Chinese Family Life,  Living in China

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?


  • Lawrence Robinson

    My first Ayi was drama. She’d sit around for laundry to finish and do nothing else. Needless to say I fired her after a few warnings.

    Second one was way better but she almost destroyed my very expensive imported espresso machine (and went fixing it still even though I asked her to leave it).


    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Compared to these we are still doing quite well!


  • Carina Anna Jokela

    It seems she’s not very 细心 – it might be she handles her own home & kids like that too. Caring and love is important to her, details not so much. Even if you train her, will her personality and value system change from this “差不多” ideology? Be mentally prepared.

    I had a lot of heated discussions on getting an ayi – hubby & in-laws thought ayis are messy, unreliable, and cause more work than they get done.

    Sara suggested “use guanxi” – it paid off! My colleague’s village-Shanghainese mother just retired, and wanted something to do. Now she cooks and cleans, bakes my gluten free bread, handles baby prep & new year prep, grows us organic veggies, cares for our cat when we’re away… Then again, her salary is higher, she isn’t full-time, I get gifts for her daughters and family, listen to her opinions etc.

    So truly, those ayi gems do exist, just ask around and think outside the box. Luck is useful, too! ;)


    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Good luck really is needed to find an ayi that works well for your family, not an easy thing to do. For now I’m happy with her because she is doing a good job with Anna and truly cares about her. There are little things I wish she would do differently, but they aren’t important in the big picture (like matching clothes for Anna!) If we need to change her later, I hope to do that over my holiday so it would be smooth as possible. But of course I wish I don’t have to :)


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