My husband often remarks that I am a good wife, which is a lovely, yet at times baffling, compliment. You see, he tends to give it after I’ve done something which I consider to be a simple, common duty around the house. It’s made me wonder why he thinks this way.
The conclusion I have come to is that (and I say this in the most humble way possible), I am more awesome than a Chinese wife.
That’s right, I said it. Now I know, people will write and say, “Oh, my wife is Chinese and she is really good and blah blah blah,” and it’s true – your wife is good. I’m making a sweeping generalization for effect here, people. There are plenty of lovely wives out there of all nationalities. What I’m saying is that there are several Chinese wives who could use some improvement (wink wink!).
But it’s not their fault! Trust me. They are only doing what they know, so how can they be expected to be as awesome as me when they don’t know how? Here’s what I mean.
As children, Chinese boys and girls have one job and one job only in their house – study. The education system here is rigorous and the competition for the best schools is unbelievably high. Children here not only attend the state-run schools, but also extra classes to help boost their scores in key areas such as English and Math. They head to school around 7:30 in the morning (and these are the lucky ones who are not boarded at their schools) and it is not uncommon for me to see students heading home as late at 9 or 10 o’clock at night. Most students have at least some sort of lesson each day of the week. Even the smallest primary school students carry backpacks laden with books and homework. At the end of high school, students write a nation-wide, standardized exam known as the gao kao. Their score on this exam, and this exam only, determines which universities, if any, they may apply to (that’s right, not “attend” but simply “apply to” – they still have to wait to find out if they will be accepted by any). It’s a lot of pressure. It’s tough to be a student here.
Me, on the other hand, I went to school from 8:40 to 3:15, Monday to Friday. I had some homework each night, but not hours and hours of it. I had final exams, but not the kind my entire future rode on.
As you can imagine, all these classes and all this studying and homework leaves little time for much else. Organized sports teams or other extra-curricular activities don’t exist in my city, to the best of my knowledge. When I bring up the topics of chores or an allowance with my husband or in my classes, I am often met with blank looks. And a high school student with a part-time job? Don’t even dream of it.
And me? I took figure skating lessons, was in 4H for a year, tried a year of curling, played on my school’s volleyball team, took part in the drama productions and ran track and field (I will admit that I attended a very small school – we didn’t have tryouts for anything!). I didn’t have a job, but I helped out my parents on the farm, especially during seeding and harvest time.
Once children have run this gauntlet of education and have, hopefully, been accepted into university, they have slightly more free time (I’ve heard that many consider the studies in university to be much easier than those in high school). They finally have some time to be themselves, although because they have been too busy studying for the previous decade or so, they must figure out who that is. I also believe that for many, as sad as it sounds, this is finally a time when they can have a childhood, which is why I see so many young 20-something girls playing with stuffed animals and acting like 12 year olds.
This is an all-too-short period in life, however, because once a young person turns 23 or 24, they are to be married. This belief that a person in their mid to late 20s is becoming undesirable for marriage leads to a huge push from families to marry off their children to the best match, which also leads to many very young newlywed couples.
What about me? I started post-secondary education right after high school and attended for five years, receiving my degrees. My parents never pushed me to get married until I was ready and had found someone suitable (which, I guess, is why I was 30 when I finally married). I moved away from my parent’s house to attend university and, except for brief stints during summers, I haven’t lived there since. I’ve traveled a bit and lived on my own. I’ve had to do my own grocery shopping, arrange my own car insurance, and have worked several different jobs. And I haven’t had a stuffed animal for at least a decade and a half.
Now remember, these young people may never have been asked to help around the house growing up. They may likely have lived at home with their parents throughout university too. And now, suddenly, they are married and have to take on the role of a wife (or husband). What experience do they have to draw on? None.
Is it any wonder, then, that many young couples live with one set of parents after they are married? It is nearly a necessity, since neither of them might have any idea how to take care of a household (I personally know several girls in their mid-20s who cannot cook at all and have never had to. I also know of at least one couple where the wife’s mother controls their money – she takes both their monthly salaries and doles out money to each of them for their costs).
Considering all this, now I have some idea of why my husband seems so surprised when I complete mundane tasks around the house. What are some of these tasks I do that are simply astonishing to him, you ask?
Cooking dinner, baking a cake, washing the dishes without being asked, sweeping and mopping the floor, using a wrench to change the head in our shower, and most recently, buying and changing a burnt out light bulb.
Yeah, I’m awesome!