Challenging to have children in Singapore

Challenging to have children in Singapore

I AGREE with Mr Ho Kwon Ping that the natural tendency of parents is to have two children or more - regardless of their socio-economic status and especially if the overall support environment is conducive ("Europe's baby bump holds lessons for S'pore"; last Thursday).

The primary consideration for dual-income families is: Who is going to look after my child, after he is born, in the short to medium term? In Singapore, we have the options of grandparents, domestic helpers and childcare centres.

The Government has implemented measures to promote multi-generation living and to encourage couples to live near their parents.

However, entrusting young children into the care of their grandparents is dependent on the physical health and willingness of the grandparents to undertake this task.

Bear in mind that the grandparents of today are 10 years older than the grandparents of the past, since most mothers are having babies only in their 30s.

So, for many parents, getting the grandparents to help with childcaring is not an option.

As for domestic helpers, I fully agree with Mr Ho that we should not over-rely on them to relieve childcaring work.

Unless you live in a spacious house with a spare room for the helper, having a live-in maid is an intrusion into one's privacy and space.

It also requires much time and effort to integrate a stranger into the family and to ensure that her physical and emotional needs are looked after.

Hence, this is not an option for many.

That leaves childcare centres. If given the choice, the majority of parents would enrol their children in the one closest to their homes.

Finding a high-quality childcare centre that is affordable and accessible is a real challenge.

Apart from government-run centres, the monthly cost of the private ones starts from $1,000, which is not cheap.

Using childcare centres also entails one parent leaving work at 6pm since they generally close at 7pm.

Logistics aside, having children is also about finding the time to enjoy them.

Compared with places like Australia, Europe and the United States, Singapore still has a long way to go in institutionalising a proper work-life balance.

As a working mother of two pre-schoolers, I get to spend about three hours with my children every weekday.

I consider myself lucky - can other working parents say the same?

This article was first published on Mar 10, 2015.
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