The Straits Times
Published on Feb 25, 2013

A mother's wish list


LOOKING at the steady decline in our birth rate, the cost of raising a family, the intense competition from the global workforce for local employment, and workplace discrimination against mothers, I fear that mothers will become marginalised in society unless more is done to meet their needs throughout the stages of parenthood.

I hope for a better future for new mothers, and others who are soon approaching empty nests, one where they will enjoy their families, live more fulfilled lives, and be able to contribute meaningfully to a society that values them.

My wish list includes:

- Reduced levy for one foreign domestic helper per family as long as the family still has one school-going child. This would help a young family to defray expenses and afford to have more children.

- Monthly cash grant or medical benefits for grandparents who babysit their grandchildren. In this way, the Government would support the elderly who support the younger generations.

- Subsidise public transport fares for mothers travelling with children shorter than 0.9m. Such children also travel free.

- Subsidise admission fees to local attractions for mothers visiting with children at any time of the day on any day of the week.

- Bookstores to offer discounts for mothers buying books for their children, including assessment books.

- Tertiary institutions to offer fee subsidies to encourage stay-at-home mothers to use their time away from full-time work to upgrade themselves.

- Employers to recognise skills-based volunteer work and professional pro bono work done by stay-at-home mothers as productive involvement in community projects.

- Grants for organisations that employ stay-at-home mothers who return to full-time professional, managerial, executive and technical work to improve their participation in the local workforce. This will also help to avert the unreasonable depression of salaries for mothers returning to work, and help them find meaningful work.

I started a family after being inspired by some stay-at-home mothers who kept a healthy sense of their own individuality.

Documentaries that feature big families tend to focus largely on the well-being of the children, while the mothers have little or no role outside of the home. I think this approach is no longer relevant to younger mothers who value their individuality. What they need to know is that a woman can be a mother and much more.

Eve Loh Chin Pey (Ms)