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Feeling grateful, part of me is feeling lonely too

This is not Judy (Photo from Internet)

Interviewed by Caixiu Zhou

My name is Judy, from Brighton, England and now living in Kunming. I have been in China for nine years, teaching as a kindergarten teacher. My husband and I got married a few years ago and we have a little daughter who’s now two years old. I’m taking some time out of work to study and also spend some time with my daughter while she’s so young.

Answered by Judy

Can you share one of the most important events in your life?

Judy: Having my daughter was definitely an important moment. I think it so empowering to give birth actually because I was not so sure if I was able to and because of the complications with the birth. But it will always be a memory. And of course marrying my husband is important too.


Could you tell us a little bit more about the birth and complications?

Judy: At the beginning I was likely to have a C section which I didn’t feel comfortable with it personally because I had in my mind a vision that I would give birth naturally. But when it came to it, I was actually able to embrace it. There was a lot of blood loss afterwards, which is fine because they were able to fix it up. I just stayed in the hospital a bit longer. Most importantly she is healthy. My husband was scared and shocked.


Was your husband with you at that moment or was he waiting outside?

Judy: He was with me. In China, hospitals don’t allow the husbands to be in the room, but we asked, and the hospital approved. I could see from his eyes that he was panicked. But the doctors were amazing, and they helped me so much. I think my husband was just overwhelmed when they gave him the baby. He even said that the whole experience was so weird. For a mom, I think you can prepare to have a baby more than a man. It’s hard for a dad at the beginning. We have a different connection (with the baby). 


How do you feel when you became a mother?

Judy: Obviously excited and happy but honestly, I think I am very overwhelmed. I don’t think anything can prepare you to be a mom, even If people tell you that you get no sleep and feeding issues. Everyone’s journey is so different, and the struggle is really real. People don’t think about it enough at the beginning. At the same time, I am feeling grateful and part of me is feeling lonely too.

Photo from internet.


What does it mean to you to be a mom? 

Judy: That changes every day. As a mom you can never switch off. Even though now my daughter’s two, 90% I am being a mom. I need to work on striking a balance. Even when you are not with your child, you have got to think about all the things that maybe your child would need and also you may be doing things for your child when they are not with you. I think that will change when they get older like four or five years old when they go to kindergarten. But for now our children are so young and rely on us. You are still yourself, but your social life and things like that all change because you have a child to carry. 


What is the biggest difference in your life before and after giving birth?

Judy: one of the biggest things is freedom and being spontaneous. Before having a child, you can go for dinner tonight with your husband and a holiday at the last minute. But now you have to think and plan a bit more like where you are going to go because you can’t bring a baby to do a facial or do your nails. You always have someone with you. 


What impact does your baby have in your life and work?


Judy: I worry a lot more about the future, like stability and where we will be going to live. We are living in China, but this is not our home forever. Also, schooling is so important to me, like how we can provide the best education for her as well as be present parents to be there for her when she needs us. Also, there are other worries such as climate change, about what the environment will look like for the children in the future, something quite important to me in terms of health and eating and how we can better this world for our children.

Photo from internet.


About stability: 


Stability is important to me because my parents got divorced when I was eleven. My life since then felt unstable. I was changing schools and moving countries a lot. Because of that, it’s important for me to make sure that my daughter has stability. But right now, because she is so young, it’s ok for us to try and be more adventurous now. When she gets older, I want her to feel that everything is stable like schools are not changing and mom and dad are happy. 



About guilt:

There is also a bit of guilt that we live here (in Kunming) , that we choose to live away from our parents. But at the same time, I think living in China is giving the children a great opportunity as well. It’s good here for children to learn another language. So, they are also benefiting from living abroad. 


The greatness and challenge about being a mom:


The greatness is you have unconditional love for a human being you created. I feel lucky because a lot of my friends cannot have babies. I felt grateful that we are lucky enough to have a healthy daughter.


The challenge is for my daughter. She just turned two and challenges like the tantrum, not wanting to sleep, fighting, are keeping up with her because she is changing so much, and I have to learn with her. 


It’s strange because I think mom naturally change as well. When they go through these phases it’s hard to understand at that time, but we get used to it. They grow up so fast and we forget about it.


Work-life Balance:

Trying to find a balance between career and family is the hardest thing for me. I gave up working when she was one, but I found it a struggle to work. I felt really guilty when I was working because I wasn’t spending time with her. Sometimes it’s important to you to have something for you. If work is what makes you happy, then you can have part of that. it is also important that children see what makes their mom and dad happy. Children learn these important things in life through their parents. So it is important that we have something for ourselves. Now my daughter goes to school three days a week and I look after her the rest of the week because I feel like this is the good balance for her to have her freedom but also, I feel ok being able to look after her. This is a good time for us to work out what’s the best balance for us.

Photo from internet.


The difference between fatherhood and motherhood:

I think we just have different roles. Daddy is the fun daddy who comes back to work and play with babies. I personally am more serious because I have to make sure she eats health meals and hits her milestones, do a lot of readings and exercise. Her connection with me is longer because I spend more time with her.


Fatherhood and motherhood together work well. It’s interesting to see in the future who they talk to more, about feelings and personal things. Who will my daughter talk to about her future boyfriend, me or my husband? I hope she will see me as a friend. 


What makes you happy and worry?


I always love the little gesture. Seeing my daughter laugh and smile, and my husband joking makes me happy. Exercise is also important to me because it makes my mood better. I feel more positive after doing yoga or going for a long walk, being under the sun. And healthy eating has a big impact on my mood as well. In terms of worries, it is personally just ensuring I’m going to be good enough for my daughter to make sure she has the best version of a mommy. I Just don’t know how to always be the best for her. When children turn 16 or emotion, I hope I know what to say. We have to learn.


My husband and I were talking the other day about what we are going to do when she comes home one day and says she has a boyfriend. My husband may become very shocked when she goes out. We have a long way to learn, so we’ll be fine. 


Chinese education vs. Western education:

That’s very hard. Culturally we are different in Europe from China. In Chinese culture, you have to finish school, you must go to a university, you have to get married and have a baby straight after that. In Europe we are able to have a bit more freedom about what we choose in life. If you don’t want to get married, then it’s your choice. I know that here the parents mean well and they want to protect their children. But children need to learn themselves. Education is important learning about sex education. It’s needed in China.



In any relationship, you have to be vulnerable for it to work. You have to  show that you are vulnerable to your partner. When we have disagreement, he can see that I am vulnerable but that’s part of the relationship as well. I also feel a bit powerless living in china right now when we are not able to go home because my daughter hasn’t seen her grandparents. 


The biggest challenge for moms in your community:

Being an expat here, I would say it’s cultural differences. I didn’t really notice it so much before having our baby. I realize we do differently in a lot of things, like zuoyuezi (note: a postpartum period when Chinese mothers rest at home). I couldn't really understand that. In that period, you are supposed to stay at home, wear socks, and you are not allowed to wash your hair. I can see the benefit of the Chinese needing to do these. I personally could not do it. I can’t stay in the house for more than one day. Even after my daughter was born, I was wearing flip flop. 

I remember a grandma coming to me and saying, you can’t do this. And I wanted to take a shower in the hospital, but I couldn't. I think the older generation judges more than the younger. here is another story that, when we took our daughter back home, we went for a walk and she was in her buggy, a grandma came to us and asked how old she is. I replied 4 days old, and they could not believe it. The next day everyone knew about this foreign baby, and they gossiped and said this new baby can't go outside. And also you are not supposed to keep pets when you have a baby. Some people couldn't understand why we have three dogs still.

Final advice:

As a mom, we prepare a lot about how to give birth, like first aid class in the beginning. But there aren’t many classes about how to be a good mother, not just about breastfeeding or changing, but how emotionally and how important to be present in your children’s life, and how to be a better mother. You can read a lot of books about this, but having a group of moms talk about this is one of the best things that could help parents, like checking in, giving a little gesture, or popping around with a cup of tea to talk.


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