This article was published in Today, today.
BY IAN TAN
ON HER deathbed, my ever pragmatic mum told my then wife-to-be: “Must have double income! Singapore too expensive to live on one paycheck alone.”
That was over seven years ago when both Sze Wei and I were still university undergrads.
Sorry Mum, unlike a lot of guys out there, I refuse to heed that advice. I know you were a single mum who struggled to raise three children, but that’s also why I never saw you much when I was growing up.
Dad passed away when I was three months old and thus I never had a father figure, which was something I swore never to inflict on my children.
It took me a long time to convince Sze Wei, and she spent a year mulling over it before she finally quit her job to stay at home to look after our two energetic children, now aged 5 and 3.
Sze Wei is the envy of her friends, but I can assure you my wife is not living the life of a rich tai-tai. In fact, for a few years after she stopped work, we couldn’t generate any extra savings as I struggled to pay our bills and helped to support her retired parents. Thankfully, I make a bit more now and we can breathe easier.
Now people always ask me when they find out the state of my nuclear family: “Wah, you really support the Gahmen’s baby policies is it? Why not have one more? Can get four months’ maternity leave now, you know! Lots of baby bonus!”
It’s pretty annoying, because from what I’ve just written, you can probably tell that Sze Wei and I had children and made certain sacrifices for them because of our own belief in their upbringing, despite societal (and for me, maternal) pressure to keep up with the Joneses (or is it the Wongs?).
I’ve never paid much heed to the Government’s Baby Bonus plans because the incentives (yes, even the tax breaks), couldn’t stir my loins into action.
But when I heard about the latest package, I got pretty upset.
The glaring lack of paternity leave reminded me of the time my first child was born and I decided to use my entire leave allowance that year to look afterSze Wei during her confinement month.
For guys who haven’t gone through it yet, just know that the first month of your child’s life can be the most terrifying for the family.
Many women face problems such as the child refusing to breastfeed, constant exhaustion as the result of a baby who wakes up every other hour, meconium (that’s newborn faeces, dude) soiling the diapers many times a day. I changed diapers till I turned as green as the faeces I was wiping off my son Isaac’s buttocks.
Not everyone has parents or confinement maids to help out, and this is where the hubby really needs to step up and share in the parenting experience.
I burnt my annual leave again for my second child Isabel, and I never regretted it. The bonding experience from day one is irreplaceable and my children know that too.
So what do the latest Baby Bonus measures mean for hands-on parents like us?
I see the lack of paternity leave as a clear message to stay in the office during confinement month because we men might just squander any extra leave we get or make our bosses really unhappy with the loss of our workplace contribution.
Then there is the extra money being pumped into childcare centres which doesn’t benefit homemakers like Sze Wei.
But for parents like us, the question is whether we want to leave our children in the arms of strangers who are only doing only doing what they do because they are paid a salary?
I know not everyone shares my views. Many already complain that our society is too materialistic, that our people are too self-absorbed. There will be those who want their cake and eat it — have babies and look towards the Government to “compensate” them for having done so.
Perhaps it is also time to start promoting family values that are being rapidly eroded today?
There is a price for everything in life, and for our children, my wife and I have paid up with no regrets. We took whatever Baby Bonus benefits being offered then, but they really had no impact on our lifelong decisions.
I just hope other parents-to-be don’t look to the Government to pay the price of having children.
After all, the authorities don’t make the baby — you do.
Ian Tan is a former journalist who is now a public relations professional in the IT industry.