Dear Prime Minister,
First of all, I have to thank you for the additional $2K that you are giving to me since I am born after 26 Aug 2012. However, I have to sadly tell you that I think the steps you made in raising the baby bonus, increasing paternity leave and housing support are not enough to help boost the fertility rate in Singapore to your long term goal of 2.1.
You might have forgotten something very important - that Daddy and Mummy decided to have me out of L-o-v-e, not incentives. That love for babies might be something running low in our land and needs to be cultivated. If there is no longing for a bigger family, then no amount of money is going to make all the aunties and uncles have babies like me. I can see that many of the newly weds postpone having kids and while they might quote financial reasons as the cause, the root of it lies in not having a strong enough desire for babies like me.
You must first want me in order to have me. I come into the world as a lifelong commitment and therefore short term monetary gains are not as important to me as decades of care and dedication. It's a decision for life and a road of no return. That is what puts many people off. However, the truth is if you really love me, poor or rich, we can make it work and make each day a happy one.
Secondly, I hear that you are looking at encouraging my Mummy to go back to work after giving birth. Well, my Mummy is a stay-at-home mum (SAHM) and she chose to do it not because she hates work, not because she is a tai tai, not because she loves to idle, but purely because she loves me.
I don't know why is it that being a SAHM seems to be the norm in some European countries but here in Singapore, people look at my Mummy in a different light. Some feel that she is not contributing to the economy, while others belittle her, give her the stare or even think that she is selfish. Well, with her MBA degree, I'm pretty sure Mummy can find a decent job with a decent pay. But she chose to give that all up for me. Daddy works for the government, ah-huh that's you, and although he has a steady income, we are not richy rich. We choose to have six people, including grandma and grandpa, living in a 4-room flat in Sengkang, we drive a 10-year-old Hyundai Matrix and we abstain from buying any luxury goods. I can't say we are poor but we are not wealthy either. Oh wait a minute, but Mummy always says we ARE rich, that's because she has jiejie and me, and our family is rich in love.
Talking about my jiejie, she is coming to four years old this year and goes to half day school in the mornings so that she can learn some social skills while I get to spend those precious three hours with my Mummy. That is, after she is done with the daily household chores which usually takes over an hour. Recently, you announced that because Mummy is not working, she does not get to enjoy the additional childcare subsidies for jiejie. That's just too bad but fine, we accept it. However, if you want more babies in this country, why then are you encouraging mums to go back to work after merely four months of maternity leave? Hello, lifelong commitment here, I can't even sit up when I am four months!
If Mummy goes to work, that means someone else has to look after me, be it grandma, grandpa or a domestic helper. Well, grandma and grandpa are busy looking after my 5-month old cousin because his Mummy has to reluctantly return to the workforce to help support the family. And domestic helper, that thought has never crossed our minds and it will never. Why will you want to give birth to me and then pass me to someone else to look after me, if there's a choice? Why will you prefer to put me in full day infant care and put jiejie in full day childcare to 7pm every day, if there's a choice? We kids have emotional needs too and we are born not for numbers but to be cared for and loved. Who can do that better than the one who brought us into this world? Unlike some other mums who might derive a sense of achievement from their careers, my Mummy gets her satisfaction by looking after me.
In case you don't know, Mummy gave birth and brought up jiejie in a foreign land 10,000km away from home. She was there for jiejie's first smile, her first flip, first tooth, first word and first steps. Why will you want Mummy to miss out on mine? I'm only a baby once, if you miss out on that, it never comes back. So despite your unfair treatment, my Mummy still decides to give birth to a second child and yes, she is going to be right by my side as I grow up each day. She says it's important for her to be with me for every milestone, and no way in the world will she trade any high salary job for that.
I am pretty sure there are days when she ponders over her decision. Days when I choose to spurt poo all over her, when jiejie runs around the house and shrieks like she saw a monster, when the two of us combine power and threaten to bring the house down with our wails and flood it with tears. Days when the dirty laundry stacks up in hills, when dinner gets burnt because we keep bugging her, when the floor is littered with dirt and strewn with toys right after she mopped it. Days when I just keep bawling my eyes out, when jiejie defies and even shouts at Mummy, when the world seems to be in chaos when all Mummy wants is a little peace and quiet. Sometimes I think I can even see Mummy shed a tear or two in a corner or on the pillow at night. It's not easy being a SAHM, do you know that?
You see, Mummy might not be the CEO of a billion dollar company, but that does not negate her capabilities which I'm sure not everyone can achieve. Well, there are times when she seems to possess eight hands and legs, like that time when she breastfed me while holding jiejie's hand when the sister was having a bad case of constipation, and even managed to bathe her after the poo came out while never letting go of the hungry me. Let's see, or that time when I was crying badly and she had to cuddle and coax me while frying chicken for dinner. Or how she goes grocery shopping with the two of us and yet manages to carry shopping bags which are overflowing. Or how she puts me in a carrier, push our big buggy, hold jiejie's hand and lug the bulky diaper bag but somehow manages to bring us out to the streets nearly every day.
It would be easier for her to sit on an office chair and churn out complicated excel charts and fanciful powerpoints because I dare say that's what she's pretty good at too. That way, she doesn't have to face jiejie and I all day long and put up with our incessant tantrum throwing, crying and whining. But no, she chooses to give up any income she can earn and willingly survives on the pocket money Daddy gives her.
It all boils down to the four letter word - Love. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that working mums don't love their kids because I am sure they love them no less and in some cases, they are forced to return to work because of the sky high costs of raising a kid in our country. But this is how we have chosen to do it in our family and this is what Mummy wants to do, so I hope people will respect and understand that.
In our eyes, she is not just a caregiver. She is our friend, our teacher, our confidante, our mentor in life. Yes, Mummy wants to be the one to teach us right from wrong, to discipline us when we get into mischief, to nourish us with knowledge and wisdom, to nurture our characters and let us have a good foundation in our early years which will see us through in life. She wants to do this not through any childcare centre, school or third party. She wants to go to bed knowing exactly the number of times I pooed, exactly what letters of the alphabet jiejie wrote, the things that we did right, the things that we did wrong, the things that made us smile, the things that made us weep, the things that make up our childhood, each and every moment. She wants to know that we are constantly in good hands, or even if it's bad once in a while, it is at least her hands. Yes, Mummy is meticulous in that sense and wants to know all the nitty-gritty of our lives, though I wonder why she is even interested in the colour of my poo.
To know that Mummy is here with me every time I laugh or cry. To know that she is here to kiss me every morning when I wake up. To know that she is here to clean up my soiled diapers and bathe me every day. To know that when I'm not feeling well, she will be the one to bring me to the doctor and look after me. To know that she will be the one to pick me up when I fall. To know that she will be able to witness every of my milestone. To know that even if the world comes tumbling down, she is right here to hold and protect me. That is invaluable and what money can never achieve.
So you see, Mummy might go back to work when we are older and go to primary schools. But for now, no way. Even if she wants to, which she doesn't by the way, I won't let her. Because I love and need her so much. You have many people to work for you, I have only one mother. No one can ever take her place and it will never be the same if she's not the one with me.
That said, Mummy says we still have to not only salute the SAHMs but also full-time or part-time working mums because we seriously can understand how daunting the journey may get sometimes. But I am hoping that all babies in the world, including me, can show everyone just how rewarding, gratifying and blissful parenthood can be.
Thank you for reading this letter, I hope you understand my Mummy's role better now and well, good luck and I hope to see more cute, cuddly friends around soon.
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