Second kid 'easier said than done'

Updated: 2014-01-01 00:18

By Zhang Yue (China Daily)

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Many parents say they lack financial resources to expand their families

For most families in China, a major change to the national family planning policy is dramatically altering their lives.

The central government's recent decision at the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee will allow families to have two children if one of the parents is an only child. Prior to the amendment, couples could only have two children if both of the parents were the only child in their families.

Cheng Wei, a 29-year-old woman from Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, was on a business trip to Beijing when news about the government's decision broke last month.

An accountant at a private company in Hangzhou for the past three years, Cheng said she seldom keeps track of political news. It was her husband, Liu Jian, who called about the announcement.

"What does this mean?" asked the mother, who has a 3-year-old daughter, over the phone.

"It means we have a choice to make," answered her husband.

Cheng is the only child in her family and Liu has two older brothers. Having two children has never been an option for the couple.

"I have never seriously thought about this because it seems too difficult in the past, though I do want to have two children," Cheng said.

A family discussion was soon held in Cheng's home, during which "all the family members became excited about having a newborn," she said.

"My parents are very willing to help raise the kids because they are still in good health," she said. "And they've helped raise my daughter, so they've got experience."

Cheng is one of many families who are considering another child. The National Health and Family Planning Commission predicts that the amendment will result in 1.5 to 2 million newborns.

But a Dec 19 survey from the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences shows that in Beijing, about 51.5 percent of families prefer to have only one child, while 38.3 percent of those surveyed want to have two children.

The biggest reason for not having a second child? In a country where there is a wide gap between rich and poor, it's not surprising to see that money is a big factor.

"Having a second child is much easier said than done," says Xu Qiong, a 31-year-old mother in Guangzhou, Guangdong province.

Like many families who are now qualified to have a second child, Xu says both her parents and in-laws support her and her husband's wishes to have a second child. Xu and her husband married soon after college, and in 2005, their son was born. Soon afterward, Xu became a stay-at-home mom. The family is currently living in a two-bedroom apartment in a university in Guangzhou, where her husband works as a lecturer.

As the boy has gotten older, their apartment has gotten a little tight for Xu.

"I cannot even imagine having a newborn and the four of us living here," Xu said with a laugh. "We definitely need to move into a large house if our family expands."

The average housing price in Guangzhou was 11,468 yuan ($1,889) per square meter this November, according to the Guangzhou provincial housing authority. Xu said they can't afford the city's current home prices, especially since she isn't working and her husband makes less than 10,000 yuan a month.

She said another reason for her hesitation about having a second child is finding someone to help take care of the baby.

"Though I am not working," she says, "it is definitely hard for me to take care of two kids at the same time. I need help from our parents. But that isn't a good idea."

Soon after their son was born in 2005, Xu's parents came to live with them in Guangzhou and stayed with the family for two years.

"I hadn't lived with my parents for a long time, and while he was here my dad and I argued a lot over very small things," Xu recalled.

Born in the 1980s, Xu is an only child. She said she has a bad temper, which was even worse when her son was less than 2 years old.

"I actually have many regrets when I was raising my son when he was very little. I was very easily agitated, I couldn't control my temper and I acted badly to him when I was very stressed," she recalled.

Xu said she probably acted that way because she is an only child and had never taken care of anyone before.

"My son is like a mirror to me," she says. "Through taking care of him, I gradually learned to adjust my bad temper and take care of him with great patience. And this is also one reason why I want a second child. I will be a better mom if I do that for a second time. I've learned and improved a lot about myself as my son grew up."

Xu said she never felt lonely as a child because she was raised in a big family with lots of cousins and relatives. Her son, however, is lonely and has asked for younger brothers and sisters since he was 4.

"People in Guangzhou believe that having more children means more blessings," Xu said.

Yu Jian, a 28-year-old in Hefei, Anhui province, said it's a good idea for a child to have siblings. Both Yu and his younger sister were born in the 1980s when the family planning policy was being strictly enforced. Yu's father quit his job in a State-owned enterprise after Yu's sister was born.

"But I had a happy childhood," Yu says. He said he and his sister trust each other. In 2006, after his sister was hit in a car accident, she developed a bad temper and become easily agitated by everyone and everything.

Yu was the only person she could talk to during that time.

"I cannot have two children now because both my wife and I are not the only child in our families," he says. "But if one day the policy allows us to have another child, we definitely will. It is just better for a child to have a sister or brother."