Bad husband! You make your wife do what?

The only way one of my teenage ESL students from Beijing could reconcile the fact that Canadian mothers apparently routinely engage in self-destructive life-threatening behaviour after giving birth is that Chinese and Westerners must have different biological constitutions. It was funny (and not entirely untrue). I was tutoring her this morning in between trips to see Lilia in the NICU, and she was alternately gushing with very earnest advice about what Jessica must eat as a brand new mother and appalled with the things we let Jessica do.

I was telling her how the day after the surgery Jessica walked to the NICU to see Lilia in the incubator (and rode back in the wheelchair) — my student couldn’t believe I’d let Jessica out of bed. Then she couldn’t believe that after getting discharged from the hospital we actually let/make Jessica ride in the car to the hospital at least twice a day to see the baby (there are bumps in the road!). Basically Jessica shouldn’t leave the house — actually, better that she just stay in bed, for a month.

When Jessica was still pregnant one mother of a teenager from Sichuan was talking to me about the traditional Chinese custom of being house-bound and not showering for a month after giving birth. “Oh, that’s silly. I had a shower after only two weeks!”

Of course we’d heard about the popular traditional Chinese beliefs surrounding pregnancy and birth. No doubt our various cultures contain plenty of mutually jaw-dropping popular advice in this area. But this kind of stuff sounds even funnier in Canada for some reason. :) And no matter how particular advice sounds to us, it’s great the way our Chinese friends show their care and warmth by showering us with concern and advice.

(P.S. – Commenting *should* be fixed now, so you can leave comments again. Stupid security plugin changed my settings without telling me!)

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7 thoughts on “Bad husband! You make your wife do what?”

  1. Ah… a perfect case of how cultures influence varying perceptions, where the West from an objective, cause-effect perspective, the East from one that is more holistic (in some cases, even superstitious).

  2. We have one Taiwanese friend who grew up in Taibei but went to an international school, then went to the U.S. for university and married an American. Americans think she’s an American from her English and the way she acts around Americans, but she totally prefers the Chinese style of caring for pregnant women/new mothers.

  3. It’s not only the month following the birth. Even during pregnancy, they culturally deal with things a whole different way. I am married to a Chinese man, we are expecting a child in September and I knew about the “sitting the month” before and am obliged to take part or otherwise be pestered about it for the rest of my life if I get any ailment in old age. I just didnt know that it would start the moment I got pregnant. I would say I am pretty independent person and I am healthy and feel I can do things no problem, things that need to be done, like gardening which includes lifting some bags of mulch and dirt, sodding our yard, etc. He told one of his Chinese co-workers what I had been up to and she said that a Chinese pregnant lady would have miscarried 10 times by now. But oh well, I am learning to submit and compromise a lot these last 6 months. I still do things around the house that needs to be done but I avoid places I don’t have to go, don’t go out to eat and try to avoid the swine flu and don’t get on any airplanes. And he doesnt complain or tell his mother the whole truth of what I have been doing.

    In China they do deal with these things differently. His cousins wife got pregnant, quit her job, and moved back to the countryside to be taken care of by her parents and the in-laws. Good thing I am here instead of there, I would have a lot more people telling me what I can or cannot do!

  4. Joel & Jessica, – talk to your grandmothers – you will find that it was common all over the Western world back in the 1930’s and 40’s for doctors to reccomend that women stay in bed for a month after giving birth.

    Of course not all of them did it, but my Gram followed that advice for her first child, and then said, “Nope, not doing it again,” and didn’t.

  5. Here’s what that aforementioned bi-cultural friend says:

    The Chinese way is far superior. The pregnant/recently given birth woman gets to be pampered in every way, given yummy fish soup to encourage milk coming in, absolutely no chores to do. The only thing required is to love on the baby. Not too shabby. Too bad I married an American.

    Haven’t asked her yet about the shower thing, though.

  6. Haha! My wife (Chinese) and I haven’t conceived yet, but it’s on the horizon and I can only imagine what going through these “cultural differences” will be like.

    Terribly sorry to hear your baby is in ICU. As a six-weeks premie myself, my thoughts go out to her.

  7. If you’re wife is exceptionally good-humoured and tolerant, I bet you both could write a hilarious and informative book from the experience.

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