I am a father of 3 kids, and I am also part of the sandwich generation*.
*A generation of people, typically in their thirties or forties, responsible both for bringing up their own children and for the financial care of their ageing parents.
This post is inspired by the multiple CNA articles touching on married couple remaining childless recently, and other house-husband articles and facebook posts along the way.
First of all, my stand if it is important to the readers, i believe in respecting others decision and being non judgmental. To the people who do not wish to get married, it is their choice. To the people who do not wish to have children, it is their choice. I do not think that we need to change them, to impose the burden of the whole society on a certain group of individuals. We should be helping those who wish to get married, who wish to have children, who face certain hurdles to get there.
Childcare/Infant care is the 21st century solution to maintaining a local strong workforce, in increasing dual income families, for people who need that dual income, or for people who wish to have children and have career ambitions & advancement.
The cost of Childcare/ Infant care has decreased drastically for low to middle income family who stick to ECDA ANCHOR OPERATOR SCHEME (AOP), i blogged about my experience previously. It is mainly the combination of CDA $1 to $1 matching and enhanced Kifas introduced last year. My expenses per child went from a low 3 digit figures to 2 digit figures, this is partially also due to my family size of 5 which allow my family income to be calculated on per capita income (PCI) basis, and also my very low income. Childcare under the Anchor Operator Scheme (AOP) is capped at $720, with CDA 1 for 1 and working mother subsidy, this can go to a middle/low 3 digit figure for low to middle income families.
I have heard stories previously of mother going out to work, and using most of their income, if not all of their income to pay for the infant care and childcare fees, that was few years back. If you do the basic calculation, the number stands true for low income working mother. And when your expenses is so high, you will go into a vicious cycle if anything happens along the way. Now with all the subsidies, it is much more possible to earn and save along the way, without compromising the kids education. This is one big aspect which the government has done well, balancing a strong workforce which is vital for Singapore survival, yet reducing one of the biggest expenses in the early years of family creation. This is beneficial for parents, who has no issues with putting their children in school, and has more ambitious career aspirations.
I think the signal is strong, if you want to work, the government will help you as a whole. But having children is a very personal decision. It is one big responsibility, lifetime. Is the environment cohesive? Is our housing suitable to raise big families?
No individual should bear the whole burden of the society, as it is too heavy to bear. As politician, aging and shrinking population will always be the bread and butter issue, they will encourage more couples to have children and if possible at optimum child bearing years too.
As a father of 3, i think it is tough having children, you will be sacrificing a lot of your personal time, aspirations, freedom and sanity. You can throw alone time out of the window if you are the stay home one. And as you experience the terrible 2, horrible 3 and incorrigible 4, you start to question yourself, am I a bad parent etc.
I do not think one can ever be prepared enough to be parent or good parent. If i consolidate all my bad parenting behavior, i think i can publish a book called “How not to raise your child.” At my best, i advocate good and positive parenting, and tell my children how much i love them everyday, words that i never heard from my parents, as they belongs to the traditional era of parents, which i deemed it the freestyle parenting – 放养式. We just present parental love differently. My parents was not really involved in my education, as they are not well versed in english, they were the forsaken generation when Singapore govt changed the education system from mother tongue to english, it was for the greater good, but suddenly one whole generation find themselves suddenly not good enough for many jobs. They did not have lower IQ than we do, but with that environment, they did not have much choices, as majority of them too experienced the freestyle parenting. Every generation will have their limitations.
I grew up in a Chinese speaking environment, most of the chinese in neighbourhood school spoke mother tongue when interacting with each other. As you can see/read, my english is really bad. If you take away 1 or half a mark for every grammatical mistake that i made in my blogging, all of my articles would be below the passing marks. Yet the content that I wish to bring across is still there, it does not mean that my knowledge is in anyway inferior to people with really good english grades, but yet my english results continue to pull me back in life, i wish that Singapore english would be graded differently from Cambridge or Oxford, as we are a bilingual country, would a person who is talented in a field that require higher grades of english be held back, just because of the balancing between 2 languages. Yet like the mandatory 2 years National Service, the males are held back in their life, career and family planning for those that wish to. It is for the greater good of the society, understandable, but full of sorrow at the same time. Sorry i digress again, it happened for all my posts. Too much ranting.
You cannot choose whether you want to be part of the sandwich generation or not. Your parents will be making the decision, unless you choose not to have children to avoid being the sandwich generation, with the sheer determination to let it end with you. But i do not encourage that thought, if you wish to have children, please do not let the sandwich generation burden be in the way.
I am lucky to have siblings to share the financial liability, what i have contributed so far, is quite minimal at the moment, so i cannot comment much on it yet.
But I am determined to stop it at my generation, to be financially responsible for my own life, my retirement and my healthcare costs. What is the point of being educated, if you cannot use all the knowledge gained to take control of your lie, many of our uneducated parents did not have the choice, but we do. If you can afford a car and choose not to, save the money and invest logically, you will have quite a sum of money for your retirement, get that hospitalisation insurance if you have not, it is the single most important insurance ever. Have dependant? Get a term/life insurance, do not commit too much. Read up, ask around, visit as many financial blogs as you can, get the whole feel of the financial blogsphere.
I do it, so my children will not need to be the sandwich generation. They can have their own aspirations, their own life plans, they will not be held back financially. When i am old and frail, their company will be all I need to know that I have lived well.
My greatest forte is creating value, unlocking value. I earn very little, yet I learn how to invest, I produce reasonable and sustainable returns, and plow them back to the portfolio, I ensure that the family finance is well taken care of. Even if I am not working, I continue to generate income for the family, a strong financial safety net is the most basic foundation block to a family, you cannot really prepare yourself to be good parents, but you can start creating a strong financial position, so when life throw you lemons, your savings will be the flask, your investment returns will be the sugar, the actions the you do to build wealth will be the shaking, insurance will be the mat, in case you drop it, it might spill but it will not crack. There you have it, lemonade. It is sweet, sour and slightly bitter at the same time, just like life. Only when you acknowledge that it will be sour, it will be bitter, then can you really taste the sweetness of life.
Last but not least, I do not think that anyone is qualified to advise you whether you should have children or not, it is very personal, between you and your spouse or you alone. All I can do is to share my experiences and you see if it makes sense to you and your life planning. If you are thinking of having more than you can cope, then maybe you can discuss with your wallet, or the people who will be helping you, if they are ok with helping, is their health still going strong. It really takes a village to raise a child nowadays. Home based learning coupled with Work from home has further strengthen this thinking, for lower primary home based learning, the parent became the teacher, while the teacher became the facilitator. The nation is stretching itself to deal with the pandemic, the parents are stretching themselves balancing their rice bowl, the children’s well being, and whatever sanity there is left at the end of the day. Every generation has their own problems.
If you are planning to have a child soon, i wish you the very best. Godspeed.