Thank God for Home Ec!

I have heard many times that it is interesting to hear how different China is from America, and there is a lot of material on this topic. And it sounds like having  a nanny is a first-world problem, which it kind of is, but it kind of isn’t.

First let me explain. Having a nanny is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. My daughters are 9 and 7 and I home-school them (because I hate the Chinese education system). There are no daycares in China. This is the only way I can have them cared for while I am at work. It’s better than a daycare though. They can wake up whenever. She cooks them good food. They have a park and a playground they can go to. They have a new kitten, a lot of toys and a lot of art supplies. It’s better for me too, because she does the laundry, cooks me dinner, and keeps my house clean. It’s a win/win.

Nannies here are usually from the countryside. I pay 3600 RMB a month which is $600. If they worked in a factory, they would make $500. Plus, working for me is easier, less strenuous, and I have A/C in the summer and heat in the winter. My girls are easy, so it’s a pretty comfortable job.

I have had 15 nannies now in three and a half years. They have come and gone for different reasons. A few left because a parent died in their hometown. I fired 3: one for almost kid-napping, and generally acting psychotic, one fore smacking Raine, and one for stealing. A few had other circumstances, like they don’t have residency in Shanghai, so they had to go back to their hometown so their child could go to school and things like that. Some were just too old, and couldn’t hack it. (And trust me, I’m easy. They don’t have to clean the girls’ room. They don’t have to iron. There’s a lot of things they don’t have to do for me that a Chinese family would expect them to do, and yet I pay them more).

But having so many already, I notice things that they all do that seem weird. Like, why do they hang up my t-shirts and fold up my dresses? Why do they put every little odd and end they find into a jar or a box or something? I could search all over for a key and find it in a box of paper clips, for no reason. They hang pants on shirt hangers so the hips forever poke out. They put food in the freezer uncovered. There are always at least four dripping wet kitchen towels folded on my counters when I come home. If they find out you like a certain food, they will make that thing everyday –forever! They stack dishes on top of each other when they are supposed to be drying.

And then there are the individual things. Some of our light switches were dirty. I always have a large supply of baby wipes and kitchen wipes. I told my nanny du jour that if she sees something dirty, please clean it, while pointing to the light switches. She said, “The girls touch them with dirty fingers.” Duh! That’s why you have to clean them! Or the one who nailed my windows shut, because we lived on the fourth floor and she was afraid that the girls would jump out or something. Never mind the fire hazard, lack of fresh air, or the fact that my girls aren’t idiots!

I had one once, turn $12 imported Waygu beef hamburgers into something unrecognizable. I don’t know why she would even try to cook a hamburger. We all like Chinese food. Leave the Western food to me.

This one we’ve had for two days isn’t proving to be that much better. Last night, I went to warm up the noodles she made me on the stove. But the stove wouldn’t work. I have never had a problem before. I tried to contact her several times to ask her what the problem was, but she didn’t answer. Then, when she got here this morning, I showed her. She reached under a cupboard and turned the gas on. Why the hell did she turn it off in the first place?

All of the controls on my washer are in Chinese. I still managed to figure it out the first time I used it. She screwed it up, and not only did it not work, it made a crazy, scary noise. I reset it, and had to show her how to use it.

Some of these things got so ridiculous, that I started teaching Home Ec on Sundays at work. Nannies aren’t the only ones who don’t know air kills food, or wet things grow bacteria, or chicken shouldn’t have any red in it. My students appreciate this class so much. My nannies don’t often want to change, even though I explain it. Maybe it’s age.

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