“My role staying home with the kids allows for my family's success,” Ida explains proudly. To her, the decision to provide childcare for her grandchildren not difficult.
“Just look at how much money she can make!,” she exclaims, referring to her daughter-in-law.
Delia, a graduate of Rice University and Hastings School of Law, works 15 hours a day, which is normal in the investment banking industry. Each weekday, she's out the door at seven and doesn't get home until ten in the evening, when her kids are already in bed. Her husband's schedule is better, but he travels frequently: Sometimes, he goes to Shanghai for nine months at a time.
“I hear all the buzz about Lean In,” Delia says, referring to the best-selling book whose author Sheryl Sandberg recently traveled to China on a promotional tour. “I would love to be able to march into my employer's office and demand to go home earlier and see my kids. But I also know that if I did that, my career will suffer. Sandberg's advice [that women can advance in their careers simply by being more assertive professionally] is not realistic in today's economy and in my industry.”
Ida's decision to spend her golden years shuffling Delia's kids to and from after-school activities and the doctor's office is in stark contrast to Delia's own mother, who prefers to be a hands-off grandma. Delia's mother, who is also Chinese, moved from Hong Kong to Los Angeles in the 1990s and now only comes back to visit once a year.
When I ask Delia why her mother doesn’t want to trade her carefree retirement years for full-time babysitting duties, she sighs and says, “she's become very Americanized.”
Delia’s mother has adopted a mentality shared by millions of American retirees, who in recent generations have come to greatly value their independence. Today, U.S. parenting message boards, like Urban Baby, are full of stories of uninvolved grandparents, and little wonder: Studies find that American grandparents who live with children are significantly less happy. But Ida, on the other hand, says that being actively involved in her grandchildren's lives is one of the best decisions she's ever made.
“These grandparents need to consider more than just themselves,” says Ida, “My son and his wife are successful. This is a good thing. As a grandmother, it is my duty to support that. That's why I am here every day. I believe children should be with family. Only family can pass down culture and tradition. Only family makes the kids feel warm in their hearts.”
What about on the bad days, when the kids are screaming, throwing tantrums and crying? Has she ever thought about giving up?
“Never,” says Ida. “Even on the hardest of days, I just tell myself ‘you must be patient.’ I understand the American way. I believe the Asian way is better.”
This “Asian” way is helping millions of other Chinese women like Delia make huge strides in the workforce. In China, 51 percent of senior management positions are held by women. Half of the world's female self-made billionaires are from China. Women in the People’s Republic of China contribute half of the household income.