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Under Pressure: Chinese Full-Time Mothers Demand Time Off

With the number of stay-at-home mothers on the rise in China, so are the challenges that come with being a full-time mother.

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The story of a full-time mother who was slammed by her husband and mother-in-law for asking some ‘time off’ for traveling during the national holiday has gone viral on Chinese social media. Her account strucks a chord with other stay-at-home moms, who face difficulties in being a full-time mother in a society where family responsibilities are shifting.

Chinese netizen ‘@DoubleTrouble’ (@二捣蛋), a Guangzhou stay-at-home mother of two kids, recently posted about her desire to take “an absence of leave” (请假) from her life as a mum and travel by herself during the Chinese National Holiday.

The woman shared her grievances on WeChat about being severely criticized by her husband and mother-in-law for wanting some time for herself during an 8-day vacation after taking on the sole care of her two children non-stop for years.

The unhappy mother’s story, which was posted some days before the start of China’s national holiday, was picked up by Chinese media and went viral. It triggered heated discussions on the role of China’s stay-at-home mothers within the family.

 

A FULL-TIME MOTHER’S DILEMMA

“I raised the subject of wanting to go away for a while. But I couldn’t even finish speaking before my mother-in-law said: How dare you think of things like this as a mother?!”

 

The original text, which was posted by the woman on a WeChat forum for Guangzhou mothers (gzmama.com), is as follows:

“The past two days I’ve had a falling out with my family members. I wanted to use the National Holiday to travel somewhere, but my husband and mother-in-law strongly opposed. Now, there is all this turmoil because of this, with them criticizing me for being selfish. They also say I am irresponsible and that I am an unfit mother. I feel really low.

The situation is that I have two children, a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old, both raised by me. Although my parents-in-law are also in Guangzhou, they’ve never helped me out at all. Even when one child gets sick, it is me who has to take both the children to the hospital.

I’ve been married to my husband for six/seven years now. After we got married, I resigned from my job to become a full-time mother. We did not hire a nanny and I took on the care of the two kids by myself. My husband is very busy, and couldn’t help out either.

The last couple of years have tired me out. All mothers will know what I mean, even if they don’t say it. For this year’s [national] holiday, my husband also got a few days off, which is very rare, so I finally wanted to seize this opportunity to go out for a while, and let my mother-in-law help out for a bit to take care of the children.

A few days ago, we were all having dinner together, when I raised the subject of wanting to go away for a while. But I couldn’t even finish speaking when my mother-in-law said: “How dare you think of things like this as a mother?!” My husband also strongly opposed to me leaving the house. My father-in-law said nothing; he didn’t oppose nor approve.

My husband and my mother-in-law at the dinner table took turns in telling me how selfish I am, and how irresponsible I am, and I could not help but quarrel with them.

Now the family relations have gone sour, and my husband and I have not spoken for few days, I also haven’t gone to see my mother-in-law.

Am I really being selfish? The two children are already older now. The little one does not get breastfed anymore, and the kids get along great, they hardly ever fight.

Sigh, I do not know what to do now. Should I go anyway, regardless if they are against it or not? Or should I just forget about it it and just bitterly stay at home with the kids?”

 

The woman’s post received some 17,000 views and over 200 comments from other mothers on the Guangzhou forum before it was widely shared and discussed in Chinese media, receiving thousands of reactions on Weibo.

 

STAY-AT-HOME MOMS IN CHINA

“Once you have children, your time is no longer your own – your time must be dedicated to them.”

 

More than two-thirds of mothers in China work full-time. According to this report (video) by CGTN, China’s modern-day moms belong to a generation that attaches great importance on having a job – so much so that there is an alleged social stigma to staying at home full-time to raise the children.

“There are a lot of Chinese mothers who work, and this might not necessarily always be their choice,” says Roseann Lake, author of upcoming book Leftover in China: The Women Shaping the World’s Next Superpower.

Lake tells What’s on Weibo that the relatively high percentage of working mothers in China, on the one hand, can be explained through the historical background of the Cultural Revolution, which placed great importance on the full participation of women in the labor force. On the other hand, she notes, it also has a lot to do with today’s China.

“Giving the nature of China’s economy, there is a need for double-working households. And at the same time, there are also many grandparents with free time on their hands who are willing to take care of their grandchildren.”

Lake does not think there necessarily is a social stigma attached to being a full-time mom: “If the financial conditions allow it, women in China can certainly be stay-at-home moms. But then there is the expectation to take on the bulk of looking after the household.”

Nevertheless, Lake stresses, usually – despite expectations that the wife will then take on full care of the household and children – Chinese grandparents will pitch in to help take care of the children, whether the mothers like it or not.

About the case of Chinese netizen ‘@Doubletrouble’, Lake says: “There are plenty of in-laws in China who would pass judgment on something like this, saying that once you have children, your time is no longer your own and your time must be dedicated to them at all times.”

While there is pressure on both working and stay-at-home moms, there is a growing number of Chinese women who choose to fully dedicate themselves to their family life.

According to China Daily, more than 70% of post-90s young mothers are willing to be a full-time mom. By contrast, mothers from the post-80s would rather stay in the workforce; approximately 46% keep on working after becoming a mother.

 

ONLINE REACTIONS

“If women cannot even have this piece of freedom, then why do we get married at all?”

 

With the number of stay-at-home mothers on the rise in China, so are the challenges that come with being a full-time mother. The story of @DoubleTrouble shows that there are many other full-time mothers who have a similar story.

“Women have to think of themselves, they should not completely dedicate all of themselves to the family,” one woman (@潼潼囡妈咪) writes: “We need our own social space in order to have the capability to support ourselves and our children.”

“Just go!”, one person pleads: “If women cannot even have this piece of freedom, then why do we get married at all?”

Other people also point out that it is not the mom who is selfish: “If a woman becomes a mother, it doesn’t mean she has to give up on everything. There are 8 days in the National Holiday – why can’t she leave for 2 days? Can’t she have a break from working hard all year round? It’s not only her children, what’s wrong with the mother-in-law looking after them? They are the ones who are selfish and take her for a free labor force.”

There are also commenters who say that there is a big difference between being a stay-at-home mother and a ‘house slave’: “Just go and apply to be a nanny somewhere else,” one person suggests: “At least then you’ll have wages and get days off.”

“The one who has no sense of responsibility is not this mother, but her husband,” another woman writes.

“It’s not like she’s leaving for two months,” one commenter said: “If women cannot even enjoy this freedom and support after getting married and having babies, then what’s the point?”

“When I get married,” a male netizen writes: “I want my wife to take time for herself and go outside, I will watch the kids. I don’t want to see her depressed or restless.”

Despite all the support for @DoubleTrouble, and all the other mothers demanding that ‘time off’ should be normal for all stay-at-home moms, there are also some who disagree.

“When the child is 2 years old, they are too young. Wait until they go to school,” some say. Or: “Just take the children and go on a trip together with your husband, the four of you together as a family.”

 

THE “GREAT TRANSFORMATION”

“The grandmother does not have the duty to help out her daughter-in-law, but then she also shouldn’t expect her daughter-in-law to take care of her when she is old and sick.”

 

The recent account of ‘@Doubletrouble’ is not the only complaint from full-time mothers who feel the pressure of taking on the full care of their children and not getting any help nor personal time. An important recurring issue is the changing role of the in-laws, who traditionally lived with their son’s family and usually have an active role in raising their grandchildren.

One woman from Fujian (@林小夕的梦) cries out on Weibo: “I am so tired, I am on the verge of collapse. It’s unbearable being a full-time mother. Don’t ask me about my mother-in-law or why she doesn’t help me out – I’d be better off without her, she doesn’t understand.”

The transformations of Chinese traditional family structures in the modern-day era have not necessarily brought about equal gender divisions in the household.

As pointed out by Harriet Evans in The Gender of Communication (2010), the focus in Chinese society has gradually shifted over the past half-century, as there is “[a] shift away from a collectivist and family-oriented ethics of personal responsibilities to an individualistic ethics of rights and self-development” (981).

This “great transformation”1 manifests itself, amongst others, in the clashes between those younger mothers who seek self-fulfillment and personal satisfaction, and those older generations who still expect them to fulfill the traditional women’s role in the domestic sphere, while they, as grandparents, now also play a much less significant role in the upbringing of their grandchildren – not just because they are detached more from the family in social terms, but also often because there is a bigger spatial distance between families.

“The grandmother does not have the duty to help out her daughter-in-law, but then she shouldn’t expect her daughter-in-law to take care of her either when she is old and sick,” a popular comment said.

Since the post has gone viral, @DoubleTrouble has not given an update about whether or not she did go on that trip. If not, at least her story has triggered some relevant discussions online.

“I just hope this post will receive enough attention so that women who want to become a full-time mother will realize the difficulties they might face,” one woman writes.

By Manya Koetse

References

Evans, Harriet. 2010. “The Gender of Communication: Changing Expectations of Mothers and Daughters in Urban China.” The China Quarterly (204): 980-1000.

1 Evans (2010) quotes Yan Yuxiang here, author of The Individualization of Chinese Society (London: Berg, 2009).

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, Sino-Japanese relations and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Bruce Humes

    October 7, 2017 at 9:32 am

    It’s quite revealing that — at least in the Weibo comments cited — all the potential “solutions” are limited to family members.

    There is no mention of hiring a baby-sitter, part-time amah or full-time nanny. How come?

    Obviously, many Chinese households couldn’t afford the latter, but in 1st- and 2nd-tier cities, they can. In Hong Kong and Taiwan, many middle-class families hire part- or full-time nannies to do housework and look after children. Hong Kongers in particular do so, and insist on a Filipina or Indonesian female who is both truly caring about children, and can teach them English to boot!

    Among the Chinese mothers I know in Shenzhen and Guangzhou, however, hiring someone from outside the family to look after one’s children is considered very problematic, and most refuse to do so. Why? Because they are afraid their hires will 1) Steal from them, 2) Mistreat their children if a relative is not present, and/or 3) Kidnap their children and sell them to traffickers.

    Tells you a lot about contemporary Chinese society, doesn’t it?

  2. Pingback: China Contemplates Giving Stay at Home Moms Mandated Leave – China Moms Blog

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China Memes & Viral

“Soft Drink Prostitution” – How Beverage Bottles on Cars are Used for Soliciting Sex Outside of Chinese Campuses

People looking for paid sex have found a creative way of letting others know. In the world of so-called “soft drink prostitution,” green tea services are cheaper than Red Bull ones.

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The topic of “soft drink prostitution” has been circulating on Chinese social media over the past few days. It is a phenomenon where parked cars outside of Chinese campuses will have beverages on their rooftops, signaling students that they are willing to pay for sex. Different drinks represent different prices.

Over the past few days, various Chinese media outlets have been reporting about a new phenomenon popping up at Chinese campuses dubbed “soft drink prostitution.”

Just as shoes dangling from trees or telephone wire in many countries are associated with places where people can buy drugs, putting a drink on the roof or hood of a parked car in China (preferably a BMW), would mean the driver is soliciting prostitution.

A pet bottle on a car roof means someone is looking for some (paid) action.

Many recent articles about this issue, however, have been taken offline over the past two days from news sites such as Sina.com or Sohu.com.

Is it a new urban myth or is ‘soft drink prostitution’ in fact happening? What’s on Weibo dug deeper to find out more about what this phenomenon entails.

 

Different drinks represent different prices.”

 

The recent coverage of the ‘soft drink prostitution’ phenomenon in Chinese media was first triggered by a notice on the official website of Tianjin Normal University on December 11, 2017, titled: “About the Disposal of ‘Rooftop Beverages’ on Cars From Outside the Campus” (“关于清理校园外来车辆“车顶放置饮料”的情况通报”).

Screenshot of the Dec 11 announcement on the Tianjin Normal University website about parked cars with beverage bottles on them.

The notice explained that since the beginning of the semester, campus security started noticing that parked cars outside the campus gates would have beverage bottles placed on their roofs or hoods with the purpose of “luring in female students to prostitute themselves,” and that “different drinks represent different prices.”

The notice also included a warning that it is illegal for people to perform sexual acts in return for money or goods, regardless of whether such transactions would occur between people of the same sex or opposite sex.

 

This does indeed happen in various places.

 

Around December 29, 18 days after the original announcement was allegedly placed, news of the Tianjin University phenomenon started spreading on social media in China.

On one message board, netizens questioned the veracity of the announcement, as it was nowhere to be found on the official website of the Tianjin Normal University.

I’ve attentively examined the website of the Tianjin Normal University,” one commenter wrote: “And this particular news was not on the site. On December 11, they did post two articles, but one was about bank card skimming and the other was about the illegal recruitment of students for training programs. Also, the font used in the screenshot and that used on the official website is not the same.”

Although the critical readers determined this must be a fake news item, there were others who said that even if it were fake news, “this [practice] does [indeed] happen in various places.”

 

It may lead to misunderstandings.

 

As rumors about the Chinese campuses “soft drink prostitution” kept circulating online, news sources such as Modern Express (现代快报) and The Paper first covered the issue on January 2, 2018.

According to the The Paper, the announcement was, in fact, true, but that it was taken offline by the University because it “may lead to misunderstandings” because of its “wording.”

On Weibo, some netizens said that the article was more of a “manual” for students to how the phenomenon works than an actual warning against it.

According to a spokesperson at the University, the announcement concerned “a normal procedure,” and was not meant to attract so much attention online.

The spokesperson compared such a warning to regular announcements about pickpockets, and emphasized that no students had entered the parked cars.

 

Green tea represents the offer to pay 300 yuan (±45$), whereas a can of Red Bull stands for 600 yuan (±90$).

 

So-called “soft drink prostitution” is actually not an entirely new phenomenon around Chinese campuses. Various other media outlets and reporters, such this vlogger called ‘SheCar’on Baidu TV or this online newspaper already reported about the issue in 2016, explaining the difference between drinks types.

A bottle of mineral water means 200 yuan (30$), green tea represents the offer to pay 300 yuan (±45$), for instance, whereas a can of Red Bull stands for 600 yuan (±90$).

During a days-long experiment in which a Baidu TV presenter parked the car outside of various universities in Hunan with a beverage bottle on the rooftop, it turned out that several students -some female and one male- actually did pick up the bottle and got into the car.

In 2016, Sina news explained that the parked cars outside of campuses are mostly BMW brands. If a person gets into the car that is not to the driver’s liking, they can just say “they are waiting for someone.”

On Weibo, some netizens are surprised that the rumors and alleged “fake news” announcement have turned out to be true: “I always thought this was just some sexual fantasy,” one person comments.

There are also people who say that now that this phenomenon is more widely covered, it actually “reveals what people want to hide” (“此地无银三百两”).

Other people also point out that the beverage bottle trick does not always work. As one commenter writes: “I saw this in front of my school once. But no one got into the car all day. Finally, a street sweeper took the drink from the car roof and drank it.”

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Insight

#MeToo in China is #WoYeShi: Sexual Misconduct Allegations Rock Beijing University

With the hashtag ‘wo ye shi’ (‘me too’), one Chinese scholar stands up for a #metoo movement in China against sexual harassment.

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With the hashtag ‘Wo Ye Shi’ (#我也是, “#metoo”) a former doctoral student has come forward on Chinese social media with allegations against her former supervisor. Luo Qianqian claims that the award-winning professor Chen Xiaowu sexually assaulted her and other students during her time at the Beihang aeronautics university.

On the first day of the new year, a ‘#metoo’ scandal has hit China’s academic world. It concerns allegations made public on Weibo by former doctoral student Luo Qianqian (罗茜茜), who accuses her former supervisor Chen Xiaowu (陈小武) of sexually harassing her and several other students at Beihang University, a major public research university located in China’s capital.

Caixin Global, a Chinese media outlet, reported the news in English on January 2nd with an article titled “Global ‘Me Too’ Movement Against Sexual Assault Hits Chinese Academia,” in which journalists Li Rongde and Yuan Suwen state that “the “Me Too” movement has extended from the U.S. into China with the recent allegations.”

Luo Qianqian, a Chinese scholar now living in the US, claims that her former supervisor Chen Xiaowu tried to “force himself upon her behind a locked door” twelve years ago at Beihang, when Luo was working on her doctoral degree.

 

“A voice in me said ‘me too'”

 

Luo wrote that she “no longer wants to remain silent,” and wanted to “come out” with her story.

In the morning of January 1st, Luo published an article on her own Weibo page (@cici小居士) titled: “I Want to Report the Beihang Professor and Zhejiang Scholar Chen Xiaowu under My Real Name, for Sexually Assaulting Female Students” (“我要实名举报北航教授、长江学者陈小武性骚扰女学生”).

In this blog post, Luo writes that she was inspired to come forward when she first heard about the Harvey Weistein scandal in October of 2017 and the launch of the “#metoo” campaign on Twitter and Facebook.

“A voice in me said ‘me too,'” Luo writes, as she describes how she came in touch with other former fellow students through the Chinese Q&A platform Zhihu.com. It was on this platform that Luo first shared her story of how her supervisor lured her to come his sister’s home, who was not at home, where he attempted to force himself upon her. After she began crying and pleading with Chen, he drove her home and told her he was only testing her character and that she was not to tell anyone about what had happened.

Luo’s account on Weibo, which now has a “metoo” profile picture, with the #woyeshi hashtag below.

Luo also posted several testimonies online to support claims that Chen also sexually assaulted at least seven other students. State media outlet Global Times also reported that, according to Luo, one student became pregnant after Chen had sex with her and that the renowned professor then tried to silence her by offering her money.

By January 2nd, Luo’s account was viewed over 3,7 million times on Weibo and had received more than 16,000 shares.

 

“Only if women come forward like this, women’s rights can be protected.”

 

Netizens responded to the issue in various ways, with some saying that there are many “beasts like Chen” in China’s higher education, while others said that it was “only a matter of time” before the case would be pulled offline.

According to Caixin, Chen Xiaowu has stated that he is aware of the accusations from former students, but says that he denies the allegations and will leave the matter to investigators.

Beihang University has responded with a statement on its official website on January 1st, saying that the institute is now researching the case and has temporarily suspended Chen Xiaowu from his duties.

Although Caixin claims the current case signals a greater movement of the “Me Too” movement into China, and despite the media attention for Luo’s case, the hashtag ‘wo ye shi’ (#我也是) is not taking off on Chinese social media.

The South China Morning Post addressed the issue in an article of early December 2017, writing that even if more Chinese women try to come forward on sexual harassment cases, they face insurmountable obstacles such as police inaction and state crackdowns on activism. Among other reasons, sexual harassment in China therefore often is underreported and under-prosecuted.

Nevertheless, there are thousands of comments on Weibo in support of Luo Qianqian. “We are rooting for you. Only if women come forward like this, women’s rights can be protected,” one person comments.

“We are all standing by your side,” some say: “Please keep reporting on this issue. We will follow you.”

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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What’s on Weibo provides social, cultural & historical insights into an ever-changing China. What’s on Weibo sheds light on China’s digital media landscape and brings the story behind the hashtag. This independent news site is managed by sinologist Manya Koetse. Contact info@whatsonweibo.com. ©2014-2017

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