Motherhood in China is much more than just feeding, dressing and comforting your children.
Many Chinese mothers – especially among the middle class – take on a role as ”education agents” of their offspring. The mission is to give the children a top education in an increasingly competitive educational environment, and the work starts already before they start school.
These “agent moms” have to take care of their own jobs, while managing their kids’ schedules, full of extracurricular activities that will prep them for a future at a good university. Fathers are naturally involved too, but the main burden lies on mothers.
As Zhang Jing, a mother whose daughter is in first grade, said to the Sixth Tone Magazine, “Sorting through all these resources takes a huge amount of work. You have to figure out how to schedule classes, group students who are about the same level, and interact with other parents. And you have to learn to screen out scammers, too.”
The same article featured Ma Wei, the mother of a student at a top middle school in Beijing, whose son, nicknamed Xiao Tao, according to his mother, possesses both upstanding virtues and excellent academics. Ma was not shy about claiming credit for both: “It all comes down to your powers of observation,” she explained. “If you can figure out your children’s interests, nature, and skills right away, then you can correct them. Schools are inherently different: Their approach relies on the teaching style of each teacher, and the quality can vary a lot. Mothers are constant; we will always be there. Getting to the root of a problem starts at home, not at uselessly pointing fingers around elsewhere.”
In a scientific article on “Parenting and education in China,” researchers from the University of Macau explained that three prominent features of Asian – and in particular Chinese – parenting include “the centrality of family and family interdependence,” “the use of parental control and strictness,” and “fostering academic achievement.”
Though strictness, control and focus on achievements might sound harsh, Chinese parents are generally actively involved in their children’s education. They monitor homework, teach at home and participate in school activities. Research has shown that such involvement benefits children’s academic achievement, and that parental involvement is associated with better academic performance among junior high school students. Furthermore, this association is even stronger for students with a lower family socioeconomic status.
All mothers want the best for their children. In a competitive society like the Chinese, to many, this means supporting their kids’ education in all ways possible.