Anxious Chinese moms think twice on second child

Updated 2018-03-06 17:13:01 Xinhua

After giving birth to her second child three years ago, 37-year-old Liu Si'en quit her job and became a full-time mom.

Yet life around children is not easy. "Everything I do is for the kids. It's even more tiring than work," she said.

Liu gave up work, thinking she could offer her children the best education and companionship, as some mothers choose to do in China.

Living in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, Liu follows more than 30 childcare and education WeChat accounts and has joined eight "mothers' groups" on social media. Every day, her phone buzzes with messages sharing thoughts and articles on child-rearing skills and philosophies.

"What about sex education?" "How do I teach the kids to use the toilet?" "How can I make my two kids get along better?" Liu not only reads the articles herself, but also forwards them to her husband.

One of the accounts Liu follows is written by Zhu Yuzi. Zhu, a radio host in Guangdong, is also the mother of two children. She has more than 70,000 followers on WeChat.

Along with several volunteer organizations and the women's federation of Guangzhou, Zhu compiled a report on the "anxiety index" of Chinese mothers, polling over 4,000 mothers, 70 percent of whom had two children.

The report showed 75 percent said they were "in controllable anxiety," 25 percent were "stressed," while 6 percent were "extremely anxious."

After more than 30 years of the one-child policy, China began to allow all couples to have two children in 2016. While some are happily expecting a new family member, others are reluctant.

A report from the All-China Women's Federation in 2017 showed over half of families with one child had no desire to raise a second child.

Limited educational and medical resources and quality of baby products were among the top concerns for having another child, while 70 percent of the parents were worried about their financial condition and lack of care for the two children, the report showed.

The findings match what Zhu has found in her survey.

Taking herself for example, Zhu found that one-third of her family expenses were on education. In addition to schooling, her six-year-old son takes six extra-curricular classes that cost up to 30,000 yuan (4,750 U.S. dollars) a year. Her daughter, though just 3 years old, also attends a class after kindergarten. The one-hour course costs 10,000 yuan every year.

"This is what I get for my anxiety: the feeling that my kids have not lost at the starting line," Zhu said.

For working mother Qin Haihong, raising two children while working is stressful and lowers her living quality.

The two often fall sick at the same time. Her husband is busy, their parents are in poor health and she is often left alone with the children.

"All my time is divided into little pieces with so many headaches in life. There is no way I can stay calm," Qin said.

Even grandparents, who often help take care of children in China, are affected.

Ms. Wang, 62, took care of her grandson for three years but last year, she quit the "job" as she was sick of the explosion of messages in the school's WeChat group.

"The homework is posted in the group along with countless school updates every day. It was like the whole family were going to school with the child," she complained.

"Financial conditions, welfare, social life and employment can all affect the desire to have children," said Dong Yuzheng, head of the Guangdong Academy of Population Development.

China saw 17.2 million live births in 2017, down from 17.9 million in 2016, with birth rate dropping from 1,295 to 1,243 per 100,000 population, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

"The birth rate is dropping while society is aging. Such demographics sound an alarm for social development. We need to do more to encourage people to have children," Dong added.

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