Want more babies? Then help parents be parents

Plugging my wife’s article published in my paper on Friday. Personally, I feel there’s an easy solution to the issue of paternal leave and getting fathers to be more involved in parenting – allow child-rearing to be part of our NSmen’s reservist duties.

There are very little perks in being a Singapore born male versus foreigners. This can be one of the steps toward tipping the scale for balance.

Ten years of reservist is a long long time. I still have at least five more years to go before I am allowed to stash away my green uniform. The amount of time I waste at RT, IPT, IPPT, silent mob, open mob, this open house that open house, guard duties, etc can be much better spent bringing up my son.

If MP Janil Puthucheary can claim credit for contributing to our nation by “spending 10 years saving kids’ lives” in his job as a pediatrician; it probably isn’t too far-fetch to consider brining up one’s kids, born and bred in Singapore, as a form of national service too. 🙂

Want more babies? Then help parents be parents

By Rachel Chan
my paper
Friday, Mar 02, 2012

LISTENING to Members of Parliament (MPs) debate on efforts to raise Singapore’s fertility rate yesterday made me want to jump right in and give my two cents’ worth.

As a young parent, I naturally hung on to every word about any work-life-balance policy or family-friendly scheme that could help me be a better parent in any way.

You see, for the past two months since I returned to work from maternity leave, I sometimes feel that my mum-in-law is my six-month-old son’s surrogate mother.

After all, she and my doting father-in-law babysit Asher, keep house and cook meals while my husband and I – both in the media line – spend up to 12 hours a day at work.

By the time guilt-ridden me gets home to Asher, he has already been fed, changed and, on some nights, put to bed.

Singapore boy, Asher
Singapore boy, Asher Lim

Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful to have a supportive network. But I don’t think it’s fair that someone else gets to experience the joy of being his primary caregiver. Think I’d be having Baby No. 2 because my in-laws can look after my children? You must be kidding.

Besides, that’d mean depriving one more baby of his mother’s attention.

If social and financial burdens must first be shouldered by the family – as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong often reiterates – then I strongly believe that parents should be at the forefront when it comes to looking after their children.

In Parliament yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said the Child Development Account – a savings account where parents’ deposits are matched by the Government; it is valid for a child’s first six years – would be extended by six years, and its usage broadened.

I welcome it. But I also think it’s another piecemeal measure that assumes expense is the overriding reason why couples are not having more kids.

The parental dilemma is compounded by perennial calls for the elderly and stay-at-home mums to return to work. Who, may I ask, would be left at home to care for our children? Nannies? Domestic helpers? Childcare and infant-care centres?

Must we outsource the care of our offspring so that we can buoy workforce productivity rates? And if mothers are expected to pull their weight in bringing home the bacon, how can society ensure a more equal division of childcare duties?

So, here’s my wish: Can the authorities look into incentives that will allow parents to, well, have time to be parents?

As far as I could surmise from yesterday’s proceedings, no one made any indication of legislating paternity leave – an idea proposed by MP Seah Kian Peng and Non-Constituency MP Gerald Giam. In addition, why not make it mandatory to offer flexi-work arrangements to workers with young children?

Such a sea change in attitude is necessary if Singapore – where the employment rate is high and employees work long hours – wants its population to go forth and multiply.

Mr Bengt Westerberg, the Swedish politician who championed fathers’ leave in his country, told the New York Times this: What won the argument was not so much women’s rights as rights for men and children.

“Fathers have a right to a more complete life, one that does not revolve only around the job and money. And children have a right to both parents,” he said in the report.

How true: Children have a right to a life where their parents are their primary caregivers – not surrogates.

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3 thoughts on “Want more babies? Then help parents be parents”

  1. Hear, hear!

    At this rate, we would have to depend on a never-ending stream of immigrants to replace ourselves. Why? Because even if some immigrants become naturalised Singaporeans (which seems to be the aim of the Government), they, like other Singaporeans before them, would be too busy to raise a family given the skewed work-life ‘balance’.

    We need to fundamentally rethink our economic model, indeed, our way of life.

  2. Hi,

    I have three kids, I have a baby sitters only 7am to 7pm, everyday I bring back them and play with them for the last 14 years. Life goes on, somebody got to work at more normal time to be with them, I don;t even have a mother-in-law to feed them, so very very fortunate and also life goes on , I have young parents are complaining and if you see what our parents went thru (my mother worry every December because she got no money to buy books and clothing for new year school opening) they are even worst, yet they have four children and life is better after we grow up, She had retire for 20 years and enjou her 7 grandchidlren. Just do it, adjust and pls dont wait for the government to import another loads of FT(Thrast) to fill up the gap!

    There are times of yourself and they are times for your family, I dn’t even have maid, My wife work until 9pm most of time! But I have found up that she just pure ineffieiecnt and like to procastnate and drag my other people in her work. She is trap in the mouse run of the cooporate leader coming back drop dead! Pls dont fall into the trap, Enjoy the time with them(Children), one of them need to change job if need be! Money is not everything, time and family is very very important, onece they grow up it is gone!

    If anybody ask me am I enjoy my life, I said yes, to be with my kids when they need me. Having lunch, pillow fight and jaming(guitar) with elder son are money cannot be bought! Even means to forgo my career. Life is short, I am hitting 46 years old, Another ten years my chidlren will be gone and I will be free again to do my little hobbies. But as I hit 65 years old, I will hoping for my grandchidlren, many many and fetching them to school again every day without fail. When its rain my daugther will call, I just fly down and fetch her, little little will get things go by.

    We are feed my government to work and work and drop dead!
    I see you got time to blog means you will have the time for three children, go and life goes and when you hit 65 years old with a big table of children and grandchildren to celebrate, you will know is worth while to live, See what my mother and mother-in-law, they have four children and 7 grandchildren, it is happy.

    Don’t go into one child and leave the kid to be only lonely persn in this world.

  3. You can have time to bring up your kid if SAF selects you for the position of research medical scientist, but that may depend on your father having some say on defence.

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