A rocky start… but getting there.

I just had my first Mandarin lesson today with my first client ever, and it went well it seems!

So much has happened in the past month. It has only been an month, but it was such a rollercoaster of a month.

First, my husband was sacked. It was a tactical decision (partly financially-motivated) made by his company. I won’t go into the details of it, but it was very sudden and left us pretty shell-shocked. We thought his job was secure. There was absolutely no indication on the company’s part that they had been thinking of doing this. Seven years of good service he had put into the company, with a multitude of company letters sent out to him to praise him for being an exceptional employee over the years, plus the contract for a £45k managerial position down South sent to him when the company offered him a promotion in January of this year. We would never have guessed that after he had turned the offer down, he would be sacked so soon. As for why he turned down the offer… well my husband just didn’t want to be a manager and take on more responsibility and stress. He already was very stressed from work as it was. I suppose his company didn’t take “no” for an answer, but they didn’t tell him. They just decided to sack him unceremoniously.

We had to apply for government welfare to help us make ends meet while we look for new jobs (both me and him) through this very difficult time. We faced the prospect of being made homeless in a few months’ time unless he found a job before then, and to make it worse, we were given a myriad of differing opinions from various government officials about our future. Some told us my husband would face a sanction from claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA) because he was sacked. Apparently the government sanctions people from claiming JSA for anything from 13 weeks to 3 years, if the reason for them being jobless is that they were sacked or had resigned from a job willingly. The problem with being sanctioned is that the government will not pay out any welfare for us, and we would be rendered homeless and probably starving as well. It was nerve-wracking. My husband felt suicidal at one point. I suddenly found myself having to be the strength that pulled the family together and helped them stay strong and positive.

Good news came. After my husband attended his Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA) interview, we were told he would not be sanctioned after all, despite having been sacked. The advisor at the Jobcentre even said, “It’s scary how private corporations get away with sacking good employees like this, with no compensation pay whatsoever. That’s the one advantage of working in a job like mine (i.e. for the government). Here at our workplace, everyone belongs to the workers’ Union, and we would never be sacked that way.” We received our JSA letter a few days ago to tell us that we will be paid JSA after all. That… was such a huge relief. I just wanted to jump for joy. It’s not like it’s a lot of money at all. It’s barely enough to live on. But it makes a huge difference to our lives. We will not be homeless, because now the government will help us with the rent – they do if you receive JSA. And that… that is nice to know.  People often complain about the government here, but I have to say, it surely beats Asia or Africa, where there is no such support from the government if you lose your job. You’d almost certainly be homeless, unless you have family/friends to help you out.

Actually, before the JSA decision was made, I was already preparing myself mentally for the prospect of becoming homeless. In this country, if you’re homeless, there are hostels and B&Bs that the government will pay to put you up. These hostels and B&Bs are certainly not the nice ones you book when you go on holidays. These are very basic types of accommodation for the homeless, so a stay there may mean you end up living with some rather unsavoury characters as your next-door neighbours in the building. However, I’d already thought about the fact that having a roof over our head being better than sleeping on the street. Once again, if we were in Asia or Africa, we would certainly face the prospect of sleeping on the streets if we did not have the help of family/friends. At least here, we have homeless hostels and B&Bs, paid for by the government’s coffers. But I’m so thankful now that we have a good chance of being able to remain in our present accommodation for the time being. The prospect of homelessness doesn’t seem so close, although there is a tiny chance it could happen. All depends on what God has in store for us.

Since my husband lost his job, both me and him started sending off lots of job applications. It’s not been easy at all even getting a response from prospective employers. Even McDonald’s wouldn’t take us. That’s how bad the economic situation is right now. In addition, my CV really needed polishing as I have been a SAHM for nearly 12 years and this has been disastrous for my resume. A friend of mine kindly assisted me to rewrite my CV and help me with several ideas for finding work. Even the pastor and his wife from the church came straight out to visit us at home when I confided in the pastor’s wife that my husband had suddenly lost his job. Funny enough, two friends of mine whom I used to be very close to whilst in my teens suddenly PMed me on Facebook, having not contacted me for some time. This all happened within a month of my husband losing his job. How very coincidential indeed. One of them told me she decided to contact me because she noticed I haven’t been on FB for a while, and one night she had a dream about me and her trying to go somewhere together, and in the dream she said she could sense I was acting like something is not right but I didn’t know how to tell it to her. So she woke up and decided to contact me the day after. The other one (who is an atheist)… I don’t know how but he just suddenly contacted me after being M.I.A. for 3 years without contacting me. And there he was, a week after my husband had lost his job, asking me how I’m doing because “it’s been a while”.

Unfortunately I also found out through this ordeal that someone I always thought was a friend, was not really a true friend after all. The sad thing was that I did feel hurt and angry at the time and said some hurtful things to her after she said some really rude things to me and jeered at my family’s financial difficulties. I succumbed to the temptation of giving “an eye for an eye”. I did just that, and for that I am sorry. I should have walked away and ended the conversation there and then without justification and without fighting back.

But through all of this, what stuck out most to me was humanity. That people can be so very nasty sometimes, but amidst all of that, there is hope. Every now and then, someone’s kindness shines right through and it reminds me of God’s everlasting power and influence on humanity. We are all made in God’s image, and though we can be tempted to succumb to our negative emotions, we are also deep down, perfectly capable of acting in a compassionate manner.

If anything, my faith has only grown stronger through this period. The pastor and his wife did admit to us at one point that they are glad we have not lost our faith because of what happened to us in the past month, because they know we’ve only started going to church in the beginning of the year, and just about 2 months into the year, he lost his job this way. They told me that some people would have blamed their bad luck on the religion and on God, and never went back to church again. I don’t think that’s going to happen for us. In fact, we look forward to church – okay, there is this one lady at church, who is a consultant paediatrician in hospital, and she has a real problem with the fact that I homeschool… she tells me the kids won’t get socialisation, and she often asks me how much academic work I do with the kids daily, how many hours… the minutiae… she just wants to know EVERYTHING. I try to respond to her in patience and kindness. It’s not becoming of me to get upset at that. I think it can be a way for her to open her eyes to homeschooling, since she said she has never yet met a single homeschooled child in her life. And that’s fine. I know God has plans for all of us and this must be part of His plan in some way. I just need to stay strong and treat her with respect and compassion, and that’s what I will keep on doing.

Apart from her though, the people we have met in church have been kind and accepting, and quite fun. It has been quite the lifeline for us in day-to-day life here, as we socialise quite a lot within the church now and the kids have made some friends there and are happy. I wish I had gone to church sooner. And most important of all, I’ve learnt so much from the pastor’s sermons each Sunday. It has helped us a lot in our journey in faith.

Alongside of all that, we’ve also learnt how to survive on much lesser than what we were used to. We try to buy “Value” products from the supermarket (i.e. the cheapest ones) every time, and we don’t spend money frivolously on snacks and takeouts any more. What’s striking is that we can still have a nice hot meal at the end of each day, and keep everyone fed and nourished. In fact I’d say we probably eat more nourishing food now than we ever did in the past, because now we cook from scratch all the time, every time. Even for breakfast. It’s just fresh natural food all the time. We’ve had to plan meals and budget in advance, all things that we should have done more when my husband used to have a job. But in a way, that’s why life has a funny way of making you go round in circles to learn a few lessons. Even if our situation improves eventually, with a better-paying job and all that, life lessons like this will stick with us forever. We will never ever spend money the way we did again. And we learn to cherish each other more, and to be happy with what we have.

I have started sending out job applications for office work, but have been unsuccessful so far. However, I have also advertised Mandarin tuition locally, and have gotten quite a fair few enquiries about it. I’ve just had my first client today, and she is a 5 year old girl. Very nice and sweet child. I’ve also received a call from a local language school seeking a part-time EFL teacher for adult English classes for some Arabic ladies. Unfortunately, I don’t think they wanted me as they required teachers who have a CELTA certificate and a full degree (long story short… I completed the first year of an undergraduate degree after I’d had my first child, but was forced to withdraw from the course when my husband got retrenched back then and we had to move to another city for his new job). And I had neither. I have been a private tutor for many years when I used to live in Singapore, and I am still friends with my ex-students today, on Facebook. They remember me fondly. And although I tend to be somewhat self-deprecating, the good experiences I’ve had of teaching languages have convinced me that I must be doing a semi-decent job, at least…and most of all, I love it and I love language-learning as well. And with the way things have gone, it does seem like language teaching is probably the way to go for me. For this to work out well though, I should probably return to University and finish up my degree. And then go for a CELTA course after that, just to make sure that on the paper qualifications side of things, I am covered.

The only thing is that there is a possibility I will be sending some or all of my kids to school in the near future if my husband is unsuccessful in job-hunting and I have to earn money for the family. I am quite sad at the thought of having to stop homeschooling prematurely, because the kids enjoy it so much. But it has to be done, if only to make ends meet at least. Besides, this whole episode has taught me just how risky it can be for a woman to decide to be a SAHM and not work at all to build up her CV. If something happened, like what happened to us, it would be too late to try and fix one’s CV, after many years of not  having work experience. I feel almost foolish now having been a SAHM for so long, thinking my husband’s job was rock-solid and that I could go out to work in my own time, when my kids don’t really need me to be home for them that much. But no, after this, I realise I cannot let my household depend on my husband for it’s sole source of income. I need to be able to step in and help out with the household income in the event he loses the job. A lot of our worries about homelessness recently could have been avoided, if only I had already had some kind of job – even if it was part-time – as the government here will help you out with rent and some other living costs if your household income wasn’t very high – which would be the case if my family was depending on just my income alone,  since even if I had a job all this while,  it would probably be part-time.

I will definitely be continuing to work in some way or another. If not teaching languages, then maybe a part-time job somewhere. No matter. I will just have to see what God has in store for us in the future.

Whatever it is, I know it has to be for the best.


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