‘Do you have any plans for your baby?’

When I visited Hong Kong back in October 2014, I was already 4 months pregnant. I wasn’t really showing, although I guess my belly was a bit rounded as I did get offered a seat on the MTR a couple of times.

Whilst I was in HK, I talked about my pregnancy with my good HK friend, as well as with my Airbnb hosts, and there was one things that struck me about these conversations. They all asked about whether I had any plans for the baby’s kindergarten/education/schooling. I don’t think British people would ask this question until the baby was a year old, probably later, but at the very least not until the baby had actually been born. The top questions would be ‘when’s it due?’, ‘do you know what you’re having?’ i.e. the sex of the baby, ‘any cravings?’ and perhaps also ‘are you excited?’

My friend explained to me that this is the nature of HK’s focus on education and the need to compete for the best education and the best jobs. Apparently little Hong Kongers will have their names on the waiting lists of the top kindergartens when they are the size of a pea! It sounds like considerations for choosing childcare are also very different, as here in the UK parents would consider primarily the location for dropping little ones on the way to their workplace, and whether the child likes it based on a visit/trial session. In HK parents will travel further to ensure their child goes to the best kindergarten. The focus is on education methods, rather than on keeping the baby occupied and cared for whilst the parents work.

Another interesting thing I found out from talking to Hong Kong women was the trend for having external help. I knew that a lot of wealthier HK families had live-in housekeepers, but this also extends to when a baby comes. Hong Kongers still observe 坐月子 postpartum confinement, yet instead of having a family member (mother or mother-in-law) caring for the new mum, many wealthy HKers will hire a live-in 月嫂 postpartum doula for a month or two. My Airbnb host had recently become a grandmother, but her daughter had decided that instead of having her mother, who lives close-by, attend to her needs during the first month, she’d rather hire a professional. In fact the new grandmother also felt she wasn’t the right woman for the job, as both her daughters had been cared for in external nurseries as infants. Where the new mum is a high-flying career woman the baby may go from the doula’s care straight to a nanny’s care.

I know how fortunate I am that I am not currently working, I have had a very relaxed pregnancy and will not worry about returning to work for some time after baby arrives, but the whole concept of this competition for the ‘best’ sounds exhausting. In fact, I think I’ll go for a little lie down 🙂

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22 thoughts on “‘Do you have any plans for your baby?’

  1. It is crazy how competitive things are in some places, even for babies! I think it’s better just to relax a bit. Life can’t be so planned out.

    That’s great that you don’t have to work. I only work about 20 hours a week, basically from home, and it’s been really nice to have time to spend with William. In the US, most mothers are back to work after 6 weeks, which (imo) isn’t nearly enough time to recover from giving birth and bond with your baby. It’s really hard for women who breast feed.

    I can’t wait to hear your announcement when the little one arrives. It won’t be too much longer yet, right??

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    • Returning to work after 6 weeks is shocking, that’s too soon! That must be really hard 😦 In the UK most people take 6 months to a year, though not on full pay.

      I still have 4 weeks to go, but loving this last stage of pregnancy. I will be sure to make an announcement 🙂

      I hope you had a safe return to China xx

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  2. In any places in Germany and other countries it is similar. Before the child is born they are competing already for a spot on a kindergarten but normaly not the best one, any will do as there are not enough around, right now we do not care anymore in which kindergarten our son will end up,we just hope he will get into any as we registered him rather late when he was already two months old…

    Those traditions like zuo yuezi are kind of scary for me. I am wondering why so many Chinese still follow a tradition which is to 90% useless, for 1% good and for 9% harmful for the mother and the child. Also those doulas, it really depends if they actually got any training in it. The few have heard of and met are really just normal people who tried and succeeded given egg you to the infants when they were three months old…because it’s tradition in their mind and. Will help the child to grow, but often also die. I know that I probably have encounter probably only bad examples thus far but I am still waiting for a positive one which will show me that there is still hope for this tradition as it appears that many women follow it because they are scared to disappoint their families :p

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    • Interesting that Germany has a similar issue, I hope Nathan gets a place soon. Our main issue in the UK is a lot of families struggle to afford nursery fees of £45-65 per day!

      The zuo yuezi thing is interesting, as it’s not all that long since we in the West followed similar traditions, but things have changed so quick. China is changing at a fast pace in other ways but the pressure on women in this sense is very high. I’ve never met a postpartum doula. I just feel relieved that I will be doing things my own way this time.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thats really expensive for nurseries. I do not even know the prices here! In Finland those things are usually for free but well, we gave up that life in Finland and now have to face the new world in Germany.
        Lets see when China will start changing but it still coudl take while when you think how much they worry about traditions

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    • Not sure if it’s the best analogy, but zuo yue zi is similar to the Jewish tradition of circumcision. Almost all Jews practice circumcision, yet some in the medical field question it’s usefulness/benefits.

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      • I think the circumcision became over the long time practically a part of the religion. Or do actually male Jews exist without circumcisions? Zuo yuezi on the other hand is practices in each part of China a bit different and it became more popular again in the past twenty or thirty odd years. Especially these days it has been heavily monopolized as it indeed a money machine (maybe one should think of opening one of those zuo yuezi centers…)

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  3. Wow, that is exhausting, I need a lie down now too;). I never heard about that in the Netherlands, we just went to whichever elementary school (which includes kindergarten from age 4) was most convenient. Education is state-regulated so it’s all of the same basic quality. There is not really a “best” school to sign up for. And you don’t worry about it until it’s about time to send them there. I intend on doing the same here in England… Hope that’ll work out.

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      • I’m not planning on using child care/nurseries, it’s so expensive, I would have pay extra to work! So I am not planning to go back to work.

        I am surprised to see kindergarten grouped in there with child care/nurseries. In the Netherlands, Belgium, Japan, and America kindergarten is part of elementary schools. So kids start going to school at 4. But the first two years of school is kindergarten and so they’re just playing and crafting. Then from 6 years old (1st grade) they start learning writing and more. So as long as you send your kids to public schools, it’s all free of cost from 4 years on. Since it was all the same in countries I lived so far, I was kind of expecting it to be the same here… Is it?

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      • Glad to hear that. Yeah I’ve been back a few weeks and antenatal process underway, though they want to fit everything into 4 weeks, so weekly appointments – had 3 this week! They are so lovely though, different to the Chinese experience.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I heard from some pregnant Western women in Japan that the midwives weren’t the nicest there either and they often got scolded even.

        Here in the UK though, wow! I have been seeing a team of about 4 midwives and 1 obstetrician and they are all so lovely. They make me feel really comfortable and all appointments are such a pleasure.

        So the UK midwives have some catching up to do with you! That’s great, so they are sure they can offer you the best care. How’s your little one doing, still happy and healthy in there?

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  4. In Spain it seems it is hard to get in a kindergarten because there are too many kids and too few kindergartens, but I don’t think anyone goes to register before the baby is born… that sounds a little bit too much haha. Anyway, for us all the kindergartens are more or less the same: a place you go to meet other kids and get dirty with crayons so I’m not sure if there are distinctions between “good” and “not so good” ones. I heard in HK the kids are supposed to pass an exam/interview to get into the kindergarten! How crazy is that?

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  5. It is interesting (and sort of crazy) that people are already thinking about these things while their unborn kid is still the size of a peanut! Kind of reminds me of the atmosphere in some exclusive circles in NYC, where parents do indeed sign up their kids to the best schools before they’re even born.

    It is exhausting!

    Hope your pregnancy is going well and wish you a smooth delivery!

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