Posted by: thelocaldialect | February 7, 2010

Do we need help?

It seems like just yesterday I was writing a post about how I was about to start maternity leave, and now maternity leave is almost over. How did that happen? I’ll be returning to my school at the end of the month, after Spring Festival, and while I’m trying not to think about it at the moment, I know it is going to be very hard leaving my baby and going back to being a working mom and letting my husband take over primary caregiver responsibilities once again.

To tell the truth, I think my husband is growing a bit weary with the stay at home dad bit. I don’t blame him, he has been a stay at home dad since our son was born in 2007. Prior to that he had regular gigs and shows around Kunming and other parts of Yunnan, worked at a guitar shop, and helped me open our school. He is used to doing stuff. And while taking care of children is of course a huge job, I know that he feels the monotony of it as well. The kids are young, it is cold right now, we (like most Chinese families) don’t have a car so going anywhere as a solo parent on public transport with one kid was a hassle enough, and with two it is nearly impossible. I also know that his manly man side wants to be the provider and while we are both careful with each other’s feelings about my being the breadwinner, neither of us feel like it is altogether ideal.

And so we’ve endeavored to take on our neice as a nanny. We don’t know yet whether or not she’ll accept our offer, it is something she and her family are still considering, but I really hope she does. With a nanny my husband would be free to do what he wants to do, which is, at this point, find some nighttime gigs and do some business buying and selling guitars on the side. We could go out just the two of us sometimes, which we never get to do now, we could go to the grocery store without worrying about how we’ll carry the bags and the babies, I could take the part time work that is occasionally offered to me without feeling guitly that my husband never gets a break from the kids … it is endless really.

It is odd though, because back home we’d never hire a nanny, it would just be an impossible expense I’m sure. But here in Beijing, and in most of China, all foreign families have a nanny, an ayi as they’re called here, a baomu in other parts of the country. Nannies and housekeepers are fairly affordable in China (although housekeepers for expats in Beijing make more than I paid our secretaries in Kunming, which is a whole different post in and of itself) am not comfortable at all with the idea of hiring a stranger to take care of the kids, mostly because I know that Chinese people have ideas about raising kids that just do not line up with my own, and also because of horror stories I’ve heard — nannies feeding the kids benadryl to keep them quiet, nannies stealing, nannies leaving the kids in walkers or bouncy chairs all day long while they watch TV. I would trust our neice because she is family and at the end of the day she’ll be accountable to her mom, my sister in law, who rules her family with an iron fist. I would also probably grudgingly be ok with someone from my husband’s village because everyone knows everyone there, and if we asked our sister in law to find someone she would not risk sending us some lowlife and losing face with us and losing face for the village.

What would you do? Does anyone out there have a nanny, or would you consider one if it were an affordable option in your country? How would you go about choosing someone trustworthy?


  1. wow. what a decision to have to make. I think it’s great if you can find a way for both you and your husband to do what you want to do and still feel safe knowing the children are being looked after. You didn’t mention daycare at all so I’m guessing you’re not thinking of that as an option? And the Nanny would live in? Hmmm…. any of K’s rellies living with us would *definitely* mean anything and everything we do here would be reported back to the whole family. That’s something that would make me pause…

    It’s not really close to a Nanny (but it’s as close as I’m going to get in Japan!) my two were looked after by a babysitter while I worked when they were under 1. They had a great time and got lots more attention than they would have at daycare. Meg’s babysitter still comes to visit 6 years later!

    Good luck making a decision that suits all your needs and great to see you back blogging!

    • Daycare isn’t an option for us because it is actually way more expensive than having a nanny or a housekeeper. This is because “unskilled” labor (not that childcare isn’t a skill, but for the sake of classifying types of workers that’s what we call it) is so cheap in China, and you don’t need any license to be a nanny or a housekeeper, nor do you have overhead, like you do with a daycare center. You just pay the employees, and you pay them very little. Having a live in nanny would cost less than half what it would cost just to put one of the kids into daycare — well, into a daycare that we’d be happy with anyhow.

      The relatives thing we’re not so worried about but that is also part of Chinese culture, having extended family living together. Since my MIL and FIL are both dead there’s really no one our neice could report back to anyhow, besides his two brothers and well … neither of us particularly care what they think! 😀

  2. Hi I’m visiting from MDC 🙂

    It’s such a tough choice, and its one of those situations where there really isn’t a perfect solution.

    Although I’ve never hired a nanny (my first did have a baby sitter that I trusted and was great, but did make choices that I didn’t agree with, and eventually I stopped working because of it.)

    I have been a nanny– and it is a tough job! But a good job, and probably one of the things I enjoyed more then any other job.

    I think if you can get the nanny, it would be great. Being a stay at home parent works best if the adult can do adult things, too.

    Good luck going back to work. 🙂

    • I agree, the stay at home parent can’t lose themselves and I think that is what is happening a bit with my DH. Stay at home dads are even less common in China than they are back home, and I am sure that, although my husband is rather independent and quite the free thinker, the constand raised eyebrows and unasked questions (how is it that you can’t support your family financially?) gets to him sometimes.

  3. I have no advice because like in America, having a nanny in Japan would be impossibly expensive. Even babysitters are not common here but I do know that the expat families in Roppongi area have nannies/housekeepers and most of them are philapeno. God I have no idea how to spell philapeno but that definitely is not right.

    I think it is great that your neice might be able to do it- because she is family and because it would be a lovely experience for her to live in Beijing for a little while I think. She is probably ready to leave her nest for a little while…

    It would be good for your husband too as you said- plus it would mean that the two of you could spend some alone time together occasionly as well.

    Good luck with the decision making!

    • It is definitely to our benefit that nannies/housekeepers are affordable. And yes, honestly, aside from the possibility that DH might bring in some extra income, I am really really really looking forward to us being able to go out alone every once in awhile.

  4. I live in Beijing, and my husband and I practically took a job in China just so we could afford child care! Not really, but it was one of the perks. I love my daughter, but being with her all day is really hard work. When we arrived I hired a baby sitter temporarily until I could find a permanent ayi. It turned out that the woman we hired is absolutely incredible with our child. She has worked for us for six months now and we have a wonderful relationship. She reads to our daughter, plays with her, takes her to the park. We set ground rules and she has no problem following them. You can always hire someone on a temporary basis and see how comfortable you feel. I think it’s very common to do so. Good luck!

    • Hi Abby! I think that if we were going to hire a non-relative we’d definitely go through an agency, that way someone would be accountable and we’d know that the nanny would have certain skills, like first aid and CPR.

  5. Not having a nanny here in South Africa is almost unheard of in families that can afford it, and some that can’t. The price ranges from as much as a daycare would charge per child per month to more than my husband makes in a month if it is a really wealthy family.

    My sister works full time and has a full time housekeeper / nanny. She wasn’t sure too about getting someone full time or rather putting her first child into a daycare but as it happened, the daycares where she lives cost the same if not more than a housekeeper / nanny. She went through a placement agency, made sure the woman was qualified with at least basic first aid and then sent her on a few courses about basic childcare and such. Her housekeeper’s primary function is to look after both kids (she has a 3yo and a newborn) and clean the house, do all the heavy stuff as my sis works full time. It’s a compromise from putting both into full time daycare, at least they are in their own home.

    Go with your gut.

    • It is the same here Claudine. Even Chinese families, the ones who don’t have the grandparents living with them, will often have a housekeeper or a nanny. China just has so many people and being a nanny is probably one of the nicer jobs that someone with very little education can actually do here.

  6. So as an update to this post, as of now our neice has agreed to come and stay with us after Spring Festival. This is good news, she gets along well with my son and we trust her since she is family. She stayed with us for two weeks after Annika was born and it worked out quite well. She is only 17 so we will have to be responsible for her in some ways too, but she’s been out of school and working for more than a year already so she’s not your average teenager.

    I’m sure I’ll have more to post when she gets here!

  7. Hi Jessica,

    Sorry I’m so late to this topic, but a great topic you bring up. In the past, I used to have ayis cook for me and take care of the house, and it has always been challenging to get someone good. I completely agree that, in China, family is really the way to go, if you have that support available, to help with things like child care.

    Look forward to hearing more about how the arrangement works out!

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