This is part of a series I call 'daily espressos', where I write down a stream of thoughts on a random topic!
At work, my team asked me who I had had lunch with. I replied that my sister Helen was opening a new American bank account at HSBC, which was right across from my office, so we grabbed a quick Japanese lunch together. They asked where she was going to university in the States. ‘She’s going to Wharton,’ I said.
My manager was impressed. ‘What are your parents like? Are they crazy tiger parents to have kids like you two?’ he asked. I laughed and said, ‘Well, my mom was pretty hands-on when we were younger, mostly with Helen, who was an absolute nightmare. She had to go meet teachers all the time because Helen always got into trouble for disrespecting them, not doing her work, or just being a nuisance in lessons. But she was never too strict academically - we just had to finish our homework and properly revise for tests. Oh, and she made us do music even though we hated it then. My dad was mainly just kind of there, but he was pretty busy with work.’
My manager, who had a two-year-old son, nodded. ‘Yeah, it’s crazy competitive these days - my wife and I are just not sure how involved we should be. I’ve been trying to enrol my son in this highly-regarded kindergarten because it’s a stepping stone for a good primary school, then obviously a good secondary school, right? But they made us record a five-minute clip of my son just playing “stimulating” games, and they interviewed both my wife and I multiple times. And my kid’s just two! Other parents have been looking up interview strategies and sharing tips on how to record the video, but my wife (who’s currently pregnant) and I honestly don’t have time to do that.’
My other manager, quipped, ‘And that’s why you don’t have kids in Hong Kong. It’s an insane rat race these days, and you’ve got to start preparing your kid from birth to enrol them in the proper activities and schools. You simply cannot compete with other tiger parents, and it’s honestly way too stressful. I’ve decided just to marry and be a dual income, no kids (DINK) household.’
The DINK phenomenon has been gaining traction in recent years, even though the term itself was coined in the 1980s. This has coincided with subsiding social pressures of having a family and kids, increased focus on individual relationships and quality of life, as well as rising living costs and costs associated with having children. Climate anxiety and worries about the environmental impacts of birthing additional polluting humans are also widespread - the term GINK, meaning ‘green inclinations, no kids’, was coined for couples not having kids for environmental reasons. I personally am really fond of children and want to have several, but Helen’s much more ambivalent and leaning towards the DINK-y lifestyle. It’s just quite interesting observing how my managers, who are both around 10 years my senior, have made such different decisions. Maybe that's Helen and me in a decade!