Behind the Vogue Term “Child’s Slave”
If vogue words are weathercock of society, the much-mouthed term “child’s slave” is indicative of a disquieting tendency: a whole generation of our country is hesitant about whether to become parents or not. The implication is: For the first time ever, parenting is regarded on a large scale as a heavy burden rather than a blessing in our society where parent-child love has long been valued as its cornerstone.
That is by no means blessing.
Arguments are making newspaper headlines and dominating websites. Consequently, the experts’ view hinting that “One should not rush into parenthood” is spreading widely; and the panic that “The expense of bringing up a child amounts to one million yuan” is creeping into people’s hearts. Thus, parenting has become an unavoidable serious topic over dinner of many families, as it is said.
We admit that any choice concerning childbearing made by individual families should be respected. However, once the choice is channeled into one orientation that is getting contagious, we can’t take it lightly. We admit at the same time that the cost of rearing a child is skyrocketing, which, however, cannot justify the opinion that regards children as a burden.
The cost of living, especially in cities, is becoming a pressure too heavy to bear for many people. This is the reality we have to face up to. The high cost of living is, in part, the price we have to pay for the development of civilization, and in part, the undesirable consequence of the imbalance of our social structure. Many of the generation for whom “child’s slave” has become a pet phrase have just begun to be on their own feet. What confronts them is a society torn by the widening gap between the rich and the poor and imbalanced mentality of the people, in which they are struggling in the discrepancy between their great expectations of a happy life and the harsh reality. They habitually attribute all this to the unfairness of society, thus complaining and grumbling all the time.
Such pressure surely affects the way they view parenting. The existence of this pressure is reality: Anyone who happens to be a busy parent you stop in the street of Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou will tell you that the child is the very motivation that drives them to work hard but it is also the cause of their anxiety.
However, when a couple hurries to judge the value of childbearing with the sum expense of milk powder, diapers and tuition, and regards their struggle to bear such expenses as being “enslaved”, we are sure that something must be wrong.
养育后代从来不只是一个经济命题。它包含亲情之美、伦理之常。它的利弊，不应该只通过计算器上敲出的数字来评判。 Rearing a family is more than an economic issue. It embraces the beauty of family affection and convention of ethics. Its merits and demerits cannot be merely judged by the figure shown in the calculator when you have keyed in all the expenses.
Parent-child love or domestic bliss embraces not only a time-honored tradition highly valued by our society, but also an eternal them lying deep in human nature that cannot be avoided. The tradition deep-rooted in the Chinese culture and human nature should not be negated by the indifferent estimation of cost, although an individual may decide for or against parenting for various reasons.
What worries us is, behind the popularity of the term of “child’s slave”, the exaggerated collective complaint may build up into a torrential trend that might shape many people’s independent thinking to the detriment of our treasured family love and of our traditional notion concerning rearing a family.
It is rash and irresponsible to view parenting as enslavement and mention it in the same breath as the purchase of one’s own flat or private car. This view reveals a passive escapement from rather than an active face-to-face encounter with the world. It is a reckless risk to propagandize and enthuse over it.
We must also admit that it is sensible for any rational “economist” to accurately calculate the possible expense of rearing a family and coordinate one’s tempo of life accordingly. However, the sensibility doesn’t lie in complaining about the enormous expenses and venting one’s discontent with the high cost of living. After all, even in the hardest and poorest times in history, mankind never shunned its responsibility of raising and caring for its offspring.
The term “child’s slave” inflicts us with disturbance, which roots from the hard livelihood of the people—if members of a society are forced to calculate meticulously and hesitate when confronting such a basic choice as raising offspring, it means the hard livelihood must be taken up in real seriousness. Such a disturbance also hints at the vulnerability of our traditional values, through which our social community maintains to exist till today.
We sincerely hope those who are in fear of becoming “child’s slaves” will calm down to think carefully instead of allowing themselves to follow a code and drift along with the tide. We also hope that the fear of becoming “child’s slaves” will be allayed as soon as possible. This requires the whole social system develop in a fine way and all parents and would-be parents regard the bliss of childbearing and rearing with a more positive and healthier attitude.