Yesterday in Parliament, MP for Marine Parade GRC Fatimah Lateef has urged stay-home mothers not to cling on to what she calls a “stay-home mentality”.
To start with, I found this message offensive.
As I get closer and closer to the prospect of being a father, I’ve been tuning my senses to what women feel about this issue. Many of them express wishes along the lines of “I wish i could spend more time with my children and family, but work just takes up so much of my time!”
I don’t need an academic or medical article to tell me about the importance of spending more time with our children – it is a natural desire. It is the hours spent at work that is being unnatural here and destructive to our lives.
Both parents are out at work today and who bonds with the child? Not everyone is fortunate to have grandparents to help. Some of us need this job replaced by maids or worse…subcontracted to Apple or Samsung.
I know of at least one mother who cried when her little one had more bond with the maid than with her.
And what about their teenage years? Do you really want teenagers alone at home with no parental guidance and attention?
The good honourable Member means well for the country. She knows labour participation rates are at its highest and businesses are hard pressed to find people to work. Yes, we all need to learn to be self reliant on finances but what kind of message is this sort of policy trying to deliver?
Do we want a Singapore that becomes so defensive about personal finances that we have “no choice” but to clock in the hours at work? Do we really want to limit our choices to the two awkward boxes of “home” or “family”?
And what really is wrong with a “stay at home mentality”?
As a husband, it brings me great joy to work hard and think of ways that my family can enjoy the best. It brings me great joy to be able to be responsible for my family.
If my wife wants to spend less time at home, to have a “stay at home mentality” – then that is her choice. I will support her, or at least find ways to support her.
I do not want her to be upset at what society “expects” of her. Not especially when this opinion comes from a Member of Parliament – a Member who is supposed to speak up on what the people want. Not the other way around.
The honourable Member then noted that “Many of these stay-home mums have minimum or no CPF. Besides the usual Government top-ups, perhaps there can be a formal programme for spouses to transfer funds into their non-working wives’ account.”
Now, that should be the meat of discussion.
Parliament debates should be centred on creating more choices, rather than imposing more expectations on its electorate with careless opinions.
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