Some of you dear readers may be wondering how the heck I’ve managed to survive as a my-husband-lives-in-Russia-and-I’m-single-parenting-my-toddler-in-China-while-working-full-time mom.
The secret? In one word: ayi.
Ayi is a Chinese word (the Chinese characters look like this 阿姨) that traditionally means Aunt, but nowadays is what people here in China call their domestic help.
Before Charlotte was born, I had a serious anti-domestic-help complex. Part of it stemmed from the guilt of being born in South Africa, part of it from being weird-ed out by the idea of paying a stranger to clean up after me or take care of my child.
Then Charlotte came along, and I barely had time to brush my teeth, let alone clean the apartment. And then I discovered that my karma-loving, zen’ed out yoga teacher had a cleaning lady, and that was all it took. Days later, we had our first cleaning lady, and it was totally awesome.
Then we moved to Moscow, and then I went back to work. With zero options for good, affordable daycare, we hired a full-time nanny to take care of Charlotte. This too was totally awesome.
But the woman we hired upon arrival in Beijing? Well, she may well be a Chinese domestic super-goddess. She takes wonderful care of Charlotte: she reads to her in Chinese, teaches her how to make play dough dumplings, spends countless hours chasing her around the playground and schlepping her to playdates. But, she also somehow finds time clean my house from top to bottom everyday. When Charlotte gets sick, and insists on being carried around, she cleans the house while holding all 27 lbs of her.
And, she does this:
(she does this to my undies and bras too, but photos of those are not going up on the internet )
Sure, she drives me crazy sometimes: she insists on washing my laundry (too personal for me), she speaks in really fast, accented Chinese and assumes I understand, and then there’s the whole anatina issue that we are still fighting about.
But at the end of the day, I come home to a spotless house, and a nurtured and well-loved child. And I can focus on Charlotte, rather than household chores. I can sleep at night instead of scrubbing toilets. There is no dust-bunny guilt.
One word: ayi.