What is the biggest hurdle for Chinese families eligible for a second child to actually have one? It may not be what you’d expect.
Almost all predictions went that China’s one-child policy reform last year was too little too late to bring a baby boom to the aging country. And they were right. According to China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission, only about 1 million eligible families applied for a second child so far.
Many reasons were given as to why the reform was too little too late. For example, many younger generations in China, being the only child themselves, don’t want to have more than one child, or any child at all. A lot of Chinese families simply cannot afford to have more than one. One thing, however, that most of us failed to factor in is the opinion from the first child in family.
In many cultures where there is never a “family planning” policy, in rare cases would a child strongly oppose the idea of having siblings. But the issue is a very real one in China – resistant to a second child among families’ first child, especially those old enough to know rivalry and jealousy.
44-year-old Ms. Xiao is one of those moms faced with a daughter who threatened to commit suicide if she gives birth to a second child.
Last year, Ms. Xiao was very happy to learn that the new policy reform put her businessman husband and herself in the pool of eligible families for a second child. After a year of trying, they succeeded. The other family member, her 13-year-old daughter, however, was extremely unhappy about the result.
“She is our little princess, and spoiled. After she leaned about my pregnancy, she often said that she’d jump to death if there is a younger brother or sister,” Ms. Xiao recalled, “At first, I thought she was just a little bit sentimental. But as the baby grows in me, she becomes more and more angry.”
Later, the teenage girl Wen Wen threatened to skip school and exams, run away from home, and even kill herself. A week ago, Ms. Xiao found razor blades in Wen Wen’s room, and cuts on her arms. The couple tried to talk, but Wen Wen didn’t give in a bit: “A second child or me.”
3 days later, in fear of losing their daughter, Ms. Xiao and husband went to the hospital and aborted the second child after 13 weeks of pregnancy.
The story soon went viral on the Chinese Internet. If you think Ms. Xiao and her daughter Wen Wen was an exception, think twice. More telling than the anecdote above is the overwhelming sentiment of understanding and sympathy found in comments to the story. “No one would want to share their parents’ love with a sibling.” “It’s the parents who want a second child, not the first child who wants a younger sibling.”
“As a teenager, my worst nightmare used to be my parents having a second child. I hate the idea of a younger sibling from the bottom of my heart. Call me selfish. I admit it.” One netizen commented. Another netizen recalled what happened to his family: “My mom was pregnant when I was 12. I remember being very angry. I told my parents that I would kill the baby if they decided to keep it. I was upset for a long time even after the abortion.”
Many also pointed out that having two children with such a big difference in age is unwise: “The second child would be a huge burden to the first child when their parents reach retirement.”
One netizen imaged a possible scenario: “When the second child reaches college age and needs a ton of money, their parents are already retired. The family’s economic burden would fall entirely on the first child who is still at the very early stage of his/her career.” Another netizen shared her own experience: “I was 15 when my parents gave birth to my younger sister. My parents always tell me that my sister will be my responsibility. And I always tell them no. I don’t like my sister at all, not because she shares a piece of my parents’ love or anything, but for very practical reasons, I don’t have the time, energy or money to be responsible for her while I still have my own life to figure out.”
Others also believed that Wen Wen’s extreme reaction was the fault of Ms. Xiao and her husband. “If they have engaged their daughter from early on, the result could be different.” One netizen commented. “If the first child they raised is like this, it’s probably better that they don’t a second one.” Another weighed in.
It will be a long time before China gets used to non one-child families again. And a lot needs to change before that happens.