UK election 2015, an American parent’s view
My Bringing Up Brits blog has never been political nor do I wish it to be, but how can one escape a national election? And as someone who is raising children in the UK, why wouldn’t I be interested? It has been exceptionally captivating with a disappointing outcome. My British husband stayed up most of the night while I slept with the muffled sound of the BBC in my ear.
Over the past few months we’ve had many family debates laced with humor and irony about UKIP especially, but more seriously about the issues prevalent for us as a family; University fees, the National Health Service (NHS) and taxes. The big debate for us is about University fees. Coming from an American background where I had to pay for college fees and had never known anything different, I don’t get as riled up as Nick does about having to pay to send our children to University. He went to Uni for free and never expected to have to pay for it for his own children. This discussion led us on to other issues such as the rich getting richer, being in debt from having to pay to get a degree and how we each view the prospect of our children going to University.
Although we ultimately agree on the issue of our children going to University – we both want them to go – we both have different values and expectations because of our cultural backgrounds. It’s like we are each hard-wired British or hard-wired American. I fully expect my children to go to University and get a degree and am happy to pay for it, in fact, I feel proud that we are expected to pay for it and am not particularly scared about the fact that they will have monthly payments to help pay off any student loans that they are likely to accrue. I feel proud that I helped to put myself through University, that I paid off my debts, that I have an undergraduate degree and a Masters degree and that I was able to make that happen for myself and that my parents instilled in me the self-reliance that I depend so heavily on.
My British husband, on the other hand, is outraged that we have to pay (and/or our kids will have to pay) to go to University and is more open to alternative options such as apprenticeships or job opportunities. He is also adamant that bankers and businesses should be taxed in order to help pay for University fees. They, after all, will benefit from the next generation of graduates who will be joining them to contribute to and strengthen the economy. This is not a bad idea actually and I, as a business owner, see the value in this. However, I also see the value in making things happen for yourself, in being proactive in wanting to better yourself, your situation, in looking at what we can do as individuals, not just taking hand outs or expecting others to foot the bill. This type of discussion has kept us not only entertained but has given us both an insight into how we will parent our children together when they reach the college stage. We agree that we need to be respectful of each other, our views which stem from our cultural upbringings, and of our children and stay open minded and above all positive.
The election outcome for us, for the purpose of this blog post specifically, means that when our eldest reaches University age, which he will during the next five years, we will need to pay the University fees and he will walk away with years’ worth of debt. All of that thoroughly depresses my British husband. And the rest, we shall have to see over time.
Oh and I have a meeting with our local MP, Tim Loughton, to discuss my ideas on a youth community center specifically for teens aged 13 to 17 in the heart of Worthing town. I wonder how that will go! I might have to muzzle my anti-conservative husband to prevent any fisticuffs on the day. Any hints and tips? Would love to hear your opinion on how I should approach the meeting…. Wish me luck.
Vita Abundantior, RMWC, my alma mater
Meghan Peterson Fenn is the author of Bringing Up Brits and co-author of Inspiring Global Entrepreneurs with Heidi Mulligan Walker. Meghan is also the Director and Chief Designer at her own design company, White Ochre Design Ltd. And, she is an award winning expat blogger.