Beyond financial support, many full-time parents need support systems and ways to reenter the workforce. The full-time father said he plans to work in education in a few years.
“My child isn’t the only one I am supposed to live for,” Li said. “I need to do something, otherwise I will lose my ability to socialize and my feelings of isolation will do more harm than good to my son.”
Generally, women in China face greater challenges in reentering the workforce after having children, such as expectations to juggle their career with childcare. Addressing this double-standard, Li said a maternity-friendly workplace with flexible work hours would be much more valuable than compensation or labor policy changes.
“The three-child policy has already created enough barriers for women to get employed. We don’t need more policies to make people think the best workplaces for women are their homes,” Li told NewsChina.
Wu Xiaona, a young full-time mother of two in Haikou, capital of South China’s Hainan Province, is now busy studying to take the postgraduate entrance exam for psychology.
Wu said she began thinking about her career and building her independence after she discovered her husband was cheating while she was expecting their second child.
“I don’t want to squander my life on family chores, which usually revolve around husband and children. I love books, movies, music and sports, and I am not the kind of woman to spend most of her time serving the family and has a bit left over for square dancing,” Wu told NewsChina.
“I want to pursue a sustainable career like a counselor, which I can adjust as I get older. Besides, the job provides a flexible schedule, giving me enough time to spend with my family,” she added.
Cities in China have seen a growing number of young full-time parents over the past few years, according to the White Paper on Chinese Families’ Ways in Rearing Children, released in 2019 by Babytree, an e-commerce platform for new mothers, newborns and young children. Eighty-two percent of respondents were women 24 and under.
Li said she opened a nursery in her community with other mothers, but they closed it quickly due to a lack of support.
CPPCC delegate Wei called for more policies to ensure full-time parents, especially mothers, have easier ways to rejoin the workforce. Wei advised the government to set up systems for employers to allow extended leaves of absence for maternity or family obligations. She also suggested tax incentives for enterprises that rehire such employees.
Wei said the Ministry of Civil Affairs should take the lead and coordinate efforts with organizations such as the All-China Women’s Federation and All-China Federation of Trade Unions to assess eldercare and childcare needs before establishing systems aiming to ensure the interests of caregivers and maintain family stability.
But opportunities for working mothers in China remain scarce. While on her last job hunt, Li said some recruiters told her they only hired men. “I hope full-time parents, especially mothers, can eventually enjoy equal access to social insurance and female-friendly job opportunities,” she said.
“Besides, I’m looking forward to reopening the nursery, which is a business idea I had with other full-time mothers to look after the toddlers of our community. In doing so, parents can work without being distracted and we’re paid for our efforts.”