Hsinchu Discussion Transcript: Grandmothers

Participants: Robert Wilson Vina Jason Angela

I think children are more affected by mother than father, and so the mother was affected by her mother, so that’s why the maternal grandmother has more of an effect.

So the daughter is more close to her own mother than her father, so you imply that?

For example, I live with my mother-in-law. The time the children spend with her is much more than they are with my mother. But the children’s characteristic is more like me, and more like my mother. So its very interesting, when I read the whole article. I think that maybe Asian people are more clever, because it’s all maternal lineage. But I think in modern society, it more tends to be like that. Because I find that many of my friends they live with their mother already. Maybe its because the wife takes the decision making power.

Or you know a lot of strong women.

Because the wife prefer her children to be taken care by her mother than her mother in law.

Why?


Because I can say what you should and shouldn’t do, but I can’t say that to my mother-in-law. Just like those wife prefer to stay their maternal leave in their own home, and not with their mother in law, because they can say what they want to eat or not in their own home, but not in their mother in law’s home!

Before we start, I just want to ask some background information about everyone.

You want to take a survey?

I just want to know do you lived with your mother or mother-in-law?

When I was child?

No, now?

No.

No.

No.

So I’m the only one. Because most of my friends say that I’m a very special girl that can bear to live with her mother-in-law. Because most people don’t.

Yes.

Not really hate, but most people choose not to.

I guess your husband is the local resident in Hsinchu.

No, I am the local resident!

So your husband want to take care his mother, so his mother live with you.

Yes, because I’m quite fine with living with old people. I’m fine, but I find that most people find very serious problems between—

A tension relationship.

There’s tension in the relationship.

—They prefer to live in their own family. If they can choose, they prefer to live with their own mother, but they’d rather live by themselves. For me, I’m very busy, so I really do need to have someone help me with the children, so I’m quite happy, well not very happy, but I very appreciate that I can stay close to my mother and also live with my mother in-law

So is your relationship good?

I’m fine!

Wow, that speaks volumes.

Well what it is—there’s a different…my mother-in-law’s family was very poor

So there was an economic difference

Well it was a values difference.

Oh, so it’s a class difference.

Well, for instance she has to keep warming up the leftovers, over and over.

She has to save every last scrap of food!

Yes. My father was a teacher, so I’m high educational level, but my husband’s family was laborers. So it’s good, because they’re very traditional, but sometime it’s a burden for us, because she’s always sacrificing everything for us, but we don’t need them too. But she’s afraid we’ll kick her out. But my mom is different, she kicked us all out of the house so she could have some quiet.

My mother is different. She moved to Hsinchu with me, but she didn’t’ like it, because she was used to Miaoli, she didn’t want to change her situation. It’s common in Hsinchu, lots of people live here, but their families are not from here. So you asked a question, why we don’t live with our mother-in-law, it’s very common here.

And so your situation?

Actually, my father is still working.

But if they retired will they live with you?

I don’t know.

Why don’t you know?

Well, we’re still thinking about it, it’s a question of living style.

How about you?

Well, my parents said we can move out to form our own family. I live in Jubei and my parents live in Hsinchu. I go to my parents’ every day for lunch.

My brother is like that. They live so close they don’t need to live together.

Sounds like a win-win situation.

Really!

Still have some privacy, yes.

When my children were still young, I still lived with my parents. But now they’re grown, it’s not a good idea. I would say my parents’ viewpoint, especially to the education system, we want to adopt some attitude to teach our children, well we have different aspects. So sometimes living in different places, it’s a good idea. My children then don’t confuse about what the adults might, from his or her parents, and the parents in law. The same situation in this article. They say the mother-in-law, the grandmother have a different style. I would say it’s important for teaching our children.

But I’m in favor of team b, because I appreciate the grandmother factor. Because many of my friends, they're older and their children already grown up. They say they appreciate their parents, because when the child was young, the parents or parents-in-law take the role of mother and father. I notice this too, cuz when I was a child I didn’t live with my grandma because my mom was a housewife. When I came home, my mom was there. But this didn’t happen to my children, because I work in Taipei. But my children still have someone there, when they come home. Some of my friends’ children in Taipei, they have to hang out in fast food restaurants to wait for their parents. Because there’s the after school program, but after that their parents are still at work, and they have to get dinner for themselves. In primary school, they have some nanny, but after highschool, even though they’re not yet adult, they have to take care of themselves. Because they don’t find nanny for them. So they go to after school program by themselves, and feed themselves by themselves. So I do appreciate the traditional mothers’ role, and the traditional fathers’ role, too.

So you prefer team b? What’s the difference between b and e?

I’m not really supporting team e, because I’m not really think that…I appreciate that they play a role in child raising…spiritual. Although they do have a lot more life experience and see a lot more children than young women. But I don’t know that they do really know what to expect from a child, they may still not know what to do.

So team b is saying that old women—

Are wise!

—have the experience to take care of difficult situations. When something happens, they have more experience to take care of the situation.

But I’m not 100 percent supporting b. For example, my daughter uses her left had. So my mother-in-law wants me to change her to use her right hand and accuse me for not changing it, but I don’t agree with it, and then she goes to my husband.

It’s a conventional conflict.

And sometimes she will always say to the children what they do wrong. But I prefer to tell them what they do right. Because the modern parent cherish what their children do well. But in the past Chinese culture, they will not say what is good, but will correct you. It’s all correction. I’m not saying that correction is not right, but in the past culture its too focused on everyone having to fit in to a mold, and you have to correct everyone to the same mold. We are more western now, and more about respecting individualism. Like the grandmother two wolf story. But our grandmothers were all about correcting children’s behaviors, because of past Chinese culture didn’t respect individualism. So it’s not 100 percent wise.

I want to create team f.

Okay! Cool.

So the answer is yes. I would say the grandmother is important, especially for traditional Chinese society. But I would say the old grandparents have lots of experience to take care of children. But the most important is we want to maintain a Chinese culture characteristic. If I respect my mother this is a kind of education sample for my children. It’s a culture, we need to set up a sample for our children to learn how to respect your older people or your relatives. It’s very important but my reason to create the team f, I don’t completely agree the old women is totally their responsibility. The parent like me or my wife have a responsibility to take care of our children. That is why I want to take the team f. The answer is yes, but I have another reason.

Can you state it in one sentence?

The grandmother is important to help the mother/father to take care of grandkids, and it’s a learning example for the grandkids to learn how to respect older people.

But it only has effect when you live with them?

But just I said, to live together or separate is also another kind of experience.

So what ‘s the difference when you take them every weekend to the nursing home?

I would say if my parents have the ability to take care of themselves, I would say they should live in their house. But if they don’t have the ability, and I can’t, then to transfer them to a care center is a good idea. But I have a responsibility to visit the care center very often.

I’m not criticize you. I’m just say if you have a grandmother, it will have an effect to teach children to respect elder. If you don’t you still can teach them with your daily behavior. But what is the effect of the grandmother on the whole family.

I’m saying it’s like you teach your children to respect other people, but if you practice it, and you respect your mother, your child can learn from your practice.

Right. What I do to my parents my children will do to me. I do agree. I’m just curious about your wording. I think that if you live together, why live together, because it’s daily life, if the children get used to living with older people, without any functions, but you will have to bear it in your house, and you still have tot take care of them, this will really teach your children how to take care of those who used to be active. My friend said that when his children were taking care of by his parents, and when he grew up, and choose the school, and he was worried if he was too far away, he worried about his grandparents, because his parents often go abroad on business trip, and he was worried about that the grandparents had no one to care for them. I think this is really good, so the children start to think about others—they didn’t worry about the parents, they can take care of them selves, but they worry about the grandparents! It’s a way that they know they belong to the family. Their responsibility. Because they were fed by them, and then they want to take care of them.

You mention it’s related to different styles of grandmother or grandfather. In our generation, or the kids, they are the traditional style. But maybe our grandkids will face to another style. Like when I’m a grandfather, I will say I won’t be a traditional grandfather. Maybe it’s a different style, so in current Taiwan society, most grandmothers and grandfathers are traditional style but it will change. So if you are grandmother what, do you want to take care your grand kids?

No.

[Laugher]

But you would like to influence them?

Not necessarily. I think that if you are more independent, you not necessarily need to live with your children. But I know that my parents in law are not independent, but I can accept it because they need it. They need to live with you to prove that they are worthy of love, so it’s fine.

So let me re-ask this question. In 30 years, you are a grandmother, do you want to live with your children?

If I need, I hope they will welcome me. But it depends on my choice, you know?
That means that, if I want, I hope they will welcome me. But if I don’t want, it’s my decision. If I do need them, and they refuse to do so, I’ll be sad. But it will depend on what I feel that time.
Because I don’t want my grand daughter in law—normally you will like your grandchildren, but you may not like their spouse!

Hey, I want everyone to answer that question, that is interesting.

I prefer not. I think I can live happily with myself, and maybe with my wife. I have many hobbies, many dreams, many books to read, there’s so much to explore.

But you have to economic independence!

Yes, I’m going to say that! I’m getting to that.

So in Chinese old saying, before you had to save money to keep when you are old, but now you have to save money to protect the children.

But my answer is the same to Robert. My son tells me, when he grows up, he doesn’t want to live with us. And my daughter say she want to live with us.

Normally daughters prefer to live with their parents.

Not every daughter!

[Laughter]

So that’s why I say, I want them to have their own life, and my wife and I will have our own life. We could live together part of the time, but not every day.

But take my mother’s example she didn’t want to live with my brother, but when he bought a new house, she came to see it, and asked, hey? If I was here, where would I live?

So she wanted to know that she could!

Yes.

And my sister in law said, oh, there is not room for you!

Oh shit!

It was stupid, right? There’s room for the children, and a room for the books, but no room for her. So she’s stupid, she still should welcome her. But if this were you, what will you feel, can you accept it?

This kind of violates Chinese thinking, you need to express your welcome, but we have a problem in taiwan, no one has any room!

But I think that young people don’t really think about it. My colleague said the reason she doesn’t want to marry, she doesn’t want, when she comes home, she doesn’t want to find fruit in the fridge! Meaning, she doesn't want to find that the mother-in-law is there with out her permission. Right now, she is only a girlfriend, and the mother-in-law already makes her too involved in the family. But it’s quite strange, that I think it’s fine, because I’m too busy. So if there’s fruit, it’s fine, because I don’t have time, and you want to cook, it’s great! So now for the young people, it’s—

But maybe it’s because you're too busy. If you were less busy you’d have problems with your mother-in-law.

Well, it’s ‘cuz I’m lazy, I don’t mind people taking care of me.

But this is maybe another problem. When we get older, we have to think about what the younger people are thinking. We have to think about their thinking logic, and respect them for that.

I’ll ask in in another way. Do you like the family style in America? Because I think that in 30 years, we’ll be like the culture in America. So our future will be a lot different from our past. So when you look at the US family style, it’s our future. When you say Chinese culture, I think in 30 years, it won’t really be like that. 5 years generation gap, 10 years is really very obvious. But so 30 years, will really be different. So do you think this is good?

It’s not really about good or bad. I agree it will be happen in 20 or 30 years, but the only thing we can do is maintain their relationship with our children, to establish the cause relationship with them. It’s the only thing we can do. We can’t refuse to accept that situation. Think about my example, my son said he wants to …if he has the ability to travel around the world, he doesn’t want to live in Taiwan or Hsinchu. Now he doesn’t even want to be here, he wants to live in Taipei, and he wants to leave and go.

You’re in my parents’ position!

But when my son talks to me, I just encourage him to fulfill his dream. So I tell him how he needs to prepare. You need to earn money, you need to read books, and you need to know things. It’s not easy.

Actually, that’s not true. I just had a plane ticket and 600 dollars US, but I was okay.

But I think balance is best. Too traditional or too modern is not good. But since our society developed, I think our children will develop individualism, so we decided to teach them more Chinese style at home. And also individually. I was educated in Chinese style, but we are trained by society modern individualism so it’s quite balance.

I want to know what Jason thinks.

In 30 years, it depends how my children are thinking. Just like Vina, you need them to take care your children right?

Actually, she said they need her!

My children are actually taken care of by my mother. You know, my parents in law feel like their son has become a lu zue! [= the son is the ‘wife’ in the family, without the prestige of being the main hereditary line]

[laughter]

So, if they need, they can live with me, but in my style, I have my own house, and I live near with my parents, so my parents can see me, if they want, everyday, and they can see their grandson and granddaughter every day if they want. They are all retired now, so usually they go abroad for traveling. When I need them to take care my children, they are happy to take care. So I think it’s the best way for me.

But if your children want to go to foreign country?

That’s okay, it’s their life, I respect their decision.

So it seems their current status you live with your parents is the best model.

We don’t live under the same roof, but very near.

The same building?

Not the same. About 20 minutes drive apart. It’s the perfect model for me.

So you want your children adopt your mode.

Well, for me it’s a good style, because I love my parents.

Do you have children?

Yes,

How old are they?

7 and 5

And who takes care of them?

My wife.

Same as me, my elder is 7 and my second is 5.

And your wife doesn’t work.

Yes, she quit after the second one. She was a teacher before.

Just like me, my wife and I decide that one need to quit a job, and so we discuss, that I need to work! So she quit.

So that’s why you don’t need to live with the grandmother, because all your wife live with your children but I can’t, I need her.

You know, my wife’s salary was higher than me.

Then why didn’t you quit!

Because she said she wanted to take care of HER children. She wanted the experience of it, she thought that it was worth it.

You know, I wondered why always the women quit their job. But in fact, when you actually have the children, you know that the responsibility is on you, because these 10 months, it was already all on you. So you’re already used to have the responsibility. So the woman will decide to sacrifice.

It’s not a sacrifice, it’s a kind of trade off.

As Robert’s case, he is a house husband.

Well not really, you’re the main income bringer, right?

Well partial. But I have the greatest housewife!

For me, that’s why I’m not gonna have children.

For me, I’m a businesswoman, so it’s fine. But if I were a housewife, I can’t imagine what will happen. Because two housewife in the house, that would be terrible, who’s in charge?

That’s why my wife, my mother encourage me to move out.

[Laughter.]

It’s my house or your house! I come to your house, I follow your rules.

One house is owned by one woman!

[agreement and laugher]

So what team do you choose?

Team b and e. It mentioned that old women play an important role. I’d say they could, but not necessarily. But we should value the wisdom that old women bear. Actually for all old people.

I think all people would choose b and e in Taiwan. They would say so, they wouldn’t necessarily show in their behavior, but they think it. Because we are taught.

So who would say a?

I think they would think it, but they wouldn’t say it.

I think that some of my girlfriends would say a, but not in public.

so how about you, A?

ha, no I’ll take c.

trust me, it’s not what you think—that’s a moderator job.

so what are you?

She’s b!

So I’ll choose b,

So how about you!

Oh, uh, I’m typing, I’m not sure.

So what does it mean ‘strongly influence the quality of people’?

It’s like, people raised well are wealthy of spirit, interiorly.

So it’s an economic quality or spiritual quality, its contrasted.

What do you mean? Contrasted, that’s interesting.

Knowledgeable.

You can be rich and stupid, or you can be rich and wise, or poor and wise, or poor and stupid, the point is you can be wealthy in money or wealthy in spirit, they’re not related.

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