Thanks, but baby can wait
I am unapologetically a product of the ’90s — a time when children were brought up to hanker after success and the Singapore Dream. A time when we were conditioned to believe the drill that a good education means success later on, a concept measured by the five Cs.
We are also a generation that more or less enjoyed the fruits of our parents’ labour, and that of globalisation — allowing us to have a good and fulfilling life even in this small city state.
In short, all this has resulted in an entire generation of creatures of comfort, who strive for material comforts and success. Not a good recipe for making babies.
In my mind, there is a conundrum that the recently announced slate of government measures does little to resolve. Even with more baby bonuses, much cheaper childcare, more goodies than ever, there is no running away from the fact that raising a child involves a lot of hard work.
Having just turned 31 and gotten married last year, I belong to that group targeted by the Enhanced Marriage and Parenthood Package. But the truth is, my husband and I have slogged for too long to give it all up for a baby right now.
After what seems like an eternity of putting my nose to the grindstone — first, Singapore’s gruelling education system, and then the arduous journey to developing my career — I can finally head home at night and enjoy the fruits of our labour: Our own dream home, paid for by our sweat and toil.
My job, though intense and with long hours at times, is still fulfilling.
Over the weekends, we sleep late and have leisurely lunches. Every once in a while, stressed out from wading through multiple work pile-ups, we may decide a time out is in order, and we jet off to any beach destination or occasionally, splurge on a trip further away.
Research bears it out. Studies have shown that, as a nation gets more affluent and socially developed, measured by gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, the rate of fertility goes down.
In The Wealth Report 2012, a global study on property and wealth compiled by Knight Frank and Citi Private Bank, Singapore was listed as the world’s most affluent with a GDP per capita of US$56,532 (S$70,450) in 2010.
This is from about US$516 in 1965 (of course, the sum could buy much more then), when we had a fertility rate of about 4.7 — something we can only fantasise about now.
A 2011 Singapore Management University study also shows that Singaporean women are considerably more materialistic than their American counterparts. Significantly, fertility rate in the United States stand at about 2.1 as compared to our 1.2, although it is also a wealthy and socially developed country.
No indeed, we are not our parents, who led a very different lifestyle.
Back then, a nine-to-five work regime was literal, not just a term, while after-work activities were mostly confined to spending time with family or the occasional movie. Travelling was a luxury for most, not de rigueur as it is now.
Simply put, there was little culture of indulgence, and lifestyles were simple. It was an ideal soup-pot of conditions for making babies.
So the question remains: Do I want to give up my cushy and busy lifestyle now, at the peak of my life? I am not saying no immediately, but it is a question worth careful consideration.
Indeed, in the depths of my mind, there are what-ifs. What if there are regrets that there were no children? So, I may well give in to a compromise between shying away from the sacrifice in having children, and the desire to bring more meaning to my life: By having only one child, perhaps.
However, whatever decision I make, it will not be because of the measures rolled out by the Government last week.
Sure, they will help if I decide I want to be a parent, and I appreciate the gesture. The fact remains, however, that I have been conditioned to think of life as a series of rewards for the hard work I have put in — and having children does not yet fall into this category.
Tan Weizhen is a senior reporter with TODAY