Category Archives: parenting

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.

Hot Tomato Cafe & Grill @ Nex Mall

Hot Tomato Cafe & Grill
Hot Tomato Cafe & Grill

Looking for a reasonably priced, no frill western restaurant in a shopping mall? Hot Tomato Cafe & Grill is a good choice.

I won’t proclaim the food as fantastic, but they are as good as it get for the prices they offered. Rachel and I seldom spend more than $30+ for a two pax dinner, inclusive of GST and service charge.

We would usually order a steak main and top up to a set meal that  comes with bread, soup and a soft drink.

Soup, bread and drink that comes with the set menu
Soup, bread and drink that comes with the set menu
Steak with spaghetti
Steak with spaghetti
Half a roast chicken
Half a roast chicken
Steak with grilled prawns
Steak with grilled prawns
Restaurant interior
Restaurant interior
Asher playing with the restaurant staff
Asher playing with the restaurant staff

 The service at Hot Tomato is pretty excellent. On our last visit there a few weeks ago, Rachel, Asher and I witnessed how the manager at the Nex outlet dealt with a particularly unreasonable customer.

The lady (let’s call her Beach) had came into the restaurant together with her two teenage daughters a few minutes earlier than us. When their orders arrived, the daughters did not want the salad sides and Beach requested to change it to spaghetti. When the waitress politely told her this was not possible as these are standard items, she kicked up a big fuss and started complaining that the salad and all the food were cold. She loudly asked to speak to the manager and went on a long, loud tirade which all in the restaurant can hear.

A very memorable quote came out of Beach: “We are not cheapskate. I came here instead of going KFC because we wanted better service and a good meal. I am very vocal you know. I am a US university graduate you know, not any uneducated auntie. Just so you know, I am a graduate and have stayed in the US for many years.”

In my head I was thinking – so? What has being a graduate or having stayed overseas got to do with anything? To Rachel and I, it just reflects snobbery to the highest extent.

The manager was surprisingly patient and slowly pacified Beach, offering her free sides and to change the salad for her at no cost. All in the name of good service.

Beach’s two daughters hung their heads in shame, seeing that all eyes were now focused on them, thanks to their mother’s crazy antics.

Their mother went on to tell the manager all sort of irreverent cock-and-bull story about her superior upbringing and how the restaurant has caused her embarrassment and  distress; now that everyone was staring at her table (as if it was not her own fault). Beach particularly singled out an Indian couple seated near to her table for mention, repeatedly saying to the manager that they kept staring at her, making her uncomfortable.

When the Indian couple walked out of the restaurant, the male turned around and cheekily said to Beach with a big smile on his face: “Madam, thank you for the free entertainment tonight.You made my day. Your children are much better behaved than you”.

I find it pretty hilarious and wanted to show the guy a double thumbs-up. Before I could do that, Beach started shouting off the top of her lungs: “You better watch out, you will have karma! I curse your children! I curse the two of you! Stay here I call police!”

That agitated theIndian lady who walked back to confront Beach. Luckily, the very professional manager intervened and got both parties to calm down.

It was really great entertainment that night. It made me learn to respect those in the service line more, having personally witnessed the kind of shit customers they have to deal with at times.

Beach is a total disgrace as a mother and as a fellow Singaporean. By bringing up her “US graduate” upbringing, it reflects the kind of crap elitist mindset that I detest the most, but I fear may be very prevalent in Singapore society.

Anyway, if you are interested to visit Hot Tomato, here’s the details for their Nex outlet:

Address: 23 Serangoon Central, #B1-47 NEX Mall
Tel: +65 6753 4300
Opening Hours: Daily, 11am – 10pm

They have many other outlets spread around Singapore. Visit Hot Tomato’s website for more details. 

Dragon Babies Don’t Have All The Luck

My wife, Rachel Chan, wrote this commentary piece for my paper (Fri, Jan 27, 2012).

I am reproducing the article here as I was mentioned in it. I really do not think it is a good idea to deliberately have a baby in the year of the dragon. Not every dragon baby is going to grow up to be a Lee Hsien Loong – statistically, dragon babies will have to work harder than babies born in lesser favoured years.

Via DivaAsia.com:

THE other day, my husband lamented over how “unlucky” our five- month-old son was to have been born in the Year of the Rabbit.

Did he wish that Asher – whose conception had been a complete surprise – was born in the Year of the Dragon instead? Quite the contrary, actually.

Asher Lim, born in the year of the Rabbit
Asher Lim, born in the year of the Rabbit

He said that Asher would have been better off had he been born under the Chinese zodiac signs of the Rat, Ox, Tiger or Snake – the zodiac signs least preferred by the Chinese in childbearing and marriage. But these babies – in theory, at least – have more demographic luck.

Now, I have absolutely no intention of putting down all the excited parents and parents-to-be of Dragon babies. I also wish to expressly state that I am not discouraging anyone from bearing children.

I am perfectly sure that everyone will agree that a complex mix of hereditary, environmental and socio-economic factors will determine whether a child eventually grows up to be an achiever.

But, like my husband, I believe that, if there is an especially good time for a baby to be born, it is not the Year of the Dragon. The fact that a surfeit of Dragon babies will cause a crunch in childcare and infant-care centres, schools and delivery wards does not seem to faze many.

What’s more, Dragon babies will grow up to become adults vying for the same pool of housing and employment.

It is interesting to note that the resale prices of Housing Board flats started rising from 2002 onwards. This has often been attributed to demand outstriping supply, but has anyone thought – other than blaming permanent residents – that the 1976 Dragon babies could have contributed to the peak in demand?

By 2002, they were 26 years old – about the time when people start thinking about marriage. I believe that these Dragon adults conducted their house hunts over several years.

Last year, the total fertility rate increased slightly, from 1.15 in 2010 to 1.2, the unofficial reason being that the Year of the Rabbit is more auspicious than that of 2010’s Tiger.

This year, the birth rate is expected to soar. Already, infant-care centres are beginning to fill up.

A friend, who will deliver in March, started shopping for infant care last October. The centre of her first choice placed her in 10th place on the waiting list for July enrolment. She settled for her second choice, which has confirmed a place for her baby.

Looking ahead, our workforce is becoming increasingly global. Singapore’s Dragon babies will be up against those of China’s when they’re grown. If we are finding international competition to be hotting up now, what more 20 years down the road?

In explaining why it is advantageous to be born in a generation after a baby boom, writer Malcolm Gladwell quotes economist H. Scott Gordon in Outliers, a book about why some people attain more success than others. Mr Gordon made a notable point about the particular benefits of one being born during the demographic trough of the 1930s.

“When he opens his eyes for the first time, it is in a spacious hospital, well-appointed to serve the wave that preceded him. The staff are generous with their time, since they have little to do while they ride out the brief period until the next wave hits,” he wrote.

“Then he hits the job market. The supply of new entrants is low and demand is high, because there is a large wave coming behind him providing a strong demand for the goods and services of his potential employers.”

Mr Gladwell calls one who was born in such a perfect time – during a lull in birth rate – as having “demographic luck”. Hence, by extrapolation, Dragons are less likely to have demographic luck than a Rat baby.

Personally, I just hope that my little Rabbit won’t be washed up on shore by the huge wave of Dragons behind him when he gets out of school.

Asher and Kelly Cuteness Overload

Asher Lim was born on 21 August 2011 while Kelly Tan was born about two months later on 12 October 2011. Their fathers are childhood friends since primary school and have birth dates that are just one day apart.

Here are a few photos of the two of them taken on the first day of Chinese New Year (年初一 ) at Kelly’s home:

Take 1
Take 1
Take 2
Take 2
Take 3
Take 3
Take 4
Take 4
Take 5
Take 5

Alvinology’s family reunion dinner (团圆饭) 2012

Like last year, the previous year and the year before, we had our family reunion dinner at Pu Tien Restaurant (莆田菜馆). The restaurant serves Heng Hwa (兴化) cuisine. Heng Hwa is the Chinese dialect group of my family.

Alvinology family
Alvinology family

This year, we have a new addition to the Lim family – my son, Asher Lim Yu Yi, 5 months old! This is Asher’s first reunion dinner. We dressed him up in a Nepalis costume and shoes given to him by my mother-in-law. I wore a matching Nepalis shirt to accompany him.

Asher in Nepalis costume and shoes
Asher in Nepalis costume and shoes
Doing push-ups
Doing push-ups
Asher with mum and with dad
Asher with mum and with dad

We were happy to be able to secure a table at the main branch of Putien restaurants at Kitchener Road. The food was good as usual and the service excellent, despite the large dining crowd. We met and exchange greetings with the friendly boss and some old staff who are friends with my parents.

Prepping the Yu Sheng
Prepping the Yu Sheng
The Yu Sheng is ready for tossing
The Yu Sheng is ready for tossing
Lou Hei!
Lou Hei!
Me tossing to health and harmony
Me tossing to health and harmony
Shark's fin soup
Shark's fin soup
Sweet and sour lychee pork
Sweet and sour lychee pork
Crispy chicken
Crispy chicken
Abalone with broccoli
Abalone with broccoli
Fried yam cubes - Rachel's favourite
Fried yam cubes - Rachel's favourite
Steamed fish
Steamed fish
Garlic prawn
Garlic prawn
Signature Heng Hwa noodle
Signature Heng Hwa noodle
Tang Yuan with black sesame filling in red bean soup
Tang Yuan with black sesame filling in red bean soup
My bowl of Tang Yuan
My bowl of Tang Yuan

Asher was very excited to be out today and managed to stay awake throughout. Once we got home, he concussed in bed like a little piglet.

Asher with my mum and dad
Asher with my mum and dad
Asher loves to look at fishes
Asher loves to look at fishes
Asher was very awake the whole dinner, observing his surroundings
Asher was very awake the whole dinner, observing his surroundings

While most people wishes for luck and fortune, Rachel and I will be very contented with a happy family, good health and harmonious relationships in 2012. Happy New Year everyone! May you have a great year ahead in 2012! 🙂