Friday, 24 May 2013

Why we chose NOT to have children - Her story

Having made plans to migrate in the near future, S and I enjoy reading blogs of Singapore migrants to get a realistic picture of the challenges that migrants face. I came across this blog post where my new friend singaporeanson talks about why he chose to have a child and frankly, I was very moved by his love for her daughter, Albany. It reminds me of this video (below) I watched a few days ago on fatherly love. As I'm in my late twenties, my Facebook news feed regularly display photos, instagrams and posts of children and babies. My friends/new parents love to document the bittersweet journey of parenthood, their baby's antics and the joys of watching their child(ren) grow up... etc etc. You get the picture.

More than just a car advertisement. 

Do these photographs and stories of parenthood move me? Most of the time, they do. Do they make me want to have my own baby? Does my so-called maternal instinct kick in?

Not at all. Zilch.

A little background before I share further: S and I have been married for more than 5 years. Year after year during (the insufferable) Chinese New Year, relatives love to ask when we are going to have our first child. Honestly I'm so tired of answering that question. Most of the time, existing parents (especially those of the older generation) don't get it anyway. So I've decided to share our reasons for NOT having kids here and hopefully some enlightened readers can share their insights with us.

1. Overpopulation, Population White Paper and the envisioned future of Singapore in 2030...

Let's face a fact - the world is overpopulated. The root cause of most of the environmental and energy sustainability problems we face stem from the fact that there are too many people in the world. If having children is for the (lame) scientific reason of 'ensuring our survival as a species' then I can say at 7 billion,  we are seriously nowhere near extinction. In fact, it is well known that human beings are destructive and cause significant negative impact on our environment. When I share this reason with relatives and friends, I occasionally get quite epic responses such as You siao ah? Who cares about the world? I do. You should too, for your child(ren)'s sake.

Let's look at Singapore. In the good old days when our parents were young, the pace of life in Singapore was slower. One can argue that our parents' generation truly believed that Singapore was a good country to have kids in then, in the decades before the 1980s. Parents of today, however, cannot be ignorant or deluded any longer. This is the projected reality in Singapore that your children will be growing up/living in in the year 2030 and beyond:

- more than 6 million people on 1 tiny island
- more intense competition for placements in schools and jobs
- aging population
- intense competition in schools itself due to "meritocracy"
- ever increasing inflation and increasing prices for basic commodities
- unstable economy and housing prices, where currently the majority of young Singaporeans are in debt for the next 10-30 years paying for their flat
- being marginalized in one's own country with dilution of 'Singaporean core'

Singapore in 2030?

Need I go on? I really wouldn't want to subject my poor child to such circumstances, especially if I can see it coming.. I should think there are many, many Singaporean couples out there who think likewise, contributing to Singapore's abysmal birth rate

2. Special Needs Children 

S and I have volunteered separately to work with special needs children in the past. Working with children who are intellectually disabled, autistic, dyslexic and the like helped me realise 2 things:

(1) I have utmost respect for special needs teachers, volunteers and nurses.
(2) Parents with special needs children go through intense pain and suffering for the rest of their child's life. Or their own life, depending on which is shorter...

Kudos to those who work with special kids.

An example - readers who also follow Limpehft's blog would have read about the trials and tribulations of having an autistic child - in fact Limpeh describes over several posts (in avid detail) the intense pain and challenges his sister and her husband have faced to bring up the autistic child.

Call us cowardly if you will - I don't think we have the courage to raise a special child. Not now, not ever. Even though the risk of having special needs children is relatively low, I'm simply not willing to take that chance if I have a choice.

3. Personal experience with own parents' parenting (or lack thereof)

This part is too painful to write in detail. I hope the subtitle in bold speaks for itself.

In simple words, my own parents' parenting (or lack thereof) have put me off to the extent that I do wish to have my own kids. I admit that this reason is purely emotional and largely irrational - as such, it is difficult to describe. 

If you have parents who genuinely care for you and by extension, are also willing to care for your children, you are indeed fortunate.

4. A Global 'Apocalypse' is not a far-fetched idea... Not anymore.

No, I have not watched too many disaster movies.

If we look carefully enough, there are many signs that the world cannot sustain the damage that people have caused indefinitely. Somewhere along the way, we have crossed the point of no return. The world today is vastly different compared to 100 years ago. Some examples:

- Infectious diseases and cancer are much more common.
- Natural disasters are increasing in frequency and intensity
- Worldwide economies are 'highly unstable'

The list goes on. Can technology, man's ingenuity and future inventions 'save' humankind from this downhill slippery slope? This remains a mystery - but I wouldn't stake my child's future on it.

The end is nigh?

At the end of the day... I am a firm believer that all parents and parents-to-be must question themselves on WHY they truly want to have kids. We are talking about the immeasurable value of another human life - the decision to have kids must never be taken lightly. Even before I was married, I have been asking other people why they want to have kids - the following are the worst reasons I have heard as justifications for having children (kee chiu if you have heard of these reasons too!) :

I need someone to continue my family name. Sorry, this sounds really selfish and somewhat lame in this day and age... Unless your surname is that rare, it's highly likely that the amongst the next generation there will be people with your "family name"...
I need someone to take care of me when I am older. Another selfish reason... Next please.
My children are an investment. Seriously? I am truly disgusted.
My parents want me to have kids so that they can have grandkids. This sounds like an excuse. Imagine telling your kids this 'reason' when there are older. It's no different from saying you didn't want them, their grandparents did.
It's the 'normal' thing to do as part of life mah. Most normal families have kids what, what will other people think of me if I don't have children? Ok, let me bang my head first before I respond. Honestly? You want kids because society/other people says you should? There are many happy couples with no kids of their own and they are genuinely happy as well. Furthermore, is 'society' going to raise your child for you, expense-wise? The government's incentives, as you should know, will not even begin to cover your expenses for your child to last him/her till he/she is independent!

Notice that in all the above 'reasons' listed, the parent is more concerned about his/her own well-being / reputation / image than the interests of the child. The hurt caused by self-centered parents run deep in their children and stay with them for life. These kids grow up questioning the reason of their existence, since it becomes apparent that they had been born 'by default'. They are generally neglected as their parents didn't really want them. I should know. I'm one of them.

The only kind of parents and parents-to-be that I respect and truly feel they should have kids are those who are willing to sacrifice unconditionally for their children (for example, someone like singaporeanson - kudos to you). If you have weighed the pros and cons carefully given your personal circumstances and are determined/prepared to take the bitter with the better - I have genuine, heartfelt respect for you. If your motives are child-centred and you will never tell your child he/she was unwanted/ the result of an 'accident' and blame them for being born, then yes I wholeheartedly agree that your children deserve you!!

Yes, there are good parents too.

It is easy for you to say lah, you haven't experienced parenthood. Sure, I can accept that point of view. Nonetheless I have 2 things to say in response to comments of this sort: One, I have experienced parenthood from the perspective of a neglected and unwanted child and the experience was terrible. Two, it is sometimes clearer as an outsider and easier to be objective about matters such as parenting precisely because I am not a parent - those who are emotionally involved in parenting issues may lose their objectivity. Ok lah, you are still young, what if you change your mind? Never say never, right? That's true. If I ever change my mind and can no longer safely bear children then, S and I will likely adopt a child or two. There are simply too many unwanted and unloved children in the world. I truly admire Angelina Jolie for her courage to adopt children of different nationalities and backgrounds - it is genuinely noble.

Angelina Jolie with her adopted kids.

My experience with my students' parents have made me acutely aware that parents can be a defensive bunch. So, if I have made enemies of some readers who are parents / parents-to-be, please believe that this is NOT my original intention. I am simply sharing my own point of view. As adults, we can always agree to disagree.

Feel free to leave a (mature) comment or your insights below, if you have any. Kindly note that incoherent /irrational / illogical hate comments from guilty parents will be ignored!

- A

Update: Part 2 by S has been completed!


  1. Its so sad some people will never understand, they do it because others do it, and if someone doesn't agree they think it is wrong, like fashion.

  2. I am always struggling whether to have kids or not. I love kids and prob maternal instincts kicking in.
    But i couldnt agree more with point 1,2,4 you brought up!
    Sometimes i wonder if i think too much and if i were the only sadistic person thinking about world apocalypse coz it nvr seem to come across the mind of any of my friends.
    I just started work as a special needs teacher. it is a challenge and yes, i am afraid to have to raise a special needs kid and considering i have a few nephews with various levels of autism.
    Is great to know there are people out there sharing same sentiments. I don't usually share with people on the reasons because they prob will give me a wide eye look. haha
    Thanks for sharing!

  3. What will you do if you get pregnant without the intention to? Based on the above list, I gather it is abortion?

    1. That's the logical conclusion. But due to our religious beliefs, that's PROBABLY not the route we are taking.

      We hope never to find out.

      Anyway, I used to say that if we had such an accident (and assuming no abortion), it's a factor which would force us to migrate. But then we decided, what the heck, just try to migrate anyway!


    2. The maternal instinct may be a common misconception. It kicks in often when one is a mother, instead of when one isn't yet. Thus I thought it may be the so call maternal instinct when a woman insist to keep an unwanted baby who moves and caresses inside her womb. As far as I know, I have never met anyone who kept an unplanned pregnancy not because of the love of her flesh and love but for the faith of her religion. Let's hope I will never meet one.

    3. Well, we are taking the best possible precautions. Because at the end of the day, if the world holds out for the next generation, I 偷笑 already.

      I have a friend with quite a few kids who thinks that the world is going to shit. But of course, he came to that conclusion after he had them all, because he had nothing to say when I asked him if he would ask his kids to give him grandchildren.

      It's one thing to make the best of what you have. It's quite another to tempt fate, IMHO... Of course, if A's maternal instinct kicks in belatedly, I'm sure adoption is a far nobler alternative to throwing money at fertility specialists. Unless of course one manages to find a solution to unwanted pregnancies which aren't aborted.

      - S

  4. I share your pessimism. In fact, if you are pessimistic about just about anything, you will likely to find someone who thinks the same in me.

    At the moment, I think your plans are rational and practical. It is no joke if you have your PRs granted before a kid is born - I have known too many classic cases where you can leave but you can't bring the baby along. Then another round of administrative nightmare begins. In some countries, they are even expected to do a DNA test to prove the child's identity.

    All these will be the least of your troubles.

  5. Hmm, I thought children of PRs automatically get Oz citizenship?


    1. most countries in the world wouldn't accept immigrants to settle in their country, much less for the family members.......

      unlike singapore... the more the merrier

  6. I am a new a new reader who should really be studying instead. I'd like to share an observation I made- the decision to have a child or not really is based on how you were raised.

    Your parents- the people who provided for, raised and groomed you have intentionally or unintentionally influenced your perception on bringing up a child, except that you have had first hand experience on being at the receiving end of their 'policies' (high class word for parenting method) they way they treated you and your reaction to that treatment defines your perception.

    Of course, different people react differently to different scenarios. An abused child may grow up wanting to have children of his own to treat them the way they should be. At the same time, he could hate the idea of having children like how he thought his parents hated having him.

    A saying goes somewhere along the lines of 'to see how a woman is like in the future, look at her mother'. So blatantly expressing how much influence a parent has on child.

    You can't help but to admit your parents moulded you to become the person you are now, intentionally or unintentionally. Your perceptions and choices in life are all stemmed from the core of you- after all, you are made by and of your parents.

  7. You are not alone. I know some people who choose not to have kids yet they get judged. Who are they to judge really? Having kids is a very big responsibility for those wanting a family. It is not like getting the latest designer shoes to show off and what's more kids are very very costly in this day and age. Whatever you do, you guys deserved to have your choice respected. Not be judged.

  8. I would be careful of parents who are willing to unconditionally sacrifice everything for their kids. It is quite possible that many of them are the defensive parents that you meet, continually trying to shield their kids from the world, and the consequences of their actions. I don't think any parent should live life as if the world revolved around their child. It does not.

    I think one reason for having kids could be that you wish to make an impact on the world beyond yourself? I guess that could also be selfish in a way, and arrogant. That you feel that the world / society ought to be a certain way, or is lacking in a certain something, and you would like the particular value or ideal of yours to continue in any small way.

    You can, of course, have an impact in how you live, in the people you meet, etc. But I guess there is something different from raising a child to, in a sense, continue your legacy? Your values and beliefs.

    Does it mean that I would be dictating my values to my child? Would I be upset if my child does not agree? I think not so much dictating as teaching. And I think yes, I would be upset if my child does not agree. I think any parent would be because we believe that what we believe in is right and best for our child.

  9. I truly agree with every point that you've mentioned. After the whole experience of being sort of a neglected child like you, I questioned my existence and came to a similar conclusion too. Along with other problems that the world is facing, I can't bear to subject my own child to such environment. If I would ever have a child, he/she would is likely to be adopted.

  10. Hi, thanks for sharing! Agree wholeheartedly with everything you've shared! To be fair to my parents, I think they did a good job with parenting given whatever resources and limitations they faced, though I could say I still always envy my friends for the level of support their parents provided in their life. My own personal reason for not wanting kids is that I've been asking myself (increasingly so) why was I born into this world (sometimes even blaming my parents for it). I don't want any kids of mine to think the same and blame me in future.

  11. Many here are talking are asking themselves the question why they should not have children. Wouldn't it be biased if you don't look at it two-way? Why not ask yourselves why you should have children? From there, you would be able to weigh the pros and cons. Wouldn't that be a much better basis for decision?

    1. Missed out on this gem of a comment.

      I think the only good reason to have children is because you feel the calling to have children, and have a life mission to be the best parents you can possibly be.

      I know of exactly one set of parents who are like that. Not to say that the rest of the parents aren't good parents.

      But of course that would be the reason for A and I. And certainly that isn't the case.

      Still trying to find out my calling, and am dead sure it's got nothing to do with our procreating!


  12. Hi there, i just stumbled upon your blog and its really interesting, especially on whether you should have kids or not. I am one of the lucky ones - i always pictured myself having kids so i never had to deal with the big headache of whether i wanted kids or not. but i have many friends who face that question. i realised that for women, it really depends on your relationship with your parents / relatives that seals the deal! i dunno about the singapore-related issues though (like over population / education system etc) - whether those are really the "true factors" or just the "logical factors" that we call upon to firm up our own emotional decision on whether or not to have a child. you get what i mean?

    1. Practical aspects whether or not you've had them:

      -time sacrifice
      -energy required

      More salient issues if the kids are in the planning process:
      - are they going to be 'normal'. what is the contingency plan otherwise?
      - the state of society/country/ the world. What do you see for the future (what we see ain't pretty but feel free to be an optimist)

      Does that address your comment? :)

      We have not said much about our relationships with our parents but you may be on to something there. Nevertheless we will probably never say anything about that topic on our blog. Draw what conclusion you will ;)


  13. It was really interesting to read your blog and that too when I was looking for topics on Migrating to a different country.
    In fact while going through your post it almost felt like I had written it down myself and posted it!

    I am from India and I think I can completely understand your reasons, logical or otherwise to not have kids. My husband and I have been married for 5 years and have decided not to have kids, ever.
    As we add more and more years to our marriage it is getting tougher and tougher to ward off questions from aunts, neighbors and random strangers on why we don't already have kids and aren't planning any.

    I just wish it was just easier.


    1. Hi AT,

      Is it a cultural thing? Because it's rather rude to ask such questions where we came from.

      If you are not shy, feigning infertility might shut them up, if you two are not averse to this sort of thing.

      Thanks for posting your thoughts, and we wish you a happy and child-FREE marriage ;)


    2. Hi S & AT, i thought that's pretty much a 'singaporean' thing too... my husband and I chose not to have kids too, and I still remembered the CNYs get-togethers and such questions will be flung all round by relatives. That's why we don't return to singapore to visit if we can during cny, not to mention more ex airfares etc ...

  14. OMG! Who are you guys! Your entire entry was like a transcript of the conversation my husband and I have constantly. Thank you for this write up! At least i know now that we aren't the only ones who think along the exact same lines (lest for point 3 though ;)

    Once again, thank you

  15. I think your thoughts might change when you grow older. I'm one of those lucky children who got a whole lot of love and affection from my parents. In our family, girls were never given the liberty to study as much and were married off before their mid-20s. However, my father being my father was a very open-minded soul who raised us very well, without having a doubt that girls were any different than boys. My mother, from a small city, also became very very open-minded when she got married to my father. Today, I'm more educated than my brother (because I wanted to pursue double masters at different stages, and they always supported me) and got married when I wanted to (at 29). They're a great example of parenting, and I hope to be a very good and proud parent.

    Coming back to your post, you may want to rethink of the reasons of not having a baby. Because it's not always a selfish motive from parents (and I have seen such parents too). I always asked my mom why they brought us into this world, and she would always reply, that our family was complete when my brother and I were born to them, and through us, they found a reason to live. She says that not even once did she regret leaving her job for us because she sole purpose in life was to take care of us and see us happy.

    Perhaps this is why I want to have children. I want raise educated and nice children that the world really needs... By having children, the family is complete. My hubby and I earn a lot and donate, but we do feel this empty space that need to fill in because we have a reason to earn money for our children (2, hopefully!) and to do something for them. It's important for educated couples to raise not only educated but open-minded and good hearted children. But then again, this is my opinion dear.

    1. After 15 years, 8 of which we spent married, I think we might be the better judge of this.

      But if it happens you'll find out. errr... watch this space??


  16. have kids in a country rthat will collapse or run into a greece siutation anytime? no way. At Greece has natural resources. Singapore is worst thatn any Greece out there. Be warned...THe govt will only leech on u and yr famili;y's hard work and savings and not lend u any assistance.

    1. Having lived in Oz for two years now, we don't have that much confidence in this country as well. But it's the world at large which is the issue. In short, nothing has changed as we see it.

      But life is alright now, and can't ask for more in that regard!


  17. I read S's post of unfair comparison vs relatives and A's parents' parenting skills as two of the reasons. You can choose to not follow their paths right? as in to right the wrong, where you clearly identified already (while most people couldn't identify). just my 2 cents.