16 May 2013, by Darren Lim
The title of this week’s blog probably sums up most of the reactions we got from friends and family when we broke the news to them some 6 weeks back when we first discovered news of Evelyn’s 4th pregnancy. Of course the intonations that went along, covered the whole spectrum of emotions from pure joy and excitement to total disbelief and incredulity! But the message behind all that was the same — u guys are ‘ Doing IT ‘ again!
You would think that with babies being so cute and children being such a joy to have, people would understand why we love our family big. You might even think , with all that efforts from the government for the nation to conceive, with the baby bonus and maternity ( even paternity ) leave having babies thereafter would be a well- accepted notion, at least amongst the population of the child bearing -age. The sad news unfortunately seems to be, “Old habits die hard!” We’ve been so ingrained with the idea of ＂2 is enough ” that somehow any numbers bigger than that (in the number of off springs that one has in the family )is unusual and almost unacceptable! This plus the fact that when we, as well -meaning parents, want to give ‘ the best ‘ we can to our children, and ‘ the best’ usually comes with a big price tag — a condo / apartment near the best primary school of choice, a whole list of enrichment classes on weekends and of course a car to drive the kids from one centre to another…. And the list goes on ……. having more than one or even two doesn’t seem to make economical sense.
Recently at a friend’s baby shower party, we met a couple who has 3 children and when we jokingly asked if they were planning for number no. 4 , their reply was, they wanted to but were concerned with the cost of bringing them up . Well, ask any parent their worst fear and they’ll tell you it’s not being able to provide. So when people ask me how I ensure that my children are given the best I can give, I ask them what they are thinking about when they refer to the best. For me, my presence in my children’s life and the teachings and values imparted to them through meaningful daily interactions ensure me that they will know how to relate to other people and be a team player in any social setting later on in life, be it at their workplace, in their family etc. (And this is such an important life skill for any child to have in life in order to succeed and it’s something that cannot be taught in books– think communications, co-operation, integrity , honesty — all valued by employers !) For many others, the best may well be material possession and comfort and maybe lots of classes and tuition to ensure success in life ——- that’s why enrichment and tuition are big businesses in Singapore. I do agree that Academics and learning are important –but they have their place in the big scheme of things, not first place as many parents perceive ( perhaps because of the constant grind of schools in their efforts to improve their standing amongst other schools? ). I, being a late bloomer myself, believe in letting the child develop at their pace, not according to some preset standards. Enrichment is important too, but only in those areas that my children are interested in. Evelyn’s parents toiled hard and long all those years to buy a piano for her and to send her for weekly piano lessons. Now that piano sits there in one corner of her parents’ apartment untouched for years …
So what is my point?! I believe that the joy of parenting has been taken away from many because of the fear of inadequacy being a parent…You fear you won’t be able to provide for the future, you are not stimulating your children enough with classes for the right brain then the left brain, and you fear that your children feel lesser when they compare themselves with what their peers have (whether opportunities or material possessions ) . All these fears are legitimate and good because they will keep us in check and spur us on to achieve more in life, just so for the children’s sake. But when they become our hindrance to stepping forward to live out our desire for a bigger family, that’s when it becomes unhealthy (how many times have you heard friends saying, because ‘gorgor’ took piano lessons so the rest of the children have to have the same opportunities too — better stop at 2 or even just at ‘gorgor ‘ so that the parents can devote all their attention and resources to that one kid ! )
Of course, the problem of declining birth rates is multi faceted and there are many reasons to why the modern couple is holding back from birthing more for the next generation. But as ‘ More is more ‘ gets replaced by ‘ More (quality) is less ( quantity) ‘ , we really need to ask ourselves if we have been just following that ‘ herd mentality ‘ and cowering ourselves into fear of insufficiency or are we seeking a destiny and type of family life we really want ! After all, life can be simple but still enriching and fulfilling, it’s just us who’s made it really complicated!