Mom, please stop asking when I’m going to have a child!

By Chen Shasha Source:Global Times Published: 2017/6/22 18:13:39

Illustration: Lu Ting/GT

Imagine, while working on something important in your office, your phone continuously buzzing with text messages saying "when are you going to have babies, dear?"

This has been happening to me lately. One of my aunts keeps asking if I am pregnant yet. It is annoying, but in China it is so not unusual for parents and relatives to pester young adults about getting married or, if already married, to get knocked up.

There is an established pattern to their persistence. If you are not married, they persuade you to get married as quickly as possible; if you are married but without children, they keep saying that you should give birth as early as possible; and if you are married and you already have an adorable child, now they advise you to have another.

What's worse, you can never tell them to shut up or stay out of your personal life, because it would be impolite and disrespectful. You know they have your best interests at heart: waiting too long to marry means missing out on eligible bachelors; waiting too long to have a child means risking your health.

Your parents will also not hesitate to remind you that they have selflessly dedicated their lives to raising you, and now all they ask is to return the favor with grandchildren, which certainly are more important than your "silly" career.

One thing I noticed is that, among my friends back in my hometown, most got married and had children soon after they returned from university. But among my friends and colleagues who chose to stay in Shanghai, most are still unmarried and childless.

Distance seems to be the secret to an independent lifestyle for young Chinese adults. Chinese families generally have never been very good about respecting boundaries, so it's up to us - the "yuppies" - to set up those boundaries, which usually means putting vast geographic distances between us.

But of course they still can track you down on your phone and social media. It's extremely invasive to have relatives constantly texting or calling me, or leaving annoying messages on my WeChat, about my "status."

Let there be no mistake: Chinese parents are the most responsible in the world. To help you achieve "the most important task of your life," they assure you that they will happily raise your own child for you so that you can continue to work. All you have to do is squeeze out a puppy or two, and they'll handle the rest until he/she is 18.

This is why you will see, at every single Shanghai park or residential garden, throngs of elderly people walking around with babies and toddlers, and at every primary and middle school, grandparents picking up their grandchildren.

Many grandparents from inner provinces and rural towns are happy to migrate to the big city to live with their adult children and help raise their grandchildren.

Conversely, millions of children are also being left behind by their migrant worker parents in towns and villages to be raised by their grandparents. It's a unqiue Chinese phenomenon that is causing dire social problems.

It's no wonder, then, that the willingness among young Chinese adults to have children has decreased so dramatically in recent years.

A survey conducted by a recruiting website in 2016 showed that women born in the 1980s and 1990s were among those most reluctant to now have children or even get married.

Among them, 56 percent think it costs way too much. Career development plays another important reason, at 41 percent.

Having a child is one of the most personal and important decisions a person can make, followed by getting married. I, however, am no longer a child who needs prompting from my parents; I can obviously decide for myself if I wish to pursue a career or settle down into domestic life.

Not to mention that raising children requires being in that "perfect" point in your life when you are emotionally content and financially independent.

It requires enormous responsibility and dedication and time and money, and only a husband and wife can know if they currently meet all those requirements. Anyone else's input on the matter is utterly obsolete!

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.


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