No need for Chinese mothers to abandon their social lives

By Chen Zeling Source:Global Times Published: 2018/1/3 18:38:39

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT


A touching story about a mother giving up all her social activities for the past 10 years to help her daughter focus on her studies went viral on social media recently. Huang Tianjing, a top student from Nanjing, capital of East China's Jiangsu Province, was admitted into Fudan University and exempted from a pre-admission exam. Her mother said this was a result of her spending all her free time with Huang over the past decade, completely forsaking her own social life and personal hobbies.

It is not uncommon for Chinese mothers to consider their children the most important - or even the only important - thing in their life. But I still want to express my serious misgivings about whether mothers should really put their own lives on hold in order to devote themselves to their children's upbringing.

Oftentimes in modern Chinese society, children feel that they are not studying for themselves but for their parents. I speak from experience as a 20-something university student in Shanghai. We no longer are studying out of our own curiosity and interests, but rather out of fear. Fear that we may disappoint our parents, who hope we will succeed and become above-average. How can one possibly study well or live happily under such immense pressure to please someone else?

A mother's devotion may even prevent her child from having his or her own friends. One who grows up in a family where parents constantly hover over them like a helicopter probably has no free time to socially engage with other kids their age.

I have noticed that my nephew, who is 6 years old, clutches onto her mother and shies away from other children at family functions. He seems discouraged from interacting with anyone his age, as he is used to depending on his parents for conversation and stimulation.

Worse still, this sort of anti-social behavior becomes amplified as the child grows older. By the time they enter university, many such young people are completely introverted. By the time they enter the job market, they simply do not know how to interact and communicate with others on a professional or social level.

In an article published recently by China Youth Daily, concerns were raised about a new trend among middle-aged mothers from small towns who have adult children working in big cities such as Shanghai who are moving in. One young woman interviewed in the article complained that her mother insists on preparing lunch for her every day, which limits her chances of socializing with her work colleagues during lunch time.

One of my friends, a mother of two girls, works at a large company, but now she is considering quitting her lucrative and rewarding career to devote more time to her daughters' education. To me, that just doesn't make any sense.

This kind of self-sacrifice is also a detriment to the mothers' own life quality. Young mothers who give up all their own interests and career just to tend to their adolescents' studies probably don't have a happy future once their child leaves the nest for college. With nothing else to occupy their time, imagine how lonely and bored they will become.

Fortunately, my own mother maintained her social life and hobbies throughout my childhood. Now that I am away at university, she is quite active and has recently signed up for yoga classes.

In the long run, the development of Chinese society as a whole could possibly be held back by this sort of over-nurturing of children.

It's time for Chinese parents to back off and let their child sink or swim on their own. Yes, encourage them to study and learn good personal habits, but also allow them some leisure time to have friends and explore life on their own. This will benefit the child and the parent equally, as it will allow both to develop their own interests, hobbies and friendships.

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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