No flat, no baby? Having child while living with parents has its benefits but...

Young couples still prefer to live on their own before starting a family

Many Singaporeans equate flat ownership with starting a family. PHOTO: ST FILE
Build-To-Order (BTO) flats at Sumang Walk, Punggol, overlooking the Punggol River, Punggol Island, and the Malaysian port across the Johor Strait. PHOTO: ST FILE

It requires some effort, but having babies while living with their parents is not entirely impossible, said young couples who did not wait for their own homes before trying to have children.

The need for space to have babies has been hotly discussed the past week, after a candid comment made earlier this month by Senior Minister of State Josephine Teo while suggesting that couples do not have to wait to live on their own to start a family.

While answering an interview question on whether couples could be deterred from having children earlier because they do not yet have their Housing Board flats, she had said: "You need a very small space to have sex."

However, many Singaporeans equate flat ownership with starting a family. A Straits Times online poll on Wednesday found that of the 16,880 responses, 93 per cent said a flat should come first.

Mrs Teo, who oversees the National Population and Talent Division, added in a Facebook post on Wednesday that it is a "matter of time" before Singaporeans will own homes because of the country's public housing programme.

"But if a married couple waits too long to start a family, we could end up with a house with no children to share it with," she said.

Many young couples told The Sunday Times that they preferred to live on their own before starting a family, but did not mind if happy "accidents" happened slightly earlier while they were still living with their parents. And there are benefits to this arrangement, they added.

Mrs Sophia Liew, 26, who tied the knot in May, said: "The best-case scenario is if our place is ready soon, but I also think everything in life won't just follow a plan."

The part-time private enrichment teacher, whose Build-To- Order (BTO) flat in Boon Keng will be ready only in 2019, said it "might be good" to live with her parents during the baby's first year. "They can help to take care of the baby, and we can manage the renovations for the new home, so that it won't be so much to handle at one time," she said.

Mr Reuben Tan, 28, whose wife gave birth to their son last month, said his parents have been a source of help as the young couple learn to be new parents. "It's not just extra hands on board for physical needs but, emotionally, they stabilise us," said the executive in a multinational firm, of his parents. "Sometimes, they can get a bit naggy, but we do learn from their advice."

Some couples also did not want to delay parenthood for too long, acknowledging the higher risks of complications in later pregnancies.

Said Mr Tan, who hopes to have at least three children: "We are aware of the health complications that come with conceiving at an older age. As we get older, we also might not have as much energy to multitask, and taking care of young children can be very taxing."

Still, some couples have reservations about living with their parents for more than one or two years after getting married, citing space considerations and the need for personal space. Mrs Liew and her husband, who are living in her parents' flat in Toh Yi, have put off plans to have children until nearer their flat's completion date.

"Staying together in my room really made us realise there might not be space for a third person," she said. "My husband couldn't bring over all his belongings... so I don't think there'll be space for a baby cot or shelves for diapers."

Mrs Quah Hui Ning, 30, who has a four-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son, said: "We wanted our own place to bring up our children, and also grow closer to each other as a couple."

The financial planner and her husband bought a resale flat in Queenstown to be near her in-laws.

"Everyone plays a part in the children's lives, but the (kids') parents should be the ones making the main decisions for them," she added.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 16, 2016, with the headline No flat, no baby? Having child while living with parents has its benefits but.... Subscribe