Why I Don’t Want Children
In 2020, Singapore’s total fertility rate hit a low of 1.1 births per woman.
If you strain your ears, you can hear screams of “HOW CAN DIS B ALLOW?!” coming from the Ministry of Social and Family Development.
This downward trend persists despite shifts toward affordable and accessible domestic help, increasingly family-friendly workplace environments, and baby bonus measures.
More fathers are also taking the role of caretaker and schools are trying to lessen pressures by removing class rankings and examinations.
The government’s failure to boost birth rates seems like a sad case of “When you try your best but you don’t succeed”.
But personally, I feel why it’s so hard to get Singaporeans to piak piak without condoms and make babies is because the government is only treating the symptoms of the problem.
Perhaps, Singaporean Millennials are scared of having children because we are still children ourselves.
We are educated and broken
Nigerian poet Ijeoma Umebinyuo wrote “so many broken children living in grown bodies mimicking adult lives.” On a certain level, Singaporean Millennials understand this.
We’re the most educated generation in history. We’ve learnt by observing our parents’ relationships that happy families are not the norm. We’re a generation dealing with the pain of separated parents in a time where divorce rates are at an all-time high.
We experience a quarter-life crisis because we exit Uni as perfect products of the education system, our creativity, dreams, and ambitions removed. We’re terrified to be in a workplace which mockingly laughs “WELCOME TO THE REAL WORLD” when we’re in pain.
We are choosing not to rush
Dealing with loneliness, uncertainty, and a troubled economy isn’t new; our parents had to cope with the same issues and they had less money. But what makes this generation so different is we’re choosing to prioritise our mental health, personal growth, and happiness.
We are more informed, connected, and vocal thanks to the internet. We’re having discussions about LGBT, mental health, and race, forming communities to grow and heal together. We’re using body positivity hashtags and learning to speak kindly to ourselves.
And as a generation, we’re choosing not to rush. We’re choosing not to become our parents, and to unintentionally inflict pain on the people we love.
I’ve never confirmed this, but I think my parents got married at 25 and 27 respectively because it was ‘the right time’. Having me and my sister two and four years later was the ‘natural’ next step.
I have no doubt my parents love me. I can see they’ve tried to be better parents for me than my grandparents were for them.
But repairing a broken parent-child relationship in my twenties and dealing with their divorce made me realise my parents were not ready to have kids. 24 years on, my dad is still learning to be a father.
Children are not prizes
I’m straddling the awkward age where half my friends are testing their body’s ability to prevent alcohol poisoning every weekend, and the other half are getting engaged and married.
Millennials are unafraid of commitment; we’re happy to pledge forever to someone and riddle ourselves with a 30-year BTO-induced financial debt. And it’s not that we don’t want children; we still think “two kids, one boy and one girl” is ideal.
But Millennials know children are not prizes to be won in court custody cases. Children aren’t something to have “because you want to know what they’d look like” or “a nice addition to the family”.
And children definitely shouldn’t be a means to boost the population growth rate.
How Singapore Can Encourage Childbirth Rates
Thriving families are made of loving parents with healthy relationships. To be good partners, we first need to be emotionally-mature individuals. We need good communication and conflict resolution skills to sustain marriages and lower divorce rates in the long run.
We need to focus on ourselves first before we can love others and be a good parent.
Even though laws can be created to ‘encourage’ marriage by dictating who can or cannot afford housing, the government can’t create a one-size-fits-all instruction manual on how to be a decent human being.
So let us learn to find our feet and be better adults for ourselves. Maybe then, we’ll feel we’re fit to parent the next generation.
This post was first published by Cheryl Chiew on 18 October 2018 and last updated by Nicole Yong on 7 September 2023.