Friday, 31 May 2013

Why we chose NOT to have children - His story

If you haven't already read A's excellent take on why we chose not to have children, you might want to consider reading it first. Although we agree fully with each other's reasons and there is some overlap, our story is convergent in the sense that we actually started out with different reasons for not wanting to bear offspring. Perhaps the one thing we had in common from the start is that we both simply do not feel paternal or maternal instincts of any sort.

Just how much of our posts on this topic can be extrapolated to represent Singaporeans of our generation? We really don't know. Most people we have talked to either have not given much thought about it, or have some vague notion that they wish to be parents. However, there has been a conspicuous lack of action in this arena, among those in our social circles. Most of our friends in our late 20s are not even close to marriage, and among those who are, many are content to wait a few years to enjoy their 二人世界. Even for those who are leaning towards procreation, they give me a take-it-or-leave-it vibe - i.e. "career comes first, if we miss the boat in terms of optimal fertility window, so be it".

Anyway, enough about others. This blog is largely about our point of view. With that, I give you my excuses reasons for not wanting kids:

1. Our Education System.. and my Mother

It may be "world class" - 5th in the world according to Pearson - but I dislike our education system. I loathed my time as a student, I loathed the examinations.

Pretty much how I felt

Of course, I have to give most of the credit to my mum for instilling such disdain for my educational experience: 

Endless comparison with a cousin two years older than me who was doing pretty well herself. Endless well-meaning "advice" from that cousin's mother about what assessment books were good for me. Endless tuition sessions for Math, Chinese, even my pet subjects Science and English. To rub salt in the wound, some of my tutors could not even match my standards in the latter two subjects (through no fault of theirs. I was mildly precocious, and had read a ton of the most popular encyclopedias and Enid Blyton series of the early 1990s starting since I was four). 

Most cheem, I read maybe 30%

Classic Childcraft. I read half when I first got these, aged five

My favourite of the lot. I guess I preferred comics to encyclopedias.
Yes, I had all three sets.

It started in primary school, where I was doing pretty well. Well enough to be consistently second in the level. Second, due to my typical carelessness when it came to exams. I'd easily have topped the class if I were a little more meticulous, and that was what bugged my parents - particularly my mum - back in those days. It didn't matter that second place was good enough. Somehow, I didn't particularly care for grades, until a series of events transpired between my classmate who topped the level and me. I then decided of my own volition to reduce the number careless mistakes in the exams, and topped my school for PSLE. It was a measly 271. "Neighbourhood" school lah.

Before anyone accuses me of arrogance or boasting, I shall proudly declare that I had consistently failed the cut for the Gifted Education Programme. Once at P3, and the second attempt at P6. I am neither "gifted" nor brilliant. It just happened that I was fairly good at acing Primary and Secondary school curricula.

271 was good enough to trounce the over-achieving cousin, but somehow, it wasn't enough for Mum. The comparisons continued. I would have been contented to rest on my laurels and attempt to enjoy my educational journey. But that enjoyment was marred by my having to let my parents sign off on test results every now and then, and reminding me of how well ___ 姐姐 was doing when she was at my level. Poor results in Math would lead to discussions with my Math tutor(s), who would then inflict torture by way of Math assessment books. My dislike for math had started in primary school, and it sure didn't abate during my secondary school years. Ditto with Chinese, except that it was a lot worse, and a lot more money went down the drain as far as getting my grades up to scratch was concerned.
Not the exact ones I had, but they all sucked, without exception.
No offence to onSponge Books.

Parents, here's a quick tip for deterring your children from engaging in acts of sexual (or any other form of) deviance. EDUCATE them on it. Force them to watch lots of pornography/documentaries, then make them answer questions on the various forms of sex/taking drugs/gambling/drinking. Grade them, and chastise them endlessly if they get poor results. Should they be unusually talented, simply remind them that education has no application to real life.

Along came the 'O'-Levels, and this was a totally different beast compared to PSLE. I suppose being in an "elite" school didn't help me to enjoy the preparation process, though at least the positive peer pressure helped me to stay the course and motivate me to study for long hours after classes ended. I can still remember that it was during those dreary days in the school library, that I decided that there was no way in hell that I would put another human being through that.

I hated studying

While my Mum laid the foundations from an early age, the final straw was the 'O'-levels. I found the 'A'-levels even worse, the process far more painful, and my results somewhat more disappointing. But the metaphorical camel's back was already broken when I was 16, and I can't say that the educational torture of preparing for 'A'-levels coloured my perceptions any further.

Did you feel like this too?

If you are still reading at this point, I will sum up by reiterating that 'O'-Levels made me decide not to have kids, so as not to force innocents to go through the same torture. Integrated Programme would have done just that to me, but at 'A'-Levels instead. Even if A and I were to raise kids in a wholesome home environment where grades weren't worshipped, there's simply no escaping a stifling and onerous education system in Singapore. 

2. National Service

No further comments, at least while I remain in service...

3. Cost of living vs salary increases

Remember the older generation's stories about how cheap HDB flats were back in the good old days? Ever wonder what went wrong changed along the way?

Contrary to popular belief, HDB has always been operating on a "market subsidy". In the simplest terms which I can understand, this means that the sale price of flats from HDB includes the value of the land, on top of construction costs. While both construction and land costs tend to follow market trends, cost of land can be fully controlled by the authorities. It is the skyrocketing cost of land which has largely contributed to the increase in flat prices.

Today, the good Minister for National Development claims that HDB loses billions every year, despite resale flat prices increasing 342% from 1990-2009. Median household income only increased 111% over that same period. 

If you are sharp, you might have caught me out on my quoting of resale flat price increases despite HDB's losses, but there is relevance in this. Readers enlightened enough to even consider alternative media such as our humble blog might realise that flat prices set by HDB invariably chase resale prices due to the "market subsidy" approach. This creates a positive feedback loop: Resale prices rise, causing HDB to jack up their prices, causing resale prices to further increase, causing... You get the picture.
Strangely, HDB's market subsidy operates on this logic...

Looking ahead, if I go by my butt feel instead of doing calculations (remember, I hate Math, thanks to Mum), I'd guess that any offspring we have in Singapore would curse and swear at me for bringing them into this world after they take a look at their first paycheck, and the HDB prices of 2035.

Honestly, I feel that prices of everything else in Singapore pale in comparison to housing prices. Eating out can be expensive, but there's always the option of kopitiams or hawker centres. Yes, cars are ridiculously expensive and will continue to be in the foreseeable future. But public transport usually works and is fairly affordable. So let's take the cost of transport out of the equation. After all, cars really are a luxury item in Singapore. Don't let PAP's loser in the 2013 Punggol By-Election tell you otherwise.

How long do you think your kids would take to pay off their HDB loans? How long do you need to pay off your loan? Do you have the means to support them financially or are they on their own? Do you want to live with them late into their adult years? Do you have confidence that they will be self sufficient, let alone supporting you with an allowance?

4. A serious case of nothing to do here

This isn't a great reason, but it's my reason nonetheless. If I can't find anything to do in Singapore, I would not be so presumptuous to assume my offspring can find meaningful activities here. Especially in the future, considering how my favourite haunts such as the fish farms which used to operate in Tampines and Punggol are now gone. Not just the fish farms, but outdoorsy areas like Pulau Ubin and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. Will a new MRT line cut a swathe through our only remaining primary rainforest? While the authorities claim to place nature preservation as a priority, the fact of the matter is that economic progress has always taken precedence over preserving nature.

What would I like to do, then?

  • Ride a bike on the road without a high risk of getting killed
  • Have much more places to ride bikes off the road, without sweating like a pig every time
  • Be able to visit a pristine beach without crossing international checkpoints
  • Be able to go scuba diving without crossing international checkpoints
  • Be able to go for a nice scenic drive on weekends, without crossing international checkpoints
  • Surfing (I've got to learn this), again, blah....
  • Decent sailing... 
That's how I  roll

I would not like to:
  • Sit in a jam at a border crossing
  • Choose between doing nothing meaningful, or enduring the above to do something meaningful
  • Have to rack my brains to plan my leave and stake so much (time, money, mental energy) preparing for trips further afield.
The picture must be pretty clear by now.

I am also interested in motorsports. It doesn't quite fit in the above categories, but the picture is clear - and grim. For those not exactly in the know, I was paying close to $4k per annum to insure my WRX STi under my father's name (that's >50 years old, 50% NCD). Add in road tax at $1.2k a year, and the future looked bleak indeed. So bleak that I reluctantly sold my ride after close to two years' ownership.
I still miss you...

For Australia where we are headed, I don't have exact figures, but I expect insurance plus their equivalent of road tax to cost under S$2k per year for a typical mid-range sports car.

Some might ask: How would the lack of anything on my list affect my offspring?

My answer: Apart from the father (me) being very cranky, what little I enjoyed in my childhood here has been practically wiped out. At best there's a bit of mountainbiking to be had at the few trails we have. I would not want to let my kid spend all his time on a smartphone or tablet the way many parents these days seem to have no problems allowing their kids to do.

5. Genetics - the big question mark

A has mentioned the possibility of having special needs offspring. Another big question mark is the quality of our genes. Defective genes can be quite a pain, as Angelina Jolie found out recently. She could be considered lucky, many others actually end up with various forms of cancer, and not all survive their disease.

While we have not (yet, hopefully never) heard of the dreaded C, we cannot assume that everything will be hunky dory. In any case, I have been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism since the start of 2013, and a family history of it among my paternal aunts. I might do another post to chronicle my journey with this ailment, but suffice to say that while my condition is under control, my immune system is still using my thyroid as a whipping boy, as indicated by the astonishing level of thyroid antibodies circulating through my system. 

Call it an excuse, but to me, it reeks of sheer irresponsibility to pass on such traits to my kids.

6. I'm "selfish"

Just like those who choose to have kids because they want to. At the end of the day, doesn't such a decision boil down to the basest level - what the individual wants? Nobody decides to have kids just because they know their kids WILL make a difference in the world. Nobody chooses not to have kids just because they care about the future of humankind.

But at the end of the day, I'm not the one giving birth, and thus I defer to the person in charge of that department - A. Thankfully we are quite evenly yoked in this aspect.

Would migration be the solution?

Given that we intend to migrate, wouldn't that ameliorate my first five reasons? Truth be told, things aren't that rosy in Australia, and I agree with everything A has mentioned in her side of the story, just that there's no point rehashing her content in my post.

Of course, if we ever change our minds, we'll be sure to inform you guys and gals!

- S


  1. An update. Insurance for a Subaru Forester 2.5 Turbo (essentially a WRX engine) for an under 30 male, no "NCD", in Melbourne, came up to A$1.3k. The insurable value in Oz isn't any less if one considers that the car insurance does not have to cover the "scrap value" in Singapore. If one's car is totalled, the owner/insurance company gets back the scrap value from LTA, then tops up to the agreed market value and compensates the owner accordingly.

    Not sure what it would cost here for the STi or equivalent but definitely under $2k with a clean record :)


  2. hi, any updates on your reasons not to have children since u moved to aussie? Curious about that since your reasons for not having kids seems rather singapore-centric! just wondering if moving to aussie would change things!

    1. The update is that nothing has changed. The realities of having kids transcend the country one lives in.

      That kids have it much better here than in Sg does NOT necessarily make us want to have kids.

      Ferraris are unaffordable in sg, much less unaffordable here but still cost a bomb. Do I want to drive one? Sure, if I get the chance. Do I want to own one? Nope.

      Still easier to own and run a Ferrari than to have kids. Not to mention it will be a far more enjoyable and rewarding experience imho...

      No offense to parents out there. Even the best case scenarios we have seen in Oz among the people we know serve as an inspiration for us not to have them.


  3. it's now 2017 and I wonder any thing has changed? while AU have so much to offer and you enjoy it, do you want to share the ride with next generation? :)