Tuesday, 4 January 2011

The life of a TaiTai..

So, after working full time since leaving uni (apart from the odd break when we were moving from country to country), I'm now a Tai-Tai (pronounced tie-tie). In Cantonese, it literally means wife but, in the expat community it has developed somewhat of a more derogatory meaning...

..a non-working wife, a woman who spends her days shopping, having lunch and going to the spa..

Don't confuse this with a stay-at-home mum... a tai-tai might not have children or, if she does, they're at school and probably have a nanny to take care of them full-time.  So that's the stereotype - what's the truth?  There are certainly lots of women who accompany their husbands on overseas postings (trailing spouses) and who are not able to work in their chosen career because of language barriers or lack of the industry in that country. But I can't comment on or judge anyone else's experience but my own.

I left a job I loved to undergo fertility treatment 'full-time'. For the reasons given in earlier posts, it just wasn't possible to work in my profession (education) and do IUI/IVF at the same time. And, when it came to it, the prospect of a family came first and I know I've made the right decision. So, at the moment, I'm going to the clinic approx 5-10 days a month, spending between 30 minutes and 6 hours there each visit. Sure, IVF will be more intense with most injections needing to be done at the clinic and not at home. But, even though time-consuming, that leaves a lot of hours in the day to fill.

So I should feel lucky, right? Because I am. I don't need to work. We can afford to pay for private fertility treatment.  We have a maid to clean the house and do the laundry. I have most of my time free to do whatever I want. So why do I feel guilty?  Why do I constantly try and fill my time with 'productive' tasks?  Why do I feel embarrassed when my bloke asks about my day and I have nothing of interest to say? Why can't I just be content?  Maybe because I always imagined that I would only give up work when I was having a child. Maybe because I feel like I'm not contributing to society. Maybe because I feel like my brain is going soft. My mother calls it 'working class guilt'.. because I come from a family where women always worked because they needed to, not just because they wanted to and my Mum, who's nearly 60, still doesn't know what to do with herself when she has a rare day-off. And did I mention the guilt about not earning any money? About not wanting to do anything that costs anything because I need to ask my bloke for the money to do it? About the hormone-fuelled rows there've been when he questions where the money goes, like a father might? We're working through this because I know the rows are down to me feeling guilty, not him denying me things... he'd give me whatever I wanted.

Sure, there are lots of ways to make your time more productive - charity work, volunteering, language lessons, learn a new skill. But I can't do anything which works to a schedule, because who knows when I'll have to spend 5 hours in the clinic - I'm at the mercy of my cycle and lots of hormone injections on that one. So these things are not options for me right now. Back to reading, writing, surfing, watching TV and meeting my tai-tai friends...

I've just read this post back and I do realise how pathetic I sound! Complaining about being in a position which many women would kill for - how dare I be so self-pitying?  I could delete this post... but I won't. Because, right now, this is how I feel..


  1. I completely understand about hating to ask for money. Perhaps you could set up a 'pocket money' system :-P

    In Korea, it's typical for the husband to hand over all of his salary to his wife at the beginning of the month to run the household with, and then she hands him back an allowance every week for food, drink and 'business entertainment.' Do they do the same in China? You could suggest that to your husband!

  2. This blog is great. I can relate to so much, including some of the uncomfortable feelings about being an ex pat wife. I have left my voluntary teaching placement for this months treatment, IVF is a full time job sometimes.

  3. Kat - In my city that's common. The women run the house and manage the money and are known for being quite mean about how much money they allow their husbands! We've worked through the money stuff now.. I think a lot if it was my having to work through my own issues and feelings about it.

    Luckyme - thanks! I do know that I'm very lucky but any change can cause stress and mixed feelings and I certainly have those!