Ideas from a new mother
I AM a first-time mother. There were several issues I faced during my recent pregnancy, delivery and post-delivery periods that I feel can be improved upon to encourage Singaporeans to have more children ("Top 2 carrots: Maternity leave and baby bonus"; Jan 4).
First, mothers are given four months' maternity leave, and three days of paternity leave are "recommended" for fathers. Three days are barely enough for a new father to settle administrative affairs and learn parent craft, on top of fulfilling his duties as a husband and father.
Instead of focusing on increasing the period of maternity leave, equal emphasis should be placed on paternity leave as fathers and mothers are playing almost equal roles in society today.
There should also be fewer restrictions on paternity leave. Ideally, fathers should be allowed to go on paternity leave at any time, such as to take the child for vaccinations.
Another possibility is to provide the couple with a fixed period of "parental leave" and let them decide how to divide it between themselves.
This would benefit families where the mother is unable to care for her child for various reasons, or if the father decides to take a more active role in parenting.
Second, I am thankful for the baby bonus and Medisave, which can be used to pay for pre-delivery outpatient charges of up to $450, but this can be further enhanced.
As an employee, I am entitled to the same specialist outpatient benefits as my male colleagues. This amount is usually in excess of my annual claims.
However, while pregnant, I went for various health checks and appointments that exhausted both my Medisave claimable amount and specialist outpatient benefits.
Perhaps organisations can be more "mother-friendly" by giving an additional specialist maternity benefit to pregnant women to offset these costs.
Other initiatives would be to allow employees to "carry forward" a limited amount of remaining benefits from the previous year, or to increase the amount claimable from Medisave.
Third, Medisave can currently be used to pay for only pre-delivery outpatient charges. Perhaps it could be extended to cover post-delivery charges as well, to help those who face problems during the delivery and perinatal periods, and require more tests and visits to the doctor.
Chan Ching Yee (Dr)