Family matters

2021-01-31 12:05:14

[Photo provided to China Daily] The issue that can turn home life into heaven or hell  On a quiet afternoon, relaxed and spreading herself across a commodious sofa, Wang Meiying, 62, who has two grandchildren, is absorbed in her cellphone, thumbing through her contacts on the social media app WeChat as her baby grandson lies sound asleep in a pram in a bedroom. For Wang, engaging with her friends through WeChat offers a short respite in a day in which she is otherwise busy taking care of the baby. She has made a New Year doll the screensaver on her cellphone. The image of a chubby baby is god, symbolizing good luck, longevity and fertility. She, her daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren are crammed into a 62-square meter apartment in downtown Beijing. In China, being preoccupied with a large, thriving family is the normal state of affairs-or at least that is how Wang sees things. Her daughter and son-in-law are the products of one-child families, a result of the national family planning policy that was in force for about 40 years until 2016. It was a change Wang and the grandmother on her daughter's husband's side quietly welcomed, allowing them to support the idea of having a second grandchild, and the young couple finally decided in 2019 to go ahead with the birth. That child is now 18 months old. "I'm obviously aware that my daughter went through a lot to have the second child," Wang says. "To ensure she's happy I try to free her up from the daily hassles of child care, and I do my best to avoid conflicts caused by the different ways we look at parenting." In communities, parks and shopping malls across China, grandparents pushing prams is a common sight. The National Health Commission says the country has nearly 18 million senior migrants-those who leave their hometown to live in another locality-accounting for 7.2 percent of the country's 247 million migrants, and 43 percent of them say they migrated with the sole purpose of taking care of the younger generations. The second-child policy is now playing out in full, with many families having embarked on that road. It has given some old people the time of their lives, but for others it has proved to be sheer hell. With a sharp cry, Liu Meiling's heart tightens, and she rushes to 18-month-old Erbao (second pearl) lying on the ground crying as Dabao (first pearl), 5, remains quiet. This, Liu says, is a frequent scene in the family. The girl makes her young brother cry, and intense conflict often seems to be in the offing. Liu says her mother-in-law pushes her aside and picks up the boy and castigates her daughter.