women came prepared in groups, while men came alone but grouped up out of necessity.

Despite feeling anxious at being all alone, I felt quite out of my element, and stood there like a statue until the event formally began.

It was at that point that I caught my wife's attention. She too was alone, and as far as I could tell, very shy.

Once formalities began, we got to sit down with each person of the opposite sex for 5 minutes each, and then move on. We were told to make small-talk, but not talk about our work, and not to provide private contact information.

I actually did not like the majority of the women I spoke to, because I felt that they were too self-involved, too demanding, too assertive. But when I got to sit with my wife, it was obvious that we hit it off straight away.

We did not talk about work, money, success, or anything of the sought. It was merely small talk, just a little banter and fun.

So I thought she liked me for me.

In any case I didn't really pursue her, except for the fact that she managed to get my mobile phone number by nights end.

Come next day, I really cooled off on her, and decided that if she called, I would simply make up some excuse, and hopefully she would get the idea.

And so it happened, problem is, she didn't get the message.

So she kept calling, and calling, and calling, and finally I guess I simply caved in to her ongoing request to go out one night.

So try as I may, I can't see how I missed those vital calling signs of things to come....or am I missing something here?

Saturday, February 05, 2011

We bought a new house, but…

Well, we just bought a new house.

Its actually quite big, even majestic really. It cost an absolute fortune.

I was happy where we lived, but my wife wanted opulence.

We will move in the next few months.

However my wife and I have come to an impasse.

My wife’s salary goes into a separate bank account, and despite my best efforts, its always been kept out of my reach. In fact I don’t even know how much she has saved.

We have, I say embarrassingly, been living on my income alone since we got married.

Now with the new house purchase, I have demanded that she contribute to the purchase with all her saved funds.

She has refused.

Surprisingly she has been referring to this purchase as “her new house”, and yet she expects not to contribute to it at all.

Given our troubles in the past, this is simply not on.

So I have laid down my terms to her. Either she contributes to the house with her funds, to the extent that she has saved, or I will simply borrow against the house that we have, so that the burden is shared.

I have accepted that our first house will be split equally or thereabouts should we ever separate, despite she never contributing, but I will not make that mistake again.

She has been acting very upset over this, but her expectations are remarkably unreasonable.

This is not an issue that I am prepared to compromise on. If I am to be fair to her, I also have to be just as fair to myself.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mr Cat, meet Mr Pidgeon

"Mr Cat, meet Mr Pidgeon...the rest I leave to you."

So goes the old saying, which indicates the strong order of things that seem to drive so much of the human condition.

Much like the laws of nature, so with humans, our likes, our reactions, our affiliations and our nemeses.

Or so I thought.

A few months ago I started seeing a new patient, an elderly Chinese man who was suffering from moderately advanced Parkinson's Disease. In the consultation was his daughter, a feisty, assertive but genuinely caring woman, doing all she could for her father, as well as the gentleman's wife, a woman in her eighties who could not speak any English, but seemed to be the decision maker in the unit.

This man was luckily very responsive to first line treatment, and at least for now many of his symptoms have come under control, resulting in a better quality of life for this man, and as is almost always the case, for his long suffering wife.

At our last appointment the wife expressed her delight that she could now go for long walks without worrying about her husband, who she previously believed needed 24 hr monitoring. In response, I jokingly mentioned that since they live close to me, that she could come and visit my mother-in-law.

Given all that they had in common, their age, their heritage, their language, the vicinity to each other's households, I thought this was a no brainer, and this would provide my mother-in-law an opportunity to mix with other people, and have broader interests and independent friends.

So naively, I arranged for us to meet one day over yum cha.

From where I was sitting, everything seemed to go smoothly. There was a lot of chatter, a lot of smiles. My mother-in-law and the elderly women seemed to talk the most, and why not after-all, they were so remarkably similar.

Well in the days and weeks after that lunch, I slowly noticed that there was no reference, no discussion about the new friend.

At first I barely noticed it, but I kept on asking my wife whether her mother saw her new friend today, in a way feeling chuffed that through my handy work, my mother-in-law had benefitted.

My wife would respond without asking her mother, with a bland "no".

After a few weeks of this, it occurred to me that this simply didn't sound right, so one night, while lying in bed with my wife, I asked her why her mother had not seen her new friend since the yum cha.

My wife said that the woman called 3 times, but her mother didn't want to see her.

I found this so strange. My mother-in-law has so few friends, so few peers of the same age, and she had such a burning desire for conversation, how could she not want to see her new friend?

After more prodding, my wife finally spilled the beans.

She said:

"My mother doesn't like her. She feels that she is below her."

My wife continued:

"My mother was a teacher back in China. This woman was just a commoner."

"My mother now has a son-in-law who is a doctor. This woman's daughter works in a factory. How could you think they would have anything in common. All you have done is embarrassed my mother."

Ditto! Maybe there are some things about the laws of nature that I have yet to fully understand!

What do you like/dislike most about Chinese women?