Sunday, May 25, 2014

Back to Work: Having it all in China

I think most married people would agree, sometimes you can't stand your spouse. I wonder if there is any other time this is more true than when taking care of an infant. I think the strain a baby puts on a marriage is one challenge that many people don't anticipate. There are a lot of issues a couple has to work through while also trying to adjust to taking care of a new, tiny person.

I'm trying my best to keep my relationship with Ming strong, though some days it's difficult. He has his faults, as do I, but in most respects he is a really great husband and father. I am reminded of this often by other people and that makes me realize I need to appreciate him more.

Last Sunday I went to my student, Sandy's home to tutor her. I thought it would be good to get out of the house to have class, as having students come to my apartment is somewhat problematic with a crying baby in the background. As soon as I arrived, Sandy asked who was taking care of the baby.

“My husband,” I answered.

“Wow,” she replied, “Most Chinese men don't take care of children. You are lucky.”

“I guess I am lucky,” I told her.

We talked a bit about gender roles and how women, in both America and China, are often expected to raise the children and take care of the home all while maintaining a career. It seems a bit unfair that women are expected to “do it all.” Moreover, in China, it seems like stay-at-home-moms are very rare. For example, most of my students come from rather wealthy families, but all of their parents work. I think Chinese women are very hesitant to give up their careers perhaps due to China's fiercely competitive job. I also think some women like the security of having their own job and not being entirely dependent on their husbands and in-laws. But it hasn't always been like this.

Ming's mom has also commented on what a good husband and father Ming is and she generally isn't one to generously dole out praise. She has compared him to his cousins who don't really help their wives with anything, while Ming often cooks, helps with the cleaning, and shares in the childcare. When I told her how unbalanced it all seems, she told me that women's roles have changed a lot over the past several decades. In the past, women didn't go to work, much like married women in America rarely worked. More and more women started working in the mid-20th century as was encouraged during the Communist takeover.

While I'm glad both Chinese and American women have the opportunity to work, sometimes I feel overwhelmed by all that is expected of us. I am really grateful to have a husband who shares in all the household and childcare responsibilities because I honestly don't think I could manage it all on my own, especially while working.  

No comments: