Culture Family Stories 

Contentment, Worth, and Refusing To Hire An Ayi

I have always taken pride in what I am able to do in my home. Making dinners, cleaning up after children, keeping laundry going (or even finishing it!), keeping the kitchen clean… but let’s be real. All these feats happen, but rarely at the same time, and often scattered over several weeks.

It was my dream when I was first married that I would be able to keep all these things going. There are even times when I am able to check several of these things off my list. My problem, however, is that my happiness and contentment as a wife, and later a mother, relied so much on being successful at all these tasks. I literally felt like a complete failure as a person if I couldn’t get dinner on the table and have all the laundry put away.

Bleh. Who wants to live like that?!?

Enter China.

My life’s routine was already knocked off it’s feet when we moved our family of ten over here, so I was determined to keep the housework going so I could have a sense of normal. I felt accomplished when I got all the laundry washed and hung to dry and put away the clothes that had already gotten toasty in the sun.

My soul was at ease after cleaning our floors and looking down the hallway to see the sun shining on smooth wood laminate. I knew they would become dirty the second a child walked on them, but I was happy I had done something productive in my home.

Then the days started rolling in where I was too exhausted to wash the clothes, let alone put the dry ones away. I would agonize over what to make for dinner, as I still struggled with feeling comfortable in my new (smaller) kitchen, with less convenient access to familiar ingredients.

As a side note: try explaining enchiladas, or even nachos, to a Chinse person.

First, you get your tortillas or tortilla chips… um. What’s a tortilla? That’s not even English. It’s Spanish. Palm to the forehead.

Anyway, I had just gotten comfortable cooking for our growing family back in the States, so my comfort level in the kitchen sunk pretty low after moving here and seeing those giant gas burners staring at me in my tiny kitchen.

Next to my tiny fridge and minimal countertop space. Ugh! Get over yourself!

Thankfully, I have an amazing husband who can literally walk in and save the day. I’m about to have a meltdown because I don’t know what to make for dinner in 30 minutes, and he can come in and have dinner on the table before I can get over my insecurities.

He has also confessed that he actually LIKES doing the laundry. Where does that leave me? In the past, it looked like me sleeping in and letting him do more work on top of his already busy load. It meant giving up my kitchen to let him make dinner while I was on my way home from work.

But then I started to feel… less.

I felt like less of a wife and mother. I felt like less of a valuable person, because someone else was doing the things that I thought I should have been doing. These feelings all boiled down to my pride. It was pretty disgusting. I was so reliant on myself to feel like an accomplished person, I wasn’t finding any joy in what I was doing.

A solution to my ever-stressful state seemed distant. I was grasping for anything to feel accomplished in my home, and my husband was determined to help lighten my load so that I could be happier. But that meant more work for him, and more of an insult to my pride.

It was a twisted mess.

Little did I know that a very common thing in China would be just what I needed to find relief and learn how to enjoy being a wife and mother again.

When my husband suggested we hire an Ayi, my initial response was NO WAY!

What does that leave me? Some other woman is going to come into MY home and clean up after MY kids and cook meals in MY kitchen and do MY family’s laundry?!?

He said ok and gave it up for a time. After seeing me still floundering trying to find contentment in keeping a home I was just too busy to keep, he asked again. I was a little more accepting of the idea and agreed to try it.

It felt so weird to me, but I trusted my husband’s decision. Four (that’s 4) Ayis later, and we have a winner.

Why four?

It was all a part of the process. We went through a hiring company, and they placed us with our first Ayi.

Unfortunately, she had never done any cleaning work before, so we were her guinea pigs. Her inexperience, paired with our family’s newness to the country/culture was not a good match. I was already wary of having someone else in my home doing the house work, so I was extra aware of things that weren’t going to work- like her desire to sit on the sofa and chat or eat our candy.

The line was crossed when it came to our kids.

My older two heard her swearing while she was cleaning, and she stepped way over the personal boundary with one of my daughters. We let her know she wouldn’t be needed anymore.

Our second Ayi was wonderful!

She arrived early and started working before we returned home. She worked diligently and did an amazing job cleaning. Much to our surprise, the company fired her because she was too old! Who knew?

Number three was a great balance. She was younger than the first and second Ayis, but had a good work ethic, and seemed friendly. Our family of ten has a lot to look after, and so after two days on the job, she quit. Apparently, we were too much for her.

That brings us to number four! She comes into our home, respects my family, and does a good job. She’s an amazing cook, and I HAPPILY let her whip up amazing Chinese meals for our family twice a week.

She listens to what we like and don’t like and makes things my kids will eat! Did I mention that she keeps up with ALL the laundry? Ten people’s clothes getting hung to dry every day is no joke.

Let’s say it again, WINNER.

The process of finding an Ayi was pretty uncomfortable for me because I don’t like new people coming in to my “normal” and doing things differently, but I’ve learned it has been such a blessing to allow help to come in.

And you know what?

I feel more confident as a wife and mom as a result. I feel more confident because I’ve learned my worth isn’t tied to my chores! My success isn’t measured by how much laundry I can do or how I well I can feed my family. What a relief!

So how do I measure my success in my home?

I think most of it can be measured by quality time. That can be time spent with my kids, time spent on or off my phone, or time spent engaging with the friends that come through our doors.

I really have to look at my heart and determine the “why” behind what I’m doing. The temptation to find worth will always be there, and I have to remind myself of this one truth; as a Christian, ALL of my worth is found in Jesus. Everything I do as a wife, mom, or friend can be beautiful and a blessing because of Him, not because I’m looking to be valued.

That pride I took in what I could accomplish in my home was misplaced. It was in what I was doing. It was in things that people could look at and measure me by.

Now, people can look at my home and see it’s clean, and that the laundry isn’t piled up, and that there’s a wonderfully smelling dinner on the table. But I didn’t do any of it. I moved out of the way to let someone else bless my home. I wasn’t blessing my home trying to hold onto everything. I was dragging it down.

Ouch.

I still do laundry, and clean, and cook (I do like to do those things!), but my worth isn’t wrapped up in them. There’s freedom in letting go of where we want our worth to come from. There’s purpose in it, too.

Now, I can come home from work and rest- or exercise! I can listen to my kids. I can enjoy the meal, and I can enjoy cooking a meal. I don’t feel this weight over me that tells me you didn’t do enough. Thanks to the Ayi process, I’m learning where to find my worth, and have discovered so much more contentment in my home.

That’s a China-win.

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Rachel Watters is making her home in Fuzhou, China. She and her husband, Sherman, have 8 children, three of which are adopted. Rachel spends her time teaching in their English Training Center, taking care of their youngest child, and teaching English in a local public school. She also spends a lot of time buying groceries and picking up packages from Taobao. Along with writing, she loves to hike, sing, bake, and nature watch. Spending time with her husband is her favorite way to enjoy a day, and she’s working on not being too serious.
Wechat: RachelWatters

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