Thursday, February 28, 2013

Why the extra $2000 does not help

Recently, reactions to population white paper has been dominating "headlines" in the cyberspace.

One of the main driver for the basic proposal in the white paper is the low birth rates in Singapore. As such, the government wants to do more to encourage Singaporean couples to make more babies. The Baby Bonus Scheme has been introduced since April 2001 and this year, they introduced more bonuses for those who procreate.

What does the baby bonus include? A cash gift for each child and top ups into a special savings account for each child. Basically, the more children you have, the higher the gift and top ups. The Baby Bonus website details this well, so I won't go into the finer details of the amounts and payment schedules. This year, the government is giving an additional $2,000 for each baby, making the cash gift $6,000-8,000 for each baby.

Now, I don't mind getting money from anyone who wants to give it away.. but I fail to see why ANYONE would think that this additional $2,000 would incentivise anyone to have a baby.

As a new and working mum, I can tell you that what we need are support around other areas.. such as:

1. Time - daily
Time to play and cuddle with baby..

But our congested and inefficient public transportation takes away precious time from our children. For those of us who opt not to use public transport, peak hour traffic is not much better even though we pay all the additional peak hour road tolls.

2. Time - initially
We do have longer maternity leave in Singapore now compared to the past. However, our maternity leave of 4 months means that on average, most mothers end up returning to work when their babies are 4 or 5 months, even before our babies start eating solid food and sleeping through the night. Babies grow very quickly during their first year and I know many mothers would like to spend the first year being at home with their babies, it is not an option for most of us.

My European counterparts at work get longer maternity leave, with unpaid leave options and many typically take a year off to be with their children in their first year of life.

3. Energy
Energy to play with our babies.. and when they get older, time to teach them reading, cycling, swimming...

But many of us face long working hours and know in our heart that it is all too easy for us to be sidelined for imported talent should we get more laid back at work..

4. Childcare and pre-school education
Children obviously need caring for whilst we work.. but there are limited options for accessible and affordable infant care. Good daycare centres have long waiting lists and cost a lot, making it out of reach for many. There are some infant care located within business districts but these are fairly limited.

Pre-schools, which technically fall in the same category as daycare centres but are targeted at toddlers above 2 years, are sadly of low quality in Singapore.

In 2012, the Economist Intelligence Unit has ranked Singapore’s preschool education 29 out of 45 countries. In the study, Singapore’s performance for the categories of ‘affordability’ and ‘avaliablity’ ranked a very average 21st and 25th position respectively. In the area of ‘quality’, it ranked a lowly 30th. Low teacher-children ratios, weak link with primary school system and lack of parental involvement are all the reasons given for the low 'quality' ranking.

 I could go on and on.. but I shall leave it at these for now..

What mothers need are not extra money.. I'm sure the money can be helpful to defray the high costs of a baby.. but $6,000 cannot possibly cover the cost of delivering and bringing up a baby..

As a new mother, I would rather the government invests in real measures to help young parents, rather than throw money into our pockets to "encourage" us to have more babies.. I would be skeptical of anyone who tells me that an extra $2,000 would be a factor of consideration when deciding if they should have one more child.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Birthday Lunch at Au Petit Salut

It's been a while since The Husband and I have been out for fine dining. For my birthday treat, The Husband selected Au Petit Salut at Dempsey.

The restaurant didn't allow prams indoors, so we were given a seat outdoors. I thought the outdoor sheltered seats were much better though.. especially on a cloudy day like today. Although.. it'd be wise to apply some mosquito repellent if you are prone to mosquito bites. The Husband and Little N were okay.. but I was lunch for the resident mosquitoes of the restaurant.

This place offered pretty good set lunches. I managed to really enjoyed my whole lunch at a leisurely pace. Little N was fairly cooperative. At one point she got a little cranky as she was really tired.. but she managed to take a short nap through our main course and after she woke, she was all friendly through desserts and coffee. 

I started lunch with the home cured smoked trout, which came with beetroot purée and pistachio milk. It was beautifully done and came with some salted salmon roe that balanced everything really well. For my main course, I had the confit duck leg with cauliflower purée and pomegranate relish. The duck confit was probably one of the best I've had in Singapore. It was crispy on the outside yet the meat was so tender. I thought the smooth cauliflower purée went perfectly with the pomegranate relish.

I always loved desserts - for dessert I ordered the chocolate and pear mousse cake with vanilla, whilst The Husband had the dessert of the day - Opera cake with coffee ice-cream. Both were delicious!

To The Husband - thanks for finding this place! It was a most satisfying lunch. This is a restaurant I will no doubt visit again.

Warm crusty bread is a must for any good restaurant

Smoked trout and crispy duck confit

The desserts were lovely.. I do wish the servings were larger though.. haha

Little N's lunch

Here's Little N at almost 5 months

The outdoor seating area was quite comfortable on a cooling day like today

Au Petit Salut
Add: 40C Harding Road
Tel: +65-64751976

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Happy Lunar New Year

It's the year of the Water Snake. Happy Lunar New Year to all!

I've been back at work for just slightly more than a week now. It's good to be back at work.. though there are lots of challenges at work.. and I seem to have even less time than ever. During the day, I have to ensure I spend some time to visit the nursing room.. and I am also trying to rush off work earlier in the evening to be home with Little N before she sleeps.

After having been away from work for almost 5 months, being exposed once again to the full brunt of the rush hour subway human traffic is a rude shock to the system.. and it really brings home the point that has been dominating our local newspaper recently.

Being a new mum, I shudder to think about my child having to grow up in a tiny island with 7 million people in the future that our government is planning for..  I also can understand why so many parents are reluctant to have more children in Singapore.. though that is another post for another day.

Happy Lunar New Year!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Mommy's going back to work

Mommy is going back to work on Monday.. and I have a headache just thinking about it already!

I hope she can cope - balancing between work and spending time with me.. And not to forget about spending time with Daddy as well!