“Who takes care of the kids?”

Illustration by Ruth Silbermayr-Song

Illustration by Ruth Silbermayr-Song

I have lunch with my new coworker, a woman in her mid-to-late 30s who has a 2-year-old son. She asks me:

“Who takes care of young kids in Austria? In China, it’s often the grandparents who look after the kids, but what is it like in Austria, with people all working?”
I: “It’s often the parents themselves who take care of the kids when they are still little. The grandparents will help out on the weekends or whenever they have time. In Austria, women get paid maternity leave, so they don’t have to go back to work immediately. I’ve seen that mothers in China will sometimes go back to work as soon as three months after their baby has been born.”
She: “Yes, three months is the minimum. I’ve stayed with my little one for quite a long time in contrast to that. I took care of him for 2 years and 3 months, just before I started working here.”
She then asks me: “Where is your husband from?”
I: “He’s from Jilin province.”
She: “Do you live here just with your husband or do your in-laws live with you?”
I: “It’s just me and my husband.”
She: “I see. In China, we have this tradition going back thousands of years – the tradition of living with one’s family. I live with my parents and in-laws.”
I: “We did have this tradition too, but things are different nowadays. We don’t live in one house with our parents and grandparents, but often times we will still live close to each other, like for example in the same city.”
She: “I understand. So it’s not even that different from China, then. My parents live in Shenzhen, but they live in their own apartment. My mother-in-law lives with us. Many young Chinese like living on their own too, but I like it that way.”

Do you live with your family or with your in-laws or do you prefer to live on your own? I’d love to read your comments.

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6 thoughts on ““Who takes care of the kids?”

  1. We’re living with my parents now but when we can afford a flat or house, no way would I want to live with my parents or his parents.

    It’s ok in my house at the moment – it’s big and my boyfriend has a spare room to live in with a bathroom if he wants to get away from everyone. My parents both work and go out a fair bit, so we get our time alone. My parents and my boyfriend can talk to each other too, something I can’t do with his because they don’t speak English.

    My boyfriend’s house is tiny and his parents are always there because his Dad only goes out to go to work, and his Mum only goes out to buy food. The fact I can’t communicate with them, they’re often near me speaking loud, fast Cantonese, his Mum is standing over me when i’m cooking, I have to share a bathroom with all of them we have to sleep in his brother’s bedroom and he wanders in and out of it all the time…it just makes it very awkward for me. I really need my own space.

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  2. Currently we live alone. In the future we have to see how we will take care of my in-laws but most likely they will continue to stay in China and we will financialy support them. My own parents are another matter. As they are much older than my wife’s parents there is a high possibility that at least one of them will move with us at a later stage.
    But then again, I don’t like to think of such future time as it would mean that my parents are in no condition to live on their own.

    Btw, it would be dreadful to have my mom in law 24/7 for many years in the same building, her snoring can wake up dead people! No joke, its so loud that our neighbours can hear it at night…

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  3. I’ve been living with my boyfriend’s family for almost a year now and we are planning to move out in February when we finish the renovations at the old family house. It’s been an interesting year, but I really need to have a place for our own. Something to truly call your home.

    In Finland the parents take care of the kids, often mom stays at home at least for one year, sometimes until the kid is 3 years old. Then children will go to the daycare until they go to school. I hope that I will have the possibility to work from home when the time comes.

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  4. Pingback: “There’s not much I and my husband talk about anymore” | China elevator stories

  5. I love my mother dearly and am almost certainly her unannounced favorite. Yet, I can’t imagine having my parents too near by. I’m glad teenage rebellion led to stable adult independence. Different cultures see it differently, I suppose, but I think my parents would say their children being independent of them shows that the parents succeeded in raising children who can make their own decisions and get along alright in the world.

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