Tag Archives: chinese tradition

Three months living with Mother-in-law

Our daily life changed a lot during the past months. For one, our little baby was born and second, mother-in-law came to “help” us for three months. Those three months will end next week, so it is time to go through it all and see how life was with her.

I heard from other people all kinds of stories regarding the time when their mother/ mother-in-law came for three months to help out with their child (many stories would easily pass as horror stories!). They all had something in common; they had enough space in their house or apartment to get some peace from all the happenings. For us this was not so much the case, our current apartment is 40m² (~430ft²) without any door between the bedroom and living room, in which is also the kitchen. Three people plus a baby in such a small space will always lead to tension.


Well then, let me start with my experience during these three months:


The all too common problem with zuo yuezi 坐月子and how mothers/ mother-in-laws trying to enforce it upon the poor woman who just gave birth. The two weeks after my MIL arrived was a time full of discussions, shouting, cursing, crying and so forth between my wife and her mother. First MIL was more or less fine that her daughter decided against zuo yuezi however this changed more and more each day. In the end she was terrified that her daughter would suffer the fate of a bad health because of not following the traditions. It took much effort by my wife to get it through the (often) thick skull of her mother that she would follow modern medicine and do it the “Finnish Way”. As you can guess, MIL was still not convinced about it as she believes that Chinese are different people, who need special things to survive and stay healthy…

Only after she saw other Chinese women who recently gave birth and followed zuo yuezi she slowly changed her opinion. Why? Because all of these women had not enough milk for their babies evenDSC01803 with all those nice oily soups and they felt weak and unhealthy even 8 months after giving birth while my wife had enough milk and was back to normal within few weeks. I don’t want to go too far here but I would say that the zuo yuezi should go through an update to adjust to modern life more, the lack of hygiene especially is a dangerous matter for the baby. But then again, it is most of the time either the MIL’s or own mothers enforcing it and/or the fear of going against such tradition even knowing that it has barely any backup from modern medicine.



I always need special ingredients for my lunch

The trouble of preparing food (which also suits the gourmet taste of son-in-law). Yes, I can be pretty difficult at times when it comes to food but not in a way you might expect. The problem in the beginning with MIL was that all her food tasted the same. No matter if she prepared chicken, potatoes, tofu and all kinds of vegetables, it always tasted the same and this taste was close to nothing. I expect paper to have more taste than that. My wife got also very upset within short time and the result was that she gave her mother a cooking crash course which involved in actually using salt and other spices. Mother-in-law had refused in using them as it is all so very bad for the health but at the same time she is making a liter (~0.26gallon) of ice cream disappearing in no time each night!

These days I am no longer afraid of eating her food as it tastes rather good, not as good as my wife’s food (that is just unreachable for my mother-in-law) but still good enough that I don’t have the feeling to eat out each other day.


Nathan approves

The practice of taking pictures or videos of everything. I am not exaggerating when I say that mother-in-law is trying to record her stay here in Finland entirely. Whatever and whenever something happens, actually nothing really has to happen, her phone is in her hands and she takes pictures or videos. This is occurring especially when our little baby is doing something. I don’t know how often she filmed how we changed his diapers or bathed him. It is pretty much common that her head appears out of nowhere, over our shoulders, between our arms and and and, I guess you get it…

Now to the problem which is actually only bad for herself as she is recording everything on her old mobile phone the quality is very poor but besides that, the phone has not nearly enough space so she has to delete all the time material. After a while I was checking why there is so little space, well, everything is being saved on a micro SD card with only 256 mb space. After that I offered to buy a new one with 8 or 16 gb which are incredibly cheap, but no, she is refusing as she will buy a new phone soon but then there is the trouble again that she will still have her old micro SD card. I don’t want to force her so she will have to stick with the little space until she gets her new phone and with it lose a lot of pictures and videos of her grandson.



The need to go shopping. This is actually not that bad, as she barely buys anything thanks to my wife as she refuses most of the ideas her mother has about purchasing clothes and other stuff such as kitchen equipment. But now comes the kicker: she always wants to buy new things for herself and buy little souvenirs for all her friends from the dancing class. However she never ever wants to buy anything for her husband. Whenever we say that father-in-law might like this chocolate or those clothes her answer is the same “He doesn’t need this” or “He has already enough of this” or “He eats too much chocolate” and finally “Why should we buy something for him?”

Father-in-law taking picture of his wife with his phone camera…

As you can see she is pretty much focused on only her own needs/ desires when it comes to shopping and of course in saving face in buying stuff for her friends. Much to her dislike we bought last week in Germany a new camera for father-in-law as he first of all wanted one already since last summer and second because we could no longer stand them taking terrible quality pictures with their phones. MIL tried to convince us against buying the camera till the end but we succeeded! (Father-in-law will be so happy)



The three months with mother-in-law living with us went better than I expected. Sure, we had some troubles but it went pretty smooth towards the end. The whole thing went so well most likely due to the fact that I am a guy and lets face it, most guys can pretty much ignore annoying things around them at least for a while whereas in case my own mother would have been here there would be much drama after a short time between her and my wife. In case of another three-month visit I just pray it will happen when we already live in our bigger apartment as this little space right now also brings the problem of everything being too “stuffed” with everything, not just people.


How to make life…

…with crazy mom in law more survivable. First of all I must say that I have nothing at all against my mom in law, just the creepy little things can get rather disturbing.

These small things consist for example of buying always the fattest meat she can find, because she things it tastes much better. The result is always that I mostly don’t see any meat in my dishes because I only find fat. Or her opinion that clothes made in China are always bad but as soon aFat Fats she buys them same ones from, let’s say Europe, they are perfect. There is much more but I want to focus now on the part on how to make life with her more survivable or actually how to make it better for my wife.

This is because soon mom in law will be joining us again for a period of three months. Yes, you read it right, three whole months. All of this just because our son will be born and my wife wants some help. In the beginning my wife was really excited to have her mom here for such long time because then she doesn’t have to cook and gets some help with the baby and much other stuff. But then it dawned on her that it will be during the time of zuo yuezi 坐月子 and that’s the time she started to worry.

For anyone who doesn’t know about this zuo yuezi, it is a period of around 30 days after giving birth, in which the mother is confined to her bed, she is not allowed to wash, to move around or to do basically anything at all. I will have about this soon an extra article as I am amazed by that tradition and how it is mostly rather ridiculous. (Well, what you expect of a 2.000 year old tradition, I mean, in Germany you don’t go around drinking hot beer against flu anymore either…)

Mom in law is very conservative when it comes to old Chinese stuff so my wife got really worried about the zuo yuezi. We decided we need a plan on how to counterattack her mom’s intentions during that resting time. The facts we know about her make it even easier to create such a plan. Main things to know about her to make the first outline of the plan are 1. She loves shopping 2. She believes Europe is great an 3. She also believes all medical stuff is better in Europe. I can’t really say what is all better but I must agree to some of the medical stuff, especially when it comes to baby’s. Additionally Finland got something like a baby box in which mothers, no matter which social status, get a package from the government with Kela Boxeverything needed in the beginning for the baby. This also gives becoming parents an idea what is all needed for the baby when buying new things. Check out this for further information http://news.msn.com/world/baby-in-a-box-works-for-finland.


You may wonder now, how on earth does this information help for that resting month. Oh, it’s easy, so very easy. For example her love for shopping can be used very well during the resting month. My wife is not supposed to go out during that time but the thing is, how can mom in law go to the shopping malls during that time without her daughter?

We already tested it when my wife called last time her mom and was talking about what warm clothes her mom will need here in Finland during winter (easily -30°C /-22°F) and that she wants for herself something warm.

Mom in law got all scared and was like

I will use your warm clothes! Why you need warm clothes? You stay inside!

But my wife had planned for this and asked her

But without warm clothes, how can I take you to the shopping malls? Oh, I forgot, it is not good to walk in the cold for me, so you have to stay with me at home

and mom in law suddenly changed her opinion very quickly

Oh, but it’s very good to take walks in the shopping malls, it is not so cold there and you can sit down there and rest as often as you want. Don’t worry, I will get extra warm clothes for you for the short time outside.”

Of course we still have to see how this will work out when the time comes, but honestly, we don’t worry about it. It’s pretty much a perfect plan.

So what about the other two points where mom in law believes everything is so much better in Europe? This is once again fairly easy as Finland has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world and is thus far better ranked than China. With this we can convince mom in law to do as the doctor and other intelligent people suggest here in the country (it appears Finland/ Finnish people are doing pretty well with this).

When we told one doctor about the resting month including the not washing, she was pretty much shocked, as it can easily lead to skin irritations and with it due to the “unhygienic” surroundings to infections which are never good. Besides that it is usual here to start taking longer walks around a week or so after giving birth, to get the body working again / get the system refreshed after the stress of giving birth and then the week of rest. If mom in law tries to go against it, well, we will just tell her to convince our doctor about her Chinese opinion…

This is just an outline so far of our battle plan and further details will be added in the upcoming months. My wife is very confident that she will be able to persuade her mom without much trouble but just in case we will work on some additional details for our grand plan. You can never be safe enough!