Today the whole gin gang (?) attended a Marriage and Parenthood dialogue session hosted by Mrs Lim Hwee Hua and Dr. Amy Khor (although Mrs Lim ran most of it). It was targeted at SAHMs (and one SAHDad!), and they wanted to know what were the factors that led some of us to decide to go from no child to 1 child, and how women could better integrate back to working life after staying at home for an extended period of time.
The session was rather short, so I’m not sure what they can take away from it, but I suspect that they did it more perhaps to confirm what they already know or suspect. Overall it was an enjoyable session although it would probably have been better if the agenda was sent out earlier, so in the short time there wouldn’t have been so many people talking off tangent.
After some discussions with other mummies, I think the solution to Singapore’s low birth rate is very simply, work-life balance. However, that’s a solution that isn’t simple in itself at all.
Why I think it’s the solution? We can’t convince people who don’t value children to have children, but those who do want children often find that they have to spend so much time at work it’s just not funny at all. And sometimes, not fair to the children. Having worked in a Finnish company and seeing how the Finns work in their own country, I know it’s possible to have a good work life balance. They start work at 8am, work damn hard till 4pm, and then have the rest of the evening with the family, although they might get back online after the kids are asleep. They don’t go for tea breaks twice a day, or dilly-dally so that they can impress their bosses by sending out an email as late as possible.
A society which values work-life balance benefits not just working mothers, but stay home mothers too – if their husbands work for pro-family organisations, they will have the support when they need it, and as parents we know that this can come in any shape or form, at any time, like a high fever int he middle of the night. Even entreprenuers might have a better life if they aren’t expected to be at the beck and call of business contacts 24/7.
Why it’s not easy? Because it’s hard for policies, financial incentives and other “hard” efforts to change culture. There are already companies who say they promote work-life balance, and who purport that you can work from home. But in the words of someone who works in an organisation like that – “Who dare to work from home?”. In order to really push for a change in culture, a lot of, dare I say it, propaganda is needed. Ok propaganda is such a 70s word – what we really need is a comprehensive integrated marketing plan. Viral marketing, PR, social media marketing all has to really push for it.
Change never comes easy, but we need to start somewhere. And that doesn’t mean griping and complaining. That means doing something about it, whether it be trying to get your voice heard, or talking to people about what we need for our future.
For those who are interested, as a result of the dialogue, a forum was set up here. As of time of print there were only 12 comments. Heh.