Having a second kid in this economy is a daunting prospect, but it seems almost every set of parents I know are going for it – at least six of my closest friends and relatives are in the process, or have very recently had, “Lao Er” (老二).
And as if on cue, Beijing officials have recently announced that some Chinese families will be allowed to have a second child if the parents are both ‘only-children,’ the mother is younger than 28 and the second child is born within four years of the first. According to the China Daily, the changes come amidst “wide speculation” that the decades-old “one-child” policy would be relaxed, but some feel the revisions are not comprehensive enough, especially considering word of a growing labor shortage.
Of course none of this applies to most expat families (unless you are, or are married to, a Chinese national), but the financial issues surrounding the birth of a second child are equally daunting – especially here in Beijing with its over-the-top housing prices and the average cost of annual tuition (based on a rough calculation of schools listed in our Education Guide) tops RMB 70,000.
My wife and I have certainly been getting an earful from the grandparents, especially every time there’s news of yet another second pregnancy (it all seemed so much simpler when they were just fixated on whose kid went to which college), and we would certainly like to have a little brother or sister for our daughter, but the pressures of work, finances and family issues have left us feeling – ahem – a little ‘gun shy.’
Which is why I have an even greater respect for all you multi-kid parents out there (major props go to my cousin, who’s gone onto number four and counting). After all we’ve been through with our first – the nannies, the colic, the torticollis, the demoralizing search for an affordable kindergarten (worth it in every way, of course)– having yet another go at it remains as daunting as ever.
But I trust in many ways it won’t be as difficult. As one friend who’s expecting a little baby brother for her four-year-old reassuringly puts it: “This time around we are more confident as parents and almost revel in the possibility of being able to bring this one up with the bare minimum … Just do it – it is easier the second time around.”