Saturday, December 26, 2020

My Experience With Maternity Leave In China

A pregnant woman sitting at a desk. Image source.

I recently got pregnant and had a baby in China, while also working a full-time job. Everything went really well with maternity leave and with the company giving me support during the pregnancy. China's policies about this are very good. 

Here's a summary of how it went for me:

When I started my job

When I started this job, the HR set up my salary so that every month some money is taken out for the Chinese social insurance (社保). This is how the system works for all Chinese employees, and I think international employees are also supposed to, but other companies I've worked at in the past haven't taken money out. The rules are unclear to me.

Anyway, the government uses this social insurance money to pay for maternity leave, disability, unemployment, health care, and retirement. And because I am paying into the system, I am entitled to the maternity leave benefits. So I'm glad about that.

First trimester of pregnancy

So I got the positive pregnancy test, and then a week or so later my manager wanted me to go on a business trip. And I felt fine, no morning sickness, no problems caused by the pregnancy, so I agreed to go.

So I went on the business trip, and it was fine, until the last day I suddenly started feeling nauseous. That turned out to be morning sickness. Then when I got home, the endless parade of throwing up came into full swing. :/

A few days later, I told my manager I was pregnant. He turned out to be very nice and helpful, and helped me cobble together a schedule of sick days, vacation days, and working from home, so I could get through the first trimester. (Company policy says we can only work from home 4 days each month, but my manager and his manager both said it doesn't matter, I can work from home.)

Also, he didn't ask me to go on any business trips throughout the whole rest of the pregnancy. So that was nice.

(And according to Chinese law, it is illegal to fire a pregnant woman.)

Third trimester of pregnancy

HR told me that starting from the 28th week of the pregnancy, I am only required to work 7 hours each day instead of 8. Apparently this is a law in China. So I started only working 7 hours, and really liked that. :)

Starting maternity leave

In China, women get 98 days of maternity leave when they have a baby. If you're in Shanghai, you get an additional 30 days- and other cities will have their own policies of how many additional days you get. If you have a C-section, you get an additional 15 days. (Also you get a certain amount of paid leave for an abortion or miscarriage, but I don't know how much it is.)

I heard that typically, people start their maternity leave maybe 2 weeks before the due date. And if you get a doctor's note, that can count as sick leave, so you're not actually using up your maternity leave days. (But the sick leave is paid at something like 80% of your normal salary- not 100% like regular sick leave.)

HR told me to just submit my plan for maternity leave whenever. I told the HR manager that I want to start 2 weeks before my due date, and what general date I would like to come back, and she made a plan for me for how to arrange vacation days and sick days at the beginning and end of the maternity leave days in order to maximize the total amount of time. (Because the maternity leave is counted as consecutive days which include weekends, but vacation days are just work days, so you can do some playing around with weekends and stuff to get a slightly longer amount of time off.) That was super helpful.

Getting paid during maternity leave

So for some reason I forgot that in China, everything is a pile of bureaucracy and paperwork that's way more complicated than it should be.

Maternity leave is paid at 100% of your salary. (There is some math about what part the company pays and what part the government pays, and if your salary is lower than the average salary then I think you get paid the average salary instead. I'm not really clear about all the details.)

Anyway, to get paid, I had to go down to the social insurance office with a bunch of paperwork, and then they didn't have a clue about how to handle it because I'm not Chinese, and the people working at that office had never done this for an international mom before. So then I had to go to the local HQ social insurance office, and then the managers or whoever had to discuss if it was valid that I had a passport instead of a Chinese ID card, and blah blah blah. Eventually I got the money; they sent it as a bank transfer about 1 or 2 weeks after I submitted the paperwork.

One of the things that was required in order to get the money was my marriage license. Which brings up the question, what about women who aren't married and have a baby? Do they get paid maternity leave, or not? I have heard from some other moms in this situation, talking about how there were additional hoops to jump through, like they had to get some official paper that said they live together with their baby's father. But ... well like what if you don't live with the baby's father? This is really not cool that it works like this.

Coming back to work

Coming back to work was fine. Everyone was happy to see me- they were all like "welcome back!" and "how is your baby?" Oh but then the first day I was only able to work a half day because my baby didn't want to drink his bottle so I had to rush home and feed him. But we solved that problem within a few days, and then things were fine.

Pumping breast milk

According to Chinese law, moms with a child under 1 year old get an extra 1-hour break every day, for pumping milk. (It doesn't matter if you're actually breastfeeding or not. You can use the break for whatever.) At some companies, you can just come to work an hour later, or leave an hour earlier, and at some companies you take more breaks during the day. So basically, from the third trimester of pregnancy until the baby's first birthday, you only have to work 7 hours a day.

At the office where I work, breastfeeding moms use the storage room for pumping. There's a table and two chairs in there, in addition to, like, a ton of boxes full of our company's important documents. I feel like it's not exactly ideal, but whatever, it works fine.

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So everything has gone extremely well for me. I'm really glad my manager and the HR at work have been so flexible and helpful. HR informed me about the fact that I'd only have to work 7 hours/day in the third trimester and helped me make a plan for when to take maternity leave. And my manager has been so nice, always telling me he understands if I need to take extra time off, and how I have to balance work with taking care of my baby. (I told him I totally intend to keep doing my job like a normal employee.) 

This is the law in China. It's extremely supportive towards pregnant women, and I'm happy about that.

But there are always companies trying to get away with not following the law. I heard stories from other pregnant women about how their HR is claiming that the company doesn't need to do this or that, claiming that international workers don't have rights, etc. If you're working in China and you're pregnant, know your rights. For me, everything has gone very well though.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Blogaround

1. The 1611 Project (posted December 3) "There’s been a great deal written about how the presence of those Bibles shaped those English-speaking Christians’ attitudes toward slavery, but far less about how the practice of enslaving others shaped the way those English-speaking Christians taught themselves to read, study, and interpret those Bibles."

2. So I have some things to say about China. First of all, these links:
The Wuhan files: Leaked documents reveal China's mishandling of the early stages of Covid-19 (posted November 30) 
No ‘Negative’ News: How China Censored the Coronavirus (posted December 19)

I am in China, and I have written on this blog about how I believe China has done a good job controlling the pandemic. Way way better than the US, pfft, no question, it's not even close. We are basically "back to normal" here- we go out, we do stuff, we don't social-distance- but we wear masks and people don't travel as much.

This has changed me, politically. I now see that it's SO NOT TRUE that the US is "the greatest country in the world" or whatever. I am safe from COVID in China. I would not be safe from COVID if I was in the US.

Okay, but look, here are 2 articles about the Chinese government mishandling the pandemic. About news being censored and numbers underreported. And yes, that absolutely should be brought to light. There's no excuse for it. It's very much not okay that China did that.

Let's bring it to light, and let's do the US next.

3. 7 awe-inspiring photos show Jupiter and Saturn as 'double planet' in Great Conjunction (posted December 23)

Saturday, December 19, 2020

If We Literally Stopped Spending Billions on Christmas... Well Basically That's What COVID Lockdowns Are

A piggy bank and Christmas decorations. Image source.

I want to address a particular line of reasoning I've heard charities use in their appeals for donations. I guess I should mention, as a disclaimer, that most charity advertising isn't like this. But this argument has always stuck out to me as being all wrong from a math/economics perspective, and now that we are actually experiencing the economic effects of COVID-19, we see real-world proof that yep, those charities were indeed wrong about the math. All right, here it is:

"Americans spend x millions of dollars on Christmas. It would cost y millions of dollars to provide clean water to everyone in the world. Let's stop focusing so much on consumerism, and help the world instead."

I've heard a lot of messages along these lines- mostly in church, but also from charities. (Here is one example.) How we spend so much money on all these things that aren't really important, but what if we redirected that money to poor people in other countries.

And I always thought, but, if people really did that- if Americans just cold-turkey stopped buying Christmas gifts and donated all the money to charities working in other countries, WOWWWW there would be huge effects on the US economy and it would NOT be good.

And then COVID happened. And we see the real-world effects of shutting down everything that's not "essential."

Isn't that what those charities were telling us to do- for years and years before COVID became a thing- with their "we spend x million dollars on Christmas" messages? They wanted us to stop spending money on things we don't really "need", and donate it instead. As if the math would work thusly: You get fewer Christmas presents, but nothing else is affected, and then a village in Africa gets clean water.

No- the COVID shutdowns show us that the math does NOT work like that. If people stop spending on "non-essential" things, that DOES NOT mean suddenly everyone has a ton of extra money to donate to charity. Instead, it means millions of people who work for "non-essential" businesses lose their jobs. It's really not good.

What if we phrased it not as "Americans spend $x billion on Christmas" but "$x billion of Americans' salaries comes from Christmas-related consumer spending"?

Maybe you'll say I'm being too literal. When a charity makes a video that says "we spend x billion dollars on this and that, imagine how much good we could do if we donated that money instead", they know that there is NO CHANCE that people are really going to go from "x billion" to zero and then donate "x billion" to their charity. They know that that will NEVER EVER HAPPEN, and that's not their goal- their goal is for people to donate a nice amount that's not too terribly different than the charity's normal budget. And indeed, if people donated "a nice amount" rather than "x billion", then there would not be much effect on the US economy. And the charity could do some good.

So all of this makes me wonder about systems and large-scale economies and how to really make a difference. 

People throw around numbers like "it would cost $x million to end world hunger"- there's actually a twitter account called Has Jeff Bezos Decided To End World Hunger? which says "Jeff Bezos has a net worth of $200bn. The IFPRI says it would cost $11bn to end world hunger per year. So, has Jeff Bezos decided to end world hunger today?" I think this is ridiculous. It doesn't work that way. I don't know where this $11 billion estimate comes from, but it definitely does NOT mean there's a store with a product called "end world hunger" which has a price tag of $11 billion, and Jeff Bezos can walk in there, stick it in his shopping cart, and swipe his credit card, and problem solved. You need more than just money- you need political leaders to negotiate and agree on a plan, and you need time to hire people and put the plan into action. There are systemic issues that are extremely difficult to change- maybe even impossible.

And also, Bezos doesn't have billions of dollars in a regular old savings account- it's invested in stuff, and if he decided to just cash out those investments, it would have a huge negative effect on the businesses he invested in.

Maybe I'm being too literal. Maybe everyone knows it's not literally possible to end world hunger by just having $11 billion. Maybe the point is that Bezos should at least donate a bit more, not necessarily that he should donate billions RIGHT NOW.

So I have questions about systems and economies. But I VERY MUCH believe this is NOT a zero-sum game. It is definitely NOT TRUE that if I give money to charity, the employees of the "non-essential' company where I would have spent that money suffer an equal amount to the benefit that the charity's recipients gained. No, definitely definitely not a zero-sum game.

But it bothers me that charities talk about millions and billions of dollars- if we literally did donate that much, tons of retail workers would lose their jobs. These aren't just numbers not connected to anything- when you spend money on Christmas gifts, that's not "wasted"- it pays someone's salary.

It's NOT a zero-sum game. Don't take this to mean "well there's no point in donating money, because American businesses will then suffer." But if we're talking about the big picture, it's much more complicated than "let's stop spending billions on A and spend it on B instead."

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Related:

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Blogaround

1. World’s first 100% complete T-rex skeleton found locked in battle with a Triceratops (posted November 20) Wow this is incredible.

2. Wow I feel this (though yeah, I'm extremely privileged compared to other immigrants):

3. Watch penguins take over an NFL field (posted November 24) Adorable!

Thursday, December 10, 2020

So I Got the Epidural

A pregnant woman in a labor and delivery room, with her male partner and 2 nurses. Image source.
During my pregnancy, I read a lot about what happens during labor and childbirth. Hendrix and I went to labor and delivery classes. And I learned about getting an epidural, which sounded really super scary and unpleasant.

An epidural is a procedure where anesthesia is injected into the space around the spinal column in the lower back. This way, you don't feel pain in the entire lower half of your body, but you're still awake and present. It's extremely common that people have an epidural while they are in labor and giving birth.

And I really didn't want it. I don't like needles, I don't like medical procedures and drugs in general because I don't know how they'll affect my body, and I feel like I'm not in control. The uncertainty is really scary. Plus it's a huge needle. (Yes, they first give a local anesthetic so you don't feel the huge needle, but still. It's a huge needle.)

So during the prenatal appointments, I told the gynecologist (let's call him Dr. A) that I don't want an epidural, but we'll see how it goes and maybe I'll change my mind later. I felt like, if I don't need it, then I'd rather not have it. Just because everyone else gets one doesn't mean I should too.

I told him "I don't want the epidural, but I might change my mind" and asked at what point I would need to make the decision. Dr. A said there's always an anesthesiologist on duty, so I could totally decide whenever I want. No rush.

So anyway, fast forward to when I'm in labor and the contractions are coming 3 minutes apart, and I'm at home trying to eat lunch, and I have to keep stopping to just moan and scream and endure the pain every time a contraction comes. And I start thinking to myself, all right let's go get that epidural.

We got to the hospital and went to the labor and delivery room, and I still told them I don't want an epidural, not yet anyway, haven't decided yet. But wow. Every contraction just hurt so bad.

I felt like, wow, I'm already tired of this whole thing, and I'm not even close to being done. If I keep going on like this, in so much pain, for hours, I won't be able to focus when it comes time to push the baby out.

So I decided, well I'll just talk to the anesthesiologist and tell them my concerns about the epidural, and then make a decision.

So the anesthesiologist came (let's call him Dr. B) and he was very nice. I told him I haven't decided yet if I want the epidural, because it's a big needle, and I don't like needles, and what if it doesn't work, and all that. And he did a great job answering my questions.

I told him on the 1 to 10 pain scale, I'm already at a 10. He said after the epidural it would go down to a 1.

So yeah I decided to do it.

The process of setting it up and putting the needle and flexible tube in was scary. I didn't like it. Weird sensations, feeling pressure from the fluid going into my back, feeling really shaky, feeling all numb in my legs... But then the next contraction came and I didn't even notice it at all. There was no more pain. And after maybe 15 minutes or so all the weird sensations stopped and I felt fine- just really numb in my legs.

And after that, I just had to lay there and the contractions didn't bother me, and everything went well. Getting the epidural was definitely a good decision.

I felt a little weird about it, just because I had told Dr. A several times at the prenatal appointments that I didn't want the epidural. What if people laughed at me, what if people thought I was silly for saying so strongly that I didn't want it and then changing my mind later? What if it was like "see, you don't know what's best for yourself, you should have just gone along with what other people said you're supposed to do, you're not able to make your own decisions"?

But no. No, I still think I was right to initially say I didn't want the epidural. It was a GOOD decision to wait til I was actually in labor so I could understand how bad the pain was and weigh that against the unpleasantness of needles and medical procedures.

And I'm really happy with how the hospital handled it- not pressuring me, answering all my questions, reassuring me that it was my decision. (This is an expensive international hospital in Shanghai, by the way.)

I don't want my reason for getting an epidural to be "over 90% of people at this hospital do, so this is what you are supposed to do." I want it to be something I actually decide for myself. And having never been in labor before this, I didn't have enough information to make that decision. In order to make sure it would really be my decision instead of something I just got pushed into, I had to clearly tell the doctor that my preference was to NOT do it. Otherwise, people might just assume I'd be getting one, just because everyone else does.

Getting an epidural during labor was the right decision for me. But nobody could have known that beforehand. I was right to initially say I didn't want it but leave open the possibility of changing my mind later.

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Related:

Monday, November 30, 2020

"I'm Thankful That We Live In A Country..."

An employee in a hazmat suit helps a man with something on his phone. (Photo taken in Shanghai.) Image source.

Last week on Thanksgiving, I saw an article shared on WeChat (Chinese social media) that had some quotes from international people living in Shanghai, where they shared what they're thankful for. It was all the usual stuff- family and friends and whatnot- but one stood out to me. One person had written, "I am thankful that we live in a country which took steps to stop the pandemic."

It shocked me because, as an American, I've always heard people saying things like "I'm thankful we live in a country where..." fill-in-the-blank, usually about how we have money and resources and opportunities and freedom and democracy. And the unspoken part is "unlike those poor countries in Africa and Asia." It was mind blowing to me to read "I'm thankful we live in a country..." and it's about China. And the unspoken part is "unlike the US and Europe."

China has indeed controlled the pandemic. Every now and then there's a new case in the news, followed by IMMEDIATE lockdowns and contact-tracing. China doesn't play around. Actually, in Shanghai we never had any local transmission at all, until mid-November when, over a period of a few weeks, there were 7 locally-transmitted covid cases, all related to workers who handle imported goods at Pudong International Airport. 7 cases- and everyone in Shanghai is talking about it. HR at work sent out an email with the guidelines about what you should do if you live in the areas that were locked down or designated as medium-risk. I heard of some events in Shanghai being cancelled. People are reminding each other to keep wearing masks and using hand sanitizer- because in all these months of no local transmissions in Shanghai, we've kind of all gotten lazy about that.

All of this over 7 covid cases. 

(Oh, and if you see anything on social media that says "all of Pudong is locked down" or "they're testing everyone in Pudong", that's NOT TRUE. Pudong is a huge district in Shanghai. I live in Pudong and I was not affected by any lockdowns or required to be tested. It's only a few apartment complexes way out near the airport that are locked down. But yeah, all kinds of false rumors spread on social media.)

(Please note that Shanghai also has had lots of imported covid cases. "Imported" means people who travelled here from other countries. Everyone who enters China has to get tested and also do a 2-week quarantine- so the idea is, you catch all the imported cases before they go on to infect anyone else. Please note that this is a REAL quarantine. This is a you-cannot-open-the-door quarantine. Apparently in the US, travel-related "quarantine" is more like "well, we hope you don't really go out much for 2 weeks, ya know, if you can" and then no one actually checks. ...?)

But yeah, here in Shanghai we've been basically "back to normal" for months. We go out and do stuff. I go to work- in the office, not working from home. We wear masks and don't travel, but besides that, we're pretty much normal. (Oh, actually my husband has travelled to a bunch of Chinese cities for business trips. So yeah, people do travel.)

So. I am lucky to be in China- rather than the US- during this pandemic. And wow, mind-blowing to see an "I'm thankful to live in a country where..." that's an example of how China is BETTER than the US, rather than the other way around.

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Related:

Homesick 

Well *now* I'm glad I stayed in China

Sunday, November 29, 2020

A reminder to donate your COVID stimulus check

A chart showing "Weekly initial unemployment claims in 2020." Huge spike around March/April. Image source.

On May 20, I published a post called If You Haven't Been Financially Affected By COVID-19, Donate Your Entire Check. Perhaps you read it and thought, "ah, I haven't been financially affected, but I don't know if I want to donate my whole check... like what if things get worse and then I am financially affected?"

Sure, that's fine. It's good to have money saved for emergencies, and the question of "how do you balance 'saving money for your own hypothetical potential emergencies' with 'donating to strangers who are literally having actual emergencies right now'?" can shake out differently for everyone.

Now it's 6 months later. So, in these 6 months, have you in fact had any COVID-19-related financial troubles? If not, then it's time to go ahead and donate that money.

#ShareMyCheck has some good links for where you can donate to help people with their COVID-19 problems. Feel free to leave a comment on this blog post with other ideas of where to donate.

And ... okay time to get political. I'm not in the US, so maybe I'm not seeing the whole picture correctly, but it seems to me that this is what happened: Before the pandemic, society was humming along, enjoying the entertainment and travel industries. People were happy that those industries existed, and felt it was well worth spending the money for the fun experiences that they provided. Then all the lockdowns happened, and it's not safe to go out and do anything non-essential. So for a lot of businesses whose entire existence depends on people going out and doing non-essential things, their income stream was just completely gone- and society just let that happen. They're on their own, and the people who were laid off as a result are also on their own. A lot of us didn't lose our jobs, and we're able to work from home, and so that's what we're doing, continuing to bring in paychecks, no financial problems at all, and meanwhile the people who had the bad luck of working in an industry that depends on people gathering in non-essential large groups are just screwed. And we just let that happen.

Don't we want there to be a travel industry, even though we can't use it this year? Don't we appreciate the people who made all our fun vacations happen in the past? Don't we want restaurants to continue to exist, even though it's not safe to visit them right now?

It's like a tornado, plowing through and demolishing entire industries, while the rest of us just happened to be standing in a spot that wasn't hit, and therefore we aren't financially affected at all. And we're just ... fine with that?

Doesn't it seem like, logically, society should come together and pool our resources to help those people who, economically and career-wise, just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? They perform an important role in our society- it's just that we can't make use of them in 2020 because it's not safe to go out anywhere in crowds of people. But why should a small section of society suffer huge financial losses, lose their jobs, lose their homes, while the rest of us just plug along with our work-from-home jobs and our reliable paychecks?

Shouldn't we get together and pay the salaries of people whose job provides a service that's good and useful but not safe to use during a pandemic?

If only there was some kind of high-level governing body that could pool money from people whose jobs weren't affected and give it to those who were. Some kind of tax, perhaps. Ah but that won't happen in the US, because "that would be socialism", or something. So everyone's just on their own- that's the American way.

Anyway, if you weren't financially affected, donate your $1200 check, and actually, donate more than that.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Blogaround

1. Are Straight People OK? How We Can Improve Heterosexuality (posted November 10) "Ward says the solution isn’t to accept the “tragedy” nor defect to queerness, but to actually become more straight—owning that identity and resolving to enact the best version of it."

2. ‘A Call for Unity’ (posted November 18) "That’s the strange thing about this strange interview in which Stanley constantly insists that he is not political. That’s what he tells us. What he shows us, however, is that Andy Stanley is a thoroughly, pervasively political man who just doesn’t understand that that’s what he is."

3. Creationist: God Gave Us a Nasal Bone Because He Knew We’d Wear Glasses One Day (posted November 17) This is bizarre on several different levels. 

First of all, people have only been using glasses for the last several hundred years- the vast majority of human history, nobody wore glasses. And in the future, who knows what kind of technology we'll use. Maybe eyeglasses will only be a thing for one tiny slice of human history. This strikes me as an example of taking one's own culture and experience as a baseline for what's "objective" and "normal" and then interpreting the Bible/ history/ biology/ whatever through that lens. (Accidentally a little too revealing about the biases Answers in Genesis brings when they read the Bible.)

And second, glasses were designed to conveniently rest on one's nose because we have a nose shaped like that. Not the other way around. If humans' face-shape was different, we would have designed glasses to stay on in some other way.


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Blogaround

Count von Count. Image source.

1. Delaware's Sarah McBride to become nation's first trans state senator (posted November 4) Hooray!

2. Trump Team Holds News Conference Outside Drab Landscaping Firm, Next to Adult Book Store (posted November 7) Uh. What. You have to see this:

Caption from the article: "Rudy Giuliani speaks to the media at a press conference held in the back parking lot of a landscaping company on Saturday in Philadelphia."

3. Alex Trebek, Longtime Host of ‘Jeopardy!,’ Dies at 80 (posted November 8)

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Dance, Those Who Dance Upon Injustice

Wow. We did it. We voted him out. In big US cities, crowds of people are dancing in the streets, and it's amazing. This is a historic moment. Someday we will tell our children about how people danced in the streets after the 2020 election.

I'm so proud of my country right now, and I feel like, I wish I was there. (I'm in China.) (But no in reality I don't wish I was in the US, you are having a very bad pandemic.) 

PLEASE EVERYONE, REMEMBER MASKS AND SOCIAL DISTANCING AS YOU CELEBRATE!

Please enjoy the following photos and videos of Trump's going-away party:

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Blogaround

1. I was in the pro-life movement. But then, widowed with 6 kids, I prepared for an abortion. (posted October 11)

2. ‘Originalism’ = Garrison’s Constitution, a Covenant with Death (posted October 27) "The fact that this Neo-Confederate counter-revolution is being carried out under the rhetoric of 'the sanctity of life' only makes its advocacy for the covenant of death all the more reprehensible." Damn, I wish I learned this in history class.

3. This extremely informative chart:

4. when I was a pro-life hypocrite (posted February 8) "What Jamie doesn’t understand and what I didn’t understand a decade ago was nothing makes us special. Nothing makes our reasons 'good enough' and other people’s reasons 'not good enough.'"

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Being a Mommy

A mom and baby. Image source.
Wrote this when baby was 2 months old

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I have a lot of *feelings* about being a mommy.

I love my child so much. Sometimes I hold him and I think, "This is the most important thing in my entire life. This is all I want to do."
And that's really surprising to me; I didn't think I would feel that way. I thought having kids would just be one small aspect of my life, taking up as much space as a hobby, but now it's the whole thing. Everything I do all day is focused around "I'm a mommy." (Note that I am still on maternity leave. When I go back to work in 2 months, things will change. And I'm not looking forward to leaving him. Oh I love him so much.)

I also have a lot of feelings about how I'm not doing all the things a mom is "supposed" to do. When I was a little kid, I thought my mom knew everything and could do everything related to housework and taking care of me. And ... when I think about my child realizing that I can't do some of the things he needs ... I'm very sad. I want him to feel safe. And I want him to think I'm a good mom.

And this is all complicated by the fact that my mother-in-law is living with us. See, in China, that's what happens. You have a baby, and then it's very common for the grandparents move in to take care of the baby. In our case, it's just Hendrix's mom. We call her Nainai because that's the Chinese word for "paternal grandmother."

It's extraordinarily helpful to have her here. She loves the baby so much. She's really good at cooking. If I have to go out and do something, I can just leave the baby at home with her and it's no problem. But the problem is, she's ended up "in charge" of a lot of the baby things. Like she washes his clothes and puts them away, so then I have only a vague sense of where his clothes are. She gives him a bath every night, so at the beginning I was so sad about the fact that I didn't even know how to give him a bath- how can I be his mommy if I don't know how we give him a bath?

(Don't worry, I have since learned how to give him a bath.)

And I feel bad because I'm "supposed to" be in charge of all the baby things, because I'm the mom. It's such a big change from pregnancy, where I was totally 100% in charge of him, and other people supported me. And I hated being pregnant, and I said that once the baby comes out, I am gonna hand him over to my husband and I am DONE. But now I don't want that; I want to take care of him.

It's such a big change; the pregnancy is suddenly gone and in its place we have this adorable squirmy child.

And so I feel bad that I can't do everything that a mom is "supposed" to do- but then I realized, maybe that happens gradually. Yes, going from "pregnant" to "mom" happens very suddenly. You get all these new responsibilities dropped on you, that weren't there 1 day before. But maybe after that, it's a gradual process of learning the skills I need for taking care of my child. So it's okay that I'm not "perfect" now. I'll get better and better at it as little Square Root grows.

I also want to talk about gender roles. I always thought, yes of course the mom and dad should share the parenting responsibilities equally. But now I feel like, it's important for my identity as a mom that I do most of the work. And I'm not thinking in terms of "who's doing more work, me or Hendrix" but in terms of "I need to do the best I possibly can for my child." Also I'm on maternity leave so I can spend all day taking care of the baby, while Hendrix has to work. And we have Nainai here, which introduces the question of what's the mom's role and what's the grandma's role. There's a big cultural difference there...

So. Okay. Those are my feelings about being a mommy. I love my child so much, and everything else has become a much lower priority- and I didn't expect that would happen so drastically. And I feel bad because I'm not some idealized concept of what a mom is supposed to be, but it's okay, I'll gradually get better and better. And I'm so feminist, I didn't expect to feel like "I'm the mom so I should do most of the work" but here we are.

Probably my feelings and our roles will change more over time. We'll see what happens.

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Related:

Monday, October 26, 2020

I Don't Want My Baby To Be "Brave"

Mufasa and Simba, from the cartoon "Lion King." Image text: "I'm only brave when I have to be. Being brave doesn't mean you go looking for trouble. - Mufasa." Image source.
Wrote this when baby was 2 and a half months old

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So we've been taking Square Root to the hospital to get all his vaccines. (In China, you get all your health care at a hospital- there's no separate "doctor's office", everything is at the hospital.) Basically what happens is I hold Square Root's hands and my husband holds his legs, and the nurse gives him the shot in his leg.

Typically, Square Root is sleeping when we're there at the hospital about to get his shot, or he's awake and smiling. Then he cries for 3 seconds during the actual injection, and then we hold him and he's fine.

And so I tell him "you did so good at the doctor today." Or the nurse tells him he is 勇敢 [yǒng gǎn], brave.

And sometimes I tell people "he is such a good baby- he doesn't cry very much." In Chinese everyone says he is 乖 [guāi], which means well-behaved.

But... this doesn't feel right.

We praise him for being good, for being 乖 [guāi], but what that really means is he's not making too much trouble for us. But is that really a good thing? I want him to feel all of his emotions, to understand his own needs, to communicate about how he feels. That's far more important than whether or not he's inconveniencing me. I don't want him to think that it's "good" to hide his emotions in order to make life easier for other people.

And telling an infant that he's "brave" for tolerating the vaccine is a little silly. We literally held him down. He didn't have any other choice- and if he did have a choice, he would have chosen NOT to get poked with a needle. (He's too little to understand how important it is to not get polio.) So he didn't do anything "brave." I get that we are trying to encourage him, and to recognize that it was painful but he got through it, and put a positive spin on that... seems like "brave" isn't really the right word for that though.

I'm thinking about when I was little, and what it meant when adults told me I was "brave." Because of my undiagnosed autism, there were often situations where I felt overwhelmed, scared, or in pain- and if I just braced myself to endure through it without complaining, that meant I was "brave." I learned that it's good to pretend I don't have needs. If I communicate about my needs, if I say "I have to leave because of this and that" or "I have to avoid xyz", that's bad. I'm being a bad kid; I'm making trouble for the adults.

Here's the thing: enduring the pain of getting a shot is medically necessary and there's no way to avoid it. But a lot of the other situations where I was "brave" were not necessary at all, and it would have been much healthier if I had been able to avoid them. At the time, though, I wasn't aware that these were two different types of situations. If adults were making me do something I didn't like, well I was supposed to just put up with it. Then I was "good" and "brave." I now know that if I am experiencing negative emotions like fear or pain, I should investigate the reasons and figure out if it's actually necessary for me to put myself in that situation or not. It turns out it's not a good thing to let people hurt me when it's not necessary.

I don't want my child to think that's a good thing, like little Perfect Number did.

So I tell Square Root he is 乖 [guāi], but I also tell him he doesn't need to be 乖 [guāi]. It's okay to cry. It's okay to express emotions. It's good and healthy to tell me when he needs something.

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Related:
Globophobia
"Seek First God's Kingdom" Doesn't Work If You Have Autism

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Blogaround

1. The American man who became a porter on Everest (posted October 12) Well this is really fascinating to me because it reminds me of myself moving to China, and my beliefs about "objectivity" back then (which I wrote about in this post: Culture, Objectivity, God, and the Real Reason I Moved to China). Makes me imagine a thought process like "there is an extremely strong correlation between people's culture / place of origin, and where they end up living as an adult- for example, all the people working the dangerous and low-paying job of being a porter on Everest are from that local area- but why is that? Something is *wrong* about this correlation; it shouldn't be like that, we should be objective. Why *shouldn't* a white American man work as an Everest porter making $15/day? Wouldn't it be racist to think there's something *weird* about that?"

Obvious disclaimer, I have no idea if that's what Menninger believes. I wish I had time to watch his documentary. 

2. Ira Einhorn and the politics of Jesus (posted October 16) "Maybe this thieving, human-trafficker/theologian had a preternatural ability to compartmentalize his life, and so his evil deeds had no influence on his piety and theology just as his piety and theology had no apparent influence on his evil deeds."

3. "Here Without You" - Well as I said in the last post, I'm homesick, so now I'm singing this song.

I remember 10 years ago, back in the US after my first trip to China, singing this song. I wanted to leave behind everything that was easy and familiar, and move to China. And then I did just that, and now here I am in 2020. I want to go back to everything that is easy and familiar. But I can't, not yet.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Homesick

The iconic Shanghai skyline. Image source.

The short version is, I established my life in China under the assumption that international travel is something I can pretty easily do. Okay, not "easy"- it's a thousand or so dollars and I have to sit on a plane for 14 hours and then deal with jet lag for days afterward- but at least if I was willing to go through that, I could do it. I moved to China because I lived in a world where it's no big deal for me to fly back to the US twice a year.

That world currently does not exist. Because of COVID.

I'm stuck here. I've been stuck here all year. And yeah, this year everyone is stuck in a country, so I'm lucky the one I got was the one I would have wanted. I have friends who weren't so lucky. We built our lives on the assumption that we can easily travel in and out of lots of countries, and when that suddenly wasn't true anymore, some people ended up stranded for months. Flights cancelled, borders closed, and they're trying to continue paying rent on their apartment in Shanghai as it sits empty. 

I'm lucky- if I have to be stuck in 1 country for the entire year, China is the one I would pick. But... obviously I wish we weren't all stuck.

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Last year I published my "6 Years Later" blog series, and I hinted that I'm ready to be done living in China. Our long-term plan is to move back to the US.

I wrote about privilege, and I said:

And my life in the US is still there, still available, I can go back any time. Sometimes literally- I know I can go stay at my parents' house and not pay for food or housing, any time I want. I'm so privileged... I'm writing this blog series to say "well it's been 6 years and here are the things I learned about the world, culture, and being an immigrant, well that was a fun experience but I'm ready to be done, gonna go back home now" and then I can just go back, simple as that. A lot of immigrants can't do that. A lot of immigrants don't have a choice.

How ironic, that suddenly this has changed. Suddenly, I can't "just go back."

Or, well, I could. Technically I could. There are flights- though way fewer than before. But the issue is, the US I left at the end of my visit in 2019 doesn't exist any more. Now there is a global pandemic, and the US is doing way worse than China.

From what I hear, you are all wearing masks and social distancing. I'm gonna let you in on a secret: I've never social-distanced. I basically stayed at home for a few weeks in February, only going out for groceries and to take my baby for his vaccines. Then I went back to work, and over the next few weeks, more and more people started to go back to work, til the subways were back to their normal capacity. I think it was May when I went to a restaurant for the first time. And ever since then, I've gradually settled in to being "back to normal"- I go places and do things and take my baby out to do fun stuff, and don't worry about COVID.

Yes, masks are required everywhere. That rule is enforced in the subways, but nowhere else at this point. Sometimes I forget to wear a mask when I go to the mall.

Oh, and I don't travel. So: masks, and not traveling. Other than that, I am "back to normal." 

And let me make this clear: The reason people aren't serious about masks and stuff here in Shanghai is that SHANGHAI NEVER HAD ANY LOCAL TRANSMISSIONS. Every single case we've had in Shanghai was someone who had just traveled from a known high-risk area (or their close contacts), or an international traveler- and all international travelers are required to get tested for COVID and also quarantine for 14 days. And this quarantine is very serious, it's a "you CANNOT OPEN THE DOOR" kind of quarantine.

The Chinese government did the right thing, and now stuff is under control in China. Every now and then there's a new "outbreak" that has everyone concerned- 12 new cases in Qingdao this week, everyone is talking about it- and so that city gets locked down and they are in the process of testing all 9 million residents. That's what you do if you actually want to stop a pandemic.

From what I hear, in the US the situation is much worse. Apparently, you are doing outdoor dining and trying to have church with everyone sitting a carefully-measured 6 feet apart. Apparently, everyone who can is working from home until next year. Apparently, it's awful for everyone's mental health.

I can't go back.

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My mother-in-law (Nainai) is living with us, to help take care of the baby. And umm, how do I put this, it's awful. She's good at cooking and housework and childcare, but she doesn't like me, and she's really passive-aggressive and childish about it.

And about once a month I can't stand it, and I think "all right let's pack up and go, let's apply for that US green card, I don't even care that there's a pandemic, we're leaving."

Weighing our current bad situation against the hypothetical bad possibilities in the US.

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And of course I'm concerned about the election. Vote. Vote vote vote. To be specific: Vote for Biden, because we need to get Trump out.

When we move to the US, my husband will be an immigrant. My son is US citizen born in China. And the president is stirring up anti-immigrant and anti-China hatred. He thinks only certain people count as real Americans who have rights. He encourages people to gather in groups with no masks- he only cares about himself; he doesn't even pretend to care about the 200,000 Americans who have died.

What if Trump wins, and US gets more and more fascist? I'm on the outside looking in ... at what point do I decide "ehhhhhh I can't go there"?

I keep telling myself, I'm privileged enough that the worst of it won't affect me and my family. That's probably true. I hope it's true. But also, is it bad to think that way? Why should I be able to "go to the US for a better life" when so many other people can't? 

Yeah it's true that the world is unjust and effed-up, but it doesn't help anyone for me to stay in China just because I ... feel bad for having privilege, or something? No, that doesn't help anyone. I vote and I give money to organizations that help marginalized groups. Those are things that actually help. Me staying in China because "it's not fair that I have access to opportunities that other people don't" doesn't actually do any good for anyone.

Anyway, vote for Biden.

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I grew up in the suburbs in the US, and now I live in Shanghai, the 3rd-largest city in the world (or thereabouts, depends how you measure).

Ugh, everything would be so much easier if I had a car (and also roads with little traffic, and plenty of parking- having a car in a big city would be way more trouble than it's worth). Everything would be so much easier if I had a dishwasher. And a real oven. And a dryer for clothes. And a grocery store with western food.

I guess it was fine living in a big city like this, before the baby was born. But now everything is harder, and all these little annoyances are suddenly a big huge deal. Like taking the subway- that used to be a little bit annoying because I had to walk for 10 minutes to get to the subway station. But now... navigating around narrow bumpy sidewalks with a stroller, trying to find an elevator at the subway station, avoiding rush hour because there will be no space for the stroller if the subway car is completely packed full of people. Taking a taxi used to be a bit annoying, but now with a baby, I have to fuss about with the seatbelts and car seat for a minute or 2, I have to fold up the stroller and put it in the trunk, I have to entertain the baby so he doesn't cry (the taxi driver will be like "just take him out of his seat and hold him" ugh, no). And then once I get where I'm going, I have to drag the car seat around. Fortunately we have a car seat that clips into the stroller, but it's still annoying.

And I want a second baby. But how would that even work, in a big city? Can you imagine bumping along on all these narrow sidewalks with a double-wide stroller? Dragging around 2 car seats? Ugh, I wish I had a car, everything would be easier... but obviously when I say "I wish I had a car" I also mean "and I wish I lived in a place that having a car would be nice and convenient, ie NOT SHANGHAI."

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The short version is, I'm ready to be done living in China, right when the US is ... how shall I put this ... not livable.

Maybe my timing is the worst. Taking care of a baby, living with my mother-in-law ... at the same time as a pandemic.

Or maybe the fact that I can't go back makes me want it even more.

We are gonna go back. We are. We're gonna get there. Hopefully next year?

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Related:

On Immigration and Double Standards

Culture, Objectivity, God, and the Real Reason I Moved to China

Saturday, October 10, 2020

An Update on Whether or Not "Marriage is Hard" Now That We Have a Child

A mommy, daddy, and baby, wearing shirts that say "Mommy", "Daddy", and "Baby", respectively. Image source.
Note: I actually wrote this a while ago, before COVID was a thing

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When I was growing up, I always heard Christians say "marriage is hard." So much talk about how "marriage is hard", how you have to work so much and sacrifice so much and put up with crap from your spouse, but oh it's SO WORTH IT.

Then in 2013 I started dating Hendrix, and we got married in 2017. In 2018 I blogged about the whole "Marriage Is Hard" idea, pointing out that it's harmful to teach kids that they should expect to be unhappy when they're married, because then how will they recognize when they're in a truly bad/abusive situation and need to get out? And I said this about my own marriage:
Well. I have been married 1 year, and my marriage is not "hard." It's good and fun and I often think about how happy I am that I decided to marry him, and how lucky we are. This isn't what I expected. I thought once our status changed from "engaged" to "married", it would stop being fun and start being hard.

Yes, we fight sometimes, and sometimes I'm angry with him and don't want to look at him or talk to him, but it only lasts 1 day at the most. And then one of us will apologize- usually if we're mad at each other, it's because one of us accidentally did something hurtful because we weren't thinking about how it would affect the other. We haven't really fought about anything where the problem went deeper than that- maybe once or twice? And I feel lucky, like wow we're so much more compatible than I expected. Lucky like we must be in the top 1% of happy marriages or something, because surely it isn't normal to feel so good about our marriage. It was supposed to be hard. Right? 
...
But I'm still in love with him. I wasn't expecting that- not when they literally used metaphors about death to describe married life. Am I the one who's not "normal" because I still feel so happy I married my husband? Or was it the "die to self" idea that's suspect?
Anyway, now that we have a baby, I would like to give a little update on whether or not "marriage is hard."

Basically, the first 3 months after Square Root was born was the hardest time our relationship has ever gone through. But even though we had problems during that time, I would not label those problems as "marriage is hard", but as "having a newborn baby is hard and is putting a lot of stress on our marriage." And now our relationship is back to being good.

Let me elaborate on the things that were hard:
  • The transition from pregnancy to having a newborn: 
    • During pregnancy, Hendrix did so much work to take care of me and make sure all my needs were met. Then when Square Root was born, Hendrix's focus moved to taking care of him. During the pregnancy, it was all about me, but once the baby was born, I felt like my husband didn't have time for me any more, because he was taking care of the baby.
    • During pregnancy, I was 100% in charge of the baby. But after he was born, other people could take care of him without me. Other people (like my mother-in-law) were changing his clothes, giving him a bath, etc, without my input. I felt like he was being taken away from me and raised by other people. It was a big adjustment, figuring out what my role would be and what other people's role would be in taking care of him.
    • And a lot of wild feelings caused by hormones.
  • Taking care of a newborn baby is just hard. Getting used to having him sucking on my nipples all the time. Pain in my back and shoulders from having to sit up very straight and hold him in exactly the right place while breastfeeding (on that note, I very much recommend getting a breastfeeding pillow). He wants someone to hold him all the time, and he cries if we lay him down. Waking up a bunch of times in the night. And then he won't sleep in his bed- he just wants someone to hold him.
  • My mother-in-law (Nainai) is living with us to help take care of the baby. There were a lot of things where she wanted to do it a certain way, and I wanted to do it a different way, and I felt like I couldn't tell her what I wanted because then she'd be unhappy and then Hendrix would be unhappy and act like I did something wrong.
Me, Hendrix, and Nainai were constantly doing a ton of work to take care of Square Root. Those first few weeks, Hendrix and I basically never had time to actually talk to each other about our relationship. We were so tired from taking care of the baby all the time, and Nainai was always there and we didn't have any time when it was just the two of us.

I would lay awake at night, breastfeeding Square Root, and worry that my husband didn't support me any more. Or I would lay awake at night because my boobs were huge and painful because Nainai insisted that the baby would sleep in her room and she would give him a bottle in the night, even though that's not what I wanted, and I would feel like I wasn't "allowed" to make decisions about how to raise him, and I would worry about the future.

All 3 of us- me, Hendrix, and Nainai- want to do what's best for the baby. We put him first. But Hendrix and I had different things we put second. For me, it was my right to be Square Root's mom and make decisions about taking care of him, and how to have boundaries with Nainai. For Hendrix, it was about trying to make sure both me and Nainai were happy.

And those two priorities often contradicted each other. When I was feeling bad about my "boundaries with Nainai" issue, Hendrix didn't support me emotionally because he didn't like how me asserting my boundaries was upsetting his mom. When Hendrix was feeling bad about his mom being unhappy, I didn't support him emotionally because I was focused on defending my own rights as the baby's mom.

We were never like this before. We always talked about our emotions, and cared about each other, and helped each other with our emotional needs. But after baby was born, we were both having a hard time adjusting to being parents and the fact that Hendrix's mom lives with us. And we didn't have any time to even talk to each other about it.

Here's what helped me:

  • I remembered that Hendrix and I have been together for years, and our relationship has a good foundation of caring about each other, communicating, being honest about our feelings and needs, taking each other's emotional needs seriously and helping get those needs met, etc. Even though we weren't really doing those things right after Square Root was born, I reassured myself that it was just a temporary thing, and the true nature of our relationship is all that good stuff about love and healthy communication.
  • I worked hard to find a few minutes here and there where we could talk to each other about serious things. And he did too. When we went to take the trash out. When we were in the taxi on the way to Square Root's doctor's appointments. We know how to say to each other "I need to talk to you about something," because our relationship does have that good foundation of communication.
  • I went to a therapist and talked about my feelings about being a mom, and about how to have boundaries with Nainai and how to communicate with my husband. I worked on standing up for myself more, while also letting Nainai know I appreciate how much work she is doing for the baby.
  • I took Square Root to the United States for a whole month, by myself. This wasn't because of conflicts with Hendrix or anything like that; it was because I had 4 months of maternity leave so we all figured it was a really good opportunity for me to spend more time with my family in the US. Turned out it was also a really good opportunity for me to be in charge of the baby the way I want to be, as his mom, and establish habits and routines, making it easier to have firm boundaries about that stuff when I got back to China.
  • And Square Root became much easier to take care of. Around 4 months old, he started only waking up 1 time in the night, and after I fed him he would go right back to sleep. Also, he learned to use his hands to play with toys, which means he can sometimes lay on the floor and amuse himself; he doesn't need to have someone holding him constantly.

Now I feel that our relationship is good again, just like it used to be. We often tell each other "I love you" and "I appreciate how much work you are doing for baby." I often ask Hendrix how he's feeling. And he notices when I look sad and asks me what's wrong- he knows me well enough that he can tell when I look sad without me even saying anything. And all those cute little affectionate things we do, the inside jokes, the way we cuddle each other, all those things are back.

So... no, our marriage is not "hard." Having a newborn child (and my mother-in-law living with us) brought a lot of stress and conflict into our relationship for about 3 months, but that's a completely different thing than saying "marriage is hard."

Living with him, planning our lives together, raising our child together, seeing him every day, laughing and joking and sharing funny pokemon videos we found online- that's what marriage is for us, and it's wonderful and just so FUN. My husband is sweet and loving and cares about me in ways I never expected that men were capable of. I didn't know it would be like this. I expected marriage to be "hard."

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Related:
He Just Loves Me (a post about Sex, Pregnancy, and My "Wifely Duty") 

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Blogaround

1. Religion is not spell-casting (posted September 25) "This is the kind of goofy nonsense you find yourself defending when you start imagining it’s your job, your right, or your prerogative to decide for somebody else whether or not they are or can be baptized." And I'm glad this post isn't just about 'look how ridiculous Catholics are'- it goes on to talk about how evangelicals do THE EXACT SAME THING, with salvation anxiety and praying the sinner's prayer over and over just in case they did it wrong.

2. I Grew Up Evangelical. Converting to Catholicism Got Me Disowned. (posted September 28) "We learn that Catholics are idolaters who worship saints, and who think their works can get them to heaven. People who think their works will get them to heaven go to hell automatically. Or so evangelicals believe, at least." YES THANK YOU for this post. I 100% was taught that the majority of Catholics weren't real Christians, that they thought it was all about following rules and praying to saints and not eating meat on Fridays, and they didn't have a "personal relationship with God."

3. ALL ABOUT THAT BASE (Star Wars Parody - Meghan Trainor's All About That Bass) (posted 2014) "Yeah, it's pretty clear, this ain't no small moon, but it can shatter, shatter, and bring your planet doom."

4. FROZEN 2 - Show Yourself (FULL Movie Scene) HD 1080p (posted March 2) So, you know how I have a baby and therefore no time to watch movies? Well I finally got around to watching "Frozen 2" and I LOVED IT. Especially this song, "Show Yourself", oh I get all kinds of religious vibes from this, maybe because the only context I've heard the phrase "show yourself" was in talking to God. And also just the style of the song feels very megachurch-with-fog-machines. But (spoiler?) the song is not about God, it's about discovering your own self. Love that.

Oh, and on top of that, Elsa's in yoga pants, which the Christian modesty police hate.


Saturday, October 3, 2020

That Time I Voted For Obama ... Plus a Bunch of Republicans

Obama giving a campaign speech, years ago. Image source.

I want to tell you a little story, about a presidential election a while back. I grew up evangelical and conservative, but at the time of our story, I had begun to identify as a feminist. I thought to myself, it's not good to automatically vote for someone just because of their political party; we need to do our research into the nuances of both candidates' positions. (And no, I no longer agree with this "I'm superior because I take a balanced view somewhere in the middle" philosophy. But that's a whole separate topic.) I followed the campaigns, watched the debates, and I felt that I agreed more with Obama's platform.

So there I am one day, filling out my absentee ballot, getting ready to mail it in. This was when I was in college, in a different state than where I grew up, so that's why I was voting by absentee. For the "president" column, I picked Obama, but then there were a bunch of other columns. Local elections. A few of the names I recognized, just because they were the incumbent politicians I'd always heard about in the news growing up, but I really knew nothing about what actual policies they supported. No idea which local candidates had views closest to mine. What to do, what to do.

I thought to myself, well, in general, I am conservative. I don't really know who these candidates are or what they stand for, but they're Republican so they should be okay. So I went ahead and voted straight-ticket Republican, with the exception of Obama for president.

A long time later, I realized, actually I'm not conservative. Whoops.

See, my perspective had changed so much. I had started reading some feminist blogs, and it gave me a whole new language to talk about the structure of society, the power dynamics between different demographic groups. I learned about systemic injustice for the first time. Learned so many new things about the reality of being poor or a minority in America, and of course that influenced my political views. And I found I was closer to Obama than his Republican challenger- but I chalked it up to "it's not good to have blind loyalty to one party- we have to look at each candidate as a nuanced individual" whereas the reality was "I'm not Republican any more."

I had never really been taught, in an unbiased way, what the general ideologies of the Democrat and Republican parties were. It was always this subtle, indirect message (from my parents, mostly) "Republicans are good, Democrats are bad". To expand on that, if I had been forced to try to put it into words back then, it was like, Republican policies are a reasonable and intelligent way to run a society, while Democrats are short-sighted and irresponsible, always wanting to throw money at people just because they whine about "it's not fair!" Like, geez look how unreasonable Democrats are, wanting to raise the minimum wage just because people are like "oh woe is me, I can't raise a family on my minimum wage income" and Democrats are all like "oh so sad, we need to help them! we need to give them money" but COME ON, you can't run a society that way. Adding more and more government programs just because some people are irresponsible and didn't go to college and get a decent job before they started having babies, LIKE YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO. How can we run a society that way, constantly giving free handouts to people who aren't living their lives the right way? You're encouraging bad behavior, and also taking money away from the people who actually work hard and made responsible choices. Yeah sure, we feel bad for that single mom working at McDonald's, but you have to make laws that make sense and benefit society overall. 

(Remember when that video leaked, of Romney saying that 47% of Americans are takers who just want the government to give them free stuff, and people were OUTRAGED? I was a little confused, because that's literally what I was taught. We didn't necessarily say it out loud, but yes, that's what I was taught.)

Then I learned about systemic injustice. I learned about how society depends on minimum-wage workers, and in reality a lot of those jobs are done by actual adults with families to support- it's not high school kids just getting some extra money to play around with, like my parents told me it's "supposed to" be. I learned that for people less privileged than me, it's very difficult for them to go to college. I learned that there have been some examples of cities that have raised the minimum wage and nothing bad happened; turned out it wasn't disastrous for the economy at all.

I learned all those things, and I changed my political views accordingly, and I still thought I was a Republican. Because, well, Republicans are the party of being reasonable and making policies that treat everyone fairly and benefit society overall, right? Whereas Democrats are the party of being short-sighted and irresponsible.

I remember back then I heard someone describe me as "super-liberal feminist" and I was very surprised. I really thought I was conservative. I really thought "liberal" was bad- that's how I'd always heard it used, as if it was a synonym for "evil."

Basically, I changed because I realized my past views were based on incorrect beliefs about reality. I truly wanted to treat everyone fairly, and when I was conservative, I truly thought conservative policies were the best way to do that. But then I learned more, and discovered that these other policies made more sense. Didn't realize they weren't conservative policies. Didn't realize they were the exact opposite. I still trusted that conservatives were reasonable, and once they learned the things I had learned, they would surely support those policies too. To keep going with my minimum-wage example: They would surely agree that we need to raise the minimum wage. Right?

And now I'm at the point where... I don't know what to think about full-grown adults that vote Republican. Do they just not know about systemic inequality? Do they just not know about privilege? Do they just not know about racism? Or do they know, but they vote for the policies that benefit themselves while unjustly keeping others in poverty? 

Is it ignorance, or is it something much more evil?

People told me that black people mostly vote Democrat because Democrats promise to give them all kinds of free benefits. And wow isn't that just wrong, how they're enticed by things that will just benefit themselves, rather than looking at the big picture of how a functional society should work. Well, I can't believe it's taken me this long, but I've realized that upperclass white people vote Republican just because of the benefits to themselves- not looking at the big picture of what makes a fair and just society for everyone.

I'm proud to say I voted for Obama back then. And unfortunately I also voted for some Republicans because I innocently believed the Republican party truly wanted to create a functional society that is fair to everyone.

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Related:

The Parable of the Living Wage

Friday, October 2, 2020

Bathsheba's Son

 

A woman holding a baby. She is dressed like a woman from the bible. Image source.

[content note: child death]

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Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” 

Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.”

- 2 Samuel 12:13-14

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The child died. As a punishment for David.

The child that Bathsheba grew and birthed and breastfed. For 9 months she carried him in her body. From those first days, the fear and shame when she realized she was pregnant, and not by her husband. The morning sickness, the food cravings, the exhaustion. She gained weight, she got stretch marks. 

Around the 4th month of pregnancy, she started to feel the baby move. He grew more and more active, and sometimes the kicks hurt her. 

Did he grow inside David's uterus? Did he kick David? Did David risk death giving birth to him- because in those days, it was common for women to die in childbirth. Did David push an entire human out of his vagina? Did David bleed for this child?

Was David awake all night breastfeeding?

Bathsheba spent 9 months nurturing and loving the child that grew inside her body. David spent 9 months covering up a rape and a murder.

And when the baby got sick, who held him and comforted him? Not David. David went off alone to pray and fast.

When he heard the news that his baby had died, David stopped his praying and fasting and got up to eat. He started to move on with his life. Meanwhile, Bathsheba's breasts continued to produce milk. Her breasts swelled up, hard and painful, waiting for the baby who would never come back and drink.

Soon after, he got her pregnant again. She had another baby- who survived, fortunately. Maybe it was all the same to David. He wasn't that involved in the pregnancy. But for Bathsheba, going through all of that again... the morning sickness, the exhaustion, the labor. Growing to love her child even before his birth. Going through it all again. It wasn't "all the same." Nothing could ever replace her first child.

Bathsheba's son died, and God thought it was a punishment for David.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Blogaround

1. U.S. Judge Temporarily Halts Trump’s WeChat Ban (posted September 20) I wasn't going to post this, because I thought, it's not necessary, everybody already knows about this. But LOL no, then I realized this is a huge massive deal for me, but for people who don't regularly communicate with people living in China, they probably don't know anything about this at all. 

So here's what happened: The orange antichrist made an executive order banning the Chinese apps TikTok and WeChat from use in the US. Here in China, WeChat is huge. Everyone has WeChat. It is THE social media app. We use it for texting, group chats, buying things, etc etc etc. My family in the US also has WeChat, and that's how I'm able to communicate with them. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that basically all Chinese immigrants in the US who are young and tech-savvy use WeChat to communicate with family members back in China. (The Republican party claims to be about "family values", what a joke.)

When we heard that WeChat was going to be banned in the US, there was widespread speculation on what exactly that would mean. Does it mean the app is literally going to stop working? Does it mean that it won't allow financial transactions or advertising, but the rest of it will work fine? Does it mean you can't download it, but if you already have it installed, it will still work? My family researched other apps to figure out what we could use in case WeChat suddenly stopped working last Sunday. A lot of families did.

Anyway, then Sunday rolls around and WeChat still works on their US phones. And then we get the news that this ban has been stopped by a judge in California. Phew, what a relief.

2. Coronavirus: China eases visa restrictions for foreigners (posted September 23) YES! YES! GREAT NEWS! This is a big huge deal for the international community in China. I have friends who have been stuck in other countries for months, trying to get back into China. The ban went into effect on March 28, and ever since then it has been gradually loosening, and now it's been announced that, starting September 28, foreigners with valid residence permits in the "employment", "personal matters", or "family reunion" categories will be allowed to enter China. (And if you had a valid residence permit but it has expired some time in the past few months, you can apply for a new visa easier.) 

Please note, this doesn't mean *everyone* is allowed to enter China. It's only people who have residence permits in one of these 3 categories. (For example, my residence permit is for employment.) So it doesn't include students, and it doesn't include tourists. And when you enter China, you will have to do a 14-day quarantine.

People are very happy about this. There are families who have been separated for months because they've been stuck in different countries. Finally they can come back to China. This is great news.

3. Some people rate movies or restaurants. He rates benches (posted sometime in September) "It’s a below average bench that comes with a lovely view. This is picnic territory that’s hindered by an overgrown thistle, I had to sit on my jumper to prevent stab wounds. 3/10."

4. Evangelicals Don’t Do Opposite-Gender Friendships (Here’s Why) (posted September 23) "In the church—at least, in the evangelical church I grew up in—people are never supposed to have healthy friendships with the opposite sex. Not even with their spouse."

Monday, September 21, 2020

I Voted!

Sticker that says "I Voted From China." Image source.

Well I am very proud to tell you all that today I mailed my absentee ballot. I voted for Biden and Harris. And some down-ballot Democrats too. ^_^

If you are an American living overseas, GET ON THIS NOW! Now is the time to be mailing in the ballots! Yes, the deadline isn't til election day, but this year there are concerns about delays in the postal system. GET ON IT NOW.

For more information, go to VoteFromAbroad.org.

VOTE VOTE VOTE!

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