The China Baby Race

A little asian boy looks surprised about the surroundings.
When my friend Peter already announced a baby boy, within a year of getting married, it made me wonder about the rush to have babies sooner in China (Photo by Erik Araujo)

This evening, I was so excited to find an e-mail from Peter, one of my closest Chinese friends. I expected to hear something about his work life, or perhaps his wife. But instead, I read this:

“We have some happy news to share with you. My wife just had a baby boy on February 15, 7 jin 3 liang. The mother is fine.”

Of course I was happy for him too, and I couldn’t wait to tell my Chinese husband about it. But then it hit me. Peter had only been married to his wife for about a year. And within that year, he and his wife had already turned double happiness into triple happiness. Fast.

Somehow, I couldn’t help but think of my mother-in-law’s talk after our own wedding ceremony, and how she told me to “have children sooner.” Did Peter’s mom give his wife the talk? Did the wife’s parents say it? Or did both of them have the “must have child sooner” pressure looming in their minds, from the moment they said “I do?” Is it the equivalent of checking something off a normal couple to-do list?

If it is, then I still have “homework” hanging over my head. I’ve been married for years, and still have no child to show for it. I’ve been slow to get in the baby race for a lot of reasons. Which is why I marvel at Peter, and his ability to jump right in.

Still, when it comes to the race to have that one critical child, Peter can’t beat my husband’s Chinese friend, Herbert. Herbert’s wife showed up to their wedding ceremony in October 2005 decked out in the ultimate bridal accessory — a baby bump. Maybe she figured the best way to get ahead of the baby game (and perhaps even sidestep that mother-in-law talk altogether) is to start well before the wedding. 😉

Have you ever been surprised by how fast your Chinese friends have had babies? Or did you waste no time in having your own children?

Did you enjoy this article?
Sign up now and receive an email whenever I publish new blog posts. We respect your privacy. You can unsubscribe at any time.
I agree to have my personal information transfered to MailChimp ( more information )

19 Replies to “The China Baby Race”

  1. Absolutely true.
    If there is no baby after, say 3 years, then it is PROBLEM.
    I recently wrote down the names of my married girl friends. Believe it or not, out of 24 girls, six (!) were pregnant at the time of their wedding.

  2. We started trying right after our wedding and I got pregnant on the 2nd month. We had no in-law pressure though, since my MIL died before I even met her. For me personally it was just that I knew I wanted to get started having kids before I was 30 (mainly because I fully expected it to take a few years and I didn’t to feel pressure due to my age) and while we were not particularly well off I knew that we probably wouldn’t be well off for many years yet and I wasn’t willing to wait that long. It all worked out though, I am turning 31 this year and have 2 wonderful kids now and financially we’re fine and we can choose to have another, or not, without feeling like we HAVE to before I become unable to have kids.

    I know that most Chinese parents (shoot, most parents in general) are anxious to “hold a grandchild” once their kids get married, but that’s not a good reason to have a baby! While I often say to my friends who are not married or do not have kids yet that if you wait for the timing to be perfect you might find yourself waiting forever, the decision should be based on whether you and your partner are ready, not on pressure from the potential grandparents! 😉

  3. To be honest I have been really shocked at how many of my boyfriends friends have had babies at what seems to me to be the most inappropriate times. Then they end up sending the baby back to China for their parents to mind..

    I am guessing they are having a baby to please the parents since a lot of them can’t afford to bring up a child in Ireland whilst working. I told my boyfriend I would never consider having a baby unless we were both financially stable and were going to be able to look after the baby ourself

    1. @Crystal, six of your friends were pregnant at their wedding? Whoa! Clearly my friends are not the only ones!

      @Jessica, I was thinking of you as I wrote this, as indeed you did start early, but didn’t have the inlaws pressure. I think you put it perfectly — it’s all about whether you’re ready for it.

      @Sarah, the whole “sending the baby back to China” thing is not new to me. In fact that’s what my mother-in-law told me right after our wedding, b/c I said my husband and I weren’t ready to have kids, so she said “send it to me and I’ll raise it until it is 3 years old.”

      Actually, Crystal up there wrote a great article about this phenomenon, titled Chinese kids, parents and grandparents. Check it out.

  4. I definitely received a generous helping of “encouragement” to have a baby soon while visiting my husband’s family this year at Spring Festival (since now we are married). And yes, I was even told that we could send the baby to live with his parents for them to raise until it was ready for school (we live in different cities in China).
    I don’t fully understand the logic behind pressuring people to marry and have a child right away when they are relatively young (mid-20s), but I know that even my husband is somewhat brain-washed (I use that term as nicely as I can) to thinking that way. He talks about us having a baby soon all the time, and I always tell him I’d like to wait a couple of years and he says he understands. But then the next time, it’s the same discussion! He also buys into the thinking that I am nearly too old to have children, since I’m going to be 30 this year (gee, thanks honey!), so I know that’s a part of it.

  5. I got pregnant before I even met my Chinese in-laws. They tried to convince my then-boyfriend that I had gotten pregnant on purpose to keep from breaking up with me. Of course, now that we’re almost married and there’s an adorable little girl around, they’ve accepted me. Now they’re commenting on my post-baby weight, housekeeping skills and hoping that “the next one” will be a boy.

  6. My mother in law asked if we’re going to have babies. Our answer: No! My mother in law made sure I know that she’s going to help.

    Actually, it’s the opposite in Taiwan. People are getting pregnent less and less. If the birthrate keeps going like that – there will be nobody 50 years after. Or whatever. There was a study about that. xD Most of my husband’s classmates are married but with no chidlren!

  7. From your post it seems you haven’t gotten a lecture from your Chinese mother-in-law about child bearing. Am I right? If so, you are a lucky one. My mother has been hitting on my girlfriend for a while now. She even told her once, “You want to get drunk? I can put you in Sean’s bed afterwards. It’s ok.” Yeah, it’s that scary. Best of luck with your mother in law!

  8. This is such a sensitive topic for me. Thank goodness my husband and I are on the same page on this one. We do not want children. Well, it’s more like I really don’t want children and my husband is ok with that. At first it was hard dealing with his parents. A few days after we got married my mother-in-law fixed a special dish that was supposed to improve a man’s virility. And after we’d been married for about 6 months, one day we sat down to dinner with his parents and his mom asked if we were using birth control. Then my father-in-law demanded to know the reason I wasn’t pregnant. I was so upset I had to leave the room.
    My husband, on the other hand, is very calm and collected. He is willing to take all the blame/responsibility for us not having kids. After 2 years of marriage the pressure has died down somewhat, and my husband now handles all the baby issues. He tells me just to keep quiet. Although that is hard sometimes, like when during Spring Festival I am surrounded by relatives giving me unsolicited advice about having babies. I was this close to giving them all an earful about how it’s none of their stinking business (this is one time I wish I didn’t speak Chinese!), but knew that wouldn’t be good, so I just grabbed my husband, said a hurried goodbye, and left.
    One thing I have learned, however, and try to keep in mind, as Jocelyn mentioned before, that inquiring about babies is just ‘the job’ of caring family members. As strange as it is to us Americans, in Chinese culture it is just one way of showing you care.

  9. It’s an old world type of concern, when couples (especially if the woman is in her 20’s) doesn’t have kids. I hope you all don’t blame them all for that mentality, as annoying as it might be. Like Jackie said, it’s a way of caring.

    For the people who want to have kids, through birth not adoption;
    We all do have a biological clock, sadly to say. Please don’t get mad at me for saying this, but there really are risks for the child if a woman has them late and contrary to popular notion, it also is true for men. Everyone knows that the older the woman is, late 30’s + that there is a higher chance for the kid to get a developmental disorder. It doesn’t mean everyone will be like that, just the risk is higher. For men, same thing when they’re in their 40’s +. People in the past didn’t have all the knowledge we have now, but they did notice those type of things. So they encourage people to have kids as early as possible. Overtime, this pressure to have babies turn into a culture.

    The birthrates in many wealthier Asian countries are definitely declining. Though I really don’t know how it can applied in places like China or India where the big population pretty much skews any statistics and predictions. I’ve heard concerns, but it really is hard to say in big countries like that. In Taiwan, I heard on the Taiwanese news that more and more babies are being born to mixed couples, notably to the non-native wives from other parts of Asia (not including China). Some Taiwan people don’t like it, but at least from the news, it seems that there is a feeling that this might be the way to go.

  10. Actually, the part about the mixed couples in Taiwan I only got from the media. I’m not entirely sure how it is on the ground.

    Maybe you all who are there can confirm what I heard from the news is true or not?

  11. Mmmm, I think I win the 1st price here… I didn’t marry my Chinese husband until our daughter was 10 months old. We had been together for several years, though.

    When to have kids (and whether to have them or not) should be decided by the couple, with no pressures… but I’m depicting an ideal world, I guess.

    My husband’s cousin married, had a baby straight away… and moved to Tokyo and left the newborn baby for her mother to raise!

    He also has friends who claim they’ll do the same when they have kids. My MIL mentioned it to me when I was pregnant, that she could raise the baby, ’cause raising a kid oneself is so tough apparently… I told her that if I needed someone to raise my kids for me I wouldn’t have them, in the first place.

    This whole “send the kid to China” thing is beyond me, it’s a cultural abyss I can’t cross. Oh well…

  12. Many of my Chinese friends in Hong Kong wait until they want to have children to get married. They may date for many years before they get married, and when they do marry, it is with the purpose of having a baby soon. Many Westerners, on the other hand, think people can have some wonderful years together before they have children. I think this is the difference. My MIL has asked to help raise our child, and did ask us about having a child soon after we got married, but she did not pressure us about either, thankfully!

  13. Thanks this page is always my reference often to wait is this normal thinking in the east.

    i’m a 32 year old white female and my boyfriend is 29 we met just about 5 weeks ago. Him and his family have been in Canada 5 years.
    hes gone from 1st date asking if my parents want me married to
    2nd date quick stop home to help his parents i met them quickly then out for bbt to meet the friends asking me to be his gf then telling me he loves me

    and by now everyday for the last week he is talking about having babies right NOW..

    we have dinner with his parents next week

    seems some men move really fast. ! hahaa.

  14. This is a hard topic between my boyfriend and me. I doubt I’ll get any help from him when his family starts in (should we marry and I meet them). I don’t want to have children biologically. For the simple reason that I don’t see the point in having children biologically when there are so many kids out there who need parents. My mom and brother is completely fine with this. Various other members of my family are fine purely because I told them their opinion doesn’t weigh on my mind.

    I’ve gotten into heated discussions with him and once broke up with him because I thought he wasn’t taking me seriously. I don’t have anything against having kids biologically…Not really anyway. Meaning, if I got pregnant I would be just as happy as if I was to be told that I qualify to adopt. But because I want and prefer to adopt, I just can’t picture myself actively trying to get pregnant.

    I even agreed that I could get pregnant if we adopt first but he wants to have kids and then adopt after. We’re both stuck because neither of us can be guaranteed that the other will comply with their part but we’re both absolutely certain that we will on our own part.

    There is one or two other options that I had thought of suggesting but I’ve been surfing around this site a lot today and I think that those options wouldn’t fly either.

    I guess it’s about who has the most faith. I’d like to say that I’d be the bigger person but I know it won’t be me. I do, however, have faith that we will find a way to work it out.

  15. @my boyfriend moves at light speed

    You must too if you’re fine with it! Haha, good luck with everything!

    @ the comments about sending the kids to the grandparents. It completely boggles my mind that they would do it. I understand why and that’s the way of their culture and my mom always told me that should I have a kid before I’m ready (i.e still a teen), she will always be there to help me. But it’s always been our understanding that “help” meant as a babysitter if I was in school (high school or college) or for work and various practical things like that. I would still be responsible for my child(ren). But it’s also been our understanding that even if I am ready, she will still be there as a babysitter and such.

    My dad gets on my case when he sees me about how everyone is having kids and things like that. I usually just roll my eyes and change the subject.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

gifts to china