Today's Sunday Times, in a prime news page feature on miscarriages, quoted a Professor P.C. Wong as saying, 'Biologically speaking, the optimum age for a woman to give birth at is 20.' Otherwise, 'she should try to have a child by 27', due to the greater risk of miscarriages and childhood disorders.
Furthermore, as the risk of losing a baby is highest during the first 12 weeks, a Dr Foong Lian Chuen of Gleneagles Hospital recommends that working mothers should consider taking leave during this period.
Member of Parliament Halimah Yacob suggested that employers could be more flexible in granting leave. 'We also should look into educating Singaporeans, who may be so caught up in their work that they postpone having babies, without fully understanding the consequences,' she said.
And finally, a Ms Lim, whose experience with miscarriage is cited, is now urging friends to have their babies as soon as they're married. 'I tell them not to wait. It doesn't mean that when you finally want a baby, you can have one immediately.'
Madam Halimah, Singaporeans are so caught up with their work because that is exactly what they have been told and conditioned to do from their first day in school. How many employers can you name who would allow would-be mothers to take that first 12 weeks off (much less grant more than the stipulated minimum maternity leave) without penalising them, much less giving them the sack, without any hope of recompense? And at 27, most women (or men for that matter) are barely picking up steam in their career, whether in humble trades or factory positions, or professional and managerial roles, where making your mark means working flat out for the sake of corporate profitability and spending substantial time in the air.
Again, the combined voice of politicians, the local press and their case studies points to the same old message: get hitched and have as many babies as you can soonest. And be as economically productive as possible at the same time.... and oh yes, you not only have to bear the full responsibility of it all (perhaps with a little help from your in-laws), we won't help you either if your employer penalises you for choosing family commitments, your mental health suffers (you then become a burden rather than wealth generator), your medical costs spiral (you are wholly responsible for taking care of your own health, meaning getting enough sleep and exercising sufficiently), your children turn out to be 'retards' rather than 'normal' kids (too bad, we will mutter some sympathies but that's all we can afford), and of course if you lose your job in the process, you are redundant for a good reason, and should settle for any task that pays, even though your hard-earned skills will mean nought. After all, $1,200 a month is more than adequate for a family of four.
I wonder if mrs budak and I could get ourselves divorced, and still stay in the same place and grow old together, if only to point a ex-marital middle finger at all those who believe that love MUST inevitably lead to marriage and procreation for its own sake. That would probably spare us from the tireless maternal queries of folks who think our lives are incomplete without a genetic heritage.
Sorry, I suddenly realise my error. It's not even for our own sake; it's for the very future of the nation and economy, for who would provide for our old age (just as this generation does so for both their parents as well as children) if not our descendants and progenital GDP generators? Not the state surely, since the very idea of welfare is hateful to our Asian value of self-reliance, and of course, haven't we been repeatedly told that our very own mandated self-funded providential savings will be barely adequate to serve our retirement needs, assuming we even reach that ever-rising age? No wonder they say being childless is an act of utter irresponsibility, for in doing so, one is foregoing an investment into a future where your every whim and fancy will be sponsored by those whom you have given life and thus owe you a living for doing so.