A lonely burden for only children

Updated: 2016-08-29 07:59

By Luo Wangshu(China Daily)

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Separate lives

Li Hao has worked in Turkey as a business development manager since 2013. The 29-year-old only child from the northern port city of Tianjin enjoys life overseas.

"I enjoy the environment and the simple life, just work and fun times," he said. Living abroad means Li doesn't have to worry about complicated personal relationships, but every year, he spends almost his entire two-month vacation visiting his family at home.

His mother had surgery recently, and being overseas meant Li felt the separation more keenly. "It wasn't a serious ailment, just a minor operation. But I was concerned because I was away from home and received very little information," he said.

Eventually, Li decided to take time off work and return home to look after his mother when she was discharged from the hospital.

He is now considering returning to China for good, or at least spending more time working in the country "to take better care of my parents and set my mind at ease".

The problems caused by separation also affect children who live in China, but in cities and towns thousands of kilometers from their parents.

Last year, a story called Don't Dare to Die or Marry a Husband or Wife from Somewhere Other Than Your Hometown, which focused on the difficulties faced by both parents and children, went viral online. It was written by Yang Xiwen, an only child who lives in New Zealand.

"The title expresses all my fears," said Zhang Hui, a 29-year-old who lives and works in Shanghai, far from her hometown of Yancheng, Jiangsu province, in East China.

"Being an only child means I cannot even date a boy outside of my hometown because it would be hard to take care of my parents at the same time, according to my mother," she said. Even though Shanghai is only a three-hour drive from Yancheng, her mother has been pushing her to return home for work.

"In my hometown, it's regarded as shameful for senior people to live in nursing homes. My mother does not want to live in Shanghai and I can't afford for her to live in Shanghai, especially at her 'desired living standard'. She thinks it would be easy for her to live with me if I was in my hometown," she said.

Back in the US, Su Yao has decided to postpone making any decisions about the future. Her lifestyle means she has to be flexible and respond to circumstances, even though she has to determine the best course of action for her parents and her young family, especially her 2-year-old son.

"I want him to attend primary school in China, but then again, five years ago I said I would give birth at home," she said. "At the moment, I'm leaving this dilemma behind me for a while in the hope that everything will become clearer later on."

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