family life · parenting · Singapore

1 boy 1 girl, the Singaporean ideal.

image from Wikipedia

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:

  1. 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?
  2. 1 boy 1 girl: “Oh, just nice, can close shop already”.
  3. 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!
  4. 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.”
  5. 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.)


11 thoughts on “1 boy 1 girl, the Singaporean ideal.

  1. Hear Hear!!! 🙂

    Situation with me is similar… hubs have no sisters or female cousins, and there are 14 of them. I have 2 female cousins, and we’re 18 in total. Our cousins have no girls, and although a girl was much longed for by both his and my side, my son has proven to them that boys CAN be cute, too! (as long as he remains the baby of the extended family, that is!)

    2nd one – try for girl lah!
    If have another boy… same people will ask us to try for another one.
    Not that they’re paying for education or expenses, mind! 😀


  2. Lol! Before I got to know that my #2 is a girl, most all who asked about the gender helped to hope that I will have a girl since #1 is a boy. I paisey to tell them I actually like boys and feel very blessed that my #1 is a boy and HONESTLY, REALLY don’t mind if my #2 is a boy. What we parents really hope for is a healthy and happy baby. Strange that some fellow parents don’t realize this.

    Oh wells. Guess I can use the “close factory” reason. 😉


  3. I can totally relate to what you are saying. I have 2 boys and get the sympathetic “Oh, try for a girl” response all the time. It’s as if they imagine you can’t be happy with 2 boys, and it’s as if any of us had any control over the gender of our children! My hubby’s family is basically all boys too haha.


    1. Maybe I should add a comeback that is “After 2 boys, you think I still got energy for any more kids?” LOL.

      But who cares, right, when I see them playing together it’s so heart warming!


  4. Haha I totally get what you say here and it made me laugh out loud at the replies. Yes I do agree that singaporeans see 1 boy 1 girl as an ideal but then again, it’s just as good having two healthy children of the same gender. Having going through a miscarriage, I really finally understand having a baby isn’t easy and so long as he/she is healthy and safe, it is already a miracle and a blessing, no matter you can let him pee anywhere or need to take her to the toilet every single time.


  5. The hubby really wants a boy but I gave birth to the only girl (best day of my life though) in his family of boys (he has no sisters or nieces). Though he really loves his girl, (they’re called daddy’s girl for a reason!) he still insists the next one MUST be a boy! Me on the other hand will be happy with either cos I already got my girl that I wanted 🙂

    It’s nice that you love your little men so much & I hope I will too whenever God decides to answer daddy’s prayers! Haha


  6. Thank God for the children, boys and girls! So long as they are healthy and happy, as parents, we really need to count ourselves blessed!
    Though I’m outnumbered at home, I’m also the most-loved person, with 3 men showering me with lots of love, hugs and kisses daily. A girl would be nice, but I really can’t ask for more. At times when the 3 are fighting over who gets to kiss mummy first, I felt like the luckiest women in this world (makes clearing all their mess, all the chasing after them so worthwhile!!) 🙂


  7. Hahaha nice post.

    One comeback to the gender comments that I like, is: “Healthy can already lah. Doesn’t matter boy or girl. Other people want to get pregnant also cannot; can have baby very good already.” Ironically, I am usually the one saying this to people who express disappointment at the gender of the child they’re carrying.

    And funnily enough, when people ask if we’re considering having a #4, they say to me/us:”Really ah?! What if you have twins AGAIN?!” Precisely!!! hahahaha


  8. Great rebuttals, should try one of these when I get asked again by relatives…which is too often 🙂 I tend to smile back and then say, “Too expensive, you want to help to sponsor?” and that’s when the questions stop altogether.


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