Hello blog readers (all six of you)! I want to introduce you to my friend Cordelia. I met her in a facebook group for multicultural bloggers and it was like meeting my soulmate. Seriously, love at first type! When I decided to invite others to come and share their stories with you, I knew that Cordelia had to be on the list. We decided to both write about the cray cray shit we mamas do to try and earn a little pocket money. You can read my story over on Multilingual Mama.
Greenbacks: the early days.
Once upon a time, long long ago, I earned a decent paycheck. I got paid handsomely to sit at a stylish desk, in a stylish loft, to speak with stylish people and end the day with a nice glass of stylish red wine. The only downside was that my office was in too stylish a neighborhood and I often felt the very un-stylish desire to slap a few hipsters hard upside their heads. They thought they were stylish. They weren’t. I know blind people with a better-coordinated sense of dress. What can I say…nothing is in this world is perfect.
And nothing stays the same.
I decided to have a baby. I waved bye-bye to my lovely wardrobe, to my waistline and of course to my glasses of wine -well for the first 12 weeks anyway. Even my midwife knew better than to take it completely away from me. Wine was definitely preferable to stress and Xanax.
The new me said goodbye to my stylish ways and hello to spit-up and marker-stained (washable? my arse) tops. Bonjour oatmeal and avocado smeared cords. My life was now spent frantically running between some combination of A: home, B: daycare and C: the office all the while lugging laptops, breast pumps and please god let them not leak before I get them in the fridge milk baggies, among others new necessities now overflowing in my life. My T-shirt, come winter or summer was perpetually sweat-stained from the strain. I was a pack-horse. Wait, who am I kidding. I was a pack-mule.
But I didn’t care. With a supportive office and hubby, for the apple of my eye, the mango of my heart, my gorgeous baby girl, I would do ANYTHING.
Bring on the global economic collapse of 2008.
In truth, I was very lucky as I held on to my job. My LF’s [Loving Father] field was a disaster area and it was a miracle he kept his through the summer of 2009. Then, he became a SAHF and was brilliant at it, especially given our otherwise calm little angel’s borderline psychotic temper tantrums.
Twelve months, baby #2 on the way, top floor of a walk-up, and cloth diapering to save money at the laundromat – imagine the looks when a week’s worth of soiled diapers went into the machine- was enough to turn any LF to a BARF or Bitter And Resentful Father. We knew things had to change. I could not live with BARF. Bye-Bye Big Apple, Hello Southeast Asia.
Ka-ching! Asia, school fees, round-the-world plane tickets, and mama’s quest for dough
Two years into our stint in Asia on a local contract, I found myself longing and ultimately needing to earn some cash if I hoped to ever make it back to see my family. My rudimentary Thai, aka Taxi Thai, and a country that, despite it’s reputation as the land of smiles, is extremely strict regarding the hiring of foreign workers, was not going to make this easy.
Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker.
I’ve always had a desire to be a butcher. Not just any butcher, but a proper butcher, like the French or Italians who respect the animal and know its anatomy thoroughly. Butchery can and should be a well-honed craft, not a bunch of illegals, barely trained, wielding high-powered saws through carcasses. In Thailand, there were few options. People I approached thought I was crazy and why me when they can hire Thais?
Candles? I think not. This left me no choice but baker. I turned my hand to making bread and lucked out. I managed to master one type of artisanal loaf. And so began the next six months, where, like pigpen, a cloud of flour dust followed my every step. With an oven that could only accommodate two loaves and a ravenous French clientele, I spent hours tied to my kitchen baking followed by traveling Thai style, i.e. over loaded.
As I pedaled with 10 to 12 paper bags swinging off the handlebars, stacked in the front basket, secured in the toddler bike seat, and even hanging off the back of the bike seat, I realized I was expending insane amounts of sweat and energy for a few baths (Thai currency) of profit. No more lugging 20Kg bags of flour to the curb, hoping to find a cab home.
Now I am teaching conversational English, which is funny because I can’t tell you the difference between the past, imperfect, and err… well those other tenses. I am also not a qualified teacher – well except for dinghy sailing. I do disclose all of the above and so far I’ve had no complaints – chalking that up to my stellar personality and spiking their coffee when they aren’t looking. I have but one requirement apart from payment, I have to like my student enough to want to get drunk and party all night with them, otherwise I can’t seem to get my arse out the door and on my bike.
Teaching is definitely more lucrative, but still only half of what I’d earn if I could get some freelance research work. In the case of my former work-related contacts, absence has not made the heart grow fonder. In French we say ‘loin des yeux, loin du coeur’, which translates as ‘far from the eyes, far from the heart’ or wallet.
There is the possibility of a job on the horizon, one that would give me a proper paycheck once more. I’ll admit I’m tempted. Mama could use some trousers that aren’t falling off the hips (maternity) or giving me a mega-muffin top (pre-baby). Knickers that aren’t bleached out at the crotch would also be nice. But I worry I won’t find the time to write anymore –since no one has ever paid me a cent to do it–and miss out on the magical years with my kids – the ones where they actually want to spend time with me.
I also haven’t totally given up on the idea of becoming my waxer’s sidekick as a henna artist, one of her income streams. Yes even she has cottoned on that I am hard up and brought me a book of designs, some henna and told me to practice for the next three months and she would consider using me. I could make $90 a gig plus a free ticket and accommodation to wherever the wedding takes place. Of course, I’ll never be allowed near the bride, kids only for me, and I’ll double as a side freak show “Look mommy, a farang working as a henna assistant!”
Whatever pays the ballet & swim classes…
Born in New York back when subway graffiti was rife, Cordelia Newlin de Rojas mostly spends her time pondering, parenting, and writing. Franco-American, she spent her summers in the Loire indulging in heart-arresting foods. An eclectic background ranging from Japanese art and postal history to environmental social innovations and rigging dinghies has taken her to England, Turkey, Singapore and now Thailand, where she resides with her Mexican husband and their two daughters. They are attempting to raise trilingual kids in Spanish, French and English with some Thai thrown in. She can also be found blogging at multilingualmama.com.