Why modern parenting costs more

Why modern parenting costs more
Despite substantial investments from Millennial parents, enrichment classes for kids at such a tender age may not necessarily give them a leg up when they start primary school.
PHOTO: The Star/Asia News Network

Not sure whether to get the Baby Toof Helper or the Little Chew toy for your teething baby?

If you're a Millennial parent, you're likely to search online for reviews or broadcast your dilemma on the WhatsApp group chat with other mums.

Born between the 1980s and 2000s, Millennials - some of them parents now - grew up having instant access to knowledge in this age of technology.

In contrast, their Generation X or Baby Boomer parents were more likely to rely on traditional media, such as advertising, in their decision to purchase a teething toy.

Read also: Being a parent can make you live longer: Study

The different ways in which these new mums and dads approach parenthood affect their spending decisions.

Here's why modern parenthood seems to cost much more and how Millennials who are parents can still secure a financially comfortable future for their bigger family.

The price of early achievements

While all parents want the very best for their children, parents today start early when paving the road to success for their children.

Stories abound of parents enrolling their tiny tots in enrichment classes even before they are old enough for kindergarten, a modern phenomenon that was reported by the Singaporean media in 2014.

Read also: Parents shocked by rising milk powder prices

This high-achieving attitude that modern parents adopt on their children's behalf does not come cheap: a 14-week term of enrichment classes to prepare them for primary school can cost up to S$3,000.

"As our standard of living increases, so do our costs and expectations," says T.L. Lim, 31, the mother of a three-year-old. "Children now are sent to an assortment of enrichment programmes in and out of school like music, sports and academic classes. It's great exposure for the kids, but it also stems from an unhealthy 'don't lose out' attitude that many parents feel pressurised about these days."

Statistics reflect the increased cost of living, as well as the cost of this additional pressure. The average monthly household expenditure in Singapore went up from S$3,352 in 2002/03 to S$4,724 in 2012/13.

Out of this household budget, educational expenditure accounted for 5.1 per cent of spending in 2002/03, but 5.4 per cent in 2012/13, totalling up to a difference of an extra S$115 a month.

Peer pressure in social media

The pressure to keep up with the Joneses is more widespread today with social media. Social media is a sphere of interactivity that the parents of Millennials never got to experience, but posted photos of a friend's child holding aloft a trophy won in a chess competition can strike fear in Millennial parents that they are not doing enough for their own brood.

Faced with constant reminders on Facebook and Instagram of Junior's new toy or activity, it can be difficult not to feel pressured to jump on the bandwagon when you see how much your peers are willing to invest in nurturing their children.

"When everybody posts the highlights of their family life, it creates a sense of a perfect world that everyone else will try to match up to, even if the post isn't the full reality," observes Lim.

Behind every post of a kid's award-winning drawing, may be a pair of parents spending time and money on the child's art classes.

Millennial parents may even end up spending more on activities that go beyond the norm - from mixed martial arts to sewing - to encourage the learning of other skills, a trend Channel NewsAsia picked up on late last year.

Investing in your child's future

Despite substantial investments from Millennial parents, enrichment classes for kids at such a tender age may not necessarily give them a leg up when they start primary school.

In 2012, The Straits Times in Singapore carried an article on parental obsession with pre-school tuition, in which Nirmala Karuppiah, a lecturer in early childhood from the National Institute of Education, advised, "There is currently no evidence to show that mastering of skills depends on extensive training in the first few years of life."

Instead, focus on bonding and spending time with your little ones through fun activities with the family that do not require much spending.

Even daily walks to explore new environments can nurture in them a sense of curiosity and willingness to learn.

Playing certain types of games can also build their self-confidence and teach life lessons about patience, success and failure.

In addition, it's important to note that preparing the ground for your children's achievements does not necessarily have to stretch the family's finances.

If you and your partner intend to have a child, plan ahead for his or her future - consider taking up a plan that reinvests your savings to ensure that future generations are well taken care of.

As your children grow older, include them in family discussions on money matters - after all, some lessons go beyond the classroom.

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