WE ARE CHILDFREE

The personal is political, with Chinese feminist Siyu

What if your choice to have children, or not, was a matter of state concern?

Episode 12

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Siyu is an only child of China’s one-child policy, born in a very traditional part of the country. Yet, her parents never pushed her towards motherhood, and she’s been able to lead a modern, international life, staying in three countries and six cities in the last five years. As the host of a Mandarin feminist podcast, Siyu was the perfect person to speak to about how her country is now trying to boost falling birth rates by allowing couples to have three children, and the expectations for women there. It’s fascinating how such a personal decision has taken on political and social implications far beyond individual families.

Read about China’s new three-child policy on Wikipedia, its implications for women’s rights in the Washington Post, and other factors that could hamper population growth on Al Jazeera.

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Transcript

Siyu: The one-child policy and now the loosening of one-child policy has had a long-lasting effect on China that the action of having children is not personal. It is tied to political agenda. It is tied to society and future. And I think that is very embedded in the entire society – men, women, individuals, families – and that any discussion that is tied with what supposedly a deeply personal choice, but that’s also at the same time, there’s there’s political implications with this. There are social implications with this. The action of not having children is political. And, it extends to now, the action of having more than one child is also political.

Zoë: Hey lovelies! Welcome back to We are Childfree, a podcast that celebrates childfree lives and shares our stories. That voice you heard up top belongs to today’s guest, the incredible Siyu from China. Lately there’s been a lot of fretting about falling birth rates across the world, and our most populous country is no exception. Starting in 1970, China started trying to control population growth by limiting the number of children a couple could have – starting with two, then one, then two again. Now that these efforts have proved a little too effective, China is allowing and encouraging people to have three kids. As the host of a Mandarin feminist podcast, Siyu was the perfect person to speak to about this. She is an only child of the one-child policy, born in Guwongjo a very traditional part of the country. Yet, her parents never pushed her towards motherhood, and she’s been able to lead a modern, international life, living in 3 countries and 6 cities in the last 5 years. It was great to talk with Siyu about expectations for women in China, especially around having children. It’s fascinating how something so personal has become a decision with political and social implications far beyond individual families. I learned so much from this episode, and I hope you do too. Here’s my conversation with Siyu.

Siyu: It had just never been really a lifestyle that I thought I would be having since I was a kid, I don’t think it was necessarily something that my parents encouraged me. I never really imagined, well, I never really remembered holding, like baby dolls, or anything like that when I was a kid. Which is, maybe a little bit at odds with in general Chinese families, and the kind of hints that they would drop across a young girl’s kind of growth. Just never really had that with my parents, and never really envisioned that for myself in my adolescence years either. Had a lot of dreams, having a family or children was not necessarily mine. And thinking about it, I guess in more realistically, you know, what my life would look like, as I tried to find jobs, and then, in the later years of college, and coming more to terms with that.

Zoë: So why do you think then, you mentioned obviously that parents in China can put pressure or you know, at least start suggesting to, to young people, okay, kids is on the on the list of things you’re going to do? Why do you think your parents didn’t give you any pressure?

Siyu: Um, I’ve tried to think about why too, because they’re definitely giving me pressure now. I think signing up for this was like a slight reaction, a very small reaction to that, after having a conversation with them. And I’m just like, I’m gonna do something to make a little, a bigger statement. That just, yeah, so. So it’s been interesting how that has just never been part of the conversation growing up. And I think part of that had to do with very logistical reasons of just them having relatively busier lives as, as I was growing up, my dad was definitely quite busy. And I think, I really, I think some I appreciate the fact that they’ve never really told me as a young girl at the time and as a woman now, but I can’t do anything that I don’t want to do. So I think it’s very independent thinking, and quite liberal, if you will, in a certain sense of that word for them to have created that environment. And I think they really pushed me hard growing up, not to say that, yeah, not to say that they just want me to always be the best, but I think they always wanted me to try harder, and to maybe do things that’s a little bit different. And they, although there were arguments, they did allow me to space, to make my own decisions; and to fight for what I wanted, and ultimately, having supported what I wanted. So I think that really paved the road for me to have, you know, gone to different places, or worked in different places, and they have created that environment for me to think that way. And to think that all of that was possible.

Zoë: Well, that’s, that’s amazing. I mean, that’s what you, you kind of yeah, you hope that your parents will, yeah, encourage all young girls, I guess, to be believing in themselves, that they can do whatever they want. It matters, it really does matter. We need that, yeah. So then, tell me then about the most, you know, the recent occasion that, that they’ve given you a bit more pressure about kids, you know, what are they saying to you?

Siyu: I think it’s been something that they’ve slowly started to realise, as I was in my mid-20s, that this is not exactly in my vision, even though not having children is not exactly, not having children is sort of what I envisioned my future life to be, is what they slowly realised. And, and I am 27, turning 28. And I think I’d never quite paid attention to this family dynamic until more recently. And more recently, I think due to the pandemic COVID as well. I’ve spent a little bit more time with my family compared to the past, and I realised that they are actually kind of lonely. And there are situations where we would go out together, and they will be seeing other families of three generations together. And usually the kids are quite young. And I think, I start to notice that they see those families with sort of a, this is what I want, you know, I would, I would like to have a group like this, a lifestyle like this. So once I realised that more, I think it’s quite hard for me to cope that, with that as well. And I fully realised that I think they want me to have this experience just as any, almost any other experience in life. So it does align with what they’ve always done for me, which is to allow myself to have different experiences. And they, as people who have experienced this, you know, themselves feel like, oh, you’re maybe missing something that you don’t know what it’s like, exactly. So I think that’s the, regardless of what they say, the pressure that I’m sensing from them, and sometimes they express that very explicitly, and sometimes they say that very subtly. But I think deep down, and which is this is worse than just them saying, oh, but you need to have one culturally, I think this is much more difficult to manage. Had they just been giving very, you know, I think superficial or let’s go with the normal type of reasoning. But instead, they’re, they’re coming from, if you will, kind of a humanitarian angle. Right, like saying, Oh, you know, this is an experience that maybe you would want to have.

Zoë: Yes, that is an interesting take. I mean, what do you what do you say back to that?

Siyu: I have quite some tactics, I guess. Tell me, tell me. Some, if I confront it head on, I, I would, I rarely confronted head on, let’s say that. I talk about, I talk about the things that I want to do in the future. If I’m generally happy, I think they’re a little bit more relaxed on the topic. So for them, they’re thinking, you know, she’s having a great life. So let’s go with that. Sometimes I do the simple things of just changing topics, I talk about something else that they care about. And I tried to be a lot more polite with them, obviously. Because if it were anyone else, I would just be like, I don’t think that’s a topic that we need to discuss, or I need to discuss with you. And I could be quite blunt, with especially people that don’t know me quite well. But with them, I think it’s necessary with so many of the other bit more risky decisions that I have made in the past. It’s similar that what I need to convey to them is that, this is the decision I made, and I’m happy with it. Yeah. And as long as I’m happy, I think they’re a little bit more relaxed. But I do think the pressure is going to be more on the rising skill in the next few years.

Zoë: Yes, I think that yeah, many, many women seem to experience that, obviously. Yeah, it’s I, oh, that the clock is ticking. You’ve got to get on with it. And do you, do you have any siblings, was just you?

Siyu: Just me, yes, I am the only child.

Zoë: So that adds the pressure, doesn’t it? That’s, that’s a trickier thing. When you’re, when you’re solo, you’re, it’s all on you. But ultimately, you have to be happy with your life. And I guess yeah, like you said, if, when your parents know, you’re happy, then it’s less of a, maybe talking point for them. Yeah, because they will, ultimately they want you to be happy. But yeah, it’s just obviously this cultural expectation for women. Is that yeah, you’re gonna have kids. And yeah, this is the experience that they had. So it’s almost like they want you to repeat the thing that they did. But you know, you have to be happy.

Siyu: Yeah, yeah, because it’s something that I wrote down after I had the conversation with them that, it’s, there’s so much of, of that decision is not when that decision is first made, right? Like so much about that decision is about all the, all of the years that followed that. And it is, I feel like it, it is the one decision that, nobody you can never take back. You can never say well rewind, that did not work out, as well as I thought it did. So ultimately, I do think whatever they say is coming from a good place for them, but nobody can make that decision and hold the responsibility of that decision for me. So it’s got to be coming from me as well. And I can be coming from a place that, oh, I want to make them happy, but that’s really not a very good reason for making that step. And so until it’s me myself saying that this is what I want, I can’t really be doing this for anyone else. Even though I appreciate what my family have done for me. And I do see them feeling a little bit of a struggle with this decision that I’m making.

Zoë: And tell me then, you know, growing up in, in China, I mean, do you feel that, that kind of, you know, that cultural expectation on, on women to, you know, the gender role is pretty sad. I’m imagining, you know that you are going to grow up and have kids. Is that where you felt growing up or because your parents were very like, you know, encouraging for you to go out there and live your life, whatever that is, you didn’t really feel it as much.

Siyu: I think they have sheltered me to a certain extent. And also, because I am the only child. The dynamic and our generation is a little bit different. I think it was taken by default by most kids that you would be with someone, start a family, but it was maybe growing up never really explicitly that you’ve got to assume the roles of parents, although I think nobody was really assuming otherwise. But it was just not explicitly stated, however, as I’ve, you know, been living in different parts of China now, I’m recognising quite a lot of regional differences in this as well. Right? So they’re parts of the country, and, and obviously, that will be natural, because you know, it’s a big country, and people have very different customs. And well, not a variety of like customs and beliefs do certain to different degrees. And even in just, in this, I think there are regions where I see, a lot more emphasis on women being marriage materials. And by that, that’s like, there’s a quite a lot of pressure on childbearing and rearing, right? And I think it’s a lot more explicit in raising a girl from an early age as well. Not something that I quite personally experienced, but I definitely think I still exists.

Zoë: I see, yeah, I see. I see. That is interesting. I mean, because obviously, we know, in China, the, the, that there, there was a policy to only have one child. Is that that’s right? And then, they allow now two child, two children, sorry. So was that, so when you were born? Was that, that policy for what, just one child was still in place? Is that right?

Siyu: Yeah, yeah. In fact, we were, you know, briefly chatting about my podcast, and I started the podcast, actually, under the whole, we’re going to relax the one child policy, and then people can start having more children up. Policy changed, and that was when I was in college, and very recently, I think it was just couple weeks ago, that it opened up to you can now have three children. Yes, I saw that. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So I think it pushed me at that time to think more about this whole, you know, viewing the society in a gender oriented lens of this biological trait of women is way more than just a personal choice, a personal decision, but it’s critically tied to the development of a country. And it’s heavily focused on as how we can ‘move the society forward,’ because it is a country that has become rapidly ageing. And also a country that’s fallen. Supposedly, if one woman, you know, has two child or two children, then that should substitute the death rate of the parents, right, there’s kind of a red line there. But the birth rate has fallen behind that red line on average for the entire country. So it’s looking at this that, me realising people have put in, so people have put so much responsibility and meaning on this action. And it goes far beyond just what I decide to do with my body. But in this context, it’s such a, well, you need to do this for your family, you need to do this for your country, even. It’s a pity, right. So it’s quite politicised, right, and the whole idea of like, it’s a very promoted saying, to have two children and now to have three children, because it’s beneficial to the society and it’s necessary. Yeah, if, the pressure goes way beyond just the group of people that may ask me about it. Yeah, but it’s people, and it’s true, like people would have this discussion in terms of, well, you can’t be doing this right. Like that’s not good for our country. Really, the word really stated like, selected group of people who yeah, yeah, who buy into that concept, way more, right because everybody is on the spectrum. From when it comes to their beliefs, but people who are more believing in that would state that more explicitly.

Zoë: I mean, definitely, this is a topic I hear a lot about, you know, women are. The birth rate is mentioned to child free women a lot. You know, what about when I’m doing interviews, this is something that they bring up every time you know, what about the falling birthrate? What about the falling birthrate? And, you know, it frustrates me, because it’s almost as if, this is now on our shoulders, it’s now on our shoulders to somehow fix this. And, you know, we know that there’s a reason why the birth rate is falling. And it’s a really complicated topic, but in part, it’s because women are now able to have access to contraceptives, to have more opportunities, to have access to education, to have concerns over the climate, climate crisis. So it’s, it’s really, you know, it’s not as simple as just saying, oh, the birth rates falling, therefore, it is your fault as a woman to, to start replacing the bodies in this, you know, this planet? You know, what are your feelings around this?

Siyu: Yeah, you’re absolutely right with that, because it’s a very, very complex issue, the idea of birth rate that is not simply solved by letting, or allowing, or aka forcing, right, women. Not, not forcing, in that way, right, but like forcing in yeah, you know, having promotion and heavy talking points on why this is important, but it needs to be resolved by, and even not me, not really necessarily seeing having children in my own life. But I do think that the society will benefit from maternal leave, paternal leave, giving more resources to people who do raise children, right, like child, childcare resources. And, and that’s, that applies to all societies, not just any particular country, because it’s tough, tough work to raise children. And if people feel like they do not have enough support, and if they feel like this is becoming pricier and pricier, as an activity to do, then naturally, they won’t choose to do it. So yes, for people to have that discussion about child, birth rate, I think they should think about that from more of a social benefits angle. And from more of the angle of how do we educate our youths, our children, in learning how to do this, right, because so much of, now is we’ve, we’ve become more aware of how difficult that is, as well. And a lot of people choose not to do it, because they’re not confident in, in doing, in raising children and being parents. And I used to be that. And I think that fear has gone down for me a little bit. And I now choose not to do this for different reasons. But still, a lot of people that I talked to, who might have similar fears say that, oh, it just never quite had this kind of education. So I think the solution needs to be well rounded. And the solution is definitely not shaming women who don’t want to do this, but to provide better environments and resources for both parents to take on this responsibility. And I think naturally, the, the maybe the situation now could be slightly more relaxed. And maybe by then, because of that, we would have a more relaxed attitude towards women who choose to live different lifestyles as well.

Zoë: Yeah, I mean, that’s it, it just it. It seems so unfair to yeah, shame and judge people who are deciding to go another direction, when, like you said, it’s really hard. It’s really hard to have kids. And if the governments aren’t helping people enough, then what do they expect? And obviously, China is now upping the number to three kids. But do you do you think women are going to be like, oh, cool, now I can have three kids. I mean, it just, I don’t see how it can work like that. It’s not like, you know, you flick a switch, and you’re like, brilliant. Now I’m going to go for three kids instead.

Siyu: Of course not. And that did not happen when they open it up from one to two. And it’s not going to happen when they open it up to two, from two to three. I think it’s not so much a switch, but a megaphone, in some ways that they’re announcing those very publicly as an encouragement, and hoping that, that would propel people to do so. And the reason that I was concerned when the policy went from one to two was just being concerned of how that policy will be perceived by employers, right? And thinking that previously, maybe, oh, you’ve had one child and I would trust to hire you, because you’re probably, you’re not going to have another more than likely, and that’s not going to create any extra cost on me, right, for supporting an employee who goes on maternity maternal leave, yeah. And, and what that means now that that that number is going up, and also what that means in family dynamics, right? Because now people may want bigger families, and they might put more pressure within families to say, well, you’re allowed to do so. So why not?

Zoë: Okay. I get it, yeah, yeah, exactly. I mean, work discrimination. That is a real, that’s a real thing for women. And I hear it from child free women and women who have kids, you know, and, and there’s this, obviously, many assumptions made by employers about, oh, you don’t have kids, therefore, you’re probably thinking about it. So that’s going to cost us money. And then yeah, if you have kids, obviously, we’re gonna have to pay for your maternity cover. Or maybe you want more kids in the future. So it’s a, it’s a real thing that we have to deal with.

Siyu: Because the reason policy is still very new. So I’m not really seeing patterns or trends yet in how people react to it. But I think it’s not the magic, kind of, just waving your wand a little and say, No, you know, now everybody has three.

Zoë: Oh, sweet. Let’s get going. Let’s do it. Yeah, no. It seems like a yeah, a short sighted way of looking at how people deal with this decision. And especially yeah, women. I mean, your, you know, your mother, she, she could only have one child. I mean, do you ever think she wanted more children? Um, that’s interesting. I never asked her. So I’m trying to think, so the second bringing in, the having two children policy. I’m not sure of the date, when was the date of that brought in?

Siyu: Oh, it was when I was in college. Okay, so probably maybe they weren’t thinking about. They, they joked, even really, even though they couldn’t, I’m pretty sure you couldn’t. Yeah, let’s maybe do this. And obviously, I was quite an opponent of it, because I was like, well, I’m gonna be raising that child.

Zoë: Oh, yeah, that’s true. Yeah, so that it would have fallen a lot on you. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, it was, it’s more, it’s interesting thought for a woman to, you know, maybe want more children, but they are legally not allowed to, because it’s, it’s such having children, by many people is seen as a right, it’s a right to be able to have as many children as you want. There is no limits to how many you can have. And when a country obviously puts a policy like this, and it’s a quite an interesting thing. How do you know, how do their citizens take this? Is it, is it that you know, people in China would just, this is just the way it is? There’s no point fighting this, like, you know, what would, I mean, the reasons behind this policy, I’m assuming, because China is the most populated country in the world. So was this a way for them to try and control that?

Siyu: Yes. It started out with that, and I think it started on the 80s. My, my detailed information on this is it embedded, admittedly a little bit lacking, but I’ll try my best. So it started out before I was born in the kind of the early 90s. And the idea is, we were a highly populated nation, obviously, we still are, but it’s necessary to slow down a bit of that growth. And I think people really bought into that concept, because it was becoming, everything was becoming very competitive. And the lack of resources and the lack of social infrastructures that would support such a huge population was also not in place. So you would have, for instance, public transportation, that was being incredibly crowded. And it’s things like does that make people go? Yeah, we think it’s also necessary to try not to make the limited space that we have just be exploded with people. So it came in as almost a necessity in terms of government policy at the time. And, and I’m sure, you know, just by the pure fact that there were people who tried to go under radar, to have more children, indicates that not everybody was on board, and not everybody was a fan and obviously, there are you know, logistical difficulties as well, right there, accidents happen. But for the most part, I think people understood why this was implemented. But I think the idea from the one child policy and now the loosening of one child policy, has had a long-lasting effect on China that, the action of having children is not personal. It is tied to political agenda. It is tied to, you know, society and future. And I think that is very embedded in the entire society, men, women, individuals, families. And that any discussion that is tied with what’s supposedly a deeply personal choice, but that’s also at the same time, put, as a, you know, there’s, there’s political implications with this, there are social implications with this. So it, that started from the one child policy and family planning, right, like, the action of not having children is political. Yeah. Yes. And, and it extends to now, the action of having more than one child is also political.

Zoë: So what would happen if there was an accident, and someone became pregnant after the one policy after, you know, with the one child policy that was in, I haven’t even thought that, what happens when accidents do happen?

Siyu: It is, has all, to my knowledge, at least in the past several decades, it’s, abortion is legal. Yeah, so obviously, not every country in the world agrees with, not every individual in the world agrees with that. Right? But I think, but I think that is an approach taken by a lot of people. When enough that happens.

Zoë: Yes, so that. So there, I guess, yeah, there’s that the expectation is that you have an accident, and you have to deal with it.

Siyu: Right, right. And, and, interestingly enough, I think, sex Ed has never been on par, with the fact that for a very long period of time, roughly two and a half decades. You know, like, contraception is a very important aspect of, of any family or just sexual activity in general, right, because there’s this limit that you can’t bypass. However, I don’t think sex ed has been up to the par of teaching people how to best do this. So obviously, in that category, I think there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. Although, you know, they’re definitely free offerings of, you know, contraception of the basics, contraception’s available, family planning, kind of locations, right? But I think schools definitely need to do a better job. And that ties again, with what I mentioned earlier, right, like, youths and kids thinking that I don’t know how to be parents. So I don’t I don’t want to do it.

Zoë: Yeah, yeah, I mean, sex ed around the world, I think needs a complete overhaul. When yeah, when I’m talking to other people, we can all agree sex education is woefully inadequate. And I don’t know, I don’t understand why governments and policymakers I just, you know, want people to kind of have as little information as possible, which, of course leads to problems and accidents, and, you know, fear, and we just need to equip, you know, younger people with as much information as possible so that they can take control of their lives.

Siyu: Yeah, yeah, that’s exactly right. And I honestly think that, it would encourage some groups to do this, right. Like it actually would, if you were like, fulfil part of their mission, as well. Yeah, just to provide more information.

Zoë: Do you feel this pressure then as a woman in China, and you know, was there a pressure for, say, people to have boys, you know, over girls?

Siyu: Yeah. I think under one child policy, the pressure was quite intense. Right. And I think you would encounter people who say, maybe they don’t care. But maybe deep down, they do. Right. And there’s definitely an urban rural divide in the perception of that, because, understandably so in rural areas, boy maybe is considered more of a labor than, say, urban area. That distinction is not as clear, you know, men and women can take on similar jobs and create similar maybe values for their families. And interestingly enough, this is a fun anecdote I think a lot of people use is that, the character in Chinese for good in contrary to bad, right. For good, is the combination of two characters, on the left side is girl and the right side is boy. So now when that policy has opened up, a lot of people want a boy and a girl, because it’s a good combination. I don’t think, I don’t know the origin of the character. I don’t know why it’s formed that way. And if that’s really what people considered good when they designed the character way back when, but that is how it’s written. And that’s what so I think for, for my parents’ generation, I guess, looking at potentially having grandchildren, they’re like, we would love to have a boy and a girl.

Zoë: Okay. Oh, why, cuz it’s so easy to do. Choose a boy this time, and I’ll choose a girl next.

Siyu: Right. But there’s, um, so I do I, I have heard stories from the one child period where people will try to find out as early as possible, in order to decide if they want to keep the baby or not.

Zoë: Yeah, that is, that is heartbreaking, isn’t it? You know, I hope that it is changing. But it’s, it’s so tied into yeah, how a country feels about each gender. And, and if you know, men have more value in that country, than yeah, then it makes sense that people want to have boys and it’s really heartbreaking.

Siyu: Yeah. And the, the whole kind of gender divide or gap is also highly regional. I think there are areas where they still firmly believe that if I have a daughter, and I’ve raised her, and she will just end up being a wife of another family. Right. And then but for the most part, I think people have gradually moved beyond that thought, or away from that thought, as urbanisation has taken place, and women have become more educated. Yes, yeah. And, and I do think the, I do think they would no longer very early on, give the gender of the baby to parents, as compared to before. And now people maybe ask less, so I would see people, maybe my coworkers, people I know who are pregnant, and I would ask them, Do you know if it’s a boy or girl, and I am hearing more and more people say, oh, um, we’re just waiting till the day off to find out. Yeah, we’re not, we’re not eager to find out now.

Zoë: Okay, so maybe it is moving in, hopefully a better direction.

Siyu: Yeah, I think so. And I think with, with just urbanisation and education in general, that, that would naturally push towards that direction.

Zoë: So then, you know, tell me, then, you know, you’ve done a lot in your life. And I mean, you know, reading opiate, you’ve lived in three countries in the last five years. And I would love to know, you know, your decision to not have children. What does it meant for your life?

Siyu: Yes, um, yeah, so I was I studied in the United States, and then I lived in Southeast Asia afterwards. And now I’ve kind of moved around. But in China for the past couple of years. Due to COVID, I think it’s been difficult to be mobile, and I’ve had different people having different takeaways from early 2020, till now. I think what I’ve realised is that, mobility is still a very big contributor to my happiness, right. And I would like to still have the ability to relocate, or to work in different places. And I think that realisation of what makes me happy, has made me a little bit more firm and comfortable with the idea of childfree. In general, there’s just a lot that I want to do with my life. There’s so much that I haven’t done and I found interesting. Obviously, I did journalism, my, that’s my academic background, and I’ve kind of gone through different careers. But I really like the environment, I really like the ocean, I would still one day like the opportunity to study marine biology. Wow. Yeah. I would still want to, you know, write a book one day, like there are all these things that I’m not saying being a parent cannot do. I see a lot of very capable parents who are managed to do all of these things while having children. But for me personally, these are the some of the things that make me realise, okay, I take certain things, I put certain things a little bit higher on the priority list than maybe this one activity.

Zoë: And you said, you know, in your response when you messaged me initially that you thought that choosing not to have children is not at all selfless. And I was really interested to hear more about your thoughts on that.

Siyu: Certainly not perfect. And I feel like I tried to make improvements every day. But I care a lot about the environment, and I want to do my little part of helping to protect it. And you mentioned, right having children, and that how that ties with the environment in general. And I, and I do think that, you know, this is maybe not the most, you know, responsible time to be bringing another life into the world, and that’s a personal decision. I’m not saying, you know, other people should feel the same way. And meanwhile, I just feel like there’s a lot of the children who were already born and not being properly taken care of, and with pot, with my means of resources, and I hope that I can have more resources in the future. No, I can maybe do things that would take, you know, that would help with that population. So, I think, I also consider this from that angle. Yeah. But, again, this decision is not it’s not solely selfless, right? It’s not just me saying, I’m doing this for the environment, I’m doing this for the world. I don’t, I don’t want to come up, you know, noble, or that I actually have more, pretending that this is somehow like, I’m a saint and this is why I’m doing this. Not at all. Like, I’m also saying that for all of the earlier reasons that I was telling you, right, which is more personal reasons of the lifestyle that I wanted to have, you know, some of the plans that I want to make. That’s more related to that.

Zoë: Yeah. And I think it’s silly, when we kind of have this, you know, we have this level of selfish that, you know, either, either parents will say, you know, we are selfish, because we’re not contributing to, you know, supposedly society by not having kids and then yes, child through people may say that it’s selfish to have a child. And it’s like, ultimately, yeah, I think, when we start throwing names at each other, I think it’s, it’s, it’s not helping the situation, I think, you have to decide what, what is best for your life. And if you can help the people around you or the world in some small way, then that’s great. But you know, as long as you can live your life happy and healthy, and you know, that that’s amazing. So, if you choose to not have kids, because it’s right for you, there’s nothing wrong with that, you know, and I get that people, people want kids, and they don’t want anyone to tell them, by the way, that there could be negative effects on the planet if you do this. And I am like you I say, I’m not perfect at all. I wish I was, you know, a better person because I do worry about climate crisis. But yeah, it’s a, when we start throwing names at each other, it doesn’t help.

Siyu: Yeah, yeah, I’ve really come to embrace the fact that, you know, selfish is a good thing. Yeah. For one we all inherently are, every individual is selfish, maybe to different extents. But I can, I can never say one is not, because why, why would you not do things that are good for you? Or why would you not consider yourself when you do things? And it’s taken quite a bit of a negative connotation, maybe in a lot of context, but it’s -ish, as a suffix is just a little bit. So, it’s thinking a little bit about yourself. Yes, that word. And I don’t consider that a bad thing. And if we can all, you know, come off. And to be honest, I think thinking about us in a more long-term concept, in a more long-term perspective, is actually I think, good for communities, and good for societies. Maybe that’s a little bit too general. But I do think so, I do think so. So, so yeah, I don’t I don’t necessarily consider it a bad thing.

Zoë: I mean, yeah, you, you deciding that having a child is not right for you. I mean, you’re not just thinking about yourself, you are thinking about, well, if I brought a trial, an unwanted child into this world, or I brought a child into this world that I knew it was going to be really difficult for me to do this. Well, that’s going to have an impact not just on my life, but on a child’s life. And, you know, I really, I wish society could see that when child free people are making this decision. Yes, they’re making it, it’s a decision about their life, but they’re also thinking about other people as well. And that, that actually is really important. You know, really, It’s really important.

Siyu: Of course, yeah. And I do think the norm being that this is something that people should do, actually makes the decision of, you know, doing something that is not so much following the norm. A very well thought out decision. Yeah, right. Like most childfree people that I’ve talked to have all pretty much all said that I’ve thought long and hard about this. And that’s should be something that we naturally encourage, right, to actually take more consideration into what this decision means.

Zoë: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, that that’s it, this is the most important decision of a person’s life, I would say. So, you know, just to kind of go well, it’s a thing that we’re doing. So let’s just do it without really thinking about, is this right for you your life? You know, it’s, it seems, you know, nonsensical to me, and I wish people would really think more about it. And I hope that well, this is the, the point of this project is just that, see that we have different ways that we can live, you know, different ways that might, one route might be better for you, but for sure, take some time to really think about this decision and reflect on how it’s going to impact your life. And I think we’ll have happier people if we do Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So, do you have many childfree friends,

Siyu: Um, at this age group, where some of my friends have gotten married for a while now. So like, maybe they did it in their early 20s. And some others who are not maybe married, I think it’s gonna be a while till they do. Okay. So there’s, there’s this kind of, categorisation of you well, of kind of people’s priorities in life. And maybe in those groups, and those people who are currently single not really thinking about being with someone anytime soon. I think they’re not exactly thinking about children. Yeah. But that’s not to say they won’t have it in the future. Yes. But I’m seeing maybe more and more people not prioritising this as much as maybe previous generations have. Yeah, at our age, right. And I, and I think it’s a fortunate thing to be, among other, others, who are slightly older than me, maybe, and modelling a bit of a lifestyle that oh, like this works. Yeah. Because the idea for women in particular, is that if you don’t have children, by a certain age, you live a sad life, and you’re going to end up having a sadder life.

Zoë: Yeah, that’s definitely that is definitely the, the general representation of childfree lives is, you know, one of regret and sadness. And I mean, this is what exactly why I’m wanting to speak to as many people as I can about this. And, you know, so far the women who are, you know, older, they, they have embraced their life, they loved their life, they love you know, everything about their life. So it’s, it’s, it’s just important to show people that, you know, while there are no guarantees in life, you can, you can absolutely be happy and fulfilled if you, if you don’t have children, that that we need to show, you know, people that this is a valid choice for so many of us. And, you know, it’s not, yeah, there’s, there’s no reason why you will be sad and lonely and depressed if you do this. But I think yeah, this is something that friends and family can put on, people who are thinking they don’t want kids. It’s like, Oh, well, who’s gonna look after you when you’re older? Or what are you going to do? And, you know, we need to empower people to kind of go, well, I can make the life that I want; and there’s ways that I can, you know, help my older life, you know, save, make sure I have money for a pension, that there’s practical things that we can all do. But there but having children is no guarantee of happiness, or, you know, having someone there you’re older.

Siyu: Yeah. And I think I’m curious to find out, right? Because ultimately, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of blueprint for this yet. Yeah. I hope that changes. Yeah. But there’s not a whole lot of just, it’s not an equal breakdown, obviously, people around you, right of those who do have children, those who do not. So I’m curious to find out what that life would Intel. At the same time, what I’m so sure of is everybody has their own problems. So, having children, you’re going to have different sets of problems and struggles and not having children, I’m going to have my own problems and our problems are not going to be the same. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that maybe you’re just somehow happier or somehow happier either way, right? Yeah, yeah, I think it’s just like, for people to assume that this somehow is the final Doom, right? It will just be underpinning your entire life as you can have other good things. But this one thing will be the subtext of everything else that you do, and you will just forever be sad. I think that’s a little bit too general.

Zoë: Yes, absolutely. I think yeah. Because we don’t have that representation out there, I think, yeah, family and friends, gen, genuinely think that you are going to be depressed or sad, or whatever. They don’t, they don’t yet understand, because they haven’t seen it. We don’t really have it in, in media. I’ve seen like maybe one film that talked about the child free life in a positive way. So it’s just so kind of unheard of still, and I hope that if we can, you know, change that narrative and show people that no, it’s fine, we can live really happy, fulfilled lives, that they, they will stop kind of worrying, and let people you know, embrace who they are, embrace what they want to do, and not put that pressure on people, which, you know, that’s what we need to really get away from, and I’m so glad that you, you know, you had your, you know, parents who, they didn’t put that pressure on you from a young age. And you know, you’re doing so much with your life, and you want to still do something so much with your life. And I think that is really important for young, young women, especially to have that support and encouragement. I would love to know, you know, what your plans for the future? I mean, how you, because obviously, people say, women that their contribution to this world is having a child, you know, how do you see you making a contribution to this world in other ways?

Siyu: I think gender equality has just been such a big topic of my life, I think it’s an idea that had helped me to personally make peace with who I am and what I want to do. And, I think moving forward, it’s, it’s kind of a life mission, right? Like, obviously, I have day jobs, and I do other things. But it’s a life mission to support girls in education, to support young women in professional world, and just, in general, to provide more possible ways of living for, maybe especially women who are more underprivileged. Yeah. And I hope to be able to do more of that in this part of the world, in China, obviously, and in Southeast Asia, where I’ve spent some time in, to be able to put more effort in that, in whatever shape way format, right, because I think there’s, there’s so much that we can do, there’s so many little things that we can do. And I do think those little things matter, the influence of, the impact on just one or two people. Is good, is that’s, that’s more than enough. That’s plenty, right? If we all decide to do a little bit of that. So I think it’s, it will be a continued effort for me to try to see how I can help with that in the future.

Zoë: And that would be an incredible legacy. Right? I mean, that, that, just like you said, even if we can just help one other person in a positive way, but, but yeah, having that, that, those goals. I mean, that’s incredible.

Siyu: Yeah, thank you. And it’s, it’s, I think everybody can do it. Everybody can do a little bit something. Definitely. Yeah, yeah. So yeah, yeah. I just encourage everyone to figure out what that thing is, what, what matters to them. Yeah.

Zoë: And if you had any advice to give to, you know, anyone else maybe living in China. Maybe they do face that that pressure from their family or the government, you know, did they’re feeling it, you know, do you have any advice for, for those kinds of people?

Siyu: I think it’s important for people, especially for those who have grown up within educational system or environments where it is not so stressed, it’s not so critical to consider what makes me happy, like that question of what makes me happy, but rather, there’s a format in life, there’s sort of a structure in life that people say, this is what you’re supposed to do, or to go through. And I think it’s critical in those environments to ask yourself what, what makes me happy. And it could be very little things like, music makes me happy. Be, or, you know, being with people that I care about, I love make me happy, or being truthful, makes me happy. It could be very little things like that. But I think it’s quite a critical question to ask yourself, and I have a list of like four to five things. Yeah. And mobility, like I mentioned, is one of those things on the list. And as simple as like, there’s another thing on the list is, I want some somewhere to have more stable weather. I don’t know, I hear you, like distinct for seasons and tornadoes. Like, like, that’s not exactly for me, I’m looking for somewhere that’s like more mellow weather or URL, like even things like that, that it’s not necessarily part of every decision making that I do. But it’s sort of that compass or like that lighthouse far away that you see, and you sort of know, that’s where you get to shore. And I, and I think people can all make a simple list like that, to help guide what they think is the right thing to do. Because if you use that benchmark, I think you’re not going to make decisions that you really regret at the end.

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