05/14/17

Being a Mother in China


I was recently interviewed about being a mother in China so I wanted to share my thoughts on a blog post as well.

I bet most of the things about being a mother are the same all over the world. The huge amount of love and worry it entails. But of course there are a few differences as well.

Being a foreign mother means that many of the things I do seem a bit weird to local moms. I didn’t sit the month after giving birth, I took my baby out even during the “cold” Winter days. Baby led weaning isn’t a huge thing here now, so a toddler stuffing her self spaghetti by hand gets a few looks.

At the same time it frees me to be the mother I want to be. I’m different anyway so doing strange things is just normal for waiguoren in the eyes of locals. Any odd comment can be brushed away by “oh we Finns just do things this way”, as most haven’t been out of the country or at least not that familiar with Finland.

Another huge thing about being an expat mother in China are the ayis! Having a full time live-in ayi 5 days a week is what keeps me going! Childcare in the safety of our home, cooking and cleaning as a bonus. It makes haggling work and family so much easier by having a good nanny.

When it comes to family relations, in Finland moms seem to be able to do what they want but also receive little help from grandparents or extended family. In China family is always eager to help, but also brings their advice and opinions to the mix. 


Being a mother for a mixed trilingual (at least!) daughter is going to be full of adventures, surprises and challenges. Her world is so different from the one I grew up in, I hope I’m able to guide her the best I can.

This Mother’s Day I’m very grateful to my own mother who has always encouraged me to follow my dreams.

And to my mother-in-law who is surprisingly open minded and tries her best even though her daughter-in-law might be a bit difficult at times.

Happy Mother’s Day to everyone!

02/1/17

Two Sides to Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year Lanterns

Chinese New Year is the most important holiday in China and an exciting time. Almost everyone gets a holiday, go back home and spend quality time with family and friends. This was my 8th New Year in China and I could write two very different posts about it, but instead I decided to compare the both sides in one post.

Worshipping gods and ancestors

Lovely Chinese New Year With Family

Spring Festival is an important time to spend with family and honor the ancestors as well. Offerings will be given to ancestors and then burned so they can enjoy them, dinner and special dishes are made for the family members to enjoy together. During this week-long holiday we have had many lunches and dinners with my husband’s family, relatives and family friends.

Speaking of family, this week was the first time after our daughter was born that me and my husband had a week-long holiday together at home. We took Anna out to parks, met with friends and even to a new horse stable that have opened near our home. It’s been a valuable time to spend with our daughter.

This holiday I’ve really enjoyed spending time with our family, going out to meet friends, eating good food and getting to relax with a movie.

Chinese New Year Firecrackers

Spring Festival of Obligations and Noise Pollution

One of the reasons my husband isn’t a big fan of Spring Festival are the countless obligations that come with it. You need to meet with lots of distant relatives and family friends you might not enjoy spending time with. You need to prepare lots of red envelopes with cash which creates a financial burden. And if you want to escape it all and go traveling, prices go up to double or triple during the Chinese New Year.

For us with a toddler at home, the fireworks and firecrackers brought up another set of problems. Getting our 1-year-old daughter to sleep was challenging with the loud noises all over the village. During the day she was also easily scared of the loud sudden noises. The firecrackers also severely affects the quality of air during the holiday.


Next year is going to be a new tradition for us as we are planning to travel out of China during the Spring Festival!

12/13/16

Not so funny things my ayi has done

Sometimes photo instructions are needed

Having an ayi or a housekeeper is really common in China, solving the big issue of childcare in many families. After finding our ayi, I wrote a few words about training her, but now after few months it’s time for a new post. This time I’m listing not so funny things my ayi has done and that have made me to reconsider having her.

I won’t even mention how hard it is to train someone to clean the house by your standards, but what made me see red was how she broke my mixer and almost broke our rice cooker the same week! Luckily we don’t have too many fancy electrical appliances in our kitchen, but I hope nothing else gets broken.

Then she lost our daughter’s fork which wouldn’t be such a big deal, but it was bought by my mother. A nice gift from grandmother probably got thrown away in the trash as she still haven’t found it to this day.

What almost got me to fire her was when she was wiping the bookshelf and a needle fell into our daughter’s toy box. Luckily I found it first! I was forced to give her a stern lecture on how she must be careful with things, especially around Anna. I also shared this in our family WeChat group so my husband would see what happened too.

I don’t know if it’s with all ayis, but at least with ours have to keep a constant eye on her on how she does things. Sometimes I remind her, sometimes just quietly fix things after her like closing rice and spice containers to keep them clean.

So why haven’t I changed to a new ayi then?

She is doing a great job with our daughter and their bond is very good. Anna  trusts her and she mostly takes care of her the way we want. Besides taking care of Anna, she also cooks and cleans, sometimes with long hours. My friend said that many women train their ayis for a year and then enjoy a very good relationship with them for years. That’s what I’m aiming for.

Do you have any funny or not-so-funny stories of your ayi? Any tips for me?

11/12/16

12 things I’ve learned in 12 months of raising a child in China

Carrying a baby is a necessity in China

Carrying a baby is a necessity in China

1 The whole village wants to parents your kid. You get lots of parenting advice every time you dare to leave the door with your precious baby. She should wear more clothes! Where are her socks? She must be hungry! Everyone wants to lend their best piece of advice for free.

2 You become the center of attention. Like being a white foreigner wasnt enough, now I get even more attention when I go out with our daughter as Chinese think mixed kids are the cutest and want to drown her in pleasant small talk. They usually mention her big eyes and white skin, or how cute and chubby she looks.

3 Formula companies are winning in China. Unfortunately the baby milk formula companies are doing such a great job in lobbying their products and making money, that they make Chinese women insecure with breastfeeding. Relatives give cans of formula as a gift for new mother, expecting that they need it. Along this comes the scams related to milk powder, making Chinese purchasing formula abroad for big bucks.

4 Too many cooks spoils the soup definitely fits the Chinese way of parenting where a baby has parents and grandparents going circles around him. If they all share common views on child raising, great, but more often than not, four people means four different ways of raising a child. My parents-in-law took their grandson (our daughter’s cousin) for a haircut in secret because their daughter and the mother of the son, had refused it.

5 Everyone is willing to help you. No matter where I go with a baby, other people jump of from their seats on public transport to give us a seat. Restaurant staff will entertain babies and toddlers while you eat your lunch. Once I even had a customer sitting next to me playing with Anna while I was eating out alone with her. Chinese people love babies and are really willing to help!

6 Baby carrier like Manduca or Ergo is a life savior in China. Many Chinese cities aren’t built for strollers or prams, making it difficult to go around with a baby, unless you have a nice baby carrier and then you are free to explore everywhere! My Manduca carrier is one of the best, if not the best, baby product I got this year and I can’t imagine how I could have managed the baby year without it.

7 The belly button is an open port for illness to enter the body. No matter hot or cold, the Chinese want to keep the baby’s belly button covered so they won’t catch a cold. When ever I was changing diapers, my mother-in-law would remind me to cover the belly with a small towel.

8 Shopping craziness starts with a baby. For many mothers, Chinese mothers too, it’s a transition time in shopping habits when a baby is about to be born. In China online shopping and Taobao makes it super easy to buy anything you need, fast and easy, which makes for many unnecessary purchases. My sister-in-law is a prime example of a shopaholic mom who isn’t afraid on spending money on her son.

9 Educational companies are making big bucks with courses for babies. Speaking of spending, parents are the most likely to spend money and it’s all for the best of their kids. Educational companies have noticed this and are offering a variety of courses starting from as small as 6 months. International or “international” day cares are doing good business in China at the moment and monthly fees can go to 7000rmb per month or higher!

10 Cantonese babies bathe daily. Here in the south it’s hot most of the year so it’s quite natural that everyone bathes or showers daily. But during our baby’s  first Winter I was following the Finnish custom of giving a bath just a few times per week. My Chinese family thought it was really weird not to give her daily baths! After she started eating solids at 6 months she started daily showers too as it was, and is, way too messy!

11 A sick baby is rushed to a hospital right away. No matter if it’s just a little fever or a running nose, Chinese parents or grand parents often rush the precious kids to a hospital for remedies. As the weather is changing, Anna is having a running nose and our nanny is really worried already and bundling her up in layers of clothing. I bet if grand parents were taking care of her they would have been to the hospital already!

12 A baby is the center of your life. This I totally agree with the Chinese though out methods are different, after you become a parents your baby is the center of your life. No matter which culture, we all want whats best for them and use the best of our abilities to provide them a happy and healthy life.

11/1/16

Training your ayi

Taking care of a baby surely is a fulltime work

Taking care of a baby surely is a fulltime job

Last time I wrote how we found a new ayi to take care our daughter while we work, little did I know that inviting a nanny to your home would mean a lot of extra work for you too!

I started with a list of things to keep in mind when taking care of our baby, even my husband thought it was a very detailed list, but actually I left out a lot of little things that might scare the new nanny away before starting! I don’t wish to be a parent who micro-manages everything, but it’s hard to relax and let someone else to care for your child.

Luckily our ayi seems to be great with Anna and after two weeks of getting to know each other I don’t worry at all while I work almost full time as a private teacher. Coming home to my smiling daughter reassures me, that we made the right decision.

But like in a marriage, in a employer-ayi relationship nothing is perfect of course. In our case she has been doing some sloppy job cleaning our house and I’m not sure if she doesn’t know how to or just would prefer not cleaning at all. My husband has always been complaining that he can’t get used to the food she cooks.

For me as Finn it’s quite awkward to tell our ayi what to do and to point out things she has done poorly. My husband Alan says that I was way too nice in the beginning and it ended up our ayi being a lazy cleaner. Now that I think of it, I probably should have been more direct and clear with cleaning instructions in the beginning.

Tips I’m trying to follow with our ayi now:

  • Make a list of daily and weekly tasks
  • First week clean together with her and show how you prefer things to be done
  • Observe her cleaning or taking care of your children, see how she is used to doing things
  • Be friendly but strict from the beginning so the ayi will respect your rules

Even with these hiccups, I hope that she will work with us for the next few years so we can all get used to each other and our daughter would have a constant good caretaker while me and her dad are working. I’ll keep you posted how things go!