Senior Minister of State (SMS) Josephine Teo, who has been tasked to oversee the National Population and Talent Division, has the unenviable task of getting Singaporeans to marry and reproduce themselves.
With some couples wanting to secure a flat before they decide on having children, SMS Teo views that married couples do not necessary have to buy a flat to produce babies because all they need is a small space to reproduce themselves – The Straits Times report, “You don't need much space to have sex: Josephine Teo on ‘no flat, no child’ belief”; Wednesday 12th October 2016.
Marriage and producing children are very personal affairs. We all have choices to make, and the right choice can bring much happiness while the wrong one can see us go through many difficulties. In this day and age, marriage appears to be unattractive, and with reports of couples getting divorced rising, it puts young couples off.
Indeed, getting married and having kids are major decisions and with the high cost of living, young couples are keener to build their careers and put marriage on hold. That is why postponing motherhood is the choice which most newly married wives opt for.
Ministers and Members of Parliament must be careful what they say, else it will incur the wrath of Singaporeans, many of whom are now more vocal. Some years back when SMS Teo mentioned in Parliament that the Singapore Government cannot give love to the people, it drew much criticism from many Singaporeans.
Criticism in which many Singaporeans are upset over Ms. Teo’s insensitive remarks on marriage and child-bearing have surfaced in the report, “All the facepalm reactions to Josephine Teo's 'You need a very small space to have sex' comment.
There are many ways that we can help to entice couples to get married, and eventually, have kids. And I would like to offer some suggestions. But at the end of the day, the government must be willing to listen to feedback and even if it is critical but provides constructive ideas, they need to embrace it because the government cannot solve all problems.
It is far better to approach this delicate subject in a more refined and polished way to promote marriages and children. For example, the minister could have said that children are the biggest adventure on earth and they help to make the family complete. A baby, Ms. Teo could have added, can positively enhance the relationship and bring the parents closer together.
With the stress of exams, we must never rob kids of their childhood. Let them find going to school an enjoyable experience,
What is needed to motivate couples to sign on the dotted line is to hear success stories, and I have in fact offered to speak on marriage at the Ministry of Social and Family and Development (MSF) based on my 40 years’ care and love to my late wife. Being married to someone affected by mental challenges is no easy task, but I brought her to a full recovery because unconditional love which I so unselfishly gave to Doris strengthened my marriage. Above all, I MADE THE MARRIAGE WORK. That was the key message that I told the MSF executive.
But my offer was rejected outright because the MSF executive told me “I am not a marriage counselor, and I don’t possess a university degree”.
It will be useful also for such talks to be conducted at the Registry of Marriages when couples register their marriage.
Even though my wife and I did not have children of our own, it did not stop us in any way from giving love to other people’s children and through this powerful bond, my wife’s illness improved because children are not judgemental – they just know how to give love.
The Government should also encourage interracial and cross-nation marriages as it promotes mixed cultures and religions where it also, to some extent, builds better bi-lateral relations. But how can this take off when school fees for foreign students are now being increased?
Sex is sacred, enjoyable – and the right ambiance is needed to ‘create the mood’. Couples can’t be having sex in cramped areas because it is uncomfortable. Moreover, when sex is played up to have children, it cheapens the family concept.
Another suggestion I propose is to allow couples to rent flats first near their parent’s homes so that if and when they have kids, parents can be requested to mind the child/children when the couple goes to work.
To create couples in just the right mood, MSF, and her partners should tie-up tie up with our Singapore hotels for staycation over say 4 weekends in a year or till the wife conceives. Rasa Sentosa would be a good venue – a home, away from home, I might say. Once a child is conceived, reward them with a bonus holiday. We need to give couples personal space, as opposed to cramped space.
Let us pamper the couples and make it like their 2nd honeymoon. In support of the government’s effort to provide a better quality of life to our seniors, such a program could also be tailored for our elderly lonely citizens.
Raymond Anthony Fernando