I recently received an e-letter from someone in China (who wishes to remain anonymous) who read my books, Families of Two and The Baby Matrix. With permission to share it, here are candid thoughts and insightful commentary on being childfree in China and its reproductive culture:
Being Childfree in China
“I really enjoyed reading two of your books. Families of Two taught me a lot, and made me think more about relationships of childfree couples. The stories of you and your husband and all the other 15 couples are so encouraging and inspiring for me.
I’m the oldest of the three children in my family, and although I love my sister and my brother, I knew quite early in my life that I didn’t want to be a mother in the future. I was born in a village in the center of China, where almost everybody has more than two children even with the one-child policy. I always knew that those with an only child were just a small part of population in our generation. Most people lived in rural areas, and a lot of them were migrant workers. The policy had no real control over them because they could move to another place to have another child until they had a son.
I also don’t think the one-child policy is the main cause for the imbalance of gender ratio in China; it’s more culture and tradition-related. “No son or grandson” is a huge insult in traditional Chinese society, since Confucianism puts a lot of emphasis on family values, patriarchal orders, etc.
I really understand the burden of being born as a Chinese woman. When I grew up, I saw that both my parents were unhappy, and I was disappointed in marriage from a very early age. My father was far away working to support the family, and my mother was struggling to maintain the house with us.
She was discriminated against because my sister and I were her first two children. She was always pushing us to achieve more and better because she wanted to prove to my father’s family that her daughters could do even better than the boys in the family. I can understand this now, but it was hard for me when I was a kid.
I was never interested in getting married or having kids. One of the main reasons I broke up with my last boyfriend is that I don’t want kids. I wondered if there was something wrong with me; last year I fell into depression. I gradually recovered, and decided that I wanted to do something to make the world better for women. I quit my job as a French translator and interpreter, and now I work for a nonprofit organization that focuses on sex education for teenagers, promoting the idea that every child should be a wanted one, and saving animals.
Now, I really feel lucky and grateful about my life. I know it’s still very hard for me to find someone with similar thoughts, but your book Families of Two really gives me some hope that, maybe, one day, I can meet my partner and have a great relationship.
In your book, The Baby Matrix, I found the chapter on the Right to Reproduce Assumption extremely inspiring. I think that the parenting-related education is much needed in China. I’m sure you have heard the news that the one-child policy has officially ended, and to my great disappointment, all the foreign news agencies and websites talked about this without mentioning the real dilemmas of many women, and even less of the discrimination that women will face in the workforce. I talked with my friends, and we’re very worried about the fact that many women will be forced to have a second child now with the new policy. What we need more is not the right to have more children, but the right to say NO when we don’t want to have children.
I feel relieved though when I see more and more Chinese women starting to realize this fact and that they are vocalizing their rights online. Many women say that they won’t have a second child because they don’t want to sacrifice their financial independence or career. They understand that motherhood is only part of their identity. But the pronatal influences are still being felt everywhere, including advocates of great influence like CEOs of big companies.
There are very few studies or books about the childfree in China, and it’s really a shame since we have the biggest population in the world. I hope your books as well as similar ones will be translated and published in China in the future.”
Many thanks to this reader for being willing to share this letter. It is a window into being childfee in China and where this country is in terms of Chinese women having full reproductive freedom.