Recently, online chatter, coffeeshop talk, chit-chat with friends were all about cost of living going up – Water prices going up by 30%, Service and Conservancy Charges (S&CC) increasing. Essentially, money no enough. Some say having children is too expensive, and not enough help being given to families.
Feeds appearing on my Facebook inevitably steered in this direction. People talked about having to cut down, cutback and lead simpler lives (less visits to hipster cafes, look for the best lobangs for family trips). I guess that’s being responsible adults. If we can’t suddenly hit a windfall, and pay increments only happen annually if at all, we will have to think of how to stretch each dollar more.
This, coming from Little Foot’s Mummy is really quite a feat, considering that Papa Long always nags about how I spend too much on Ju-Ju-Be bags and other Baby/Mummy gear and have not savings to speak of, not after I exhausted the piggybank to stay at home with Little Foot for a period of time.
Being adult sometimes sucks. You have to do adult things, make adult decisions, but that is life. As my brother displayed, he once pressed the calculator over bills (was it for the wedding or for the HDB flat?) until he had a mega-migraine and needed to lie down before he just died from the shocking idea of emptying his savings. Welcome to adulthood.
Among the vast materials, criticisms and comments online, one interesting article stood out: Budget 2017: Time to break up the Baby Bonus.
In this article, the writer suggested that the Baby Bonus was not working, apparent from the low Total Fertility Rate of this country despite all the carrots dangling, and should perhaps be done away with. The interesting part comes in the suggestion that the Government give each Singaporean child a living wage allowance, say $500 a month, until the child turns 18 years of age. Not an entirely new idea, he said, as some countries do have this in place.
This made me dig deep inside and ask myself the fundamental question “Do I want the State to raise my child (for me)?”
It is tempting, no doubt, that if Little Foot receives $500 a month, that will lighten the milk and diapers cost and means having more leftover to go towards school fees (hefty bill that is, because we chose the better school).
If this is tempting to me, from a family with one child, where we are two graduate working parents with stable incomes (we live in HDB flat and have 1 family car), how much more tempting would this be for those with Single Income families? The idea first strikes me with thoughts like, “Wow, I could really consider maybe working part-time, or freelance, or even be a SAHM!” (ok, maybe not if I only get $500 with one kid). Essentially, it makes me think too, about those who are raising children with less income. An allowance for the kid would mean the child’s school fees and basic needs would be met.
The proponent of this idea knows this as well, a monthly “allowance” is an attractive idea, and could perhaps be a vote winner (if he is even pro any party).
What, however, are the trade offs?
- Is my child mine if the State raises her with this allowance?
- Is my child “bonded” because of this allowance?
- What if, a family with financial issues takes that allowance and do other things with it?
- What if someone has the child solely to exploit this allowance? I am reminded of families in third world countries that have more children becuase they need the extra pair of hands in fields and farms)
- Who foots the bill? Taxpayers? The childless gets penalised, when actually not all childless people chose to be without offsprings? (think of those who have tried and failed to conceive, are we doubly penalising them?)
It is a complex thing that, if implemented, would have to have many safeguards in place. Or leave a trail of mess that may not be easily reversed.
Will this policy, if implemented, be like the Baby Bonus, and end up as a never-ending cycle of giving more and more and eventually, the State again come to find a generation of Singaporeans immune/desensitised to having the allowance, yet not being able to take it away without political pressure?
Back to me. Little Foot’s Mummy.
Why do I find this is a tempting yet uncomfortable concept?
Because IMHO, I feel (and I emphasis that this is my personal opinion) that having children is a decision made by the couple. It is between Me and Papa Long. The State should not interfere in any way (or are we veering towards becoming a Socialist state?).
Had Baby Bonuses tempted us? No. Did we appreciate it when it was given to us? Sure… extra moolah for us which went to schoolfees. Who would reject it? If you took that Bonus away, would I still have my child? Yes.
The thing is, whether you have a one-off baby bonus or a monthly handout, would couples feel more inclined to start a family? Or, in my current stage, think of have two or more (yes we are a one-child family) kids because, there is this allowance on the horizon? I doubt so. In fact, if I were to toy with that thinking, my inner guilt would confuse me. Am I having another child because I want the baby for who he/she is to me and my husband, or because it just becomes more “worth it” (Wu Hua in Hokkien)?
Why I don’t want another child (now) boils down to something else more deep and complex, and sometimes hard to explain. I’m happy with one child and I want to give all my love and attention to her. That is a personal choice, and no amount of persuasion (at this point) will work with me. Until I am mentally, emotionally and physically ready, we will not be swayed.
And I am uncomfortable about the concept of having the State give my child pocket money, maybe for some selfish reason. I want my child to be as free as possible. Will my child be “bonded” to this country because I accepted the pocket money without asking her if she wanted it? And as a result led to her feeling the extra burden of moral obligation to bear the weight of looking after the taxpayers who have fed and clothed her? The “you owe it to us” mentality, would it be entrenched by the larger society? And if Little Foot’s generation do not reciprocate, will they be seen as a generation of “spoilt and ungrateful Singaporeans” who take for granted all these allowances and see it as an entitlement? By no fault of their own surely.
I’d say for now, maybe thanks, but no thanks. Let me raise my child, my way.
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