Singapore has been successful on many fronts. We have a well-developed economy and the most comprehensive education system. From a third-world backwater decades ago, we have leapt to become a first-world country.
But on one front, Singapore has failed. We have a serious baby shortage! Despite a slew of government measures to encourage Singaporeans to have more babies, Singapore's birth rate remained low. Total fertility rate was only 1.25 last year, compared to 1.6 in 2000.
The generous cash gift and maternity leave just won't work. In fact, according to a recent poll by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), less people are persuaded by the government's incentives to have babies. The study also found what influenced Singaporeans' decision about having a baby is not money, but more about their attitude.
This is an vindication of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's point: Singaporeans' reluctance to have a baby is due to our changed lifestyles and mindsets, which cannot be altered by financial incentives.
So fellow Singaporeans, to prevent Singaporeans from becoming a minority in our own country, we must act and change our attitude.
We at GET.com know it's not an overnight thing to be able to persuade you to have more babies, but we will give it a try anyway with these 4 mindset changes that might just inspire some of you to get some action between the sheets tonight!
1. Don't Always Think About Yourself
Singaporeans are too self-centered. We tend to think about ourselves first before thinking about anyone else, even though we might not realise it. And this attitude extends to our decision about having children.
A baby is a huge responsibility. You need to sacrifice your own time and make a lot of efforts to take care of a baby. If you always think about whether you will still have that alone time, you will always be afraid of having a baby.
I'm saying this in my own experience. When I just became a father, I was happy for a while and depressed for a longer while. I was upset and overwhelmed that I needed to change everything in my lifestyle. To make enough time to look after my baby, I stopped reading books, stopped going to theatres, stopped hanging out with friends, and I couldn't have a night of sound sleep.
But I turned out fine. I still have my job, thanks to the support of my colleagues and my company. And my wife turned out fine too, though she probably suffered more than I did.
It's really not that difficult to make all these adjustments in your life. When you see your baby's happy face, I can assure you that you will get the greatest satisfaction and all your sacrifices are worth it.
2. You Are Not Entitled To Everything
Yes, our government is worried that we won't have enough population if the birth rate continues to drop. They even came up with enhanced baby bonus packages to encourage us to have more babies. But that doesn't mean we should take everything for granted.
Singaporeans have a strong sense of entitlement. We like to think we are entitled to all the perks that the government can give, and that the government should give out an even bigger baby bonus. But even after enhanced baby bonus measures, most of Singaporeans still refuse to have a baby.
You can keep complaining how difficult it is to have a baby in Singapore and expect the government to give more subsidies.
But in the end, whether you want to raise a child or not is your own decision to make. The government is not going to do that for you.
3. You Can Be Both A Career Woman And A Mom
Singaporean women are more sceptical of the baby bonus scheme, because they are also worried about their career, on top of the unavoidable concerns for the wellbeing of the children.
Singaporean women are well-educated and independent, and they want to have a successful career just like what men would want to have.
So the thinking goes: We need to sacrifice one, either motherhood or career.
But if you keep procrastinating your agenda for a baby in order to pursue your career, you might end up missing the chance of being called "mommy".
But you can have both if you want to. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, has raised two children of her own. Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, has raised a baby while she is working.
You don't have to dedicate yourself to becoming a board member of a Fortune 500 company. Nobody says it's easy, but you can be both a successful career woman and a mother.
4. Man Up And Be A Father
Fellow guys, you may also want to lose your "big man of the house" attitude. Raising a baby is not easy. You need to be involved and work as a team with your wife, and sometimes you need to do the opposite of man up in order to man up!
There's nothing wrong with doing household chores at home as a man. I'm sure your wife will have enough worries - feeding the baby, tucking a baby into bed, finishing work on time... You can help by doing all the housework!
If both you and your wife find it difficult to juggle between work and life, discuss between yourselves as a couple and make a collective decision. Your wife doesn't always have to be the one who's making sacrifices (I'm not saying you are not making any sacrifice.). You can be a stay-home-dad too, just like what many other men are doing!
Don't pay too much attention to those gender stereotypes. Social attitudes take time to change, and we can only make the change one step at a time. But we live in a modern world, and we can make it happen if we want to.
About 10,200 Singaporean men are already doing it, and that include at least two of my wife's former colleagues.
In fact, my colleague's husband is also considering the same move when the time comes.
As more and more men are joining the cause, you can try it too.
Guys, please allow me to quote US President Obama here: "Yes we can!"