Your turn challenge Day 1: Coming First

One of the great things about moving to Singapore is being able to afford to have a live-in helper/maid. It has made a massive difference to our organisation at home and our stress levels. In Sydney, for the most part we ran a tight ship of organisation which barely concealed the chaos willing to engulf us at any moment.

The six months before we left Sydney was the craziest of all. I would get the boys up, dressed and fed and off to daycare and before school care, while Arran trained on his bike and started work early. I would arrive at work somewhere between 8.30 and 9am depending on the general carry on of two small boys, and the traffic. I would work later, say to 6 or 6.30pm while Arran picked up both boys and fed them, bathed them and then sometimes I would be home to put them to bed. Often by 7.30pm we were too exhausted to cook so would grab takeway and then I might go for a walk. Repeat.

This routine worked moderately well until someone got sick and couldn't go to school or daycare and then Arran and I would negotiate about who had the busiest day and who would stay home. We were lucky that we had a cleaner once a week who would keep the house mostly under control from mess.

When I needed to travel within Australia or overseas Arran would have to do all this by himself (which I think he secretly enjoyed because he could make all the decisions himself!)  Craziness.
Aiden and Charlie hitting the streets of Singapore
Anyway the point of the story is not the crazy life we left in Australia but the person who chose to live with us in Singapore, and who loves our boys and keeps our lives in order. Marife works 6 days a week and on her only day off has been doing an aromatherapy and massage course with other helpers in Singapore. She has been doing the course to help her disabled husband back in the Philippines and I suspect to better herself and have more employment opportunities.

Last Sunday was the graduation day for her course and she left on Sunday morning dressed up and excited. This morning I asked her how her graduation went and all I got was a shrug. Not exactly what I was expecting after the anticipation and excitement of the graduation. But as it was a usual chaotic Monday morning I had to head out to work and Marife was getting the boys ready for school. This evening at dinner I asked again. She told me she was disappointed. Why? She had not topped the class as she had expected and had decided that perhaps the work wasn't for her. She had come second and was upset. And there's nothing worse than someone telling you that second is a great achievement. Not helpful when your heart was set on first.

As I headed out for my evening walk I wondered what words I could say to help. What could a seemingly well off white woman have to impart to a hardworking filipino women providing for her family in another country, and only getting to see them once every 12 - 24 months?

After about 2km of walking I realised that it's not always the people who come first at school and in exams that are necessarily the most successful at their chosen field. Being good at a test is just one element of being successful overall. When I finished grade 12 there was this amazing girl in my grade who became dux of the school. I think she was first in 5 out of the 6 subjects she studied. I remembered everyone being so amazed and proud of her, me included but the next year she dropped out of uni. She couldn't cope or it wasn't for her. I don't know. Being the dux of the school didn't predict her ongoing success, even if it was just in the short term. I don't know what happened to her but I hope she has worked out her place in life.

I think this is the kind of things I can talk to Marife about. Just because you came second doesn't mean you aren't successful or are going to be. I did OK at school but it wasn't my school marks that got me to where I am, and opened up opportunities. It was working my ass off. It was being tenacious when I didn't really feel like it. It was being open to learning and learning from others. It was feeling scared to do things and doing them anyway. It was being upset and being knocked down and having to go back and work. That's the stuff that makes the difference, don't you think?