The Straits Times
Published on Feb 07, 2013

It takes a village to raise a child


SINGAPOREANS should leave no stone unturned in confronting the crucial problem of our low total fertility rate, before resorting to the drastic measures listed in the Population White Paper.

Many Singaporeans worry unnecessarily. They worry about whether their children will get into top schools. They worry about the relationship with their spouses after having children. They worry about coping with work-life balance.

It is time we learn to relax and take life as it comes.

The Government has introduced baby bonuses and paternity leave to boost the country's fertility rate ("The big push for more babies"; Jan 22). But financial incentives appear to be just a partial solution.

We need practical solutions, especially for parents of young children.

Perhaps childcare and tuition centres could be built close to or even within every MRT station.

We need to build up a pool of volunteers, including retired nurses and housewives, who can advise new parents. I have often seen confused and frazzled first-time parents struggling to take care of their crying babies.

Schools can teach infant and toddler care to teenagers to prepare them for the future. Boys should not be exempt from such classes. Such knowledge would boost the self-confidence of future parents.

And most significantly, we need to change our mindsets. Having children is an achievement no less laudable than being a lawyer or a doctor. Amid the transience of human life and material possessions, our children are our legacies.

Indeed, it takes a village to raise a child. Everyone - young or old, single or married - should pitch in. With a common vision, we will each lead happier and more meaningful lives.

Chin Sou Lan (Ms)