Friday, 4 June 2021


So, the Chinese have changed their mind on the legally allotted number of children a couple can have. After strictly no more than one for several years it crept up to two, was very recently changed to three and probably counting, seeing how Chinese couples found that one was plenty of hassle and I am not at all sure how many couples will follow regulations. It looks like so many official roadmaps that are handed out to the masses from on high, wherever you might be: first you complain, then you fall in with what becomes the norm and in the end you resent changes to what has become an officially sanctioned way of life that has become comfortable and perfectly manageable. Besides, one costs less than two, always a consideration. The Chinese didn't work out the effect on the population numbers when they blithely ordered that a knot was to be tied in the baby producing mechanism.

What are children for? Seriously. When we had no means of birth control other than some very fallible methods, children were produced, wanted or not. You may be too young to remember the days when women dreaded that time of the month, particularly when they, or more often, their partner, had let the heat of the moment overtake fear of pregnancy, a fact they may soon have come to regret. Whether you were married or indulging in sin mattered not so much, although married breeding at least didn't bring the opprobrium that unmarried mothers faced. Breeding is not a word used nowadays although I recently saw a programme which provides brides for millionaire old men; the old codger who looked every minute of his 73 years was laying down his requirements before acquirement,  viz. :  must be attractive, must breed at least two sons, have some money and means of her own, and the most astounding requirement was that he "couldn't go above 35" What he was not asked by the note-taker?/ agent?/marriage broker? was what he had to offer an attractive young woman with means of her own, other than an urge to impregnate her. "So tell me, Miss Brown, what first attracted you to Mr. Shrunken-Shanks Moneybags?" might have been a suitable question for a possible contender. I remember that wonderful scene in Sex And The City when Samantha takes an elderly man to her bed who has indulged in Viagra beforehand. When he leaves the bed to go to the bathroom (we oldies need to pee more often) her face is a picture of distate as she watches his back view recede toward the bedroom door.

So, what are children for? To continue the human race, of course, you will say. Me too, when I'm feeling generous towards said race, although there may soon be no planet to house and feed all these children. In my peregrinations in blogland I have seen many female bloggers describe themselves as doting mothers, wives, grandmothers etc. In other words, apppendages first and foremost. A lot fewer mention professions, or give a precis of  interesting facets of their lives. In other words, a purpose other than caretaking. I admit that there are many women for whom  this caretaking is a holy and much loved pleasure, to be seen as the fulfilment of a woman's deepest needs, as well as her bounden duty. Fair enough, to each his own. But give those women who prefer not to have children - not the poor souls who desperately want a child but it just doesn't happen for them - I mean the ones who choose not to get pregnant -  the right to follow their own path. All that phoney pity, the intimate questions re the "patter of tiny feet", "w-h-e-n  can we expect a happy event? Is there perhaps a touch of envy when the harassed mum sees her friend's active social life, her independence, her clean and tidy flat free of Lego strewn about to trip you up?

Children are wonderful in their allotted sphere. They can be a joy and delight and, I suppose, mostly are. But we can no longer count on children as an insurance policy for old age, "to take care of us as we once did for them", which, if I remember rightly, was the way in Far Eastern civilisations (and maybe other civilisations too, but it was the Chinese which caused these ruminations), where old age and its concomitant wisdom were much revered.  We can be proud of them when they reach maturity, we can also be disappointed, we come in quite useful when the children's children require a doting grandparent to double up as unpaid childminder, we can sit and watch from the sidelines, but we cannot - or very rarely - be part of a family embracing all ages under the same umbrella, the way things once were, even in my lifetime.

My son is a very good example of what I mean. He has a large family circle, with the usual chequered his- and-her children, inherited adult siblings, adoptive and inherited grandchildren, his own soon to be grandchild; I know that he is happy with the status quo and enjoys it all immensely, albeit slightly sporadically. I am no part of this family, not from any malice on any side, it just never happened that I was included, or to be honest, included myself. He does what he can for me, visits several times a year, cheerfully works his way through my extensive list of jobs reserved for him; we take the time to sit and reminisce about "our olden days", then he leaves to return to his busy life. That's how it should be, I must be glad that he leads a loving and contented life. For the rest, we have slightly "dutiful" telephone contact on Sundays, when we catch up on the week's events. I am not complaining. Besides, he means well.

I also have - or had - a daughter. As those of you who have been my faithful readers for a while know, she fell out with me many years ago and has never felt any need to enquire after my wellbeing, neither during good times nor bad. For a long time I fretted and worried, but everything passes.

When you get to my ripe old age you realise that nothing much matters, and that includes children. You want them to do well and live well-adjusted lives and if they pass on the better parental genes to following generations you can sit back and say:" job done as well as can be expected under the circumstances". 

One thing I would advise you to do, even though you absolutely do not need my advice: keep those pennies safe for the time when the Happy Endings facility beckons; without those pennies God Help Us All. And, in the meantime, enjoy yourselves.



  1. I can imagine there are those in China who might be thinking that they have enough to juggle with only one or two children. Who is this new wrinkle in the law for? Those folk still living on the land? Working folk in cities could probably care less that they are now allowed to have three children.

    My sibs do not have a relationship with the woman who raised them: my mother. I feel that my mom thinks similarly to you. It is what it is, as some say.

  2. The Chinese news was very interesting to me. I'm an only and Rick's boys owe me nothing but respect, courtesy and kindness, all of which they give but from a bit afar. Not across country but certainly across the state. I know that I am not their responsibility in the 'end days,' though I hope they will be kind and visit, keep in touch and such. It's a tad disconcerting. But I know enough others whose youth are blood and may or may not be the old-age fallback resource. Rick and his four brothers are tending to their mom more than half-way across the country and have agreed between them to pay for care when her own funds run out. I won't have that option. I don't dwell on it -- but it does cross my mind more often now than in years past.

  3. I think the driving force behind the Chinese rule change us that they finally realized that the population was becoming top heavy, too few people if working age to drive the economy, with an ever increasing number of elders with nobody to take care of them.
    Why this didn't dawn in them in the original planning process is beyond me. Bureaucrats getting ahead of statisticians maybe. Certainly not a demographic winner.

    They're also finding that the marrying age group can't find partners. Duh!

  4. Thank you. One of my sisters in law says loudly and often that a woman's ONLY worthwhile role is as a mother (and grandmother). She married my brother late and also says (again often) how glad she is that she can give him a proper family to belong to. Needless to say we are not kindred spirits.
    I have always wondered whether the rich could and did circumvent China's child number policy. I strongly suspect they did.

  5. Welcome back to blogging, Friko!

    Regarding children and demography, the tendency nowadays is to follow the saying: If you can't beat them, join them! Nobody dares tell those with many kids,'why haven't you used birth control; you're destroying economy and the future of both the country and the planet'. So, they've decided all and everywhere to take the short cut, give birth to more than 3 children, and ask Social Security for Child Allowance.

    More important even than the 'pennies' is Independence - not to depend,if possible, on kids, siblings, friends, gardener, cleaning lady, carer, handymen. Nowadays, even an elderly person can learn to help oneself with tutorials on the internet: change a light fixture, replace a leaking tap/ pipe etc...
    It saves money and makes you less vulnerable. People will help you, and then will 'stab' you.

  6. Welcome back - I hoep you are well.

    My children are the greatest joy in my life. I never expected this, certainly didn't plan it (as if one could) - but there we are, it's how it is for me. My own childhood was traumatic, my relationship with parents (my father especially) damaged beyond repair - perhaps it is this that transformed my perception and shaped my experience.
    For all that, I think we must be like birds - rear our children with care... and then let them fly...

  7. Boud beat me to it. There was such a premium on sons in China that females were aborted. Now they have all these men with no mates available. Good luck getting three children when they can't even find a wife. That is what we get when we try to regulate births.

  8. One thing I know about life is there are no guarantees. I do not have a fall back in my old age except for probably income to live in assisted living. The decision to not worry about it is how I deal with it. I have several people I care for who have mental limitations. The predators have no mercy so I hope I keep my marbles and someone will come get my animals one day.

  9. I know it varies greatly between local government areas but there are some very good care places for pensioners in Newcastle on Tyne.

  10. I wanted to have a lot of kids but was infertile. Adopted two infants with my first husband and acquired six more with my second. We raised them together while we worked. Now we're retired and they're all grown. We have a good relationship with all of them but are not intertwined. We don't plan to have any of them take care of us when we're REALLY old, but the one who rents our upstairs unit and lives there with his wife and our grandson brings us the mail and offers to feed us a couple of times a week. It will work out as it works out. We raised our children to be independent and they are.

  11. Someone in China had no forethought about the consequences of the one child policy coupled with the ability to know a child's sex before birth and to abort less desirable female children. Now there are far too many men unable to find partners. Where will it lead?

    The lives of my children and grandchildren are closely entwined with mine and I love it. I am still close to my parents who are in their mid-late 80s. I hope the same relationship continues as I age. However, mother and grandmother are only two of the many roles I have in life.
    So nice to see a post from you again. You always provide food for thought.

  12. Hi Friko - so good to see you here again - I've been a-wondering ... so am happy to see the post. Not having children, nor my brothers ... so no kids in our lives. I have god-daughters born on the same day ... one via English friends whom I met out in SA, and my brother's SIL down here ... oddly they've gone into similar medical occupations (Cambridge and London). But life is life and we (I) continue on.
    All well down here - toddling along - I hope the garden is bringing you pleasure and that the next door neighbour's building works aren't bugging you ...stay safe and peaceful - with thoughts - Hilary

  13. The horror in all this is the easy assumption that the Chinese government -- authoritarian, dictatorial, given to such niceties as genocide - has the right to dictate what should be an individual decision. Central planning has a number of downsides under the best of circumstances. Under any circumstances? Ask the Uighurs.

  14. Great to see you posting again!
    As for children, I have none and this is the way I wanted it. People should have children if they want to, but not because it’s expected by society or parents or men, for that matter. I always knew it was not a match for me. Marriage yes, but no children.

  15. Glad you are well Friko. Given parts of my family history, I am grateful to have chosen not to have children...The Chinese certainly created havoc with their population policies with girls being given away, adopted or aborted in favor of boys...all chickens come home to roost as the saying goes.

  16. Ah families, many overflow with complications and complexities and some are just close and joyous. I'm pleased that your son sees to the man-chores with good cheer. I'm even more pleased to see you writing, giving me food for thought as you usually do. :)

  17. I am always glad to see that you have posted. No fluffy subjects on this blog!

    The lack of forethought by the Chinese is stunning. I always thought that the overriding concern was overpopulation. Having fewer children does address that concern, but the Chinese culture's preponderance for favoring boys has certainly caused a totally different problem. Turns out those girls are needed!
    This post reminded me of a book by Pearl Buck that I read years ago. It was about her experiences with the different cultures. She talked about the Chinese reverence for the elderly, and how that played a big part in their society. Nursing homes unnecessary, because families handled the last years.
    As for me, I think I am about where you are regarding our questionable futures. We have no extended family. My husband has dementia. My life is ruled by his needs, We have a daughter who is doing the best she can. She tells her two grown kids that they should visit us. They are too busy. Sometimes months go by without a visit, even though they are both 1/2 hour away. And, it's late to save my pennies. I was a teacher, and, given the price of long term care in TX, there's no way I could have saved enough, for husband or for me. I just hope that I get out of the game before I completely lose my mind.

    Gee. I wish I were saying something to cheer you up! I guess all I can say is what I am told by others. You are not alone. It helps to talk with each other about our common issues.

  18. Dear Friko, what a refreshingly interesting article.

  19. I had no intention of having kids with my first husband as I always intended to divorce him. and I did. dating the second husband we talked about having kids...two only, one of each. and we did. we have good relations with both though I don't expect the son to be able to care for us as he has problems of his own. the daughter though expects to care for us but then she was born a mother, a caretaker. I think life would have been easier without kids. we might have divorced at one point without kids or perhaps those years that were so tough on our relationship might not have happened if we were childless. not that they caused it but were just another pressure point. I often wonder how our lives would have gone without the kids. but now I have grandkids and soon a great grandchild and that's a joy. one thing about having kids vs experiencing the full range of life, meaning reproduction. being pregnant and giving birth was amazing. but then they were wanted.

  20. Well, according to some theories, the only reason we're here is to pass on our genes. But speaking more practically, and as a man with a long reasonably successful career, I'll say that my kids are the most important part of my life. I do not expect them to take care of me in my old age (other than pay their Social Security taxes); but hope they go on to be happy and successful ... and family of their own.

  21. I am hardly one to comment on children, never having any.
    It is very hard for people to say they don't care yes or no about having children - I think women are particularly judged for not wanting any. Children are loose cannons anyway. You never know how they are going to turn out.

  22. It's a time of deep thinking indeed Friko and I too I have come to terms with my absent by choice child and take pleasure from the one who is by my side along with a devoted granddaughter who has tended to me recently in my health trials. We all age and we all die. Some with fanfare, some quietly. Biological achievements mean very little to me. We are more than our uteri.

    Lovely to see you blogging my friend, I always love reading you.


  23. Children can be a mixed bag...bringing happiness and sadness. However being a Grandmother and a Great Grandmother is such a joy:)

  24. Hi Friko, as always you force a thoughtful analysis.

    I am quite content with my professional life and my family life, and I know I am lucky in that regard. I am so proud of my work but equally so of my daughter. I trust that she will care for JB and me as best she can as we age and when/if we need her intervention. She has young 4 kids that I love following and I never fail to note that she is as proud of her career work was I've always been of mine.

    I'm sad to hear that your son, as is too often the case, doesn't realize how much he could matter. And whatever happened with your daughter, I'm glad that doesn't bring you to a place of helpless regret.

    And finally, you are one of the few bloggers I know who has maintained a healthy and hefty following. To your absolute credit!

    love kj

  25. Ja, so iss'es [as they say in Frankfurt a/M]. I have never been to China, but I did live and work in Western Japan for half a decade and the sister-of-my-heart is from Việt Nam. So I understand a bit about non-christian parent-children values in these Buddhist countries. She and I befriended each other in high school, after she arrived in the States alone after two years in a Malaysian refugee camp. Fortunately, her aunt here sponsored her (she had married an American GI). Turns out my friend was the eldest child in the family. After the fall of Saigon, her parents paid dearly for her and her youngest brother to escape. Her brother didn't make it. So now the burden was on her shoulders. To make a long story short, I attended the wedding of her son (my godchild) a few years ago, and the wedding party consisted of all her living siblings, their families, and her mother and her father. This woman I admire and love sacrificed much to bring her family to safety. I asked her once whether she had done this out of duty or love. Her answer was simple ... "I wanted my children to know their grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins." I'll say no more, only that I am grateful to have met her in this lifetime. And I hope our firm friendship bolsters her.

  26. I'm glad I can read your message again, dear Friko. You are writing about a rather difficult question. It is clear that you would like to see your son more often, that you are disappointed in your rare meetings with your son .. But I remember how you talked about the help that your son rendered you in cleaning the garden and in the house. Of course, our children have their own lives, successful or not - this is their life and their problems.
    As for the number of children, in Russia they also often write and say that it is necessary to give birth to 5-6 children, that "then there will be someone to give a glass of water to parents in old age." But life changes these views, I believe that two children are enough and may they be happy. Hope you feel good.


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