There is a huge gap between the post-80s generation and their parents’ generation in terms of what makes good occupation. Usually, the parents like it safe and prefer their precious only child to work for the government at best or state-owned enterprises at least they are considered as unbreakable iron bowl with good pay and well-above-average welfare program. Whereas the post-80s tend to want to get out there and pursuit their own life. Days ago Chongqing Morning Paper featured a story of the struggle between a mother and son that is exactly the living prove of the aforesaid perception gap.
Early in the morning on March 10, 57 years old Liu Xuemei woke up in her less than 7 sqm hotel room. She sat woodenly at the bedside and started to repeat the one motion she’s been doing for the past 18 days: took out her phone and dialed a number starting with 158xxx. It was connected, she could hear the “doo doo” ring tone, yet there was still no answer. That number belongs to her 27 years old son Ran Jiexi.
She used to enjoy a good mother and son relationship with Ran until 2009 when Ran Jiexi graduated from Xinan Normal University. There had been 3 years of war between them. In order to persuade Ran to come back to hometown Hebei Province to work in a state-owned enterprise, Liu has come out to Chongqing 10 times during the past 3 years looking for her son. At first, she tried to advise him to no avail, then she went through scolding, beating and making a fuss with no result other than driving her son further away. To avoid his mother, Ran has moved 3 times, lost his girlfriend, quit his job. And now he didn’t even want to see his mother.
Feb 23, Liu Ximei reappeared in Chongqing North Station carrying her big black suitcase. This is the 10th time Liu came all the way to Chongqing with one single purpose – to find her son and bring him back to work in a state-owned enterprise. “I won’t go home without him.” She also wanted to solve her son’s issue inside if possible. “It is stable to work in a state-owned enterprise, why can’t my son just understand my intention?”
She has been living in the hotel for 18 days without hearing a thing from her son after over 100 calls. She started to panic when she realized that after several rounds of fights she may never see her son again. Yesterday morning, Liu gathered herself after crying straight and destructively. She decided to write him a text with the thought that her son will see the text even if he refuses to pick up the phone. However, she gave up in a seconds, “he hates me so much now, nothing I say will work.”
“He has moved, quit his job. I have tried everything I can’t find him.” Liu covered her forehead in pain, “Now my only wish is that I can untie the knot between us and go back to where we used to be as normal mother and son.” She has been doing some self reflecting in the past 18 days.
Liu is from Hebei Province and gave birth to her son in 1985. “When I was young, I carried my 3 children everywhere following their father. The kids are very clingy to me.” Ran as her second child was her favorite.
“He did well in school and got into a prestigious university in Chongqing at the age of 18. When he was still in college, his bigger brother got into the same railway construction company as their father which is a state-owned enterprise.” Liu was very happy about her oldest son’s job with its stability and good welfare system. She was very confident that her second son will follow his brother’s footstep into the state-owned company too. After all, entering state-owned enterprise and enjoying the iron bowl are the ideal plan she and her husband had in mind for their 3 children. Yet much to her surprise, the ideal became the fuse of her troubles with the second son.
“Look at me, do I look like a woman at 50 years old only?” Liu asked reporter while pointing at the wrinkles on the forehead. “It felt like I have aged 10 years in the past 3 years.” She remembered one thing her son said to her during a fierce fight – “You are pathetic, I hate you.”
“I am really pathetic, my good intention was misunderstood by my son. But do I worth that much of hatred?” There was a fight going on inside Liu’s head, she kept asking herself what has gone wrong. She has thought about giving up because she began to realize that if not she may lose her son forever. However, another thought always followed closely “If I give up now, what about my son’s future?”
Liu said she was tired of the fighting in the past 3 years. “In our hometown, people my age are enjoying simple happiness with their grandchild. But I can’t give up, one day I will convince him to go back home and work for state-owned enterprise.”
In the night of March 12, her husband also arrived at the hotel with the wish to settle the war between wife and son. He said: “3 whole years of fighting has ruined our family life.”
When Ran was graduating in 2009, his phone became the hotline for his parents. Liu recalled: “We constantly remind him to find a formal, stable job. And it is easy to get into the railway construction enterprise because his father was working there. However there was no vacancy at the time.” That is when Ran started to resent his parents’ value in occupation. Ran decided to stay in Chongqing and worked for a foreign trade company, despite parents’ concern about stability. “We have been asking around and building relationship with the mere hope that our kid can settle down soon.”
Not long after graduation Ran’s father found him a post in a China Railway division in Chongqing. Ran went to interview and actually passed. However he ran away when he heard that the post required rotation first in rural area. Liu immediately rushed to Chongqing to reason with Ran: “It is ok to start from lower level, it is a state-owned enterprise after all, you don’t need to worry about earning a living for the rest of your life.” But Ran wouldn’t listen.
In September 2010, another chance came around. Employees in state-owned enterprise can recommend their children for working in the same enterprise. Liu was very grateful about this second chance. “Though my son graduated a year ago, his dad and I managed to lobby the enterprise into taking him back with the condition that he needs to study in the railway training school for two years before going onboard.” Liu was overjoyed at the good news only to find her son not in the slightest bit of interest. Her effort was not appreciated but she swallowed it in and went on nagging Ran to take the offer. Ran stopped answering their calls. So Liu and husband went to Chongqing for the second time to drag him back.
This time, Liu couldn’t hold it anymore. “I scolded at him using all kinds of words, I just want to shake him up to look at the good opportunity.” Liu told reporter. After half month of quarrel, Ran finally agreed to go back home in October. Liu succeed yet with the feeling that her son wasn’t willing to talk to her anymore.
At the day before paying the enrollment fee, Ran called his father: “Can we not pay for this?” His father asserted “No”. Ran then gave the 5000 yuan enrollment fee to the training school, only to drop out a few days later.
The reporter got in touch with Ran to hear his side of the story.
He said it was hard on him as well to not answering his mother’s calls for the past 18 days, but he was fed up with the fighting. “I only want to live my own life, why can’t she just let go?” Ran was aware of his mother’s arrival in Chongqing but he dared not to meet her.
Ran used to be close to his mother, “I had long distance call with her every week asking about her and my father. She wanted me to go to state-owned enterprise, but I want to live the life I like instead of holding an iron bowl for a boring life.”
At first, the two were able to discuss the matter with each other, but Ran gave up after his mother sold his stuffs in Chongqing trying to force him back home. “Every time she came to Chongqing, she started a fight and even made a scene at my workplace. I couldn’t stand it but she is my mother, what I can do is to avoid.” Ran was working for a magazine at that time receiving 5000 yuan per month pay check. He planned to start mortgage on housing and settle down step by step. But none of these were sign of stable life to his mother simply because it was not with a state-owned enterprise. Another factor holding her son back, Liu thought, was his girlfriend. So Liu went to his girlfriend’s workplace and begged for release of her son. Liu realized that she crossed the line, but she was convinced that one day her son will thank her for this, “he was just too young to realize the importance of a stable job.”
Ran quit the job and soon broke up with his girlfriend too, as Ran put it: “I couldn’t lead a normal life anymore but I want her to have one.”
Liu came to Chongqing even more often, almost every second month with a clear goal – to bring her son back to Hebei Province. However, they could never reach an agreement. Liu then sold her son’s computer, clothes and beddings to force him home. 20 days later, Ran went back home for cousin’s wedding without knowing that he would be ambushed by the talking, lobbying, blaming and educating from all relatives. He even got into a fight with his elder brother.
Ran left Hebei Province soon after this. This time, he moved and turned off his phone. Liu tried many times to contact Ran in vain, then she called his girlfriend only to find out that they have already split.
Born in the 1960s, the mother Liu Ximei couldn’t understand her son’s career aspiration while her son didn’t manage to get her appreciation, resulting in escalating contradiction. “I was forced to quit my job, I moved, I broke up with my girlfriend, yet none of these can stop the fighting.” Ran said he appreciated Liu’s love, but it was too much to bear. Ran felt sorry about not going to see mother or picking up the phone, “It is not that I don’t want to see her, I dare not to see her because every meeting with her ends in fighting. I don’t want to repeat, I don’t want to upset her any more than I already have.”
Ran said the last time he saw Liu off, Liu bit him on the arm. “I know she hated me.”