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May 2008 Archives

Little Help for Singaporean Stay-Home Mothers

I attended a dialogue session last Thursday organised by Reach, the Singapore Government’s feedback arm, on “Creating a Pro-family Environment”. It was basically a bunch of parents talking to members of the government, giving feedback on the pro-family measures introduced over the past few years.

Faith was pregnant with Anne when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced:

This was extremely good news for us back then, and we really felt like the government was doing its part to support couples who were transitioning to become parents.

Most Singaporean families are dual-income, with both parents working, while the children are left under the care of an employed foreign domestic worker, sometimes supervised by the couple’s parents.

With the birth of Caleb, Faith and I are thinking of becoming a single-income family, where Faith either takes long-term no pay leave or quits her job to look after the children. This isn’t the typical Singaporean family arrangement, and I went to the dialogue to have a feel of what other people were doing.

At the dialogue it was clear that we agreed on one thing: Parents are the best caregivers for their children.

But it also became clear that the Singapore government was bent on having us outsource the parenting function.

The above incentives - tax rebates, cash incentives, the reduction in the levy for domestic helpers - only apply if the mother is working (exception of the one time baby bonus). If the mother decides to stay home to look after her children, the family is ineligible for these incentives. These incentives cannot be claimed by the working father.

Troy, a father at the dialogue, summed it up as “stay-home mothers are at best forgotten, or at worst penalised for their choice”.

Dr Amy Khor who was on the panel that night tried to clarify that it wasn’t meant to penalise stay-home mothers, but to incentivise mothers to go back to work. While her statement is logical, it’s potaytoes-potahtoes to the rest of us.

Not only do you suffer the loss of a significant part of your household income, you lose the government’s support. I know that the government wants all the marbles - productivity in the workplace, high GDP, a healthy birthrate - but Singapore needs to make some hard choices here.

Another parent who stood up said that the government’s constantly pushing back the retirement age means that she would be unable to take care of her grandchildren, and her son would considering having less or no children at all.

The conference room overlooked a hundred cranes working on the upcoming casino in Marina Bay, a sore reminder that our government’s choices skewed heavily towards the dollars and cents.

Notes from Verge: OgilvyOne's Digital Summit

It felt a little odd attending Verge, Ogilvy’s conference on marketing in the digital age. All of the conferences I’ve attended thus far approach the digital medium from the other end - often celebrating how this new medium frees individuals from the tyranny of those that control the traditional forms of communications such as newspapers and television.

And there I was, sitting smack middle of CHIJMES, a place of worship turned local watering hole, listening to the big wigs of the advertising giant talk about how they could exploit social media. Light wafts of corporatese hit me, but what was alarming was how quickly I became accustomed to it. I knew I had to put aside my hippie bigotry if I was to learn anything from this conference. Corporations aren’t evil. Repeat after me: corporations aren’t evil.

The fact that I sat there for free…the guilt stung.

And as speaker after speaker went up and said things we digital revolutionaries hold dearly as creed, I started to believe. Maybe these PR folks finally got it. Or maybe they’re just making mental bookmarks of these phrases with which they’d enthrall us into echoing their advertising messages.

Which of it is true, I doubt I’ll ever know.

Continue reading Notes from Verge: OgilvyOne's Digital Summit »

Control Phreak

The extremes of parenting styles, from least draconian to most:

  1. You and your spouse adapts to the newborn’s schedule
  2. The newborn learns to fit to your schedule
  3. You all give up your schedules and adopt Gina Ford’s timesheet

Pooh Bear

Faith brought Caleb to the doctor’s for his medical examination. At one month old, he weighs 4.6kg. He was 2.75kg at birth. That’s a 70% increase. Scary.

A few moments ago, he deposited a significant amount of that weight into his diaper. Where Anne craps like a World War 2 sniper, Caleb simply lays down the law. I’m sure he changed the total amount of matter in the universe with that last poop.

Oh, the other difference between boys and girls: pee is now omni-directional. Every diaper change is a potential hosing down of the changing surface, your clothes and the car in the garage.

Clothes Caleb and Anne peed on, washed and hung to dry

That’s the washing and rinsing we’ve had to do yesterday night. Caleb hit the sheets twice, and Anne didn’t make it to the toilet bowl on time.

Woohoo.

All Consuming

Caleb as of this morning.

Caleb at 1 month old

Compared to Caleb at birth.

Caleb at birth

It’s been exactly 1 month. God has been gracious to us. He’s drinking three times the amount Anne consumed at the same stage, and has put on what feels like a metric ton. By my calculations, if he continues at this exponential rate, our universe would be consumed by the time he’s 4.

Second Thoughts

Taking care of Caleb, Faith and I remember how it was taking care of Anne.

We were first-time parents, driven close to insanity by a child that refused to sleep.

We’ve done a lot of things differently with Caleb. For starters, he sleeps in his own room. Anne continues to occupy our bedroom. As our bedroom and Caleb’s room is quite far apart, Faith and I have taken to sleeping in the living room. I run the age-old joke about how I finally get a television set in my bedroom.

We’re also a lot more structured when it comes to Caleb. Where we carried Anne whenever she cried, we’re quite ok with having Caleb holler for a little bit before attending to him. He’s learned to amuse himself lying down and falls asleep on his own. He drinks a whole lot more milk than Anne ever did, hammering 100mls each feed on his first week. Anne took 40mls for many months.

There’s so much to thank God for. Anne’s growing up so quickly. It’s beautiful to watch her and talk to her as you would an adult. Looking after Caleb has become a family affair, and Anne is as indispensable a part as any of us. She’d run in whenever Caleb’s awake, pat him on the head and say “Baby Caleb, you’re so cute!”

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