By Mandy Loh
Many newlyweds choose to spend the first few years of marriage enjoying couplehood with few responsibilities and lots of spontaneity. This is great if it is part of a well thought-out plan to do so before taking the next step towards parenthood.
However, for some, the thought of having a baby is far from their minds, or may even cause them to shudder. Let’s examine some of the common concerns and fears of having children, and how they can be addressed.
#1: I can’t even take care of myself… how can I take care of a baby?
Many people feel that their lives are not “in order” yet, and may even feel like a kid themselves. The thought of having to care and be responsible for a tiny, helpless baby, who is totally dependent on them, is extremely daunting.
Ms Evelyn Khong, Head of Family Life Education Department, Fei Yue Community Services, believes that one cannot just wait for life to be in order, as it doesn’t happen automatically. She explained: “Life can be in order if we are willing to sit down and start assessing issues that really matter to us.”
She added, “it may be hard work taking care of a baby, but it does have its pay-offs. With children, the ROI (returns on investment) may not be immediate but if you invest in them, the returns can really be very rewarding and heartwarming.”
#2: I’m afraid I won’t be able to provide for a child.
This is a common concern, especially in Singapore with ever-rising costs. Couples may feel that they cannot even cope with the cost of living for two persons, much less provide for a child.
In response, Evelyn pointed out that “cost of living has to do with each individual's needs and wants; which unfortunately, in society today, most of these are wants. What were once luxuries have now become necessities, which have added to the rising cost of living.”
”Do we really need to send our kids to expensive enrichment centres? If there are valid reasons to do so, is it then possible to review the needs and wants in other areas, and learn to simplify our lives? There are many ways to enjoy life, just as there are many ways to help our children grow, and grow well.”
#3: I don’t know the first thing about taking care of a baby! I’ll screw up!
Once you care enough to learn, there are a multitude of resources available.
Evelyn acknowledged that “parenting does not come with a manual, and many of us went through it with a lot of trial and error. Thankfully, however, there are many available courses on parenting, marriage and family life, which can help us to be better equipped with knowledge of baby's development, as well as tools and skills to manage and raise a child. Take advantage of these courses to gear you up and better prepare for the fun-tastic journey ahead. Yes, parenting can be fun if you pick up the tools and tips, be it from the courses, support groups or sharing/talking with other like-minded parents so as to keep yourselves ahead and also learn from other parents' mistakes.”
#4: I don't think I'll be a good parent/I don't want to end up like my mom or dad.
Some people might have had bad childhood experiences and may fear inflicting the same pain on their own children. While such experiences may have been unfortunate, Evelyn asserted that “there are no bad parents, just wonderful ones who may have made bad mistakes from time-to-time.”
To those who are afraid of becoming just like their own parents, she reassured: “You are not your mum/dad. Their times are different from our times. You can choose not to end up like them. Both you and your spouse should sit down and discuss the good values and habits that both of you want to bring into your new family, and trash the bad ones.”
#5: Everything will change once we have a baby… and I like how things are right now!
It’s true that life as you know it will change forever, but who’s to say it won’t change for the better?
“Change is the only constant,” Evelyn observed. “Whether you have a baby or not, we go through different stages as we progress through life. Children multiply our love and bring a lot of joy despite the challenges. At the end of the day, it's more of whether you want to have a baby or not.”
However, if you treasure your current lifestyle too much, it might signal that you are not ready for parenthood. “Bottom line is if you are not ready to have kids, then it is better to hold back first,” she cautioned. “It may be good, though, to sit down and talk through the perceived changes, and what can be done if ultimately you decide to have kids. Problems can always be resolved.”
#6: I don’t even know what I’m afraid of… but I am!
“Fear of the unknown is one of the biggest obstacles, yet because it is formless and vague, it is also hard to address.” Evelyn encouraged couples to “take some time to sit down and really work through the issues you need to grapple with. Challenges don’t look as scary when they are broken down into smaller, more manageable chunks.”
She added, “It has been said that worry is like a rocking chair; it gives you something to do but it gets you nowhere. While I do not deny that there are fears and concerns, most times these are really uncalled for and unnecessary. Sometimes it's because we think too much, hear too much or see too much "negative" or "failed" examples. But failure is always an event, never a person. If we can learn from these failures and use them as stepping stones, if we can look at other positive (not perfect) examples – and there are a lot out there, if we can talk positive, think and feel positive, then we are on the way to eliminating unnecessary fears.”
Lastly, as an experienced counselor, Evelyn advised: “It may be good to talk about these fears to a trusted person, someone who can empathise with you. Talking helps to get the toxic out of the system and also helps put things in a clearer perspective.”
#7: I want kids but my spouse doesn’t seem ready. What should I do?
This would be one of the trickiest concerns to manage, and Evelyn recommends a generous dose of communication and understanding of the fears and concerns that your spouse may have.
She also suggested seeking out professional help, or talking to someone whom you are both comfortable with. “List down your concerns and work on them one by one. Learn also to appreciate and accept each other's concerns and fears as they are very real to your spouse; avoid putting each other down. Bear in mind that both of you are unique individuals. Celebrate the differences and work towards a win-win outcome for all.”
I Love Children would like to express our deepest appreciation to Ms Evelyn Khong, Fei Yue Community Services for her invaluable contribution towards this article.