Great sharing from a father of five

Photo taken by me as an example of a stay at h...

Photo taken by me as an example of a stay at home dad and kids. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had the privilege to attend the Townhall Dialogue with DPM Teo Chee Hean on 9 Oct 2012. There were many good ideas and suggestions floated on how to improve both the quality and quantity of the Singaporean population, but the story that most resonated with me was this one from a father of four going on to be father of five (let’s call him Edmund).  I tried to capture what he said from memory, and my memory could be fallible, but here’s the gist of his sharing:

“Good evening DPM Teo, thank you for taking time to listen to us. I am Edmund, a lecturer in a polytechnic, and I have 5 children, aged 11, 8, 6, 4 and one more will be joining our family in about 2 weeks’ time. (Audience applause) Parenting is a full time, 24/7 job, and my wife and I do not believe in outsourcing our children to maids and tutors. (Audience laughter)  I play with them, read to them, and I also iron my own clothes. (More audience laughter, in response to DPM Teo’s earlier jibes about ironing being the most time consuming housework)”

“So my wife is a full time stay at home mother. I love children, and I like what the government is doing for working mothers, such as tax rebates and baby bonuses, but I feel that the government is not giving enough incentive to stay-at-home mothers who would be open to having more children and can take good care of her children herself. I believe the incentives have been targeted at working mothers so far, but let’s just face it. If the working mothers are holding on to a decent, well-paying jobs, it would be demanding and draining. And by the time they reached home, they would only have at most 2 hours for their children, if they have any. That is on top of doing household chores. And how would they even find time and energy to make babies at night? (Guffaws from the audience)”

“This is why my wife made the decision to be a stay-at-home mother. To be with our children at all times. And I think stay-at-home mothers would also be more open and willing to have more babies. So there should be more incentives to encourage mothers to stay at home to care for their children while they are young, rather than encouraging mothers to hold on to full-time work, and have them struggling with the demands of both family and work.”

“My suggestions are these: Have greater tax rebates for fathers whose wives are stay-at-home mothers; have educational scholarships or bursaries for children from single-income families until university, as education forms a big bulk of parenting cost; have paternity leave for fathers up to 2 weeks to help them support and care for their wives after child birth, so that their wives can recharge and take care of themselves. Finally, assurance for the mothers who gave up their jobs that they can return to the workplace when their children are more independent.”

 The audience, for some reason, loved his line of thought and gave him thunderous applause. Personally, I think that it resonates with many, because this is the ideal family model of the Asian society since time immemorial. To have a stay-at-home mother to put her whole heart and soul into her children, and to have the father as the sole bread winner of the family. Many of us would indeed grow up in a family where the mother does not work or work less than the father, so that she, rather than the maid or the grandparents, become the primary care giver. Studies have also shown that children whose mothers are their primary care-givers grow up better adjusted in school, and are more mature and less volatile in temperament.

Food for thought, now that I have four children, the last one coming out soon in less than 2 months time. Actually I already know what I should do. Now is to stick with the decision till the end. J

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