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«Juanwen Yuan Thesis committee Thesis supervisor Prof. dr. A. Niehof Professor of Sociology of Consumers and Households Wageningen University Thesis ...»

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Household formation In April 1989, my parents-in-law requested us to move out and live separately. My husband is the youngest son, who is normally expected to live with his parents (see above). They were unhappy that I had delivered two daughters and also wanted to push off the building of a new house. So we became completely independent. I was very tired during those years because I had to take care of the fields and make

85Women’s life stories and social change

wine, besides taking care of the children. I had to wash the children’s clothes every day, because there was no concrete playground and their clothes were always very dirty. There was no washing machine to help me. I also had to get up early to prepare pig feed and cooked rice for the children. My husband rarely helped me because he was busy with his teaching.

When I established my own household in April 1989, I got four mu of paddy fields and 1.5 mu of upland land. I got eight packs of rice, about 600kg, from my parents-in-law. It was enough for us to eat before we harvested. We got two rooms in the house of my parents-in-law. I spent 40 yuan to buy four chairs. Next day, I went to buy chopsticks, a pan and cooking oil. I set up my own household in a very hard situation. My parents-in-law were unhappy that we could not build new houses, but it was very difficult for us. I had no opportunity to make money because the three children were very young and I had to allocate time to looking after them. But I still tried to make rice wine, and feed pigs and buffaloes to earn more cash. When I had just established my own household, I had to learn how to plough, because my husband did not know how to do it and had no time for it.

Only a few women can plough in this village, because it is usually the men who do it, but I can.

Maturing stage A new house In 1995, I built a new house with the support of my parents and my brothers. It was really hard for me to build a new house when the children were very young but I gave it my best to succeed. I had only the two small rooms that my parentsin-law gave us to live in. I cut the trees on my parents’ land and got 5000 yuan from my mother. But I had no money to put in window panes. It was my brother who gave me 300 yuan to install glass windows. My youngest sister also came back to help me with cooking. It took me 20,000 yuan to build the two-storeyed house I am now living in.

The children at school In 1993, my eldest daughter went to primary school. My husband took her to the school where he is teaching. When the other two children reached school age, my husband took all the children to live and study with him at the school where he works. He has a good temper and tutored the children very well. The children’s study was not so bad. In 2003, both girls went to professional school simultaneously, but I had a hard time sending them there because it required a lot of money. In 2004, when my second daughter did not show an interest in continuing her study, I agreed and allowed her to migrate, which really relieved the burden of paying tuition fees. I managed to pay the tuition fees for the oldest daughter in professional school by raising swine and selling piglets.

The children went to school with my husband. He was so tired because he had to take care of three children. They came back once a week to take rice and edible oil from home. I could not live with them in the school because I had to take

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care of the fields. I had to work on the field on my own, but that was better than farming and looking after the children at the same time. My husband asked the students to help me with transplanting a few times. My husband told me about agricultural technologies he knew about from different sources, such as TV, magazines and field visits. He told me to try them out and I did.

In 1995, I bought a rice cooker. In 1998, I purchased a washing machine, which relieved my burden. I was the first one in the village who was able to buy these goods, because of my husband’s salary. For most villagers, they were too expensive. In 1998, tap water was installed, which also saved time. In 2001, I began to use new feeding technologies and no longer had to collect and cook pig fodder anymore, which took several hours a day. There were many changes in that period and life became easier, even though we were still struggling with our low income.

Matured stage When my first daughter was 20 years old, in 2006, she graduated from professional school and began to work. The household income is higher now. But the education fee for my son has also increased. I could not renovate my house, which many households do these years. Anyway, I began to relax and nowadays, I do not work as hard as before. In the past, I was too tired. My first daughter is a very considerate girl, always bringing goods or giving me and my parents-in-law money. When my mother-in-law passed away in 2006, she had already changed her attitude toward girls. Now, my father-in-law says that girls are also good to have.

My second daughter migrated to the province of Guangdong at the end of 2004, and just came back two weeks ago. She had spent all her income and did not have a penny to send back to me. Now, she wants to continue her study, after two years of working experience, because she found that her education is insufficient to find a good job. She now regrets that she did not continue her study in 2004. She blames me that I encouraged her to earn money at that time and to stop studying. I realize that I should support her to continue her studies if she decides to do so. My husband would like to invest more in the children’s education and says that rural people have limited options. They can only improve their lives if they have enough education. My husband studied very hard after he started teacher training in 1977.

He graduated and got a teaching job. I regret that I did not listen to his suggestion to support my second daughter’s education.

Our household situation is improving these years. We would like to invest more in our son’s education. But my son’s attitude is different from ours. He does not put much effort into his study and always wants to buy a good brand cell phone, clothes and shoes. I think that he does not realize the importance of education. We sent him to a better high school and spent a lot of money. We hope that he can go to university. We do not maintain the house because we spend most of our income on his study. He is in high school, which is a better education than his two older sisters got.

I am relaxing now, raising only one buffalo and two pigs. I gained weight in these past two years. We do not have much land to cultivate and I do not feel tired from managing it. My oldest daughter also spent 400 yuan to hire people for transplanting rice seedlings, and 600 yuan to hire people to harvest. I also hired 87 Women’s life stories and social change people to do these tasks, but not so often. I am very happy that my daughter bought a new washing machine, fridge and sofa for me. New animal feeding technologies reduced the work load. The only thing I need to do now is to mix the pig feed and put it into the pig pen.

I bought a ploughing machine, a harvest machine, and a new motorcycle. I sold my pigs and got 3,800 yuan. I still have a buffalo that is worth 3,000 yuan and two pigs worthy of 2,500 yuan. But the piglet is really expensive this year; it needs 600 yuan. I do not want to raise more pigs at this moment, because the profits will be less if I buy the piglet at such an expensive price. My husband now spends more time with me in agricultural activities. He knows how to plough and harvest, but he does not know how to transplant, weed, apply pesticides, and market the products. Now, he uses machines to plough and harvest, which reduces the work burden. I still do what I did before, but not as intensively as before. When there was no migration in this village, my household was relatively rich, but now we are only middle level. I began to have more recreation. I visited my brother in the province of Yunnan in 2006 and my sister in Zhejiang province in 2007. Lately, I also make a lot of traditional clothes, which are popular again. Even the younger women wear them at important events. I am very happy now.

My natal household (niangjia) is a big household. I have seven siblings.

Four of them are government officials with whom I have a good relationship. My natal household always gave me a lot of support. My siblings helped me with paying health expenses and the costs of the children’s education. In 2006, I fell ill and my brothers sent me to hospital and paid the costs. My husband always jokes that I have a strong support household and that he could not beat me even if he wanted to.

6.4.2 Life story 2 Name: Xiu = EGO Age: 59 Cohort: 1980s Other household members: husband, one son Household headship: male-headed household Village: Dabuyang village

–  –  –

Figure 6.3: The genealogy of Xiu Xiu’s introduction I have two daughters and one son.

Both daughters got married. My husband is a carpenter. My health is not very good because I have arthritis.

Formation stage I got married in 1976 but I came to live with my husband in 1978, after I became pregnant. It is the zuojia that requires us to do this. It was an arranged marriage.

My relatives discussed the marriage with my husband’s family. I only met my husband once before the engagement. When I just moved to my husband’s house, my two brothers-in-law and two sisters-in-law were young and lived in the same house. We were a big household and my parents-in-law worked in the collective, even though they were over sixty. I delivered my first daughter in 1979, when I was 29 years old. The second daughter was born in 1980. My parents-in-law helped me taking care of the babies, although they were not very happy that I had delivered two daughters. Of course, they did not say anything but it showed in their behaviour. My husband and I did not have a household of our own in the collective period, and the work points we earned were added to my parents-inlaw’s points. My husband did carpentry and made bricks. He usually got higher points than me. In the collective era, we were not free to arrange our time and engaged in many daily activities, such as building irrigation facilities, planting trees, and cleaning land. If we engaged in private activities during working hours, we would be fined. During that period, the elderly stayed at home to take care of the children, raise pigs, make clothes, and cook.

We did not establish our own household until 1982. By 1982, the brothers had grown up and my parents-in-law experienced difficulty managing such a big household. We also complained about the way they allocated the money. Both my brothers-in-law and my children needed money, but my parents-in-law could not divide it equally. But we never had quarrels with my parents-in-law, because that would be against tradition. We just followed their arrangements. The land

89Women’s life stories and social change

distribution [HRS] was done in 1981. We got land for ten people, which was enough for us to cultivate. After the land was contracted to us, we became more relaxed.

In late 1982, I set up my own household by getting land for four people from my parents-in-law, eight mu of paddy fields and 0.8 mu of upland, one pan and bowls. We did not get cattle. That year, my husband dug coal the whole year round and got five hundred yuan to buy one buffalo. My parents-in-law still helped me to take care of my children, but we did not cook and eat together. We had no money to buy fertilizer at the early stage of our household. We could not harvest enough rice to feed our own household. We had to borrow maize in February and return it in October, after harvesting. We had only one room to stay in.

Maturing stage I delivered my son in 1988, when I was 38 years old. We had to feed three children and life was difficult. My husband was a carpenter and did circular work in between sowing rice and harvesting. But we still could not get enough rice to eat and money for household expenditures. We needed a lot for tuition fees. My husband dug coal in the village’s mine area in winter and I raised swine and yellow cattle. At that stage, we worried a lot about the children’s food, clothes, and education. I borrowed maize from my older sister and returned it after harvesting.

It is good to have more siblings, who can help each other. In 1992, life was a little better, because we tried our best to use more fertilizer and bought hybrid rice seeds. Yields were higher and the rice was enough to feed us. The oldest daughter helped me with household chores.

Matured stage In 1995, my eldest daughter migrated and started to earn money for the household.

At the same time, we had extra rice to sell. Both of my daughters had good marks at school but we could not afford their tuition fees. It was a pity that they only finished middle school. My second daughter got married with a primary school teacher, whom she got acquainted with when my daughter was employed temporarily as a teacher in that school. Now, they live there, about three kilometres away.

It was difficult for five people to stay in one room when the children grew up. In 1997, we decided to build a new house, on which we spent 6000 yuan. My husband did the carpentry. Relatives and friends helped us with the construction of the foundation. I borrowed 2000 yuan from my siblings. It was not easy to borrow money from the neighbours, because they were poor, too. In 1999, I had to borrow 3000 yuan for curing my daughter’s illness. I borrowed money from a moneylender who charged a high interest. I paid 50 yuan interest and paid back the loan as quickly as possible. It was difficult to borrow money from the bank, because you had to submit many application forms to show your ability to return the money. The bank staff would come to check your household situation and decide on the loan.

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I had a rice cooker in 1998 and bought a washing machine and TV in 2004.

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