More three-generation households in Singapore

Mr Royce Lee (second from right) with his wife Sarah May (right), at home in their four-bedroom Bukit Timah condo unit with his parents (from left) Henry Lee and Jessie Lim, and children Annabeth, two, Christabelle, eight, and Oliver, three. -- ST PH
Mr Royce Lee (second from right) with his wife Sarah May (right), at home in their four-bedroom Bukit Timah condo unit with his parents (from left) Henry Lee and Jessie Lim, and children Annabeth, two, Christabelle, eight, and Oliver, three. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

When their first child was born three weeks premature, financial services director Royce Lee and his wife, Sarah May, felt ill-prepared to care for the infant.

So his parents moved in to help. That was eight years ago. The senior couple stayed on as Mr Lee and his wife had two more children.

There are now eight people living under one roof in the family's four-bedroom condominium apartment in Bukit Timah: the couple, both 41, Christabelle, eight, Oliver, three, and Annabeth, two, as well as Mr Lee's father Henry Lee, 73, a retired human resource officer, and mother Jessie Lim, 66, a housewife, and a maid.

Mr Lee said: "Nothing beats having your mother to care for your children, as children are so precious."

Like the Lees, more couples are choosing to live with their parents to get help with childcare, said Ms Alice Tan, head of research at property consultancy firm Knight Frank Singapore.

The latest data shows a slight increase in the proportion of resident households with six or more people - the largest number listed under household sizes in the Population Trends 2013 report.

Such large households inched upwards from 9.3 per cent of all households in 2002 to 10.6 per cent in 2012. Resident households are those headed by a Singaporean or permanent resident.

This rise comes even as the average household size dipped from 3.55 persons in 2002 to 3.53 in 2012.

Aside from having parents live in to help care for the grandchildren, the red-hot property market in recent years may have contributed to the rise in large households, property analysts say.

Some seniors may have rented out or sold their flats to cash in and moved in with their children, said Mr Nicholas Mak, head of consultancy and research at property consultancy SLP International.

Some seniors used their rental earnings or profits from the sale of their property as retirement income or to help their children upgrade to a bigger home or pay for their current one, he said.

For the Lees, three-generational living has worked out well so far - with a lot of give and take.

Mr Lee, who has two siblings, said: "There are differences, but they are not the life and death kind."

For example, he worries that his parents are spoiling his children. His father allows the children to eat on the bed and watch television at the same time, while his mother feeds the younger two instead of letting them feed themselves.

But there are advantages in living with the parents, said his wife, the youngest of seven children.

"We can go for date nights once a week and go for holidays without the children as we know there are two trusted people at home," said Mrs Lee, who helps with the accounts in her husband's business.

Mr Lee's mother does the cooking, while his father drives the children to and from school and their enrichment classes.

"My parents enjoy living with the children. They make them laugh and keep them occupied," he said.

Theresa Tan