Help in the home a family affair

Updated: 2013-04-25 05:42

By Ye Jun (China Daily)

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After taking care of our newborn baby for two months all by ourselves, my wife and I realized hiring an ayi is compulsory. Over the next year we hired four ayis. The experience has been a great lesson in humanity.

Our nurses lived with us, but we looked after the baby in the evening. That means accepting a stranger into the house to live with us all the time except on holidays.

Our first nurse was experienced and hardworking. She helped a lot with feeding the baby, as we had problems getting him to adjust back and forth between breastfeeding and the bottle when my wife returned to work.

For that, we were ready to overlook a few shortcomings. She was not very good at cooking. She was forgetful because she suffered insomnia. We found her a doctor, and paid for her first round of medication. We didn't utter a word of complaint when she forgot to put the hose of the washing machine in the sink and flooded the wooden floor of the corridor three times.

Gradually, we found she became sulky each time we tried to remind her of something that had not been done. She also took a lot of phone calls, to counsel other ayis.

Help in the home a family affair

We could see how those trivial things made her anxious and unhappy. But we didn't know what to do to help.

She spent five months with us, before starting to demand extra days off, although we gave her all the holidays according to the contract. Even though we were sympathetic, we thought it was too much when she became annoyed and threatened to quit.

Our second ayi was almost perfect. She had 10 years of experience. She was happy and open-minded. She kept the baby giggling all the time. Most importantly, she was willing to communicate with us. We got along quite well.

She was so good that when she left our home to buy food we had nothing to gossip about her. In the case of the first ayi, we had plenty to complain about once she was not in the house.

But the perfect ayi already had plans to go back to her hometown for Spring Festival, and not return. After 10 years in Beijing, she had decided to go home to be with her son and look after her elderly mother.

Our third ayi stayed at our home for only three days and drove the whole family crazy. My elderly mother looked like she would have a heart attack if the nurse stayed a day more.

She acted more like a guest in the house than a nurse. When the baby tried to open a cabinet she told him there were snakes and monsters inside. When the grandmother and mother were taking care of the baby's toilet training, she read a magazine. When my old mom wiped the floor, she said: "Granny is so healthy." In the three days she stayed, she never washed a basin of dirty clothes in the bathroom.

We think the ayi lied about having three years' experience looking after three babies, and she probably bought her baby nurture license from the black market.

I am very happy that the fourth ayi we have is experienced, normal and has a good temper. She can coax our son into finishing his bottle of milk, and she is willing to stay on.

From our experience, the most popular ayis in Beijing seem to come from Sichuan and Gansu provinces. But there are also nurses from Shandong, Anhui, Shanxi, Henan and Northeast China. Many ayis come from the countryside. Their education is usually lower than senior high school.

While you are trying to find a good ayi, they are also trying to find a good employer. I actually got asked more questions when I interviewed ayis.

Before you hire them, they would like to know how your mom gets along with your wife, if the husband has a good temper, whether she needs to sleep in the living room, or even if your zodiac animal is friendly with hers.

Our lesson: Nobody is perfect. But if you try, they can become better.

Our second nurse told us she used to hold onto old resentments. But she met a really good employer, with whom she got along very well, and shook off her unhappy past. We hope getting along with the new ayi can be a happy learning experience for both of us.

(China Daily 04/25/2013 page18)