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China Elevator Stories

“Who Takes Care Of The Kids?”

I talk with a Chinese co-worker about child rearing.

16/11/2013

Ruth Silbermayr
Ruth Silbermayr

Author

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 young people  working?”

I tell her: “Most parents look after their kids themselves when the kids are still little. The grandparents will help out on the weekends or on days when they have time. In Austria, women get paid maternity leave, so they don’t have to go back to work immediately. I have seen that mothers in China will sometimes go back to work as soon as three months after their baby has been born.”
She says: “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?”
“He’s from Jilin province.”
“Do you live here just with your husband or do your in-laws live with you?”
“It’s just me and my husband.”

She replies: “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 tell her: “Historically, this used to be tradition in Austria as well, 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.”
“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.”

Have you ever lived with your in-laws?