Taking Care of a Child

Ever since my wife was pregnant back in 2013  we started to do research about having a baby. Of course my wife had her memories from her upbringing and I had my own and they had their certain differences. These differences came even more apparent after Nathan was born and we visited other Chinese couples who had children about the same age as our son. Now that our little warrior is already over 1 1/2 years old we heard and saw so many different things that I just have to share with you some of the major differences when it comes to raising a child in China compared to Finland/ Germany. Please note that these points are not a generalization for countries but in fact just what we personally experienced thus far. I don’t go too far into the details as it is just too much then for just a single blog post.

 

Pregnancy

So you are pregnant, congratulations! Lets see what we have there already for differences. What we learned from my wife’s family, Chinese friends, Chinese forums and last but not least customers of my wife is that a pregnant woman should pretty much do nothing. You surely still can go and take a walk, go shopping and similar things but anything beyond that is life threatening for the unborn baby. When we were in China in 2013 (few months after we found out that there is little Nathan growing) my wife did something which shocked the entire neighbourhood in Xi’an. She did dare to step on a little wall surrounding some flowers which is incredible 50cm/ 1.6f high and also stepped down from it. All around old ladies came storming in and shouting that the unborn baby might just drop out! After this she was advised to stay in bed for several days to let everything settle again. Another thing was about the food and drinks she was allowed to consume. Cold drinks? Oh hell no! Cold drinks are anyways considered the root of all evil according to the Chinese we have met thus far. Food? Oh, the more the better as wifey needs to pound up in order to be strong enough for the delivery and nursing the baby. Advised was from some people  around 30kg/ 66lbs weight gain during pregnancy.

Now lets see what we experienced in Finland/ Germany. Taking a walk was of course also allowed for my wife and she was actually encouraged to do some light sports such as to go swimming, fast walking or easy exercises in the gym. Only during a certain time in the beginning some movements should be avoided and that is basically it. I know someone who did still most of her professional swimming practice until few weeks before the due date but that is again some extreme case and I would not recommend it for others even though everything worked out for her and there were no complications. Now to the food and drinks. Right in the beginning we received from Neuvola a list of food and drinks which should be avoided completely or only consumed in a very very little amount. This list was easy to follow as most things were just common sense such as avoiding alcohol, smoking and caffeine. My wife was checked monthly at Neuvola and when she gained over 20kg towards the end of the pregnancy they just told her not to worry even though it was already several kg over the average of 15kg.

Mommy should look like this nice statue

 

How to dress the baby

What we certainly learned from other Chinese, especially from MIL was that there is no such thing as putting on too many clothes on the baby. The more and the thicker the clothes are the better it is. The baby is sweaty and has red cheeks? No it is not due to wearing too much but it is a sign that the baby is happy! In case it is only +30 degrees Celsius/ 86 degrees Fahrenheit outside you better put on some thick clothes as it is really too cold for just t-shirt and shorts. For some nice depiction on how to proper dress a child in China check out Point number 10 on this post of Marta’s blog. Diapers are another thing best to be avoided as the little baby parts down there will just rot away from being compressed all the time so better just use split pants and let the baby do its business where ever it wants to (especially cute when doing so in the middle of the street or shopping mall as seen too often in China).

In Finland and Germany its been a bit different thus far. Of course the baby shouldn’t freeze to death by wearing nothing during winter time but it is very much different as the encountered Chinese way. Dressing the baby lightly was encouraged to us, avoid putting on too much as the baby has already a bit higher body temperature than adults. In case the little one starts sweating, remove some clothes. In Finland they even told us to take the baby out to the balcony or garden during nap time in the middle of winter. Not naked mind you but dressed accordingly warm so the baby could breathe in some fresh cold air as long as the temperature would not drop below -15 degrees Celsius/ 5 degrees Fahrenheit. To the topic of diapers nothing was really encouraged or discourage. We should just go with whatever worked best with our baby so we went with a mix of standard diapers and reusable ones (washable).

No winter jacket during summer time? And playing in the water? Worst parents ever!

 

How to teach basics to the child

Now this one is a tricky one as in China it certainly suffered a lot due to the one child policy and hence the result of young kids being treated like little empresses/ emperors by their grandparents. This led also that many nowadays parents have not really a clue how to raise their spawn of evil. Too often we heard how exhausted some of my wife’s friends were because on how busy the baby kept them. You might think it is pretty much usual until you hear that there are sometimes up to 7-8 people taking care of the baby. Not only the parents would be involved daily but also the grandparents and specially hired nannies. Each person would have one task and…just wow I don’t know what is going on. Could be that my wife’s friends are just very special cases and it never ever happens anywhere else in China which I highly doubt after the 100% coverage of her friends doing this insanity. Whenever Nathan did something wrong and we gave a little punishment which usually led to him complaining a lot or even crying MIL just came in running, cuddling him, giving him some snacks and telling him that he can just go on and do this again. She fervently defended her position by explaining how strict she already is and that other grandparents in China are so much worse. Well, it is actually true as I had read in some other blogs and my wife found out more often than not in Chinese forums. More you can find out of course by counseling your friendly online search engine or also by reading some stories from Jennifer’s blog.

With Finnish and German families it is a bit different. The parents do most of the times everything alone and might get help from time to time by the grandparents. Here most people are kind of shocked about this so-called little emperor syndrome in China. I can’t add any other things to this as there is basically nothing else to it here. But once again I have to say that this is just what we have encountered and it can not be applied to the entire countries.

No, we ain’t giving beer to the kids

 

 

How are your experiences in your home country? In case you are in China, how much of our Chinese examples you have encountered yourself or are even totally different?

Be sure to follow me also on Facebook and on Twitter as I will post there occasionally pictures which do not find their way into my blog posts.

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67 thoughts on “Taking Care of a Child”

  1. Clearly when my mother immigrated to Canada and married my father, then had me 13 months later… 5 more children.

    She had no choice but to walk around and do housework etc.
    I wasn’t aware of the crazy superstitions about pregnancy and not being active at all, still persisted.

    She didn’t place the same stuff on my sisters (3 of them became pregnant several times each) in terms of limiting movements.

    One of the advantages of immigration: get rid of wrongful practices.

    Sorry, that emperor baby syndrome with 3-7 people looking after 1 child is ridiculous. Same Chinese parents should be reminded how many children people used to have.

    1. Indeed it is curious to see that so many old things still persist in China. What I could learn so far is that many are just afraid to go against the traditions as they have been followed for so long that they must be right.
      Even in the Internet they tend to praise the traditional ways and spread all kind of strange things such that there shouldn’t be any toys hanging over the baby crib or baby pram as the baby will get otherwise crossed eyes. My mothe in law tend to believe those things 100% and tries to convince us to do the same

      1. Interesting about the baby toy mobiles above crib!

        Life changes when one immigrates to a completely different country. I’m glad my parents let go of certain ideas.

      2. I must say that I think it is important to stick to certain traditions but in case of the Chinese I have met so far they take it too far. Many of them even lived in Finland or Germany for many years/ decades but still hold on to those often backwards ideas for the time during pregnancy and post birth

  2. I can only agree from everything I have seen so far. We don’t have any children yet (cue my children loving MIL: Why not?!) but I already know, that, come the time I’m pregnant, I’m supposed to have 24h service by my mother in law, while I sleep on the couch and don’t move.
    …yeah, not going to happen.
    And I do want my kids to wear diapers (be it throw-away or washable) and get a sense for limits (No, you can not smash every porcelain figure on grandmas shelf…)

    1. I agree with you and wish you already now all the best when the time comes for a baby 🙂
      It seems that for my MIL it is perfectly fine that he destroys some things as he should enjoy his life and do whatever he wants..

  3. I’ve heard about all of the things you mention, such big cultural differences!

    I think I’ve been really lucky so far. Having our baby in the UK and bringing him back to China at 4 months, having looked after him by myself mainly until that point, I’ve become really independent and able to defend my actions. My MiL hasn’t questioned me or tried to educate me that much at all, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. She’s actually praised the Western methods a number of times!

    1. What a great MIL you got! We tried to convince MIL about the western way and some things she agrees with in front of us but in the end she still tells everyone how important it is to follow the traditions and how my wife will suffer especially because she did t do zuo yuezi at all

  4. Obviously we don’t have kids yet but I am certain we will have many issues to deal with since we both do things really differently. My parents always talk about the differences they have experienced. For starters, the Greeks insisted that you get baptized before you’re a year old. That was utterly traumatizing to me. And up until today I am still scared of water haha. My mom said one thing that irritated her is that the MIL had more rights than the mother. For example, my grandmother would try forcing me to eat certain things before I could even eat them etc.

    I can tell you now, my MIL will probably intervene xD but I guess that happens with kids haha.

    1. Good luck already once the time comes for a child :p
      Our Nathan was baptized when he was two months old but I’ve got the feeling that the baptizing is very much different in Germany and Finland than what you went through…here they just drip some water on the head and that’s it.

  5. And on another note, with regards to pregnancy- my one Taiwanese friend’s mother (who was convinced I’d marry her son lol) made me eat fish oil capsules every day so I could prepare myself for childbirth. 0.0

  6. Haha, thanks for mentioning me!
    I always pity the poor Chinese babies bundled up and with super red cheeks.
    And have you noticed that some mums and grandmas carry a small towel to wipe the kid’s face and head? And sometimes they put it in the baby’s collar, like a bib but in the back. Helloooo, if the kid is sweating just remove one of his 20 jumpers…

    The naked butt seems to have its good side though, It seems kids learn super fast to pee and poo on a cue (usually a whistling sound).

    1. You are welcome! Your article actually inspired me to finish this post once for all (has been half finished for nearly a year..).
      I have seen the things you mentioned and it’s really crazy that they think that 35 layers of clothes are still not enough.
      The split pants certainly got the advantage that the kids get used to do their business on their own much quicker than their western counterparts. I wonder when Nathan is ready for all of this…

  7. Just to be clear, based on this advise, in case I would fall pregnant ever again (I hope I won’t, two is enough), I should not go ice skating in China? Too bad for the Chinese, it was very enjoyable 🙂

  8. I totally empthise with the putting too much clothes on the baby bit. As a child, when I was probably three to six years old, my mum always put seven or eight layers of clothes over me in all seasons except for summer. Even in summer, she forced me to wear at least three layers and a jacket unless it was 30’C. I always felt like a potato or dumpling as a kid, a very clumsy kid walking around like that.

    Oh yes. Back in Malaysia my Chinese Malaysian relatives are always very keen to take care of kids, or at least pitch in to help. It is as if holding the kid will give them good luck or something. However, I am not sure if they like to push kids in prams – it seems that that is more popular in Western countries. And I remember I disliked being pushed in a pram and the one my mum had was the one where I was lying down, facing her and basically going backwards and that made me dizzy :S

    1. How old were that you still remember the pram? Here they use a pram till the child is a year old and after that a little ‘buggy’ were the child sits straight when’s too tired to walk on its own.
      I always wonder how so many Chinese believe that a child must be freezing and needs multiple layers of clothes when they themselves opt for light clothes against the Heat….

      1. I think I was two or three years old when my mum pushed me in the pram. I hated going backwards and kept fidgeting around in it.

        What annoys me is that my Chinese parents loved my pinkish cheeks when I was a kid. Wearing layers and layers of clothes usually heated me up and my face would feel very hot, and hence the flushed cheeks :/

  9. Lol, we are just 2 months away from welcoming our little one into this world and I am definitely curious to see the differences in how Koreans think she should be raised. Here, many woman go to a post-natal hotel after birth, and stay for a few weeks, where there is 24 hour nurses. The moms just rest and recover and eat seaweed soup 3x per day (supposed to be good for contraction of the uterus here). There are also extreme cases where some Koreans think you shouldn’t take a baby outside of the house for the first 100 days of it’s life!! and come to think of it…I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen a really young baby out and about here!!

    1. These kind of clinics are also in China and they costs usually a small fortune. The mother is by fed there to bulk up even more and just stays in bed for one month. The nurses take care of the child so the mother has not even much contact with her own baby…

  10. The overdressing part, it is not just babies. It happens even to 28 years old me. My mom was appalled that I could survive 2 degC with just a t-shirt and a windbreaker jacket when I traveled to the US. When she saw my photos, she constantly begged me to wear at least 6 layers of clothing or else she would lose sleep at night. It was really ridiculous.

  11. Asia is so different in so many ways than “Western” countries. The fact that you have experienced the differences through your child just highlights them. I never ever understood the split pants on children. I think it’s just a way to avoid changing diapers and has nothing with shrinking little parts – I mean, what could be lazier? (and more disgusting)

  12. Cold drinks is an no-no in Taiwan for everyone and when it gets cold, you should wear multiple layers, no matter how old or young.

    However, I know woman who have worked right up to the day they went into labor. One of the teachers I worked with was even at work when she started having contractions.

    And I have never heard of or seen the split pants until another blogger who lives in China brought it up. I have never seen them in Taiwan as all babies wear diapers here.

    1. Cold drinks, I will never understand it I guess. Once I got an upset stomach after being forced to eat in three different restaurants. So of course they said it is not because I was stuffed with so many different foods but because I had the week before a cold beer…

  13. Great post, Timo. Regarding the China part, even though we don’t have kids we’ve heard a lot of things and they are similar to what you reported. The part about dressing babies in tons of clothing is really dangerous, actually. I heard somewhere on the news about how a baby died (I think in Hangzhou) because the parents had put too many clothes on and the baby was overheated. Sad.

    1. Oh no, how terrible! I actually heard over the years several of such stories coming from China. It is just sad that they can’t see how children suffer with so many clothes on, I mean the adults don’t put themselves six layers of clothes during the summer heat…
      The differences can be sometimes shocking, I don’t really judge the Chinese way of doing things except zuo yuezi…and splitpants!

  14. Great post! I started following you because I am Chinese and my boyfriend is Kiwi (New Zealander). I found this clashing of cultures very interesting, especially the eastern and western ways of living. As I have been brought up bi-culturally both in China and in NZ, therefore I understand both cultures.
    I guess the cold drink part is just something we traditionally follow as a chinese, and respecting the chinese medicine theories.
    Nathan is such a gorgeous boy!

    1. Hey thank you for following my blog. Usually I always check out the blogs of the people who follow me however I had some very stressful months since April due to health issues and other stuff which led that I barely got time to discover new blogs…
      This clash of cultures can be also a positive thing as partners can learn fro it and evolve with it 🙂

  15. Wow, that’s a lot of people taking care of just one kid. As one of more than 8 kids with minimal grandparents, all I can say is…jealous!!!

    (But also these kids are growing up to be narcissists. Consequences are necessary!)

    1. I am always wondering how they can not take care of their own child and feel even exhausted with such much help. It also seems that many kids around I met in China are pretty much spoiled as they are used that at last their grandparents give them everything…

  16. I just don’t even know where to begin. I was nodding the whole time I was reading.

    Luckily, while I was pregnant, I wasn’t pressured or scolded too much. A few people showed concern that we had a dog (though in the US this is completely normal). Things changed once the baby was born. And the Little Emperor Syndrome is really. I swear my mother-in-law follows William everywhere and the world ends if he falls down or bumps his head.

    1. My in laws and many other Chinese tried to convince us to get rid of our bunnies as any animal is deadly for th unborn child. I really wonder where they get such crazy ideas from. In Europe it is totally normal as well to have pets…
      As soon as Nathan makes a little sound his Chinese grandma comes running and cuddles him. With her he doesn’t even need to walk anymore

  17. I always smile when I see a photo of Nathan.

    My Chinese husband was from an earlier generation, so his ideas about pregnancy, clothing and childcare were similar to mine. When we lived in the United States, my husband and I took care of the babies with occasional help from my mom or a babysitter. When our third daughter was three-weeks old, we moved to the Philippines. Of course, Chinese women couldn’t believe we had traveled so soon after the baby’s birth. We had two maids to help there. One was a lavandera (wash woman); the other cooked. They only took care of the children when I went out.

    1. This extreme ideas on how to raise children seem to have developed due to the one child policy. I heard from other Chinese in Germany who migrated from China during the 60s that they are shocked as well how their relatives spoil their grandchildren.

  18. Oh my- yes! This all rings so true! My Chinese colleague just could not believe it when any of the international staff would continue to work so far into their pregnancy. For my Chinese colleagues, it was like an illness- they had to stay home in bed for many months during their pregnancy or something terrible would happen…

    1. Illness describes it pretty well. I have never seen highly pregnant women on the streets in China nor very young babies. Usually when asked about the differences between the Chinese way vs rest of the world they say (MIL included) that Chinese are different humans and they are much weaker…

  19. I have read about similar Chinese traditions in other blogs, which means that these practices are very widespread. I think that the concern for the expecting mother is admirable, even if it can be very excessive. I think that some of these traditions are too much, but since they are so widespread I wonder if they will ever change. Your wife must be very modern-thinking, which is surprising since your MIL is so traditional! Maybe modern Chinese women will help to change the old traditions so that they are more reasonable…

    1. T is pretty excessive in China. Thankfully my wife is pretty modern with these things. Before the pregnancy she was pro traditions but once she got pregnant she started checking out about it and realized that these traditions are far from the optimal care for the mother and the baby

      1. Did your wife have a lot of help from her mother while she was pregnant? Did they have different opinions about what to do during pregnancy? I think that might be hard if your MIL thought one way and your wife wanted to do things differently.

      2. Her mother started to be with us roughly two weeks before our son was born so during that stage my wife made it already through the most. Especially in the beginning of her first three month stay she had a completely different opinion on how to take care of a baby and how the mother should rest. However my wife is rather strong willed and did t give her mother an inch so in the end everything was done how my wife wanted it/ how it is done in Finland

  20. I think the Finnish/German way is very similar to the Danish way to raise a child. I’ve seen those open pants in action in Beijing. I was shocked! (and carefully watched my steps afterwards in order not to step into baby poo:))

  21. I lived in the tropics for many years and with a small handful of Chinese families, up to a maximum of 2 years at a stretch and for a very long time. These Chinese families did not embrace many of the Chinese traditions in Mainland China and in other parts of the world. There were no spilt pants (babies were encouraged to go to the toilet every hour and when they woke up from their nap/sleep), no diapers, babies were not wrapped up in lots of layers, the new mothers ate a special dish (it wasn’t always oily depending on the cook) etc. This dish was also served to the rest of the families. The new mothers did not observe the full custom of post-partum eg bed rest for a month. These mothers were not educated in the West but they were from professional families.

    1. It is so interesting to read how these traditions are being more or less followed by Chinese. I really think that it became that intense in mainland China due to the one child policy and furthermore it is a huge business (resting month hospitals are existing and require a small fortune for those few days…)

  22. Sounds like an interesting perspective…here there are still old customs that some people follow but it really depends on the couple. I’ve discovered that the younger couples tend to follow their own rules but sometimes it’s also hard to ignore the older ones when they give their advice. I imagine it is a source of great frustration to you though, does your wife believe in some of their traditional customs or sayings?

  23. Now where is Emperor Nathan’s throne?? Love that you are evil parents who ‘let’ your son have some fun splashing in a pool in the summer. 🙂

    The spoilt waited upon hand and foot syndrome happens here in India too with a nanny, parents and grandparents willing to fulfil the young spawn’s every desire!

    Heck an insurance company even used that for an ad campaign to save for your child’s education as if you don’t start early and put aside lots of moolah, you may have a pouty angry brat on your hands at 18 years who can’t go to the college of choice in another country no less.

    However stereotypes aside there certainly where a few things I could relate to witnessing in these parts too – like stuffing the mother to be so there is extra weight gain, keeping cosy precious baby if it goes below 30’c and pampering rather than teaching basics.

    Bravo and all the best with your blended parenting! 🙂

    1. Thank you for commenting about the experiences you made. It is interesting to see that many things seem to be pretty similar to the Chinese way though India doesn’t have/had the on child policy.
      So far all the Chinese I met who had a child are rather bulky except one who looks as slim as a chopstick…I think the gaining extra weight also leaves its marks on many women for later life

      1. The pampered kid all depends on economic situation… if one has the economic means, it tends to happen! If you don’t.. chances are it is all about sheer survival. As for the ladies putting on the pounds during pregnancy, many an ‘aunty’ never sheds it post! 😉

  24. My husband and mother (who is here in China to help with the baby when it arrives) and I got a big kick out of this post. I have heard all of the things you mentioned and am so sick of being told not to drink cold water while pregnant (among many other things).

    1. This topic seems to be fairly popular especially for people with children in China / with a Chinese partner.
      I really wonder what’s up with this cold drink obsession in China. Whenever I ordered a drink or even a beer they looked at me whether or not I am hundred percent sure as if I was signing my death wish…

  25. Here in Greenland pregnant women have to fly to the next biggest town to give birth. They might be in an out of the hospital in one day, or a few more, but they are here alone most of the time. I’ve heard that some women also look forward to this time apart, because being in the bigger city they are also able to shop and stuff…. but Greenlandic women and kids are supposedly tough in general =)

    1. I bet they are tough! It is always interesting to hear how these things differ from country to country 🙂
      In Germany we got some small islands and there the women are required to leave at least one month prior to the due date the island to the next biggest city. This is because of the floods in those areas and that ships can’t follow any real schedule due to them making an emergency pregnancy problem not the easiest

  26. Ahh these superstitious beliefs and traditions!
    Philippines has so much of it, and traditions in Holland is even more primal, imagine giving birth mostly in homes..
    There is no such thing as midwife in Kuwait since all birth should be monitored due to its Islamic concerns.
    I get pregnant & gave birth in Kuwait and I never did anything what my mother told me Hahaha!
    I would never put lipstick in my daughter’s forehead just to scare away the bad spirits or whatever!! Some are ever crazier than this.
    That is the benefit of having this experience away from your home country & without the eyes of conservative folks.Getting rid of it or just not doing it.
    It’s not that I don’t like it, it just didn’t worked out for me & our lifestyle.
    Fortunately, my child turned out well even I had complications in giving birth.
    My mother can’t believe that I took my daughter out until midnight during Ramadan or when its cold and a bit drizzle of rain here. She would kill me if she knew how kids spent outdoors here no matter the weather is.

    I do miss sometimes the immediate help & support from family .especially here in Germany where we practically doesn’t know anyone yet.

    1. Traditions and those superstitions can be really annoying sometimes. How crazy all Chinese friends, friends of friends and ofc family went when they heard my wife wouldnt do the traditional Chinese resting month and all these things. Thankfully my own parents don’t really care about what might be traditions in either Germany nor Finland. The only “traditional” thing we did was to baptize Nathan when he was just 6 or 7 weeks old :p

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