Why We Sent Our Baby To China

Mr. FAF and I have a son, Baby FAF, who’s a bit older than two years old.

Right before Baby FAF turned one, my in-laws took him to China to take care of him.

Baby FAF has lived half way around the world from us for more than a year.

It broke our hearts to see him leave. When Baby FAF left us, he was still too young to even cry when we said good-bye to him.

He didn’t know what was going on and was just looking at all the shiny things at the airport.

I just remember right before he went to China, Baby FAF was starting to get really clingy to me.

He was just learning to cruise around the house and barely spoke anything except for ‘mama’ and ‘baba’ which mean mommy and daddy in Mandarin Chinese.

Whenever Baby FAF saw me, he would cry and want me to hold him. It was the last month before he left.

We were just starting to develop a closer mother-and-child bond. Then we had to say good-bye.

You may be wondering what parents would let their kid live thousands of miles away from them for more than a year. We did. We didn’t want to, but we had to do it.

The dilemma

When Baby FAF was born, Mr. FAF and I were not in a good position to be parents. Mr. FAF was a grad student receiving a small stipend from his school. It was enough for him to support himself, not a three-member family.

I was in my last semester in grad school, worrying about graduating and not knowing when or whether I would be able to get a job. I had a small stipend as well, but it covered just the basic expenses for a single person.

Technically, neither of us had a full-time job, and our savings were minimal. And Mr. FAF lived more than 10 hours away from me.

We could have planned it better, but we didn’t. To this day, I still feel guilty for not giving Baby FAF the best situation to be in when he came into this world.

Luckily, our parents came to our rescue. My family sent us some money for the baby. Mr. FAF’s parents came all the way from China to help us take care of Baby FAF. My father-in-law technically quit his job to be an unpaid babysitter.

After my in-laws stayed in America for one year, it was time for them to go back to China. We had four options:

1. My in-laws taking Baby FAF to China with them for a year.

2. Me taking care of Baby FAF by myself in DC since Mr. FAF had to stay in grad school in another city.

3. Me becoming a stay-at-home mom and moving to Mr. FAF’s city with Baby FAF

4. Mr. FAF quitting school to be a stay-at-home dad while I worked to support the whole family

Cost-and-benefit analysis

We ran a thorough analysis of each option to see which one would work best for our family.

Option 1: My in-laws taking Baby FAF to China with them for a year.

Pros

This would be the easiest solution for us both financially and career-wise.

1. We wouldn’t have to spend $1,600 – $2,000/month on expensive daycare in DC. We could put that money forwards our mortgage instead.

Daycare fees and the mortgage payment on our house would take up my whole monthly paycheck. There would be no room for utilities, food, for any other expenses.

2. I would be able to focus on my job while Mr. FAF could concentrate on his PhD program.

I wouldn’t have to worry about taking sick leave for an extended period of time to take care of Baby FAF by myself and risk losing my new job. The only thing I would have to do was perform well at work.

Mr. FAF wouldn’t have to worry about his wife and baby living more than 10 hours away.

Cons

1. We would be away from Baby FAF for a whole year and couldn’t see him walk the first steps or say the first words in his life.

2. It would be hard for my in-laws to take care of a toddler since they were getting old and had some health issues.

Option 2: Me taking care of Baby FAF by myself in DC since Mr. FAF had to stay in grad school in another city.

Pros

1. Baby FAF could stay in America with us. I would be able to witness all of his development stages, and Mr. FAF could visit us once a month.

Cons

1. Back then I had just started a new job after yeas of being in school. I had always had my in-laws help take care of Baby FAF, so the thought of raising a one-year-old by myself as a new mother terrified me.

We had no family in DC or anywhere in the US. I was afraid something would happen to us or that I wouldn’t do well at my job and get fired. Without my job, we would lose the house.

My parents, worried about me, suggested that this wasn’t a good option since my career should be my priority at that time. It was my very first full-time job.

2. This option wouldn’t be financially feasible since my income was barely enough to pay for daycare and the mortgage. Mr. FAF’s stipend was enough to support only himself.

Option 3: Me becoming a stay-at-home mom and moving to Mr. FAF’s city with Baby FAF.

Pros

1. The three of us could live together.

Cons

1. We would be in serious financially difficulty. Mr. FAF discussed the possibility of us moving to a cheap basement somewhere in his city. Though excited, I was worried about the safety and health risks for Baby FAF living in a basement.

2. I was in school for years before securing my first full-time job. Both my parents and Mr. FAF encouraged me to stick with the job. Becoming a stay-at-home mom right after my graduation would be detrimental to my future career. Getting a job in Mr. FAF’s city wasn’t an option for my expertise. I tried for a long time, and it didn’t work.

3. Mr. FAF would be stressed out about his PhD program and providing for his family.

Option 4: Mr. FAF quitting school to be a stay-at-home dad while I worked to support the whole family.

Pros

1. This option was financially feasible.

2. We could stay together as a family. My salary would be enough for the mortgage and our living expenses.

Cons

1. Though feasible in the short-term, this option would be a blow to Mr. FAF’s future career and income potential. We both knew for sure that once Mr. FAF got his PhD in Computer Science, his salary would be substantially higher than both of our then combined incomes.

Our decision

Two days before my in-laws went back to China, Mr. FAF and I went to check out a home daycare in the neighborhood that was significantly cheaper than a daycare center. We wanted to be with Baby FAF, so we decided to send him there after my in-laws left.

Mr. FAF’s parents, however, didn’t take the news very well. They were angry with us for not telling them earlier. They were prepared to take Baby FAF back to China to introduce him to his extended family. It was important for them partly because Baby FAF is their first and only grandson who would carry on Mr. FAF’s family tree.

My father-in-law was particularly attached to Baby FAF and said he wouldn’t leave without the baby. And he meant it.

We finally gave in. After all, no cost-and-benefit analysis could trump love and family bonds.

Conclusion

I’m very happy to announce that Baby FAF has come home in DC to stay with us for good. We will be reunited as a family under one roof once Mr. FAF finishes his degree later this summer. After all those daily calls on WeChat (Chinese version of Skype), we are now able to see our baby every day.

I told Mr. FAF that I don’t want to send any of our future children to Vietnam or China except for the summer vacation when they’re older. But I feel very grateful for my in-laws for extending their helping hands when we were in need.

My parents were also more than happy to help us take care of Baby FAF in Vietnam should we want them to. They’re among the best parents and parents-in-law anyone can hope for.

And as I mentioned in a previous post, this is one Asian tradition that we really value. Asian grandparents help take care of their grandchildren so that the parents can focus on their careers, at least in the beginning.

Mr. FAF and I sometimes joke about having Mr. FAF watch Baby FAF’s future children, changing their diapers and feeding them daily just like what my father-in-law did for Baby FAF.

Mr. FAF said it depends whether his grandchildren will be cute like Baby FAF or not. If they are, he will be an unpaid babysitter and cover all the expenses for our grandchildren.

But I know whether our grandchildren are cute or not, we will take care of them. And we will do it well just like our parents did.



27 thoughts on “Why We Sent Our Baby To China”

    • Thank you, Lance! It is still difficult for all of us, especially Baby FAF, to adjust after he’s back in DC. But yes, I think it was the best decision we could make for our long-term future. 🙂

  • Damn, that was a tough decision. But it sounds like the right one because your child got to spend time with their family, and you and Mr FAF will be reunited at the end of the summer.

    Have you figured out daycare yet? I know D.C. waiting lists can be crazy, and it could take a year or two to get in at one of the good daycare centers.

    Zero Day Fiancée and I are delaying having a child so that we are more established in our careers. We’re also moving back to NY so we will be near our parents and grand parents. I’m sure they’ll help us out 🙂

    Glad your family will be back together soon, enjoy 🙂

    • Baby FAF started daycare one week after he came back to the US. It IS expensive. We decided to send him to an in-home daycare where we can get more attention from the teacher. If it doesn’t work out, we will need to send him to a daycare center.

      It’s great you’re moving to NYC to be closer to family. Once you guys have kids, you will see what a blessing it is to get help from them 😉

  • What a hard decision to make! I honestly can’t imagine, but it seems like you did exactly the right thing for you, your baby, and your extended family. You are one brave mama! I am so thrilled that everything worked out <3

    People don't really understand why I lived at home after college or why we (particularly me) stay so close to family now when we could live elsewhere more cheapily. But that's always how it's gone in my family, especially on my mom's side. My nana raised me while my parents worked, and now my mom wants to do the same for HP. And if HP decides to have kiddos, it would give me such joy to be able to pay it forward to him or her in that regard.

    • Thank you, Penny! It’s been a long wait, but we’re finally reuniting as a family. I was raised by my grandma when I was younger too. I was super attached to her up until middle school. When our children have kids, I would love to help them out as well. =)

  • Wow! I admire your strength and honesty to both make the decision that is best for your family and to write about it here on FAF.

    I am a strong believer that each and every family must look at their individual situation, weigh the pros and cons, then make the decision that is best for them (not what others think is best and not what you read in a “how to” book!).

    I cannot imagine how hard it would be to make the decision to spend a year away from your child, but I love how this allowed your family to play a huge role in raising their grandchild! When we were in California, the fact that our son was thousands of miles away from his grandparents (Michigan and Connecticut) was really hard because we wanted them to play a role in his life .

    And I’m thrilled to hear that Baby FAF will be coming back to the US soon 🙂 Enjoy those snuggles!!!

  • Wow, congratulations on making the best of a really difficult situation. I’m impressed!

    The most important thing is that Baby FAF be around people that care for and love him. And you did that.

    • I agree! Although it was difficult, we were happy that Baby FAF was taken care of by the people who love him the most! 🙂

  • Thank you for sharing such a personal story. As a parent, I can definitely sympathize with how tough a decision you had to make. And reading about the circumstances, I can understand why you had to do what you did. So happy to hear that Baby FAF will be back with you and that Mr. FAF will be there too. That is just awesome to finally be together again.

    • I am also happy that everything is coming together. I feel like our lives have been scattered all over the place like pieces of a puzzle. Now we can finally see the big picture! ^.^

  • I read your blog religiously and love the depth of honesty. Thank you for opening your heart to us. So happy your family will be in one zipcode soon! I know what that means – my family lives in Asia and I live in the US.

    • Thank you for the support! It’s hard to be away from family, but sometimes we don’t have much choice. I like sharing my stories with the reader like yourself since you all are so supportive! 🙂

  • Good to hear the family will be reunited again.

    “Getting a job in Mr. FAF’s city wasn’t an option for my expertise. I tried for a long time, and it didn’t work.”

    This is something I have been trying to impart on the interns at work: find a specialty that can get you a job anywhere in the country. The more options you have the better. Living at a place just because of the job isn’t going to make you very happy. Don’t allow your job to dictate and corner yourself to a particular region, especially mega metros like DC, NY, LA, etc. Those places are getting more crowded and less affordable by the day, with the quality of life going steadily downhill.

  • We love these personal stories that you share. Your journey is probably one of the most unique ones we’ve read in the financial blog-o-sphere. Keep on posting! We’ll keep reading 🙂

    • Aww thank you! I think everyone has a unique story, but yes I have never seen any similar stories to mine so far. It’d be great to have someone I can relate to though. ^.^

  • Yay family reunited soon!!!! I would have done the same myself btw. I’m not sure if it’s an Asian thing but I’m like baby FAF ha.

    I was raised with my aunt for the first 1-2 years of my life because my parents had to make more money (US exchange rate kills it.)

    You have WeChat?! Me too!!! Is it too private?

    • I was also raised by my grandma (my dad’s mom) for the first few years of my life too (maybe up until middle school). I was much more attached to her than my mom. I don’t think my mom was too happy about it >_< I have WeChat, but I have no idea how to add people lol. Mr. FAF set it up for me. Just message me on Twitter if you want to connect on WeChat.;)

  • Thank you so much for sharing your experience. It sounds like you both made a rational, prudent choice and it worked out for the best. I have the same fears around the expense of child care and lack of community here in the DC area and it has definitely factored into our child planning “timeline.” I think it’s telling that more and more people are leaving the area due to cost of living for couples who want to start a family. Not only would we have to spend $25-30k a year on child care (if we can even get into a decent one), but we would also have the added cost of a bigger apartment, which could potentially be another $5-7k per year. No easy decisions. Again, thanks for sharing such a personal story.

  • Wow, what a challenging decision to make and follow through on. I’m so impressed by how you weighted each decision and made probably the hardest decision for yourself but the best one for your family.
    I’m so happy to hear that Baby FAG is back with you and you will be able to enjoy him instead of being constantly stressed about money.

  • So glad that your baby is back with you! One of my best friends was raised by her grandmother in China until the age of 12. She has beautiful memories of her grandma, who recently passed away, and recounts their time together as a gift. It also really cemented her love of her roots. I wish I had such nice memories of my grandmother… she taught me about money but never really cared for me! Baby FAF is so lucky to have such a loving grandpa and rest of family!

  • Wow, that one year must have felt like 10. I had my daughter stay over at my MIL’s house for a month ( during my 1 mo baby recovery for my son), I broke down and cried so hard; I think that’s what gave me the irisitis two days later lol. Anyways, I feel like a complete stalker to your blog because there so much I can relate to haha.

  • So glad to hear you’re reunited!! I know it was a hard decision to make, but Baby FAF was with grandparents who loved and cared for him. What a great start for his life. And now you’re together again. Hope you have a wonderful summer as a reunited family!!

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