Playing mahjong may take up some time that a mother should spend accompanying her child. [womenimages.cn]
Hung Huang, the well-known author, blogger, media figure and publisher of the fashion magazine iLook, often holds unique views on women's issues in China.
Hung recently reexamined her family life and found that women, including herself, didn't spend enough time taking care of their children, and instead chose to outsource their responsibility to others.
Hung, who worked from 9:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on June 1, 2014, found her daughter already asleep in bed when she arrived home. The next morning, the little girl asked Hung to buy her a gift, for it was Children's Day the day before.
Hung was depressed over the weekend, for she realized what her daughter asked signified many problems.
Hung had no idea about when her daughter began to think that a gift was the main reason to enjoy a festival.
Hung confessed what she owed to her daughter was not anything material, but time. Like other parents, Hung developed a bad habit, that is, using materials to make up for time. "Apparently, my daughter has become used to that. It's a bad sign," Hung said.
What's worse, the little girl didn't ask Hung to accompany her but asked for a toy as compensation. "It seems that I can be replaced by material objects. It's really bad," added Hung.
"However, she doesn't get along with her father that way. As her father works at home, the first thing she does after school is to play with her father for some time," Hung continued. "They play happily but as soon as I step into the house, they behave the other way."
American sociologist Arlie Russel Hochschild recently released a book titled The Outsourced Self, in which a family is regarded as the last fortress in which human beings boycott commercialization.
In the fortress, a person can do things for family affection, friendship and love, but unfortunately the fortress has begun to fall apart due to commercialization.
Urban people outsource their household duties, with a house maid to do the chores, a cook to make meals and a private tutor to teach their children.
The author points out that family members' doing things together is the best measure to safeguard family stability and that once a family doesn't have such a course, the family is just a vacant shell and ceases to exist except in name only.
The book also reveals that under heavy work stress, women also outsource what they would like to do to so-called 'experts.' For example, dressers can make them up, styling designers can dress them up and private teachers can bring up their children.
This way, women experience nothing but only get results. However, what matters most are not results but experiences, for experiences create a person's life.
Hung began to reexamine her family life, finding that her daughter often forgot to wash her face or brush her teeth in the morning.
After the little girl gets up, she usually hurries to have breakfast, then puts on her clothes and finally washes her face and rinses her mouth. When she moves slowly, she has no time to do the last procedure.
The baby-sitter won't criticize her seriously and then the little girl goes to school with an unkempt appearance.
When she gets home after school, she eats various snacks and as a result, she is unable to finish her dinner. The baby-sitter won't stop her from eating sacks, either.
When Hung arrives home, it's the little girl's story and bed time. "I, together with her, read a book called Pipi Longstocking, a story about a little orphaned girl. Accordingly, the most common language between her and me is about the heroine in the book," said Hung. "However, I'm not the worst mother. There are still more incompetent mothers than me."
"I find children brought up by baby-sitters often turn to cry to resolve all problems, because baby-sitters are most afraid of children crying. It seems that children crying result from their negligence of duty," Hung said.
"I also found that some families have a group of domestic workers to serve them, no matter where they go. Baby-sitters, private teachers, drivers and other helpers take over a part of family life for these inexperienced children," noted Hung.
However, the problem is that these 'absent' mothers are not career women but stay-at-home mothers and wives. They usually leave their children with baby-sitters and private teachers while they go out to eat and drink, play mahjong, have a manicure and facial, and even exercise is done by masseurs, added Hung.
Today's life witnesses more and more outsourced items. Labor is no longer a thing of honor but a sign of failure and such a life is changing people's values: work is not honorable but earning money is 'lofty.'
That way, corrupt and evil officials are the 'most decent people,' for they make gains without any labor; tycoons come second, for they make money with work rather than with deeds.
Urban people of the middle class, who earn what they labor, should be called plebs, a word short for plebeians, derived from the period of the Ancient Romans. Nowadays, the word "plebs" is associated with those in the lower classes (and is often considered to be a derogatory and elitist insult). They were often defined as members of a low-born, despised social class and a commoner, while many people who consider themselves modern-day patricians often look down and mock them.
Working people become 'marginal people' who give up their own families to undertake the domestic duties of other families.
"I don't want my daughter to accept such values. If I don't become a better mother, she won't get rid of the current social stigma and will become more and more materialistic. Today, a toy can replace a mother's company for one day, while tomorrow, a dress can replace a mother's company for one week," said Hung.
Hung, who plans to retire on December 22 this year, is determined to accompany her daughter and do some writing at home.
It's not too late to make a fresh start.
(Source: Southern Metropolis Weekly/Translated and edited by Women of China)
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