China's grown-up 'child slaves'

China's grown-up 'child slaves'

China's post-1980s generation are becoming slaves to their children, but some don't care
China's modern parents have left friends, career and fun behind them, as they strive to give their kids a decent start in life.

After their rebellious Han Han-loving and Internet addiction phases, many of China's post-1980s generation have now hung up their Converse to become parents. But they can often find that even when conforming to China's One Child Policy, raising children is far more difficult than they expected. 

“RMB 1,000 for the nursery and RMB 5,000 for the kindergarten,” a post on a popular Internet site says. The author explains that it costs RMB 450,000 to raise a child through to sixth grade. “A whole family's monthly income is spent on the child; every minute you have is used earning money for your child; your moods are hugely affected by your child's; friends, career and fun all belong to your ‘pre-child’ life; you'd sell your house to get your child into a better school.” 

We can be 'apartment slaves' because we need an apartment to live in, but it's our own choices to have children.— Huan Zi, netizen

And this, according to Sina.com, means a generation of “child slaves” has been created. 

'Child slave' depression

Chongqing Evening News recently ran a story about Li Chunxiao, a 27 year-old pregnant woman who was diagnosed with depression brought on by the fear of becoming a 'child slave.' After reading about the issue on the Internet, Li became preoccupied with the thought that she would lose her whole future by having the baby.

“I used to think I could have a baby young and the grandparents can raise it, so I could have a young person's life again,” says Li. “But now, I'm afraid I'd have to sacrifice everything for my child.”

Li's desire to have a baby at a young age as well as her concern for her independence and dependence on the tradition family unit is not unique, and the debate of where the balance lies has spread online like a cold in a kindergarten. 

The child-raising blogger debate

With thousands of people blogging in China's cyber space, a new group of bloggers have made a name for themselve by blogging about raising children. These young parents who regularly blog about their children's daily lives, exchange tips and post hundreds of cute photos of their toddlers, are divided about whether they are slaves to their children. 

I'm afraid I'd have to sacrifice everything for my child.— Li Chunxiao, expectant mother

Xiao Dingding who writes the blog Mei Hua Duo Duo Kai (梅花朵朵开) happily admits she's a child slave. “The end of one life is the start of another kind of happiness,” she writes on her blog. “It's all worth it.” 

Gao Jia Shao Nainai, who is about to have a baby, thinks she's a "slave-to-be" and looks forward to it. "It's my responsibility to raise the next generation." She goes on to explain that young parents who have financial problems -- many in China's post-1980s generation -- are in that situation because they are too dependent on their own parents, making them poor child slaves. "If I sort out my own finances I will be a strong child slave," she says. "I look forward to it."

Blogger Baobao, on the other hand, thinks she is a “child farmer” rather than a child slave. "I'm raising my child like a farmer planting baby trees." 

Wen Ma, who also writes her own child-rasing blog, criticizes the popular Chinese saying "everything we do is for the kids." She continues, "we take both that saying and kids too seriously; for our children's sake, we cannot be child slaves. It makes us weak." 

Huan Zi doesn't think child slave correctly describes her generation of parents. "We can be 'apartment slaves' because we need an apartment to live in, but it's our own choice to have children," she says. "The older and younger generations should stop the parasitical circle of living off each other, us with our parents and our children with us. There will come the time when the post-1980s generation find their own place in life, but being slaves should not be it." 

Now a writer and art communicator based in Shanghai, Xing has also been covering the Shanghai's LGBT issues for local publications since the summer of 2009.

Read more about Xing Zhao