近鄰不如遠親

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1992 / 3月

文‧陳淑美 圖‧黃麗梨


原本被社會學者「看淡」的現代家族關係,近來有令專家跌破眼鏡之勢——原來,這項中國人代代相傳的人際網絡,已成了媽媽級職業婦女為兼顧工作與家庭,在無更好的社會支援體系下「自力救濟」的利器。


對很多家有幼兒托人照管的職業婦女來說,要在下班後「準時」去接小孩真是一大壓力。尤其在大都會區,交通混亂,加上工作繁忙,若是碰到塞車或加班,那就更不能如願了。

許多這類婦女,一到下班時刻常有如下的症候群:常常是心急氣躁的頻頻看錶,要不就是緊張得胃腸緊抽。萬一臨時得加班,只好拿起電話,又是抱歉,又是愧疚地向保母頻頻說:「對不起,今天可否麻煩帶晚些……」。

親人當靠山

同樣也是「上班媽媽」的熊淑華卻沒有這種困擾。在立法院工作的她,免不了也會為了法案的審查或公事而延遲下班,這時她只要撥通電話:「媽!我今天晚些接娃娃」,就解決了!

原來她將小孩交給就住在自家附近的媽媽帶,「跟媽媽總是好講話嘛!」她說。而「有權利加班」,甚至成為她找工作的「優勢」之一。

在一家廣告公司擔任企劃的張秀枝乾脆為了孩子的照顧方便而與婆婆同住。由於工作性質,她經常得工作到夜間十一、二點,除了周六、日外,平時陪孩子說話、作功課,吃飯、洗澡、睡覺等「大事」……,就全讓婆婆包了,「婆婆幫了天大的忙」,張秀枝由衷感謝。

「遠親不如近鄰」嗎?這個邏輯正在接受考驗。對很多已婚而又忙碌的現代職業婦女來說,近鄰見面不相識,「遠親」則似乎又回來了。由婆婆媽媽,乃至姑舅阿姨等親戚幫忙照顧小孩的型態,目前正在大都會區被許多上班媽媽採用著。

大家庭比例上升?

且看這幾個統計數字——

據主計處第四局顧問黃子貞在民國七十六年的調查,從民國六十八年到七十四年間,台灣地區核心家庭(父母與未滿廿歲子女同住家庭)的總數,相對於父母與滿廿歲子女或子女配偶同住的大家庭,或三代同堂的家庭,有減少的態勢,下降比例為百分之七。

主計處在民國七十九年的調查也顯示,十五到四十九歲的已婚女性,婚後五年內與父母(包括自己的父母或公婆)同住的比例,比七十七年上升了四點五個百分點,且年紀愈輕、教育程度愈低(意味經濟情況較差者),與父母同住的比率愈高。

聯合報民意調查中心七十九年十一月針對台灣地區八百個家庭型態作了一份問卷,問及「你家是幾代同堂?」,回答兩代的有百分之四十九,三代的有百分之四十二,兩種家庭型態居然不分軒輊了。

三代同鄰

在大都會區,另外一種有別傳統大家庭的型態正在產生,學者們稱為「三代同鄰」。

分析起來,「三代同鄰」的家庭有幾種類型:一是原住在都會的舊居民,兒女在分立門戶時,刻意在父母(公婆)家附近購屋;一是遷入都市內的年輕移民,在經濟實力穩固後就把父母接來,安置在自家附近;當然這其中,也有經濟能力較強的父母幫子女置產的例子。不管如何,這種型態原始的動機都是——便於互相照顧。

「我是有預謀的」,家住汐止的熊淑華笑著指出,她在婚後買房子時,就特意地選在爸媽家附近,主要目的,就是希望媽媽能幫她看小孩。

三代同鄰的家庭型態並不是突然爆發的。隨著都市化的變遷,台灣地區的家庭結構有了很大的變化:家庭戶內人口數減少、核心家庭大量增加。但值得注意的是,家庭結構改變並不意味家庭功能喪失;相反的,台灣的家庭正以各種方式來適應社會變遷。

聯邦式家庭

中研院民族學研究所研究員莊英章就曾指出,例如「聯邦式家庭」——若干小家庭以父母為中心圍繞著,家族的成員不同居,但保持密切的接觸,經濟上不共財而通財,保持高度的合作;父母的角色是協調、聯絡,更是感情的中樞。莊英章認為聯邦式家庭相當適合現代生活,一方面可以保持父母權威,一方面,年輕的一輩在經濟上有獨立自主的能力,自由發展他們的才能。

「三代同鄰」的型態,其實就是「聯邦式家庭」的衍伸。雖然目前並無研究分析,形成三代同鄰的動機,是為了年老父母的照顧,或是為嬰幼兒的託管需要?這兩群人的比例究竟有多少,孰大孰小?但是卻有不少研究顯示,職業婦女在選擇照顧幼兒方式時,家人及親屬圈仍是她們主要支援對象。

中研院社會科學所研究員伊慶春在其研究中指出,三歲以前的孩子,只有百分之十四點七由交托機構照顧,在交托私人照顧的比率當中,由婆婆或夫家親戚來照顧的,或由母親或娘家親戚照顧的,佔全部研究對象的百分之五十三,超過一半。

婆婆媽媽帶得多

孩子由親人照顧,有何利弊?中華經濟研究院研究員單驥曾作研究發現,六歲以下小孩的照顧問題,的確是影響婦女勞動參與的重要因素,且其影響力在核心家庭中,遠比折衷家庭(父母與已婚子女同住之大家庭)為大;而折衷家庭中的祖父母若能幫忙照顧小孩,就更能促使已婚婦女從事更多有酬工作。

單驥的研究同時也指出,已婚婦女六歲以下小孩照顧問題若能得到妥善解決,其參與勞動市場的工時較長,工作滿意度也較高。

但這樣的學術性研究,還不能充分解釋「三代同鄰」的好處與壞處。

說起來,會採用三代同堂或同鄰來解決托兒問題的,主要的考慮都是「不放心」。一方面是擔心時下保母的素質良莠不齊,若是運氣不好,遇到壞保母,把初生小孩的健康與性格弄壞了,反而划不來。也有人為了雇用保母費用太高,而請家人幫忙的。

「給媽媽帶,最大的好處還是支援力強,不管是什麼吃的、用的,媽媽一發現不夠用了,就會立刻補充——這對於忙碌、年輕又沒有經驗的工作媽媽,真是一大好處」,熊淑華說。

可以救急

而且,住在娘家或婆家附近,與家族其他成員,例如姑舅叔伯等親戚往來也比較密切,孩子們既可享受親情之樂,又可從小體會家庭觀念,這又是另一項好處。

在一家公司當會計的陳淑英表示,像她那個二歲不到的兒子,很早就熟悉了姑姨叔等複雜的人際關係,且一點都不會弄錯。由於經常是一堆大人陪著他玩,在語言及社會化的學習方面都有助益。「每次到菜場,兒子認識的人比我多呢!」陳淑英十分得意。

即使不是全日委託,家人住在附近,也有助職業婦女在真正有事時「救急」。

在雜誌社擔任編輯的陳錦華即為一例。每當她熬夜趕稿時,經常就是住在家附近的婆婆為她帶小孩,這種「臨時托嬰」的方式,一方面不會讓身體不是很好的婆婆太累;一方面又可解決燃眉之急,陳錦華認為真是兩全其美。

打電話服務就到

除了托管孩子,對工作繁忙的職業婦女而言,親戚一起住或住附近,還可幫忙分享勞務。

住在松山、在內政部工作的高美莉深受其惠。「打電話服務就到」,高美莉笑著說,由於夫妻倆都在上班,家裡許多雜務,如修理電器、繳水電、電話費……等,常常就找爸媽代勞了。熊淑華更是,家中水果、蔬菜等生鮮食物,全由媽媽一手張羅。「每天媽媽上菜場都要提兩包菜——一包給家裡,一包給我家」,熊淑華說。「我幫她料理家事,讓她沒有後顧之憂」,體貼的熊媽媽如是說。

當然,事情也非如此完美,若處理得不好,跟家人住在附近的壞處也不少。對孩子教養方式不同,通常是最大的衝突點。在傳播界服務的張必瑜指出,有時婆婆會給孩子「吃怪怪的藥,掛怪怪的符」,有時給小孩吃過量的零食,甚至一些重男輕女的觀念等,都讓她頗不以為然,卻苦於無法溝通清楚。

家庭第一

鼓勵三代同堂卻是政府既定政策之一。

自從行政院長郝柏村在經建會提報六年國家建設的住宅政策時指出,為要鼓勵三代同堂,政府將對卅四坪或卅四坪以上的住宅研究減徵房屋稅,作為獎勵。這雖然引起不少社會學者的質疑——怕有經濟能力能負擔這樣坪數的家庭太少;怕居住空間因設計不良而互相干擾;更怕的是中國文化中從未解決過的婆媳問題又將再起……。

但也因為鼓勵「三代同堂」政策的宣佈,民間回歸家庭呼聲似乎又起,而改良式三代同堂——父母與已婚子女同居一層樓,各自擁有獨立門戶與活動空間,但飲食起居則便於互相照顧,以及「三代同鄰」等創意的作法,更一再地被討論者。

儘管社會學者們並不敢斷言,這可能是一股龐大的新興趨勢,「也許只是一群經過選擇性的群體」,中研院社會科學所研究員伊慶春認為,無論「三代同堂」或「三代同鄰」,要解決共住的問題,第一,家庭經濟能力要相當強——也在傳播界工作的梁靜,就為此付出了昂貴代價。她花了七百多萬元在台北高房價的松山購屋,只為了跟幫她帶孩子的母親「同鄰」。第二,若要幫忙照顧小孩,上一輩父母健康情況要很好。第三,下一代的父母對子女的教養,也要有相當開明的方式——至少要有這三個條件配合,「三代同堂或同鄰」才有可能形成。

走回頭路?

律師尤美女則指出,不管同堂或同鄰,最好大家都是站在彼此尊重的立場,要不然只會使家庭內的衝突擴大,最終不可收拾。

話雖如此,對經常徘徊在工作與育兒兩難抉擇的婦女來說,走出家庭後,又找到家庭當作她們的後勤支援,這樣的「回頭路」,不管是不是我國的特殊現象,都的確引人深思!

〔圖片說明〕

P.18

女兒、媽媽住得近,常在兩邊走動的小孩成了大家的寶。

P.20

下班之後,一塊兒揀菜、準備晚餐,是三代同堂的快樂時光。

相關文章

近期文章

EN

A Neighbor Next Door Cannot Top a Relative from Afar

Jackie Chen /photos courtesy of Huang Lili /tr. by Jonathan Barnard

The modern family, long pronounced as all but dead by the scholars, has recently shown a trend that has left everyone scratching their heads--the traditional Chinese inter-generational network, in the absence of any better social support system, has already become the working woman's most effective weapon in juggling her career and family.


Many working women who employ others to take care of their children feel burdened by the pressure of picking up their children on time after work. Particularly in the busy cities, where the transit situation is a mess, traffic jams or overtime work makes it even more difficult to do as intended.

There is a syndrome displayed by this kind of woman when she gets out of work: she'll anxiously check her watch again and again or else she'll be so nervous she'll get a stomachache. If she gets short notice about working overtime, she'll pick up the phone and--half in guilt, half in apology--say repeatedly, "I'm terribly sorry about the inconvenience but could you care for them a little bit later tonight. . . ."

Counting on Relatives: Yet working mother Hsiung Shu-hua doesn't have this kind of problem. She works at the Legislative Yuan, and she can't help but work overtime sometimes when she's reviewing bills or performing other official duties. When she does, she just picks up the phone and says, "Mama, I'll pick up the baby a little later today"--and it's all taken care of.

So that's it--she gives her child to her mother, who lives in the neighborhood. "It's always easy to make a deal with Mama," she says, "And I have the right to work overtime." She goes so far as describing it as one of the main advantages she had in looking for work.

Chang Hsiou-chih, a planner at an advertising agency, lives with her mother-in-law to make it more convenient to care for her child. The nature of her work means she often must work until 11:00 or 12:00. Except on Saturday and Sunday, it's Grandma who keeps the child company and makes sure he does his homework, eats, washes up and sleeps. "My mother-in-law is a tremendous help," says Chang Hsiou-chih, with gratitude from the bottom of her heart.

Is a neighbor really better than a distant relative? The logic behind the Chinese axiom is being put to question. Many busy working women who are married might not even recognize a neighbor, whereas the distant relative is seemingly coming back in style. And so it is that many big city women are leaving the care of their children to relatives, from mothers and mothers-in-law to aunts and uncles.

A Rising Proportion of Big Families? Take a look at a few statistics:

According to Huang Tzu-chen of the Department of Budgets, Accounting and Statistics, from 1979 until 1985, the percentage of nuclear families in Taiwan (parents living with children under the age of 20) dropped 7 percent against the percentage of extended family households, where parents live with a grown child and his or her spouse or where three generations live under the same roof.

The department found in 1990 that the rate of women aged 15 to 49 who lived with their parents or their husband's parents within five years of being married increased 4.5 percent over 1988. And the younger the woman and the lower her level of education (meaning women with more financial difficulties), the more likely she was to live with one set of parents.

The polling center of the United Daily News asked 800 families in Taiwan how many generations lived under one roof in November of 1990. Forty-nine percent of those polled said that two generations lived together, and 42 percent said three--figures that are remarkably close.

Three Generations in the Same Neighborhood: In the big cities another kind of family arrangement is emerging, and scholars are calling it "three generations in the same neighborhood."

There are a number of variations on the theme. The first is a family that originally lived in an urban district. When the children set up their own household, they intentionally buy a house near the parents. Another is when young people move to the city, get established and then set their parents up in a house nearby. Of course there are examples where better-off parents help their children buy a house. In any case, the original motivation for these arrangements is to make it easy to provide mutual support.

"I had it all planned beforehand," says Hsichih resident Hsiung Shu-hua, laughing. When she went to buy a house after getting married, she specially selected her parent's neighborhood mainly because she hoped her mother would help her with the kids.

Three generations in the same neighborhood has not suddenly burst upon the scene. Along with the changes of urbanization, the structure of households in Taiwan has experienced enormous transformations. The average number of people in a household has declined whereas the number of nuclear families has increased by leaps and bounds. It is worthy to note that these changes to the structure of the family have not rung its death knell. Rather the family is using a variety of methods to adapt to social change.

The Federal Family: Chuang Ying-chang, a member of the Institute of Ethnology of the Academia Sinica, cites as an example "the federal family," wherein several small households are clustered around the parents. The members of these families do not live together but maintain close contact, and they don't economically pool their money but do maintain a high level of cooperation. The parents handle coordination and contact and serve even more as the emotional center of the family. Chuang holds that the "federal family" is well suited to modern life. On the one hand, the authority of the parents is maintained, and on the other, their grown children have financial independence and the freedom to develop their own abilities.

"Three generations in one neighborhood" is in fact just an extension of the "federal family." There is, however, a lack of research and analysis to determine whether the three generations are clustering in the same neighborhood in order to care for the parents in old age or so as to meet the need for child care. Indeed, what proportions of these families are forming for what purposes? Nonetheless, many research findings show that when working women select people to look after their children, the people to whom they largely turn are relatives.

Yi Chin-chun, a researcher at the Academia Sinica for Social Sciences, says that only 14.7 percent of infants under the age of three are given to day-care institutions. Among those given to private individuals, mothers, mothers-in-law and relatives on both sides account for 53 percent, more than half.

Grandmas Care for Them the Most: Giving children to be taken care of by relatives has its good points and shortcomings. San Gee of the Chung-hua Institute for Economic Research has found that caring for children is indeed the most important factor affecting women's participation in the labor force and that it has a far greater impact on nuclear families than in families with these extended relationships. If the parents in these families can provide assistance in caring for these children, it will be easier for married women to engage in paid work.

San Gee's research at the same time points out that if a proper solution to caring for children under the age of six can be worked out, then the number of hours that their mothers work can be increased.

But this kind of academic research is not enough to explain the good points and bad points of three generations living in the same neighborhood.

The major child care problem that "three generations under the same roof" or "three families in the same neighborhood" resolves is the concern of "not being able to rest assured." One aspect is concern about the moral character of baby-sitters. If one has bad luck and happens to hire a bad babysitter, a newborn's health or character could be endangered. Others find baby-sitters too expensive and thus ask family members to help out.

"The greatest advantage of letting your mother take care of your child is still the strong support. Whether it's food or something else, as soon as your mother discovers that there's not enough, she'll immediately supplement it--this is a great help to busy and young working mothers who have no experience," says Hsiung Hsu-hua.

Help in an Emergency: Another advantage of living near one's parents or in-laws is the close contact with other relatives, such as aunts and uncles. Children will delight in this contact and from an early age come to understand the importance of family.

Bookkeeper Chen Shu-ying says that her son, who is not yet two years of age, already understands the complicated distinctions the Chinese use for aunt and uncle--separate designations, for example, for mother's brother, father's older sister, father's older brother or father's younger brother--and never gets them mixed up. The big group of people with whom he can play has helped him learn social and language skills. "Every time I go with him to the market," says his proud mother, "he knows more people than I do!"

Even if they don't care for one's child all day, having family in the neighborhood is also a help to working women in an emergency.

Chen Chin-hua, who works as an editor at magazine, is one example. When she stays up all night writing, her mother-in-law, who lives in the neighborhood, will usually stay with her kids. This method of only "temporarily giving her charge of the children" won't tire out her mother-in-law, who isn't in the best of health, but it does provide support in a pinch. Chen believes it is the best of both worlds.

Help Is Just a Phone Call Away: For a busy working woman, relatives under the same roof or in the neighborhood, in addition to helping to care for children, can also help out with some of the household chores.

Sungshan resident Kao Mei-li, who works at the Ministry of the Interior, greatly reaps the benefits. "Help is just a phone call away," she says, laughing. Because both she and her husband work, there are many odd tasks around the house, such as repairing appliances or paying the utilities or telephone bills that her parents take care of. This is even more the case for Hsiung Shu-hua, whose mother handles the buying of fruits, vegetables and other fresh groceries. "Every day my mother has to buy two bags of food in the market--one for her household and one for ours," she says. "I help her with her household chores so she doesn't have to worry about it when working," says Hsiung's considerate mother.

Of course, not all matters can be perfectly resolved in this manner. If they are not handled well, living in the same neighborhood as one's family can bring with it a lot of problems. Different attitudes about raising children are often one of the main sources of conflict. Chang Pi-yu, who works in broadcasting, points out that sometimes her mother-in-law will "give the child strange medicine or have him wear a strange amulet." At times she'll give the child too much snack food or even instill in him sexist attitudes. Chang doesn't agree with any of this but there's no way to clearly communicate her dissatisfaction.

The Family Comes First: Encouraging three generations to live under one roof is in fact government policy. Ever since Hao Pei-tsun announced the housing policy of the Six-Year National Development Plan at the Council for Economic Planning and Development, the government has been planning to reduce the tax on housing above 1,224 square feet in order to encourage three generations to live together. The policy, however, has been questioned by many sociologists who fear that few families are wealthy enough to afford such spacious housing, fear that the generations will bother each other in poorly designed architectural spaces and fear even more that the problems in the relationship between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law in Chinese culture, which have not been resolved, will once again come to the fore.

But because Hao publicly promoted the idea of three generations living together, the call of return to the family has once again been sounded and people are discussing how to make creative improvements to this arrangement, such as by having parents live with their married children on the same floor of a building, each using their own doors and living spaces but easily caring for each other.

Even if it may be a major new trend, the sociologists are not yet daring to say for certain. "Perhaps only a select few "can use the methods of "three generation under one roof" or "three generations in the same neighborhood" to solve the problem of living together, says Yi Chin-chun of the Sun Yat-sen Institute for Social Sciences and Philosophy of the Academia Sinica. First of all, a family has to be very well off financially. Liang Chin, who also works in broadcasting, forked out quite a sum for the arrangement. She bought a NT$7 million home in Sungshan so that she could be in the same neighborhood as her mother who was helping her look after her child. Secondly, to help look after a child, the older generation must be in good health. And thirdly, the younger generation of parents must be quite open minded about their children's education. At the very least, these three conditions must be met before "three generations living under one roof or in the same neighborhood will work."

Can We Go Back? Lawyer Yu Mei-nu points out that whether you're living in the same house or the same neighborhood, it is best that everyone come from a standpoint of mutual respect. Otherwise, conflicts within the family will only get worse and finally grow out of control.

This said, women caught in the dilemma of choosing between family or career have come back to where they started, leaving the household only to find tremendous support there. This return--whether or not it's unique to this country--is making people stop and think.

[Picture Caption]

When mothers and daughters live near each other, the grandchild going back and forth becomes everyone's little treasure.

After getting off work, making dinner is everyone's joy when three generations live together.

 

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