Chinese Grandmothers

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in China? I have, and I’ve also wondered what (if any) are the differences in Chinese grandmothers and American grandmothers. I did a little research to find out what Chinese grandmothers are like and this is what I learned.

Chinese grandmothers often help raise their grandchildren.

One article I read was about a grandmother named Ida.

68-year-old Ida Lang lives in Hong Kong. She gets up every morning at six. At seven, she goes to her younger son’s house, where for the next eight hours, she feeds, plays with, changes and talks to her son’s newborn daughter. Then at three, she’s off to her older son’s house where her eight year old granddaughter and four year old grandson live. She stays there until well past nine, when their parents get home. (Whew, Ida, where do you get your energy?)

Ida’s daughter-in-law, Delia, is a director at one of the top investment banks and works long hours. Each weekday, she’s out the door at seven and doesn’t get home until ten in the evening, when her kids are already in bed. Her husband’s schedule isn’t quiet as bad, but he travels. Sometimes, he goes to Shanghai for nine months at a time.

Not every Chinese grandmother is like Ida, but you might be surprised to find out how many do go above and beyond for their grands. I know I was surprised.

Ida Isn’t Alone

According to the article I read  90 percent of the Hong Kong’s young children are being looked after by at least one grandparent.

One reason Chinese grandmothers are willing to help out is because of China’s early retirement age (men retire at 60 and even younger for women). Another reason in the country, where people have a long history of living with their elders and having grandparents participate in childrearing.

Grandmothers in Charge

Another article I read (see referenced articles below) told of a young mother who was educated in American then moved back to China with her husband and started her own business. When she found out she was expecting her first child she called her mother to tell her the news and her mother said she wanted to help. “Help,” in my vocabulary means something other than what this grandmother did.

The grandmother in this article left her husband and job in California to move in with her daughter and son-in-law to help and  6 years later she’s still there.  Now there are 3 grandchildren to raise and this grandmother is so involved that when the teacher needs to speak with someone about one of the children, she calls the grandmother.

Multi-generational Homes

Finally, the 3rd article I read said that Chinese grandparents typically live in the same household as their children and grandchildren, and that is something that continues when Chinese people move to the U.S. The Chinese grandmother who was interviewed for that article said that her brother, sister-in-law and mother all live together in one apartment in the U.S. This grandmother was a an ESL (English as a second language) teacher, and a lot of her students live in a home with parents and grandparents. Today, with both parents working, someone is needed to care for the children. Chinese grandparents take on that role.

Moms With Money

Having grandparents who care for their children has had a great impact on Chinese women’s ability to work and advance their careers. 51 percent of senior management positions in China are held by women. And that’s not all, half of the world’s female self-made billionaires are from China. Women in the People’s Republic of China contribute half of the household income.

There is something to be said about no t having to worry about your children and who better to care for them than your own mother?

Thinking it over

So how does this American nana compare  herself to Chinese grandmothers?

I love my grandchildren but I don’t have the energy to keep them from 7 in the morning until 9 at night. I also would not leave my husband for six years to go to another country to help raise my grandchildren (although I would want to go visit often). I do, however, admire the dedication and commitment these women have for their families. Honestly, the emotion I felt most while researching Chinese grandmothers was sympathy for the mom’s of the children who are missing out on the most precious time of their children’s lives. The years slip away quickly and all those firsts (from steps to words) will never come back.

I loved my mom beyond measure and she loved my children and was a wonderful grandmother to them until her untimely death at the age of 51. But she didn’t raise my children…that was my job and my joy. I do understand that in today’s world there are homes where it is necessary for both parents to work. When my children were young there were years that I worked and years that I stayed home. Motherhood in America is a juggling act of balancing work, motherhood, marriage, etc. Now my children are grown and my daughter works. I keep my granddaughter 3 days a week. I also try to help out with my other grandchildren (my son’s) as often as I can. I guess I’m still juggling…just not as fast.

I can’t help but think that someday when the Chinese mothers mentioned in these articles  are grandmothers that they will have regrets for the enormous amount of time they spent at work instead of with their family. Of course that’s something ALL mothers, in ALL countries have struggled with for centuries and probably will continue to do so….unless all grandmothers everywhere decide to be like Ida…and I just don’t see that happening.

Chinese grandmother

Reference Articles

http://www.theatlantic.com/china/archive/2013/09/in-china-its-the-grandparents-who-lean-in/280097/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/lean-in-and-lean-on-grandma/2013/08/16/c14345d4-038f-11e3-9259-e2aafe5a5f84_story.html

http://www.grandparents.com/family-and-relationships/inspiring-stories-and-wisdoms/thechinesegrandparentingexperience

Comments

  1. Terri 29 Dec, 2013

    I care for my granddaughter that will turn 4 on the last day of this year. I’ve cared for her since the day she came home. It’s M-F 10 am – 7:30 pm. I have enjoyed it but I grow weary. I’m very lucky that my soon to be 81 mom has been able to care for her when I have something to do. I’m very active in the kitchen at church and I love it. If my mom was not able to help I’m afraid I’d be a little cranky. The days are long and I don’t get a lot of housework done but when I’m the one that little girl wants it makes it all worth while <3

  2. teresak 30 Dec, 2013

    Blessings to you, Terri! And to your 81 year old mom! That’s awesome that she can help!

  3. Ida is a blessing. I don’t know that I would have that kind of energy or could be so generous with my time. I am looking forward to retirement in the next year. I plan to get my grandchildren for the summer since I’m 5 hours away from them. My daughter & SIL are looking forward to getting a reprieve from parenting.