Why have children? (Part 1)

Recently, Singapore has embarked into a national conversation mode, and amongst the many hot threads, is one that means quite a lot to me: How to encourage more young couples to have children in Singapore.

To me, I would have to say that having children is an individual decision. It would not be swayed by nationalistic sentiments, but nation building depends on it. Procreation can be simultaneously the most selfish and most selfless act in the world, so it would be futile to embark the conversation on an altruistic note, when one does not dwell on the personal “why”. Only after the personal “why” has been fully explored, then can we hope to seek a variation of enlightened self-interest in procreation. Even then, the human species is basically self-serving; it is just whether the self is willing to include larger entities such as the family, the nation, and the world.

So here’s doing a bit of psychoanalysis here. Why would I want to have children? Why would I want to give up my svelte hourglass figure for something that is round and full at every conceivable angle (just today my hubby spoke half in awe and half in jest: “You are soooo big everywhere.”)? Why would I want to risk the ire of bosses and colleagues to take child care leave every time one of my 3 children is sick (quite a frequent occurrence too, by my own standards)? Why would I want tospend sleepless nights nursing them as babies, tending to them when they are sick, and soothing them when they get nightmares? Why would I want to pay a neat 4 figure sum every month for education and enrichment for my children, up to the time they go into tertiary institutions, knowing that it would impact on my retirement plans (yeah, like never retire)? Why would I want to adjust my holiday plans according to the available places of interests for my children? Why would anyone in their right minds want to do all, or any, of the above?

The truth is, I wasn’t thinking when I wanted to have children.

Having children is never about rationalizing the pros and cons of having them. Ever heard the stock phraseparalysis by analysis”? Yup, it applies to having children too. If I should dwell upon the above questions, even I myself would stop at one. Or have none at all.

So what really made me have children?

Frankly, a lot is about natural instincts. Human beings are just driven by deep set desires to procreate. Just look at the booming porn industry, and you get the idea how strong this desire is in doing the act of procreation. Ironically, the only thing fertile in this industry is the imagination, where men and women are reduced to pleasure seeking pieces of meat with no real procreation involved, so the desire for procreation is never really satiated here.

So, as long as the conditions are ripe, we human beings do want to procreate. Unless we have self-destructive tendencies, it is written in our DNAs to procreate.

And what are the conditions then? To me, a very big part that persuaded me to want to have children with this particular man I call my husband, is the amount of security that he has given me over the years. I know that he will provide for me and my children, come rain or shine. Many people recognize this as love, but this kind of love has got nothing to do with the romanticized notion of boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, and they get married and live happily ever after kind of stuff. We have been through that as well, but really the romanticized version does not really deal with the nuts and bolts of having children. It is the actual life and death commitment that we have for each other, the “no matter what happens, I have got you covered” promise, that gave me the peace of mind to say yes, this is a safe haven for procreation. And this kind of commitment can only happen if one puts not just a foot and a limb, but his or her whole life into the relationship. So for me, the security of a long term relationship is a big reason why I am willing and open to have children.

(To be continued…)

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