Not Wanting Kids In Singapore

Having children is a life-long commitment and there are many factors to consider before deciding to have a kid. As times have changed, we’re starting to see more women speak up about not wanting to have kids in this day and age. 

We spoke to 8 Singaporean women to find out their reasons and how they’ve dealt with the expectations of having children despite their decision.

1. “The cost of having a kid is not cheap in Singapore”

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“I’ve dated my husband for 2 years and we’ve been married for 7. I don’t want to have kids because of the heavy financial burden, as the cost of having a kid is not cheap in Singapore. Additionally, as a workaholic who enjoys my job, I prioritise my career. 

My partner is approving of this mindset. We came to the conclusion of not having kids together due to financial factors. My parents are cool with it too as they just want us to be happy in our marriage, but our friends are puzzled as to why we didn’t want kids since we personally love kids. I have thought about having children when I was younger, but as the standard of living progresses, it’s hard to have another mouth to feed.

We shouldn’t be pressured by society and should just lead our own lives, instead of following the “normal” standard of a textbook-guide couple. Raising a kid in the past seems easier as compared to now as life was simpler then. But now, it’s much more competitive.

Not having kids doesn’t mean that we cannot achieve what we want when we are older.”

— Kaitlyn Leow, 39

2. “I haven’t really enjoyed my life yet and I want to improve on myself”

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“I’ve been attached to my boyfriend for 4 years and I don’t want to have kids because I feel like I haven’t really enjoyed my life yet. This includes things like travelling, making time for my hobbies and improving myself both physically and mentally. Furthermore, I feel like having a child will hinder my plans of getting a degree and advancing in my career.

My boyfriend is more than approving and he shares the same sentiments as we had a talk quite early into our relationship about our expectations. [However], my family has this stance that “if a woman does not have children then she is not really a woman”. They are rather apprehensive of the fact that I do not want children and occasionally bring up the topic that it is only right for me to have children. I’ve nicely told them that they were in no position to demand grandchildren as I had my future planned out. 

I left my house when I was 19 and was forced to become an adult. Thus, going to work and earning money to pay rent, afford basic necessities and pay bills made me realise how much I wanted to improve on myself instead of having another huge responsibility of a child. I want to focus on my education, career, and have time for myself.

I don’t feel any pressure from society as I’ve reached a sort of epiphany where I feel that my needs come first. I’m lucky that my partner and his family are okay with my decision. Children should never be seen as a retirement plan or as a goal to “complete” a marriage.”

— Isabel Lee, 23

3. “Having a womb does not automatically mean we must have children”

“I’m single and I feel that children are too much of a responsibility for me and finances are running outrageously high. I’d rather not be in debt. Also, I personally think that having a womb does not automatically mean that we must have children.

My parents were initially shocked and didn’t understand my decision. But I made it clear to them that I am responsible for living my [own] adult life.

As a child, I naturally thought that having children is something to check off in life. I felt pressure from my family because some disapproving relatives from the older generation still use the line “you will change your mind in future”. But once I hit my 30s, I foresee the pressure will be greater on me to get attached and give birth in order to be a “complete” woman. 

In my opinion, it’s harder [to raise a kid] now considering the rising costs and the increasing demand for better tuition and schools for children to get a headstart amongst their peers. I despise the saying that children are needed to complete a family. In order to be complete, you have to feel complete first. People don’t condemn women who can’t conceive, so why condemn women who won’t conceive?”

—Elle Liew, 24

4. “I’m scared of pain and pregnancy”

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“My partner and I have been together for 4 and a half years. My reasons for not wanting to have kids are mostly internal influences. Firstly, I’m scared of pain and pregnancy. It seriously gives me bad vibes [thinking] about something growing inside me like an alien. I [also] don’t want to lose my freedom as I love to travel and would like to be able to be spontaneous. 

There are several other women in my extended family who are child-free, women with only one child and women with big families. I think growing up this way made it natural for me to think that it’s totally a choice [to have kids]. And my choice was always to have no kids.

Somehow, I knew since I was a kid that I don’t want children. Even though I’m an only child, my parents have never spoken about grandchildren. My mum has always made it clear that you should want to have children. She always said to me, “you were planned and wanted”.

Having kids is a personal choice. So if you feel that you need children to complete a marriage, make sure you find a partner that feels the same way about it. I think people should be self-sufficient. My parents often told me growing up that they don’t need me to worry for them and that they will take care of themselves. As I grew up and grew older, I realised how prevalent this mindset is.”

—Thabye Soe, 38

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5. “I know that I am someone who focuses a lot on my work”

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“I’m currently single, but I do not want to have children because of 2 factors: my career and fear of not living up to expectations. I see myself completing my masters and PHD while working part time [in the future]. Taking time into account, I don’t think I have the capacity to properly care for another human being. 

Moreover, I am a perfectionist. I do things in a step-by-step manner, [thus] I am worried that I will make the wrong decision or end up being a terrible mother by not giving them my undivided attention. I know that I am someone who focuses a lot on my work and splitting my time is not good for both the kid and myself.

My friends and family are aware [of my decision] because I talk about my career progression and future ambitions all the time. They are generally curious about my strong stance, but still support it. In fact, I never thought about wanting kids from young. I don’t really feel pressure from society because I think I am pretty headstrong and think about my work a lot. 

I feel that children should be filial to their parents. Our parents sacrifice so much for us and it is only right that we give back. I can’t speak for other families, but my parents are okay with me being unmarried because we have open conversations about it.”

—Natalie Ng, 20

6. “I’m not interested in being part of the competitive community of Singaporean parents”

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“I’ve been attached for 4 years and I’m not interested in the cost and responsibility of having kids. It’s tough to get your kids to be of a certain level of success. Societal pressure [on kids] in Singapore is no joke. Kids peer-pressure other kids, and parents peer-pressure other parents. It takes a lot to raise your kid in the way you want to.

I’m not interested in being part of the narrow-minded, conservative and competitive community of Singaporean parents. The competitive system here creates an environment where more parents are emotionally uninvested in their kids. Many treat their kids as investments that will have a future payoff. It is capitalistic and horrifying.

My boyfriend happens to want to be child-free too, as he has a hereditary disease that he doesn’t want to pass on. Though we have different reasons, our goals are the same. To those who suggest that people may regret not having children, I think that regretting having children is way worse because you have to live and pay for the lifelong consequences.

I do feel pressure from society to eventually have children someday, but I don’t care about these pressures or people who exert these pressures. You have to make your life choices based on your own goals and vision. It takes time to build this courage to make the decision to not compromise on what you want your life to be. 

For a successful marriage, you also need to invest in your kids emotionally. Teach them good values, how to respect others, and manage themselves. Even so, you should not expect [payback] from your kids who did not ask to be born.”

—Emily Koh, 33

7. “I don’t know if I can be selfless enough to give up my comfort level”

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“I’ve been attached for almost 3 years. I think that I grew up in an environment where my parents could provide a fair amount of comfort level for me, so I don’t know if I can be selfless enough to give up that kind of comfort level. I also have the mindset that if I can’t provide the best for my future children then I’d rather not give birth [at all].

My partner wants children, but he’s also very respectful of what I think. We haven’t actually come to a conclusion on this. My parents [also] weren’t too happy about this because they feel that [having children] is part and parcel of life. But at the end of the day, they know the decision is mine to make.

I did think of having children when I was younger, but as I grew older I just realised that I’m too comfortable [where I am] to give up that comfort. I think at the end of the day, you have to live through your decisions so it doesn’t really matter. 

Practically speaking, it was a lot more affordable to have kids [in the past]. Nowadays, with more emphasis on societal issues such as mental health, there are more things to worry about.

I think the mindset of having kids to take care of you when you are old isn’t as relevant now. Most of us in Singapore are relatively literate, we can mostly provide for ourselves when we’re older. It has become important to future-proof ourselves.”

—V, 23

8. “I don’t understand the purpose of having a child”

“I’m single and I think that there is just no value in having children. Even at the age of 38, I don’t understand the purpose of having a child. As it is my body and my mindset, if my partner is not able to accept it, why should I even be with my partner?

I have friends around me who believe in the same [mindset] as I do. However, my family members think I am weird and somewhat unreasonable. I don’t think I should live my life to please them at this age. Even if I were to have one child, many will ask me to have another. This is a never ending cycle that is not mentally healthy. 

I’ve never thought about having children when I was younger as I always think I am still a child. At times, I will feel like my mindset is wrong due to societal pressures. But I’ll always ask myself, “why should I live my life the way the society wants me to?” 

The government promotes a nuclear family with traditional mindsets of having children to complete a family. Apartment advertisements always reflect a family with kids to depict a happy family. This has subconsciously been built into the mindset of people. Yet to me, a marriage is complete only via the hard work and communication of the couple first.”

—Lilin Ng, 38

These Women Who Don’t Want To Have Kids Show Us That There Are Many Important Factors To Consider

It might be easy for most people to casually ask “Why don’t you want to have children?” However, these women have shown us that deciding to have a child is not that simple. 

As we are progressing as a society, more women are stepping out from the stereotypical assumption of being a mother. Different women have different priorities in their lives, and eventually we should all make decisions based on ourselves rather than by others’ expectations.

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Responses have been edited for grammar and clarity.

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