A personal take on this unfortunate small spaces remark taken out of context. All sparked by the headline on ST’s article “You don’t need much space to have sex”.
Granted, Mrs Teo had bravely soldiered on to clarify that her words were taken out of context (according to CNA article), but it has sparked a conversation, and a very important one, that is needed between the government and Singaporeans.
It was never about space for making the babies. It has always about the space to raise that baby. It is about providing a safe haven, a suitable environment for raising children the way we want it. Singaporeans have expectations, hopes and dreams. And we expect to be given that freewill to plan how they want life to pan out, what kind of standard of living and environment they would like to provide for our children. That’s what we studied hard, slogged hard for. We didn’t ask for matchbox size flats, but we have adapted to the reality that living spaces will shrink. So, even if matchbox size, we take it, because we want that space to start our own family and have a roof over our heads. Our own roof. Not our parents’. We are Asians. Culturally, that roof over the head has always been very important to us, at least that’s what my parents have always said. As long as we have a roof over our heads, everything else can fall in place.
In other countries, it is normal to have kids first (sometimes accidentally), then marry (or not). Do we want to go down that route to up the fertility rate? I think our society is not yet ready for the Brangelina arrangements (that is, prior to their marriage and now dramatic divorce). Pragmatic Singaporeans are not ready to live on love alone – not when a giving birth can cost nearly 10K or even more when things don’t go quite as planned, and that’s just the “start-up cost” to parenthood. Childcare, medical care, everything costs money. Singaporeans plan and plan, perhaps over-plan. I’d take this attitude over reckless one-night stands any day where you get knocked up, then you go home and ask your parents “How lidat? You can help me raise my child?” and expect to continue to lean on that support from our parents who have slogged half their lives away and burst their bubble of retiring and going backpacking around the world.
Personally, we only started thinking if we should have a child after we have finally settled down in our own flat. We had lived apart for a year after marriage for a myriad of reasons. And it was only when things stabilised mentally, emotionally, financially, then we finally felt ready and confident that we can provide a good home for our child, then I started to even entertain the idea of being a parent.
“Home” not “House”.
Home is that place where make memories, where we get to decide how the sleeping arrangements will be, have our own cosy corners, babyproof it, and ensure it is a feasible place emotionally for the child. Our way. At our parents’ place, we wouldn’t be able to decide many things. Space is limited, you can’t tell the smoker not to smoke, can’t decide on whim to redecorate the spare room (what spare room?) etc. Living three generations together adds a layer of complexity in the family dynamics, sometimes adding stress, which may rub off on the kids.
Sure, there are pros to living with parents too… extra pair of hands and eyes, but we also need to understand that not all parents want to be that pair of hands and eyes. My mother quickly swatted off the idea of quitting her job to help any of us look after our children. Fair enough. Why should she? She too wants to look after her career, and not all grandparents are the “coochie coochie!” kind. She’s happy being a weekend grandmother.
I ramble, but put simply, living separately from my parents made relationship better and healthier. We see them every weekend, we call and Whatsapp regularly, share photos and nuggets of information. It’s all good. Let’s face it, they too deserve a break from us.
One can say “you can just make the baby first”, then everything else will fall in place. True, Mrs Teo’s got a point. Perhaps there lies in our society a growing population of people who want to do first think later, live the YOLO life. Not me. If you are, then good for you. Being responsible for another human life is a huge huge responsibility, and I’m not going to just say YOLO and do it.
Yes, the clock continues to tick when we wait for the flat. For many like me who will lose sleep over this unstable/uncertain arrangement, we will say, “so be it”.
In the end, you can nudge, you can bait, you can try to influence, but it will always be a personal choice, how early/how late, how many kids to have, between the couple.
The arduous journey for a flat….
We balloted for flats since I was 27. From Blangah Heights to Senja in Bukit Panjang, to Punggol… even various sale of balance flats. Each time we would put the $10.70 and later be informed that we were unsuccessful, sometimes with a 4-digit queue number. I still remember how I cried in frustration when even Senja, so near my in-laws, was not successful (while 2 other friends of his balloted successfully). By the time we finally got to choose our flat through the DBSS route, it would be ready in our early 30s. Little Foot was born when I was 33, a year after we moved in.
It wasn’t even about the $10.70 each time… it was about the painful disappointment because you wonder why, you supposedly accumulated more chance with each unsuccessful attempt, and yet, you keep getting your hopes dashed. Eventually, we did think, we should go for resale or something else. Finally we got queue number 899 for the estate where we live now. That day of selection, was sweaty palms moment when we were waiting for those before us to select their units, holding hands and fervently going , “don’t choose that, don’t choose that!”
A long long journey to finally getting the key to our own home. Can you understand? That’s all we want really.