As with many things, Singaporeans are obsessed with the standards they think they should be achieving. This includes having the right number of children and the right gender. When I was preggers with #2, I was actually asked if I was disappointed it was a boy AGAIN and not a girl. It wasn’t a surprise in any way because the hubby’s side of the family has five (yes, FIVE!) grandsons, including 2 from his sister, 1 from his brother, and 2 from us. He also has 2 female cousins who BOTH have boys, and there are NO girls in the family. In fact, my nephew who is in Primary 3 told one of his classmates that there are NO girl cousins, and his classmate refused to believe him saying that there is no such thing.
And no, of course I was not disappointed.
Here I summarise the typical Singaporean reaction to the gender and number of children in a family:
- Only 1 child, of either gender: “Oh, have a [insert opposite gender here] lah.” Really? Not have another child because it’s great to have siblings, and they’ll have so much fun together?
- 1 boy 1 girl: “Oh, just nice, can close shop already”.
- 2 boys or more: “Oh (almost sympathetic tone), try for a girl lah.”.
What’s wrong with 2 healthy and (very) bouncy boys? Sometimes I will jokingly ask, “Boy again then how?”. Sometimes they will also add “Handful, hor?” although usually they say it with some empathy, as if mothers with boys are a breed to be pitied upon. And yes, there are people who will ask people who already have 3 kids to have a fourth kid of a different gender. And as I always say, having is easy, it’s the looking after that’s difficult!
- 2 girls or more: “Oh, how lovely! (Note the difference from the sympathetic tone when you say you have 2 boys). Try for a boy lah.”
- 2 of same sex and the third of a different sex: “Oh, finally! You must be happy!” If same sex then how, I’ll be not happy meh?
Here are some comebacks you might want to consider if you’re in such a situation:
- “Ask my husband”, since technically, the gender of the child is determined by the sperm. Don’t bring up that there is also relation to the time of ovulation because that would just be TMI, and anyway you’re trying to push responsibility here. Just like “Ask Daddy” when your toddler has some mind-boggling questions.
- “If boy (or girl) again then how?”, although this works best for an all boy situation.
- “Boys are easier, they can pee anywhere.” Ok I haven’t really said that to anyone, but I definitely can imagine myself saying it 🙂
- “Yes, definitely, we plan to only stop at 6”. Some people might not get the sarcasm though.
- “Not say you want means you can get, right orrnot”, that refers to both conceiving and getting the gender you so desire. Usually I add on “My husband’s side is ALL boys you know!”
- “I only have 2 hands leh”, when asked whether I’d have another.
- “Factory closed liao”.
- “Ok tonight I go home and try”. I just made that up. I think it’s bound to shut the other party up, doncha think? 🙂
- “What if I have twins AGAIN?” A friend of mine who is having twin girls (in like 5 days!) is going to have the best comeback EVER!
With so many couples having trouble conceiving, any baby, especially a healthy baby (or one whom doctors can fix!), is a blessing and a gift. What’s with Singaporeans obsessing about having one boy and one girl? Is it a consequence of the Two Is Enough campaign coupled with less work-life balance, more working mothers, rising living costs, the dwindling size of households (not to mention housing!), all resulting in a kia su desire for one of everything to make the most “ideal”?
Whatever the reason, the next time someone passes another silly comment, just take it with a big smile, and then share it with a mummy who’ll roll her eyes and laugh along with you 🙂
(Btw, can you believe that our Two Is Enough campaign is so “famous” that there’s a Wikipedia entry on it, also entitled “Population control in Singapore”?! Mind blown.)