The married couples in China have a big pressure from the nuclear family to quickly give birth to a baby. Because the childless spouses are nothing more but “lovers in law”. Sometimes it seems that young Chinese families produce offspring just to fulfill their social duty and make everyone around happy.
I decided to gather a bit of statistics from my social circle. So, I wrote out the names of all my married friends and counted how much time after marriage passed before they had addition in family. To say the truth, I myself was quite surprised by the results.
Out of 24 girls: 6 were actually pregnant at the wedding ( ) , other 15 gave birth in less than 15 months after getting married and 1 more girl in less than two years.
Zeng had some problems, but luckily the treatment helped, and she is pregnant now. Only Margaret is still childless and – as far as I know – doesn’t have plans for a baby yet. She is a teacher in school and currently has good perspectives to be promoted.
In most cases, however, babies don’t pose a problem for mother’s career. One reason is based on the paradox that though the first child comes very early in the marriage, he/she will also probably be the last. For example, the only friend of mine who expressed desire to have a second baby is Yang: currently she and her husband are trying to carry out some sophisticated plan to exploit a loophole in one-child policy (that will help them to get away with minimal fine).
The second reason is grandparents who are more than willing to give a helping hand. It is very widespread practice when a young Chinese mother almost immediately after giving birth to a kid transfers all childrearing responsibilities to grandparents. And soon after “doing a ritual month” she can return to work and help supporting the financial household.
“You wanted grandchild? You got one. Now take care of him/her!”
Actually, the grandparents who take care of the kid are usually the husband’s parents.
In this sense the woman’s parents are kind of outsiders. This tradition is even reflected in Chinese language itself: the words for grandfather and grandmother are different depending on which side they are coming from, and maternal grandparents are called 外公 “wai gong” and 外婆 “wai po” which is literally translated as “outside grandfather” and “outside grandmother”.
Sometimes the lack of parental involvement goes to extremes. Here I’ll quote one blogger’s experience when she was taking a long flight from Europe to China:
… when I stepped on the plane I was walking next to a typical Shanghai family: “mom and dad” (a young, trendy looking couple) and their mom and dad (grandpa and grandma) carrying their (at least) 3 year old “baby” boy. <…> The load and heaviness of that (not so little!) boy was totally on the grandparents, meanwhile the young, trendy parents went to sit at another section of the plane. The grandma and the child was seated in the middle section next to mine, and as soon as the plane took off the boy started whining.
It didn’t take long before the grandmother got up, and gave up her seat to him so that he could lie down and sleep across the seat section. But what was she supposed to do then? An old woman, standing on a full plane? Well, she simply sat down on the floor! Year, on that tiny little floor that also acts leg space between two seat rows on an economy class flight. She sat there, half leaning forward, hoping for the little boy to get his beauty sleep. They were like that for maybe 45 min, until the boy sat up, bawling like an animal. Grandma did all she could, but this time the boy wanted his trendy mom, who then had to get up from her comfortable position, and rush over to hold him for a short while, before handing him back to his grandmother.
Hmm… do you know the saying: “Children are last dolls, and grandchildren are first kids”? First, I didn’t fully understand it, but now I begin to think that it rather adequately describes the childrearing culture in modern China.
There is just one thing I wonder about. What kind of grandparents will the post-80’s generation be when the time comes to take care about their kids’ kids?
Yet not grandmother, Crystal Tao