For Xu Meiru, 38, the thought of having a second child is exhausting. Her days typically begin at 5am, don’t end until 11pm, and are filled with shuttling her nine-year-old son to school, helping him with his homework, preparing meals and running an online clothing business.
“It’s hard to find time even to sleep for a few minutes in a chair,” she says, sitting in a McDonald’s while her son plays a game on a phone, the detritus of a Happy Meal in front of him.
Most tiring is the constant worry over whether she is doing enough to help him get ahead. He goes to music lessons, taekwondo classes and extra English tutoring. She spends the first week of every summer and winter break helping him prepare for the next term. Sometimes her son’s workload is so heavy that Xu does his assignments for him, using her left hand to make her writing more childlike.