Update: Part 2 by S has been completed!
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:
- 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!
Update: Part 2 by S has been completed!