I can’t resist but to give me twenty cents’ worth of rants about the governments’ efforts to increase birth rates. I wanted to lay it to rest but after reading the suggestions by a certain group in a certain organisation, I just feel this unknown but sudden mirth. Somehow, everything is related to housing, AGAIN? Pre-requisite of having kids should not be whether there is a house but it’s about how to give them a home, a proper and happy one.
To cut the story short and simple, I shall present my version of the ‘whys’ and the ‘hows’ in a table format. I will try to find tangible solutions to the intangible reasons. Since that’s how the authorities understand things.
|Why are we not having enough children?||How we can get people to pop more children?|
|1||Rising living costs.This has been brought up a zillion times but the relevant people choose to turn blind and deaf to it. I guess any attempt to address it would have to be at macro level and that means HUGE impact and giving up a lot at a country level. BUT to have kids means, we cannot starve them. When we have kids, we do not wish to deprive them. Issue here is, even the cheapest can of formula is expensive. The cheapest brand of diapers ain’t that fantastic and it only means we have to spend more to buy more. There’s no place we can bring our kids out without spending excessively. Think, Gardens by the Bay charges fees for kids 3 years and above, that’s too much already! Look at the Singapore flyer’s ticket prices and not forgetting, the universal studio and the zoo. Apparently, the relevant organisations are only interested in getting the super rich to have more children. The middle and lower class probably can only go neighbourhood playgrounds or botanical gardens? Doing the calculations, having one or no kid can really save lots $$ and we get to spend the money in whichever way we like.||Here’s what I think we should do:- If $$ can really solve the issue, give us more! Allow us to use the baby bonus card to buy milk powder and diapers. Allow us to use the $$ to pay for these entrance fees. Let the kids have a more enriching childhood by allowing them to go to educational places, for example, the zoo, free. Give them the chance to be happy without stressing the parents up. Being in education sector for a while, I have heard too much from kids who said things like, ‘We have never been to the zoo because my parents are working and they say it’s expensive’.|
|2||Rising Education costsI am not talking about the government schools. I am talking about the pre-schools as well as the enrichment schools. Many people have been telling me to open a tuition centre or some enrichment centre because I used to teach and I will earn BIG money. There you go parents who are reading this. Many of these centres are OUT TO EARN YOUR MONEY! Of course, we can always stop sending the kids to these classes. BUT looking at the education system (which will be my next point), even the most ‘relak in the corner parents’ must also sit up and pay attention! I used to have students whose parents spent their weekend working so that they can earn more to send their kids to tuition classes! I don’t think this should be the case right?Pre-school prices are ridiculous. Honestly, I can barely afford my Ks’ school fees now. But the cheaper alternatives are either BAD or have no vacancies. Who will have time to keep looking and transferring them? I want to have a 3rd kid but just the pre-school fees are enough to deter me.||I have suggested this too many times. SOMEONE should subsidise these pre-schools so that they can keep good teachers at reasonable salary. BUT THERE MUST BE CHECKS to ensure that these subsidies are used properly and not for profiteering.As for tuition centres, sigh, the next point will address But basically, it’s a PARADIGM shift in mindset. So, I guess if we want to have more children, the relevant authorities got to look DEEP into the problem and not give superficial suggestions that barely scratch the surface of the issues.Another possible solution is do what the Europeans do. Free or highly subsidised education till tertiary level? THIS actually will entice me to pop #3 and even #4. This will be at the expense of higher taxes, I am actually ok but I think most Singaporeans won’t like the idea.|
|3||Stressful Education systemYet another issue brought up by the gazillions. A first move to remove school ranking was not followed up by more. Instead, a more evil plot was conjured by school to ensure they have that following. BRANDING! The crazy things that parents (me affected too!) do to get the kids into branded schools. If parents have that much time and money, shouldn’t they be spent on kids? Or rather, spend on having MORE KIDS? And because of the kiasu mentality, parents would want their kids to be top of the top (they are already in top schools leh), so that’s where time and money are spent on lessons and tuition classes. One kid still manageable, how about 2,3 or even 4. Yes, these are optional. And precisely these are optional, parents prefer to have lesser kids so that they have more resources to spend more on them? Got it?||– Ban school from advertising, subtle or whatsoever. No printing of banners to brag about how many straight As students they have. Stop the stupid media reporting about top student/s during release of results of national exams. Parents are freaking busy so without such visuals or report, they wont have time to bother and so, kids won’t grow up in such kiasu and competitive environment and if they are happy, we are happy. And if we know our kids will grow up in such a happy environment, we wouldn’t mind to have more.- Remove class and level position from report books. Same as above point, if parents do not know, they will have no basis for comparisons. And so, they won’t spend hard-earned money on tuition centre nor spend their precious off-days or weekends forcing their kids to do assessment books. Having children become something happy instead of stressful.BUT, will this ever happen? I DONT THINK SO.|
|4||Singapore, an ideal home for our children? Look at the issues happening around us? Bad drivers, rude people. Citizens seem so cold and uncaring. It’s all about self and no one else. Honestly, and this can be another blog entry, Singapore is slowing becoming a not-so-livable place. I am not even sure if I am doing my children justice to even give birth to them. I am not even confident if I could raise them to become good people given the peer pressure around. And really, $$ issue aside, this is what’s stopping me from having #3.||Unfortunately, I have no tangible solution to this problem, a huge problem that is too deep-rooted. It requires a crisis to make people take a hard look at themselves. I get very PO whenever my friendly big K waves or says hi to strangers, she would be greeted by stoned faces instead. Not a single smile or movement in the facial tissue. So, why would I want my kids to feel so lousy in this not-so-fantastic society that has an issue with mannerism and graciousness?|
|5||Perception that children are nuisance and the fear of peer pressure.Look at the news on teenagers and kids in school? Somehow it’s always the bad news. It’s quite a scary trend to see how kids are behaving badly outside. I always asked my ah lao, what if our girls are also like that? Or what if they also meet friends like this? And they are girls. I seriously WILL NOT DIE IN PEACE if my girls have boyfriends like that boy with $60 haircut. So chao ah beng lor! Worse still, have MILs like his mother! It dawns on us that upbringing of kids is very important. So having one is already a tough responsibility let alone more. We give birth to kids not just to meet the numbers nor to have someone to take care of us. We would also want to have kids who can contribute tot he society and not be a nuisance. Such huge responsibility and no wonder some potential parents duck the idea of having any child.||I figure this is yet another intangible problem. Not measurable at all. But I figure that having strong family support helps. Parents have their own parents to turn to when they run out of time and effort to teach the kids. And somehow the older folks are likely to have stronger values (although I have seen really bd and rude grandparents).Another crazy idea that I came up with when I was teaching was to let the parents have easy access to parenting courses or even hotlines. Personally, I feel that it’s sooooooooo tough to be a parent, let alone a good parent.|
|6||Role of the fatherAll the talks about men having paternity leave etc etc are all BS if the men refused to take any or rather, are unable to take any responsibility. So, I think government can just slam dunk that idea. Being a parent comes from the heart and mind. Interestingly, most mothers grow into the role faster and easier. Same can’t be said about the fathers. Spend one afternoon at playgyms like hokey pokey. You will see the fathers taking out their smartphones watching videos or playing games while letting their kids run amok. I actually got into a situation that I had to be the bad guy to snatch a toy from a girl who pushed my girl to snatch a toy away from her. The father of the girl was watching some videos on his phone. He DID NOT realise that his own daughter was bullied by me! The silly girl did not cry and lucky for her she din. Else the father will get a nice long lecture from me. So back to the point, parenting is a father AND mother business. If it’s only one-sided, and if a mother struggles when having just one kid without strong support from the other better half, she will obviously avoid having another kid as she cannot cope.||Solution is simple.1. Ban men from having smartphones.2. Infuse a training module called ‘getting ready to be a father’ in NS would be pretty good? Because once the men is ready, and women’s biological clock ticking, love is there, you will have kids!|
So, here you go, my 20 cents’ worth again.