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Mr. FAF and I have been in a somewhat unique family arrangement.
We started dating right before I moved to DC for a career change and were in a long-distance marriage for four years.
I gave birth to our first and only child, Baby FAF, about two and a half year ago when I was in the last semester of my Masters program.
My in-laws came from China to help us take care of Baby FAF and took him to China one month before he turned one.
They did that so that Mr. FAF and I could focus on our school and work in the US.
I never saw Baby FAF’s first walking steps in person. I missed one of his most important milestones in life.
Fortunately for us, after being scattered all over the world for years, we have been reunited in Washington DC.
My mother-in-law (MIL) took Baby FAF back to the US in mid June.
Mr. FAF finished his PhD in August and started his new job right after.
There has been a lot of readjustment for the family.
My free time has been cut short by about 3 hours each day.
Mr. FAF is getting used to taking care of Baby FAF after being away from him for so long.
Sometimes I think Mr. FAF is learning to be a new dad all over again.
My MIL is homesick in a new environment (we used to live in another city a year ago) and has trouble sleeping at night sometimes.
The biggest challenge has been to get Baby FAF readjusted in America. When Baby FAF left the US for China, he was only 11 months. He and I were just starting to develop a stronger mother-and-baby bond.
One our drive to the airport, Mr. FAF and I were nervous.
I remember my heart was pounding heavily while waiting at the gate. I was afraid Baby FAF wouldn’t recognize me. After all, I am his mom. And the thought of your child seeing you as a stranger is emotionally and physically painful. I didn’t dare to face that thought.
When I saw Baby FAF and my MIL, I was so happy and relieved that they didn’t get lost on their way back to America. My baby was finally here with me.
The first night was the toughest. Baby FAF was really attached to my father-in-law and kept calling his name the whole night while crying. He wouldn’t sleep until he was exhausted from the crying.
Baby FAF wanted my MIL to hold him all the time, especially when we went out since he wasn’t familiar with the new environment. He wouldn’t let me hold him or touch him for the first two weeks. I was just a stranger to him.
Things started to look up after two weeks. Baby FAF is now also attached to me, and he calls me ma (“mommy” in Chinese) when he sees me.
His primary language at the moment is Chinese. He’s been picking up a couple of English words at school, but it will be a couple of months before he can speak it fluently. At the moment, he speaks a few Chinese words here and there, but it’s nowhere near perfect yet.
When he gets more comfortable with English in a few months, I will start teaching him Vietnamese. Our hope is that baby FAF will be fluent in three languages in the future – English, Chinese (Mandarin), and Vietnamese.
However, from talking with my Asian American friends, I also know the pressure of fitting in has discouraged many of them from speaking their Asian language.
We will do our best to teach Baby FAF all three languages, but it will ultimately be up to him if he wants to master them.
After our family is reunited in DC, we have also experienced major changes to our combined income and budget.
1. Our income has increased 128%.
I was the breadwinner in the family for two years while Mr. FAF was finishing his doctoral degree. After Mr. FAF started working, our income has gone up 128%.
In the months leading up to his first paycheck, we had already started talking about what we would do with the first paycheck:
— A celebration with steak dinner at TGI Friday’s for the whole family
— A new computer to replace my 5-year-old laptop (Mr. FAF mentioned a new Macbook, but I’d be happy with a $300 functional laptop)
— Taking the family on a road trip
I now even have a harder time grappling with delayed satisfaction and living life a little. While I want our family to have better life quality, I also want us to keep the same lifestyle as before to at least pay off our mortgage and contribute to our 401(k) and 403(b).
We have wanted to do all the activities mentioned above before Mr. FAF’s new job but postponed our plans because we wanted to save for an emergency.
One frugal thing that came out of Mr. FAF’s first paycheck and sign-on bonus was that we put most of it towards our mortgage principle.
2. New expense – daycare
One week after Baby FAF came back to America, we started him in daycare in late June so that he could interact with other kids and learn English.
We send him two an in-home daycare center which charges $300/week. It’s $1,200 for a 4-week month and $1,500 for a 5-week month or a total of $15,900 a year.
It’s the second largest expense after our monthly mortgage payment. We could have waited until Mr. FAF started his new job, but we wanted Baby FAF to go to school right away and have saved up a good amount for this purpose.
However, we still felt the impact it has on our budget, especially in the months leading to Mr. FAF’s new job.
We stopped making new payments to our mortgage principle. I felt the stress of being the breadwinner for a 4-member family and feared what might happen to us if I lost my job and Mr. FAF couldn’t start working for some reason.
I secretly couldn’t wait for Mr. FAF’s first day at work and his first paycheck.
3. Our food expenses for the family increased.
When Mr. FAF was still in the PhD program in another city, he ate out every day and also bought drinks from Starbucks, McDonald’s and other places.
His food expenses were definitely around $500, if not more, a month. While living by myself, I spent less than $200/month ($87.52 in March and $80.39 in April) on groceries. Our combined food budget was around $700/month.
Now that Mr. FAF is in DC, and my mother-in-law helps with the cooking every day, we don’t eat out as much. When we want to hang out with friends, we figured it’s just cheaper to have a hotpot at home for 7 people than going to a restaurant.
In other words, we get discouraged by the high costs of eating out for our family of four and thus eat at home more often.
Our grocery budget is roughly $750 a month which is an increase for Mr. FAF and me. But considering the fact that my MIL and Baby FAF also stay with us, I think the food budget is reasonable.
4. Our entertainment/fun budget increased.
Mr. FAF and I are not the most social people you can think of. But we do enjoy a good meal and a good conversation with friends. While eating out is expensive for a big group, it’s much cheaper to invite friends to our house to hang out.
If we host dinners or lunches, we typically don’t do potlucks because we don’t want our friends to feel awkward about what to bring. We usually just tell them not to bring anything to alleviate the pressure of them pondering and us wondering if they will bring enough food.
We won’t host dinners every weekend, but getting together with friends at our house every one or two months or so sounds like a good idea to us. After all, they have also invited us to their house multiple times.
Hosting parties will typically cost around $100 for a group of people. This is something we’re willing to invest in our friendships.
Sometimes I still can’t believe our family is finally together after years of living apart. It’s been a tough few years, but we can choose to let the hardships make or break us.
There have been times when we felt like we couldn’t proceed on the same path and were uncertain what the future would hold for our family.
We had to remind ourselves each day that building a life in America is what we have decided to do together, and that we are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to pursue an education and a career thousands of miles away from our family.
We might have to be away from each other again in the future, but this experience has taught us that nothing good comes easily. If we want to be successful and have a better future, we need to ensure the hardships at the present and remind ourselves of our big goals.
Together with the reunion, we now have a nice boost in our income and also an increase in expenses. Our two most important financial goals right now are (1) paying off our mortgage and (2) investing in our retirement.
Lifestyle inflation is indeed tempting, but we will need to stick with our plans and prepare for anything that comes our way in the future.
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20 thoughts on “Our Family Reunion & 4 Financial Implications”
Transitioning to a new family dynamic can be really tough. New countries, new people in your household– that’s a lot of change! It sounds like you guys are plugging through it, though.
Also, random thing: I think your plan to speak Vietnamese and Chinese to Baby FAF is great. My Asian parent never spoke to me in their native language so I wouldn’t “develop an accent.” Which means now as an adult I cannot speak to or understand my relatives on that side of the family. Giving Baby FAF the gift of language will really help him keep in tune with his cultural heritage.
Having an accent can be a disadvantage in some cases for sure. I know because I’ve been there. However, I have many Asian American friends who speak/read/write their Asian language fluently while speaking perfect American English, so there’s hope. 😀
Oh their worry about the accent thing was definitely overblown. If your kid has early and frequent exposure to a language, he’ll be able to pick up the “native” accent he hears.
Man, I can never get over how expensive day care is! It’s crazy to me.
Lifestyle inflation is always tempting, especially after a nice raise or in your case a full second income. If you could make it work on your income, though, you don’t need to spend a lot necessarily (day care excluded haha). The longer you guys can live off relatively little though, the better position you’ll be in!
We definitely had some lifestyle inflation when we moved up to Minnesota – I was making more, and our rent/fixed costs were less. It was a pretty big jolt when I got laid off, particularly because we were saving for a wedding and a house. Having two incomes hopefully reduces some stress for you guys, too – I know it definitely did for us after I was working again 🙂
Yes, having two incomes is great! It has some cons for sure. But at this stage in our lives, we’re just trying to build more financial security for the future. I’m glad you found another job soon after. 🙂
Wow, $300 per week just for home daycare? It’s definitely not fun if you have two kids. I should stop complaining about my son’s daycare fees at $1100 a month.
It’s ok to complain because $1,100 is still a lot of money. Having two kids can literally mean another big mortgage on the table. But at least it’s also a good investment hehe 😉
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and your family, Leo!
I really love the fact that you want to baby.faf to learn 3 languages!
Aaaand i’m still picturing how you felt when your baby couldn’t recongnise you.
Anyway, i enjoyed reading this!
Thank you! It wasn’t a great feeling, but I’m glad it’s all in the past now. ^.^
Seconding Dave – how is daycare so expensive? I think your daycare costs are actually decent for a big city like DC. I know some who pay $2k in daycare alone. With that said, it’s will a small price to pay to have your family together.
A friend of mine didn’t see his parents again (was sent back to China for a few years) until he was 8 or so and he didn’t know his mom or dad or what was going on when he came back to the States. It is painful, especially if they’re older and can remember it. Baby FAF’s superrrr young it doesn’t matter. You should have filmed it!!! Did you??
You’re absolutely right about the expensive daycare. Lots of people pay $2,000 and more for daycare each month. It’s so much money!
Aww I’m sorry to hear that you friend had to stay in China for so long. I’m glad he’s back in the US now. I forgot to film it since I was so nervous. I should have done it though!
Your family has definitely weathered some adversity. Way to get through under very difficult circumstances, Ms. FAF!
Thank you so much! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 🙂
We are hoping that Baby with Cents can learn three languages as well, English, Chinese(Cantonese), and Tagalog(Filipino) but since he’s with Mother with Cent’s parents during the work week he gets more Cantonese in along with English. But it will be up to him on what he prefers to speak when he gets older.
Those prices for daycare are pretty much the same as out here in SF. We’re hoping to get Baby with Cents into daycare sometime next year when he’ll be 2 but not looking forward to paying those daycare fees.
I can totally relate. Daycare is our second biggest monthly expense, and we certainly don’t really love it hehe.
It’s so cool you and your wife plan to teach your son three languages as well. Best of luck! 🙂
To me it seems you’ve had one hell of a journey! Yes, parts were difficult, but you’re making leaps and bounds.
For languages, maybe get some Cantonese in there too! Vietnamese-Cantonese does share some similarities. ?
I’ll give my thoughts about being a Gen3 Asian. I think nowadays it’s a lot easy for Westernised Asians to be proud of their culture, more so than in my childhood. Before, there was a large emphasis to assimilate. (In our home city, there were about 1:20 Asians when I was born, now 60% of the population is Asian, overseas or British born) My parents allow us to do whatever, but it never involved us going to Chinese school (Our parents never forced us to do anything we didn’t want to. In hindsight it’s something I kind of regret, not fully retaining the mother tongue is a bit sad. Making that up with Mandarin now.) it was a lot of British sports. Fencing, rugby, football, swimming etc. (We did make the national teams in some of them though) than cultivating our Chinese heritage.
As I know you will, you’ll keep the heritage alive. Ensuring that he has the languages to be conversational will be a huge boon later in life, even though at the time he may not realise this. When he gets older, he will definitely be thankful that you taught him.
It’s funny, during my late shift I was teased that out of all the Asians in the ward I was the only Chinese with everyone else being Filipino. ? Lucky for me, I could remember some Tagalog taught by one of my best friends. I had to counter with a mix of Canto-Mando. ?
Having those language skills definitely allows you to make an instant connection and closeness that you wouldn’t be able to if you didn’t know the language or customs.
Keep encouraging the languages, culture, and heritage.
Haha I love your story about you speaking Tagalog. Your colleagues must have been so impressed!
I’m glad your parents didn’t force you to learn anything. You can certainly learn Mandarin now. I’m learning it too. And it’s super fun! I constantly ask Mr. FAF “How’s my Chinese?” hoping he will acknowledge my progress (if any) haha.
Happy holidays to the FAF family!
I don’t think you need to worry about baby FAF learning English- he will pick it up in no time.
My husband recently started learning mandarin in the past few years so we are trying to speak to our baby in Mandarin. But it’s hard since my husband and I speak English to each other. I am more fluent in Cantonese- I am thinking I should try and speak Cantonese too. Speaking three languages will be a big asset to baby FAF.
Thank you, GYM! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and your family! 🙂
I’m trying to learn Mandarin too! Cantonese is similar to Vietnamese, but it’s still very different (just like English and Spanish). I will give Baby FAF some exposure and let him choose. Kids can be rebellious, so I want to be careful hehe.
To me it seems like trying to teach a child to be fluent in3 languages, might result in his not being really confident in any of them. I have never experienced that sit uation so I am probably wrong.