Couples are finding that with a fourth family member, life suddenly becomes a lot more complicated
Seven years ago when Chen Minhong's son was about 3 years old, she was finally able to throw away her baby-rearing training wheels as her child entered another stage of growing up. It seemed that she had successfully negotiated one of the most trying stages of raising a child - but now Chen finds herself back at square one.
Four months ago, at the age of 37, she had a second child, and now Chen is relearning skills and having to sharpen personal traits - such as patience - that she may have thought she would never have to draw on again to the same extent.
That means, for example, pulling herself out of bed several times a night to feed her new son.
“Bringing up a second child is proving to be a mixed blessing,” says Chen, who works at a university in Guangzhou, Guangdong province. “For one thing, it's wonderful to see my older son play with his little brother.”
Yet she already longs for the day when her baby, having learned to do much more than stand on his own two feet, will allow her the freedom to go out and enjoy a bit of relaxed shopping.
At the beginning of last year the Chinese government relaxed a family planning law that was more than 40 years old, thus allowing all married couples to have a second child. An earlier relaxation of the policy, at the end of 2013, allowed couples to have a second child if either parent was an only child.
The National Health and Family Planning Commission says the number of births last year, 17.86 million, was the highest since 2000, 11.5 percent more than in 2015. More than 45 percent of those babies were born to couples who already had at least one child; the proportion was about 30 percent before 2013.
In a survey by the commission in 2015, the interviewed respondents gave reasons why they would not have a second child. Almost three quarters cited financial pressures, 61.1 percent cited the efforts involved in raising children and 60.5 percent cited a shortage of caretakers.
If Huang Jingyi, 38, and Song Jiangtao, 47, of Guangzhou, are feeling such pressures they are not showing it. In fact the couple seem to have taken to the two-child lifestyle with gusto.