Being a foreign mom in China is just like being a mom anywhere, except with an audience.
Picture this: You walk into a hospital for your baby’s checkup. One hundred sets of eyes are on you. You’re waiting in line to take a number when your baby starts crying and you realize he’s just had a diaper blowout. You quickly shuffle to a nearby bench and lay down a blanket to change him. Despite your best efforts to keep baby covered, baby’s clothes need to come off one way or another and that doesn’t sit well with onlookers. You quickly become surrounded by 7 strangers giving rapid-fire comments in Chinese: “Isn’t he cold?” “His clothes got dirty” “Was the diaper not put on well?” “It’s too cold here” “He’s crying” “She doesn’t understand Chinese”
Back when I only had one child, I just tried (and failed) to do everything perfectly so onlookers wouldn’t have anything to critique. But now that I have two kids, I have turned over a new leaf.
By adopting some new strategies, I’ve learned how to be a more confident mom in China:
- Laugh at yourself
When I’m out with a toddler and a baby, I may not notice right away that my toddler dropped his toy on the ground, or that my baby spit up. And if my toddler spills a bit of water on his shirt while I’m holding my sleeping baby, I won’t change him until the baby wakes up. I know that I am doing a good job, but I may be told “You can’t take care of both by yourself!” when we’re out. I just laugh at myself and say, “Poor kids, their mom is so lazy!”
- Be objective about comments you receive
I’ve learned that not every comment is an attack. Some people just find a foreign mom with two kids to be interesting and want to strike up a conversation. Usually the ubiquitous, “Isn’t your baby cold?” is just like, “Aren’t you cold?”—it’s a way to show care.
- Know which questions to answer
Going out as a foreign mom in China means getting endless questions. Some questions should just be answered with a polite nod and a smile, but others can lead to an interesting conversation. I try to explain my ideas and methods to people when they ask. Oftentimes they say that my ideas make sense, even if they wouldn’t do the same.
- Accept help when you need it
When I’m out with two kids I really appreciate a little help. Kind strangers open doors for me, offer to carry things for me, or want to play with my kids. As long as my kids are safe, I think this is great. Accepting help allows me conserve my energy so I can use it to take care of my little ones.
- See the good in other moms and caretakers
While it’s tempting to find faults in others to make yourself feel better, I’ve noticed this actually has the opposite effect. If I think positively about others, I will feel that they’re thinking positively about me.
- Know that you’re insignificant
As a foreigner in China, it can sometimes feel like your every move is being judged. But in reality, any given person who sees you will most likely forget you the next day. Every person you pass is living their own life with their own struggles and insecurities. So next time your child has a meltdown in public and you feel like the worst mom ever, just remember that in the best way possible, no one really cares!
Parents, have you ever had a difficult time dealing with unsolicited comments when out with your kids? What strategies do you use to keep up your confidence?