Letter of the day

Forum: Biggest headache in parenting is when a child falls ill

A mother playing with her newborn at home. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

I agree with Dr Yik Keng Yeong that the birth rate in Singapore is a matter of concern (Even more needs to be done to encourage having babies, Nov 11).

The good news is that some families are more willing to have three or four children; I know of several among my friends. But those who prefer only two, one or even none are still the majority.

The Government has provided a lot of financial help to couples to encourage them to have more babies. This is good.

But as a mother of two boys, I have found that while money is important, the most headache-inducing part of bringing up a child lies elsewhere, especially in today's society where both parents tend to be working.

Ask any working parent who has a child below 10 years old what their biggest headache is. It is when the child is ill, especially after office hours. Worse still is when one child after another is ill.

A trip to KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH), whether day or night, is usually a four-to-six-hour affair. Waiting for a long time with a hot and crying baby in one's arm is not a good feeling. One feels lost, scared and frustrated, while the doctors and nurses are so near yet seem so far.

Then the next day, one parent has to stay home with the child - if there is no one else to help - as childcare centres cannot take in an ill child. A parent has his work disrupted, feels tired and - in the case of a new parent - maybe is unsure of what to do.

The one area in which the Government could really provide some help is in children's healthcare.

Make a paediatrician available in polyclinics. Provide better information on where to find a paediatrician after office hours. And ensure shorter waiting times at KKH.

A way to help when a child falls ill is to give parents confidence that the child is in good hands and let them have a break.

This can be in the form of a facility, run by professionals, where sick children can be dropped off so parents have peace of mind, or a corner in the childcare centre to help take care of the ill child, or a way to engage a qualified person at short notice to look after the sick child at home.

This will make a world of difference to young families who need it - when you know that when your child is ill, there is help. It's time we care for the children and not just the statistics.

Jasmine Tay

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 19, 2020, with the headline Forum: Biggest headache in parenting is when a child falls ill. Subscribe