Cultural differences: confidence

After almost two weeks as a mother in China, I’ve received a lot of advice. Some of it good, some of it bad, but most of it just none of the business of the people on the street. (I guess our type of ergonomic baby carrier isn’t used much in China as a lot of it centres around that)

I asked my husband, “How are new parents meant to have any confidence in their abilities if every Tom, Dick and Harry on the street keeps questioning them and advising them to do things differently?” “They’re not” he replied. And here lies the culture difference.

When our little boy was a few days old and the midwife came to my home to visit me, I said to her “What do you think?” to which she replied, “You’re his mum, you know what’s best.” I thought she was crazy, she was the professional, she clearly had a lot more knowledge on the subject. Yet telling me I know best made me think things through and did give me confidence in my decision. Furthermore, any decisions I make about my baby, we will have to live, not the midwife.

Back when Baby Z was a newborn and I was living with my mum, she used to say ‘thank goodness for the internet, you guys know everything these days’: she couldn’t believe the extent of my research on baby topics and she acknowledged that I was much more knowledgeable than her. But here in China, elders know best and I guess it could be considered rude to disregard their advice, so it is largely followed (think zuo yuezi, etc) despite how things have moved on. Well I’m sorry China, I am a new mum and I am fairly young, but I am confident as a mother and I know my son best. I’m fortunate that my husband also has confidence in me and I can see my mother-in-law’s confidence in me also growing.

Baby Z in the baby carrier

Baby Z in the baby carrier

I’ve tried a few different approaches to receiving advice about my baby. Thanking them, reassuring them he’s fine, ignoring the advice or ignoring them completely. I also asked my husband how to say ‘it’s none of your business’ (关你什么事?) and that got some very interesting looks from the group of ayis standing around us, but I don’t think I’ll use that one too much! (I also plan to ask my husband how to say ‘what is the scientific basis for that approach?’)

Comments about how beautiful my baby is though, those I don’t mind so much 🙂

Any other approaches I could try to unsolicited advice?

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18 thoughts on “Cultural differences: confidence

  1. Baby Z is totally adorable, so excited to see a photo of him :D!
    Do the Chinese not approve of your baby carrier? Looks similar to mine and I love it and so does Babel. How are the Chinese about breastfeeding in public (if you do that, that is)?

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    • Thank you 🙂
      They baby carriers that local people use here as totally different. They are like a little seat strapped round the parents waist, that the baby sits on forward facing, and the parent just hold onto them. So not as hands-free. But definitely not as warm (which is what most people worry about I think). And it looks like you can’t use them till baby can sit-up themselves, which 5 month Baby Z is not quite doing. Our baby carrier has just been a god-send as we’ve used it since birth (a stretchy wrap first) and has soothed and helped him nap a lot!
      I love the pics of your baby boy on your blog 🙂

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      • Thanks! I love our carrier too. It makes carrying Babel around in public a lot less work, he’s getting quite heavy. If it’s warm I make sure he wears less.

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  2. Oh. My. Goodness. Baby Z is scrumptious. I didn’t think he could get any cuter, but he’s proven that wrong. I know we all think our own kids are the cutest things ever, but he really is a cutie. As for the unsolicited advice, just say 我聽不懂。Smile and walk away.

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  3. I don’t know. The internet can be helpful, but it’s also a hotbed for sanctimommies. After William was a newborn, I mostly stopped reading stuff online. I had a Mayo Clinic book (I think it was called “The First Year”) that I liked. I also try to follow my gut and talked to people I know back home.

    I still have a really hard time with the constant advice, as you know. It’s often from people in my neighborhood so I don’t want to be too rude to them or ignore them. I’m also under my husband and mother-in-law’s constant watch and am a nervous-wreck that William is going to fall, get hurt, and I’m going to get blamed.

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    • I think I’ve been really lucky with online mummy groups and the support they’ve provided.
      Yeah, the people in the neighbourhood are trickier as you can’t avoid them and need to be polite. We live in the apartment R grew up in, so all the ayis know him well. That’s a shame people have made you so anxious, although I think all mums have those worries, but I know what you mean about being blamed.

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  4. We got some really crazy advice last year from Chinese people. THese days many customers of my wife ask her when they want to know something for their children. Sometimes I got the feeling that too many CHinese seem to be unable to do just some research online because questions like “My son if 5 years old, when should I start brushing his teeth” or “My girl doesnt have enough rings (Michelin man) on her body yet, is she eating too less?” makes me really question their mental health 😀

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  5. What kind of comments are you getting? That he is wearing too little? That breast milk is not enough and he needs to eat rice? xD

    I can imagine how the comments when you are a new mom can be super annoying…

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    • Usually it’s that he’s too hot against my body in the baby carrier, or his hands are ‘trapped’ in the carrier, or when he’s not got his sunhat something about shai. Then as soon as it hits sunset, he’s too cold in the baby carrier. A lot of people (women and men) have asked if he’s breastfed so I get a lot of praise for that, that’s he’s wonderfully fat and firm! I guess you have to take the rough with the smooth, he gets a lot of positives attention too.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi I just came across your blog and just wanted to say that your son is so adorable!
    I think unsolicited advice to a new mothers is a universal issue, but probably exponentially worse in China since unsolicited advice about everything seems to be big here…for things you didn’t even know you could possibly be doing “wrong”!

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