The par­ent

China Daily European Weekly - - Spotlight - By HATTY LIU For China Daily

Shen­zhen pe­di­atric sur­geon Pei Hong­gang has an al­ter ego: “Doc­tor Pei,” an in­ter­net celebrity with 900,000 Weibo sub­scribers whose WeChat es­says reg­u­larly clock more than a mil­lion reads.

Un­der the slo­gan “Let par­ents spend less, let chil­dren suf­fer less,” Doc­tor Pei dis­penses sim­ple med­i­cal advice and par­ent­ing wis­dom via es­says, live broad­casts and on­line con­sul­ta­tions in or­der to take what he calls “sci­en­tific child-rear­ing” into the age of the cloud.

Bei­jing mother Liu Yan (not her real name), 27, de­scribes “smart” par­ent­ing via the likes of Doc­tor Pei as be­ing all the rage for the post-’90s gen­er­a­tion. Nei­ther their elders’ con­ven­tional wis­dom nor China’s over­bur­dened hospi­tal sys­tem quite cut it for to­day’s young par­ents. “If our chil­dren have a runny nose, the first thing we would do is take out our phone,” Liu says about her gen­er­a­tion. “We have our own chat groups, and apps and doc­tors’ WeChat ac­counts that help you re­ally un­der­stand, in­stead of just solve a prob­lem.”

Pei ruf­fles con­ser­va­tive feath­ers with his reser­va­tions about tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine or in­volv­ing grand­par­ents or “ma­ter­nity ma­trons” in rais­ing chil­dren. How­ever, this in­creases his pop­u­lar­ity with his base, who haven’t shed their rep­u­ta­tion for in­di­vid­u­al­ism — or, less flat­ter­ingly, he­do­nism — even as they be­gin to deal with ex­pec­ta­tions of mar­riage and fam­ily. A 2015 Pek­ing Univer­sity sur­vey found that the great­est wish of post-’90s peo­ple was “trav­el­ing,” se­lected by more than 50 per­cent of work­ing-age mil­len­ni­als — far ahead of such op­tions as ca­reer, re­la­tion­ships and wealth.

In a 2016 sur­vey of 6,000 post-’90s moth­ers by re­search com­pany MGCC, around 56 per­cent se­lected “loss of per­sonal time” as the big­gest chal­lenge of par­ent­hood, over “lack of ex­pe­ri­ence,” “lack of money,” or “lack of time due to work.” In terms of where mil­len­ni­als ob­tain par­ent­ing advice, “ex­perts and doc­tors” and “per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence” were cho­sen over fam­ily and peers.

Liu has had to de­fend her own par­ent­ing style. “My col­leagues were sur­prised I was old enough to have a child,” she says. Liv­ing with her in-laws, how­ever, re­lieves her of child­care du­ties dur­ing the day.

Ji Kan­gli, a 27-year-old sin­gle mother from Hubei prov­ince, re­lies on both sets of grand­par­ents to babysit her son in her home­town while she works full­time in Shen­zhen. She says it’s not an ideal ar­range­ment but a nec­es­sary one, given the cost of liv­ing and the stress of her ca­reer.

Other young par­ents find ways to pas­sively rebel. In De­cem­ber, a WeChat es­say pop­u­lar­ized the term “Bud­dha­like” to de­scribe post-’90s adults who adopt a stoic at­ti­tude to­ward pres­sure and set­backs, re­ject­ing both the ma­te­ri­al­ism and ide­al­ism of ear­lier gen­er­a­tions.

Liu agrees with th­ese prin­ci­ples, cit­ing her own over­sched­uled youth. “I want my child to grow up hap­pier, with more free­dom of self-ex­pres­sion,” she says.

Ji thinks so­ci­ety is be­com­ing more plu­ral­is­tic to­ward par­ent­ing: “Ev­ery­one makes choices based on their cir­cum­stances. Even if I’m not with my son, his grand­par­ents love him — isn’t that a good en­vi­ron­ment for a child?”

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