My wife, who has lived in the USA for 12 years, comes from a culture where family and a woman’s role as wife and mother are deeply inculcated from earliest childhood. Her resulting values and character are the reasons I married her.
Consequently, my wife has had a real challenge in coming to the US: in her 40’s, her ways set and her mind mostly made up, she’s been discovering that not everyone shares her values and behavior. And it upsets her greatly, particularly when she perceives children are being short-changed in some ways.
Our next-door neighbors are nice people with 4 kids and one teenage nephew living with them. The youngest children are twins, a boy and a girl about 15 months old. The mother and father in this family work and my wife offered to babysit when we heard that they were having a hard time finding a good sitter for the twin toddlers.
My wife thrives on children and it is a constant sorrow to her that her own grandchildren remain in her native country and that she can only see them on Skype or in occasional visits. So this opportunity to be around toddlers and to care for them daily, has really cheered her up noticeably.
Of course it is hard work. They are very active children, getting into everything - all the toddler stuff. That is not what is wearing out my wife.
What is getting her goat (and mine, to some degree too) is that the parents just don’t seem to know or care how to look after these many children they are responsible for. The house is a mess, always cluttered and unswept. Dust bunnies and worse everywhere. But worse still, there is never anything to speak of in the refrigerator. My wife arranged for her pay to include something so we can shop for the babies, so we do provide them nutritious hot meals several times a day. But the parents have yet to begin teaching them how to use a spoon, so they end up happily eating soup with their little hands. You can imagine the mess.
My wife has soldiered on, cleaning up the house when she has a free minute while the toddlers sleep. When the parents come home, they find happily full toddlers dozing or playing quietly, the house clean and some food in the fridge to be warmed up for the toddler’s late night snack.
My wife even spent considerable time and effort trying to teach this mother (and the family’s grandmother, who visits a few times a week) how to cook meals for the toddlers, because it is plain that their idea of a meal is a bottle of cold milk and a candy bar. They like what they see and what they taste…but then both mother and grandmother say “that’s just too hard” or “I don’t have time for that.”
My wife is ultra careful to walk the children outside for at least an hour a day. Where we live it is hot and she takes care to protect them from the rays of the sun. She makes sure they are dressed well and warmly if needed. Then my wife goes ballistic when she looks over the fence later in the evening and finds the twins near-naked in the neighbor’s back yard, playing in the cold wet mud that the older children have created while playing with the garden hose. Nary a parent in sight, too; they were inside watching TV.
Today my wife almost had enough of it. She prepared our lunch (an nice stew with soft meat and vegetables) and took some over to the neighbor’s apartment for the toddlers. The grandmother, who was sitting them, asked my wife “Oh, for me? Thank you!” Unfortunately, she meant it, because the grandmother was clearly disappointed when my wife said, no, its for the toddlers to eat when they wake up. A bit later, when my wife returned for the dishes, she nearly hit the roof when she found that the grandmother had indeed eaten the stew herself, and the toddlers were sucking on lukewarm milk bottles.
It is hard for my wife to see this, given how she was raised. She loves America despite its flaws (every country has them) but cannot fathom how some people here choose to live. I can’t say that I blame her.