Not happy

hi all,

we (my wife, junior and myself) are now back in australia and have been back for some time and i am really not happy with the way my wife is looking after my son - for a variety of reasons. they are:

  • it is cold here and she wraps him in about about 6-7 layers of clothing and the poor kid cannot walk properly and he sweats like anything. as we go inside a warmk building, she refuses to take any of his layers of clothing off and he is hot. i mention it to her, my friends mention it to her that it is not healthy and that his body should breathe - especially in a warm building but she refuses and gets angry and say that he will get cold. no matter what we say, no matter what other babies i show her, she gets angry and refuses to take his multiple layers of clothing off when we are inside a warm building.

  • she is not feeding him corrrectly. no vegetables but continual mash of noodles, milk and water. I grew up on vegetables and my 19 month old son has hardly had any. she says he is not ready yet. again, myself, my family and my freinds try and say something but she gets angry and says that she knows the ebst because he is her son and that is the way she was fed.

  • she feeds him junk food (fried too). and i say no, never do this but she says that he won’t drink his milk and he has to eat something. i say try some fruit and she says that he doesn’t like it. again she gets angry and any conversation after that is illogical.

  • she puts the mobile phone next to his ear when talking to her mum in Taiwan. i say NEVER EVER do this, and i have showed her articles from newspapaers from the net etc about the dangers of doing this but she says her mother is crying and wants to hear the voiuce of our son (we don’t have a land line). But she continually does it.

There are other reasons as well but the above are what i can immediately think of.

I say things and i do things and i show her professional examples that counter what she is doing but she gets angry and very defensive and illogical and any conversation after that is not worthy as then “Taiwanese girl logic” comes in to. I am at my wits end as i can see that my son is not being looked after (in my eyes) and i am at the stage of going to a lawyer about it.

I do understand that cultural differences do exist in raising children but i also think common sense should prevail as well.

Any ideas or suggestions?


I just talked with the wife (who is one of the best mothers I’ve ever seen). This is not usual in Taiwanese families. After her kids were 10 months of age, she would be feeding them fruit, vegetables etc. She’d often pound the vegetables/fruit with a pestle and mortar and put them in some congee.

I realize I’m being a bit presumptious, but I bet your wife is having some very terrible culture shock and failure to really adjust to her new life. I would suggest trying to deal with that first if all other indications are that she would be/was a better parent in Taiwan.

The six or seven layers of clothes and refusal to take them off in a warm room are simply normal Taiwanese mothering behavior, IMO. I saw kids in the park in July and August in Taiwan in ski suits. When my son was a baby we lived in Taipei and enven in the summer people would tell me he was cold because I did not overdress him.

If possible, I’d get a sitter and take your wife for a romantic weekend–even entire week–leaving your son behind with someone who will care for him properly and lovingly. You wife needs some special tlc, too, if my guess is right about things. After trying this, and really trying to talk to her about how she feels about her life in general–no parenting issue dramas–if things don’t improve, maybe try some parenting ed classes that you both can take together.

I’m trying to suggest these joint things as I don’t think confrontation is working. I bet your wife feels very “on the outside” of things and resents being told how to take care of her own son in this way. I’m sure things can improve if you just use softer tacktics.

And if you don’t want your son to speak into a cell phone, you need to provide some other way for him to keep in touch with grandma in Taiwan. A computer with a web cam and skype for your home and grandma’s home, maybe? It’s natural for any grandma to want to talk to her grand kids, but especially this family dynamic between your wife and mother-in-law is strong for Taiwanese and it’s legitimate and importnant.

Just following up on the previous post - I’ve tried the skype thing on the computer and the webcam but my wife doesn’t want my son to sit near the computer because of the radiation from it. plus the in-laws don’t have a computer or connection. my brother in law lives across the road from the in laws but again the issue of not wanting the baby to sit near the computer (regardless of screen being used) comes into it again.

I’m a technical person and from an engineering background and i am used to talking in logic but not in taiwan custom. when we were living in tw, i had to forgo having a dedicated server in a spare room in our apartment as the mother in law said that computers shouldn’t be left on all the time as they are dangerous and my wife believed her and not me. i couldn’t get the point across that it is in fact better to leave these things on all the times and that many computers, in fact most are left on all the time. but cultural and family beliefs outweighed my experience and knowledge on that one and i let it slip and let it pass without any more discussion (so i ended up renting a place to put a server in instead).

my wife has lived overseas before - both here in au as well as canada and before the baby came along, then all was well. she has changed a lot since then. she has freinds here (mostly mainlanders) who are also new mothers and they do provide a form of support for her that i cannot give.

child care is not an option as she refuses to do that - i’ve even found places where mothers can assist in the child care but she doesn’t want our son to go there as he may pick up a disease or something. they are her words.

i’ve no idea what to do. we are going back to tw at the end of september for a couple of weeks and i am hoping that dureing that time she may feel relieved. i am tempted to see if she would like to stay there for a few extra months and to stay with her mum as then her mum may have more of a common sense approach to assisting in our son. but the food issue is worrying me immensly - ie no vegetables, and i do want my son to be healthy and to have exercise without being smothered.

i have read and heard of mothers smothering their kids too much and i think this may be the case here - as well as a cultural issue. but how do i get around it?

This is your son too…why don’t you feed him vegetables? Mix in some nice peas and corn with mashed potatoes…I’m sure he will like that.

Hmm. I’m American and was married to a Taiwanese. I also would not leave our son with a sitter when he was very young. Partly because I didn’t trust the local culturally acceptable child rearing practices–ie. wearing and entire wardrobe at one time–and partly because things were not going well in my marriage and I felt insecure in general. I’m trying to presume anything in this post, just sharing my own experience as a way to try to help, if possible.

One of the things that was hardest on our marriage at that time was that we had radically different ideas about some of the most mundane issues concerning our son. Taiwanese never like to drink iced drinks–but my husband saw me putting ice into a bottle of water for our son and came un-guled. I explained the ice was because I was using JUST BOILED and still VERY Hot water, and that the water that our son was going to drink was warm, not hot, and not cold. It made no difference.

As these small things became more frequent, the stress on our marriage was greater. We did have other issues besides, too. But all the stresses of all the issues made me feel insecure and as a new mother, only hightened my sense of ultra protectiveness of our son. This “smothering” can be psychological, but it’s also normally physiological–hormones that kick in and stay active to lesser degrees as long as a woman is lactating. It’s very real and very strong. I know for me the insecurity of my marriage and wondering how I would deal with moving back “home” to be a single mother if it didn’t work out made me very, very reluctant to let my child out of my immediate controle for even a short time. Of course this only made some things worse.

Anyway, take this for what it’s worth and I hope it helps. Sometimes we think we know someone, even ourselves, maybe, from cover to cover like a book. Then we find out there are all these other chapters we’ve never read.

Lead by example. Do some overtime fathering and set the pace yourself. bathe him, clothe him, feed him… As for the clothes, they come off. As for the "He’ll pick up DEATH from the other kids, learn how to say, “You think too much” in Chinese.

This thread is facinating to me. We don’t yet have children and I am very concerned that when we do the kids are not left alone with Taiwan granny for too long. I know this is irrational because both my wife and brother in law grew up fine but the way that they “take care” of our nephew frightens me.

Logic tells me that the kid won’t suffer long term from being swaddled up and over molly coddled for short bursts at a time or from living exclusively on congee when first weaned because thousands of other babies live like this permanantly but emotion kicks in and tells you it isn’t right and thats not the way things should be.

Culture cuts both ways and there I things that I do which weird my wife out and vice versa. Try to appreciate this and talk it through like adults…maybe even show her this thread if it won’t cause a fight.

Good luck.

I think the problems can not get solved by a lawyer unless you are hinting a divorce here by accusing your wife of neglect or similar. Perhaps what you need is a marriage counselor, or just take a more pro-active role in caring for the kid, like it has already been suggested (feeding him yourself etc.).

And the phone issue is easily solved, you said you don’t have a landline - so get one.

PS: Have you considered that her mum is giving her those ideas? I doubt she can remember what exactly she has been fed when she was a baby, those “cultural and family believes” (which is usually all they are) may be the root cause of all the problems.

I go with Surly.
Your friends and families “have failed” to change her mind, you do a lot of complaining about your wife on a forum hoping, I guess, that people you mostly don’t know will make a difference.
I am going to tell you something which I am sure your mom or best friend told you already. Your wife needs to get some serious education on the subject of motherhood, be a father and feed your child properly, if your wife is, like you describe her, totally unwilling to learn it is your responsibility to do something about it. Frankly no need to come on a forum to find that out.
Don’t mean to be harsh and I apologize if I come across like it, but your post really is something else.
All the best to your kid.

[quote=“Rascal”]Your friends and families “have failed” to change her mind, you do a lot of complaining about your wife on a forum hoping, I guess, that people you mostly don’t know will make a difference.
I am going to tell you something which I am sure your mom or best friend told you already. Your wife needs to get some serious education on the subject of motherhood, be a father and feed your child properly, if your wife is, like you describe her, totally unwilling to learn it is your responsibility to do something about it. Frankly no need to come on a forum to find that out.
Don’t mean to be harsh and I apologize if I come across like it, but your post really is something else.[/quote]

I’m sorry to have taken your time and i’m sorry that you think that my post “is really something else”. I wwrote my mesage on this forum thinking that other people, who are in a cross cultural marriage may have (or had) the same issues and may have some type of information that they could share.

I have tried other means, and i have also done the over time in fathering as well (by feeding, caring for etc) but the mother is not allowing that in some instances and she says that she knows and she actually says that i do not know and that only she knows how to look after “her” son (in her words).

I thought this place was a supportive forum where people in possibly the same situation may be able to assist. not a place where i am told that my post “is really something”. I thought being an expat forum, where other people who may share this experience could write something meaningful and help a fellow person.

But believe me, i have been doing the over time in fathering. i am working 11 or so hours a day, coming home to my wife and child and looking after him, clothing him my way, bathing him my way and trying to feed him my way but being told that i am doing it wrong and that only she knows which is the best way. She feeds him junk food when i say not to, makes him wear multiple layers of clothes and the poor bugger breaks out in sweat rashes, feeds him mash and no veges, does not feed him fruit, warms the milk up in the microwave when i say not to etc.

I have tried to make her aware of these issues but she does not believe or listen. other people ahve to, my friends and family, but again, she does not listen and she says that she knows.

Please, if you can help then please do so. as all attempts to communicate to her about these issues does not work.

If this is not a forum for western guys to seek help or assistance about issues with a taiwanese wife and mixed baby then please tell me where else i can go. i have tried other means but please do not criticise me for wanting to help my child in anyway i can.


I agree with Surly as well.

A bi-cultural couple may get along great when there are no kids in the picture, and all the little differences in lifestyle and worldview make things interesting. However, when a baby is born, both parents feel a strong sense of responsibility for the child’s welfare, and with that a very strong instinct to stick with what they know kicks in. For most things, either culture’s way of handlling it will do fine. However, there are some situations where one culture’s way of handling it will seem far superior to the other’s. It’s in those situations where parents under pressure will clash with each other, and that definitely happened between my wife and me.

It sounds like your situation is much more difficult than what my wife and I have gone through, but I think the best advice still holds: pick your battles, and be ready to take up primary responsibility for the child at certain points of the day and week. One of the things that made dealing with my wife difficult wat that she was the 24/7 mom, and in the first year, I was not able to take up a lot of responsibility due to work and study. She also had very little help from her family because we lived so far from them. After that first year, when I started giving my wife some breaks from our son and doing more on my own with him, she had some personal space and time. Try to give your wife some. Even if she naturally leans toward insanity, she will be more reasonable than now if she can have some time away from the child. It may be difficult to convince her to let you take the child for an afternoon since the child may be the one thing she feels she has control over in her new environment, but if I were in your shoes, I’d try to talk her into having some time off.

In keeping with the consensus here that you will need to take up more responsibilty in order for your wife to accept some of your ideas, here is some advice on how to get some vegetables in the child in a way that may seem familiar to your wife. Make congee with very finely chopped leafy vegetables such as choi sum, bok choi, qingjiangcai or spinach and then some kind of meat or fish. To varying degrees, this is pretty much what all southern Chinese have in the early years. My son was completely into it at your child’s age. Boil rice to make, well, congee. Cook a piece of lean pork in the congee until the meat is just done. Take it out and then blend it up very fine in a food processor (if you don’t have one, then get one. They make feeding a toddler much easier). Return the meat to the congee just before it is done. Also finely chop (for a little one, chop as fine as the tea in a tea bag) the veggies in the food processor. You might avoid using the stems as some kids don’t like the taste of them, and the most important part is the green of the leaf anyway. Don’t put the finely chopped veggies in the simmering congee until the very end, and only let them simmer for a minute or so; they will cook very quickly since they are finely chopped. Put enough in the congee to make it pretty green through and through. Instead of the pork, you can also do fish. Salmon is fine for a baby, and there are plenty of small fish that Chinese eat that you can steam and then take the meat from and put in congee. Avoid any kind of large predatory fish since they can contain mercury and toxins at levels that could quickly hurt your child. Instead of meat or fish, you can also put an egg or two in congee when it is nearly done. Toufu works fine, also. Try making this for your child to eat. Doing so may demonstrate to your wife that you are serious both about getting decent food into your child and about being accomodating to Chinese culture. If what I’ve described above isn’t clear to you, ask and I’ll post a more detailed process to follow. If your wife takes issue with this kind of food, then get some professional counseling.


If this is not a forum for western guys to seek help or assistance about issues with a Taiwanese wife and mixed baby then please tell me where else i can go. I have tried other means but please do not criticise me for wanting to help my child in anyway i can.

No, you’re in the right place.

Do you know many of her chinese mother friends in Oz? It would surprise me if none of them have noticed your wife’s odd ways on feeding. Does she talk much about how they feed their kids?

It sounds to me like you will have little success tackling things issue by issue with your wife on how to raise the child. From what you’ve posted, it sounds as though she does not accept your right to parent and that the two of you need to get in for some counseling, if possible with a Chinese counselor.

Hey pal don’t worry about the other post, plenty of folks here willing to help. Sounds like your wife may use anger to get what she wants, won’ t be long before your son is throwing temper tantrums to get his way.

Try using a doctor to reinforce your beliefs, the Taiwanese people seem to believe everything when it comes from doc. Schedule a routine check-up, make sure nutrition, diet and whatever else you want to discuss get slipped into the conversation. May help if he or she is a Chinese doctor as well (race, not the eastern practice of medicine)

I agree with tash. It’s time to man up. Either you do that or you start continuing down what sounds to me like a very, very rocky road. Bottom line from what I’ve read here is that quite simply, your wife does not respect you AT ALL in terms of child-rearing.
As the other guy said, you need to pick your battles, but it seems to me like there’s not many more important ones than your child’s wellbeing.
Do you have a pediatrician over there who sees your son? If not, its time to think about that, I’d say. She doesn’t respect you but maybe she’ll respect an authority figure? Tell the doctor what you’ve told us and maybe he’ll have some insights.
From where I’m standing, you have some valid points and others that are maybe of less concern, but you really really need to get someone on your side who’s authority she’s willing to respect.

have you tried spanking?


Alliance with figures of authority works well, along with a bit of forcefulness.

My boy is 18 months and he sits next to me at feeding times. That means that I decide what he is fed. He’s the ultimate arbritar, as he’s good at refusing what he does not like, however I have never let my wife’s ideas have any special influence on that. I feed him what we are having for dinner, and as I cook most of the food I call the shots on that account.

Despite my missus being a traditional Chinese vegetables, bread, meats, fish etc. have been on the menu since he turned one year, and he’s the only of my kids actually eating the dark sour Danish rye bread for breakfast.

Stuff like bottle feeding and other bad habits, well, I basically got every bottle apart from the before bed one cancelled by stating clearly that he was old enough to drink from a cup, which he is.

I think that your wife is depressed, caring for a baby is tough especially when it’s the first time, and you are in an unfamiliar environment. Where she’s from she would have a support network in the form of aunts, mother, mother in law etc. in Melbourne she has nothing, and one which could act as a bridge - IE you - is not recognized as such by her.

Me have had a very good nanny which would make sure that my boy got this greens and that my wife’s brain was programmed in the right direction, and at one point my wife thought that we were in a secret alliance against her and her mmother, both of which had rather half-baked ideas about how to rear babies initially.

If I were you, I would work on the assumption that your wife is depressed, and that she has issues caring for the baby the right way, due to a lack of role models.

What I would do would be to get her into some kind of councelling, or somwhere whe she got to be with other young mothers. Apart from that I would take the time I could find and do stuff with the kid. How about taking the boy out for an afternoon with daddy every saturday? There must be public places where to change a nappy in Melbourne?

Right after my missus started working, I would take my little boy out at 6:00 AM for a one hour stroll through the rice fields of Longtan. That gave her some 90 minutes of sleep, I got coffee, and little He was sleeping in his pram.

Nowadays I will take him out on drives when I buy stuff in the weekends, or I willk take him for walks etc. You will get closer to your kid, and your wife will get a couple of hrs away form the baby.

And - I would act forcefully, Ie just take the boy and off we go, where are the nappies dear?

Violence does not solve any problems.

I was just going to say the same thing. I had to take both my son and my husband to my son’s dr., where I had arranged earlier for the dr. to make an issue of proper care for my son’s teeth, in order to convince my husband that we needed to care for my son’s teeth properly.

Maybe these are irrelevant but here are a few quick suggestions:

• have a daddy day or two. Frame it however you like but insist on some alone time with your son. Take healthy food for snacks during this time. Dress and care for your son during this time as you see fit. It will give your wife a break as well - send her off to a spa or allow her to sleep. The daddy days I had with my daughter were terrific and they allowed me to get comfortable doing my thing without ‘the expert’ looming over me.

• is your wife sleeping? we haven’t slept in 5 years and it’s amazing how this affects your mood. I almost murdered a man tonight because he whistled at my dogs when I was walking them. Let her sleep in, be the first to get up through the night, give her time off to sleep. I’ve bought my wife a hotel stay so she could sleep.

• work less. You can’t expect to be gone for 11 hours and take an equal role in parenting. She is with your son all day long and then you come along and criticize her methods (whether you are right or wrong is irrelevant). When you do get home you might try saying, ok, my turn. And insist on making ‘mistakes’ so that you can be as good a father as she is a mother.

• stop being negative. Get your way by being positive.

• buy all the groceries and make all the meals. How and what we eat is one of my duties, perhaps you can take on that role as well. She won’t let you? Take some veggie mix and simply feed it to him. Cheat and add some sweet fruit to the mix so that when your wife is watching he is eating it quickly.


I am a mother of two children in a culture different than my own, and I really feel for you and your wife with her in this kind of situation. I want to share how I felt when family here would tell me my way is wrong and I shouldn’t do that, as a first-time mother fighting for her right to raise her child the way she knows from experience, in a place where so many things are different. It made me do things just to be a bit defiant, to fight the pressure from around me, to keep away the feeling that I was doing something I shouldn’t, and to fight off the feeling that people were looking badly on my life beliefs, my culture, my ability to raise my child… it is a long road to getting over these issues.

Basically, I wanted to push out all reasoning from the other culture as it felt so overwhelming, so smothering, as if I was losing control of the care of my child. It’s really hard to explain that feeling and reaction but I mean to say, I can feel what your wife might feel like in Australia, and it may make her react in ways she normally wouldn’t, and then she doesn’t know how to express herself and these reactions to you very well because well they don’t seem too rational.

For example, you know in Taiwan babies should always wear socks, and everyone tells you your baby should be wearing socks. Now, my parents also sent me some socks for my baby but I refused to put any socks on my baby, it was a kind of power thing, I might not be in control of anything else around me but at least I can decide that my baby never wears socks - even if it might be a bit cool outside. Your wife may indeed know deep down that your child doesn’t need to wear all those clothes all the time but once it’s been argued it’s hard to back down and really SEE that no other child is wearing all those clothes. (Afterall this is a deep-rooted belief in Taiwan - “a child has no seasons”)

As for the vegetables and nutrition, my motherinlaw is very surprised when I tell her about Taiwanese families not feeding their children vegetables and fruit. She tells me ALL Taiwanese families care a lot about balanced diet and nutrition. My children drank a lot of soup made with beef bones and vegetables, mashed up and put with rice, and ate a lot of fruit. I think this issue could be helped by visiting a pediatrician here in Taiwan when you come back. I found Dr. Guo at Wanfang very helpful when talking about cultural issues, because he could see both sides. And he would write notes for me in Chinese to show my Taiwan family here. I have forgotten exactly what issues they were, I do remember a couple were related to when to introduce different foods. Another family doctor is Dr Lai in Muzha, he recently gave me strategies to change eating habits regarding oils, without offending the family. (Actually his advice kind of fits with your problem - Taiwanese do not take to “you are wrong” very well, you have to be subtle to get change.)

Maybe when you come back you can talk to her family too and see what they think about food issues and so on, maybe your wife is remembering things differently to what they were when she was little and just doesn’t know what to do.

Basically, I want to say please go easy on your wife, too, it’s really HARD to be so far away from your family, for all of us, but especially so for a woman looking after young children in a culture where things are so different. I lived here in Taiwan for ten years very happily before having kids and I can honestly say, it is more confusing than I ever imagined.

Well, it’s late and I apologise if this is not clear but I do hope you can get some information out of my post. All I can offer is, once you have two kids your wife might give in and let you make many more decisions, just so she can go to bed before 1am…