"Why a Single Income Family?" for Working Mothers with Young Children

Generalization leads to misconceptions. For example, many Singaporeans regard Australians as lazy bums because they don't work long hours or they "knock off early on Fridays and drink by the beach". In this case, the devil is in the details. As companies here are way more flexible in their employment structure and management compared to Singapore, there could be an special work arrangement between company and employee behind their seemingly outrageous benefit of knocking off at 1pm every Friday.


For the benefit of those who don't know what the fuck I was talking about, here is at example:

A worker is employed to work 8 hours everyday. He starts at 7am, entitled to a 30 minutes lunch time and knocks off at 3.30pm everyday. One day he decides to request to work an additional 0.5 hours a day to trade off for a early knock off on Friday. The calculation goes like this.  
0.5 (additional hours a day)  x 4 (Mon-Thurs) = 2 hours. 
2 hours + 0.5 hours (Friday's lunch) = 2.5 hours 
Thus on Friday, the worker is able to knock off at: 3.30pm - 2.5 hours = 1pm. Voila!

Thus: "People in Australia are slack" or "Australia is only a place for retirement, not hard work" But if so, why didn't anyone really stop to debunk our Singaporean misconceptions? We think people really bother about what we think of them. 


At the moment, I know more mothers with young kids who stay at home rather than work. It seems to me this is more than a trend but slowly becoming a renown culture. Again, I noticed there is a common generalization among Singaporeans that in Australia, it is easy for families to survive on a single-income model and bring up, 2, 3 or even 4 kids without any major dramas because of "Australia's pro-family policies". In truth it is not easy at all and definitely not much easier to do that in Singapore.


I do not deny that government policies can be key drivers to population trends and behavior. I know that very well myself, because multiple policies by a certain government drove me out of my country. So I am not playing down on the importance of the pro-family policies which not just support families monetarily (but not as much as you think) but to create an environment where living details are meticulously observed to make it conducive for parents and their children. That is why I believe there is more to it beyond the financial part of the equation.


A typical family in Singapore sees a couple with 1-2 young kids and a live-in maid. If we were to clone this model in Australia, we will find the hiring the maid so expensive that it will literally wipe out the entire salary of one of the parents just to pay her off at the end of the week. So does that makes sense for the mother to stay at home to take care of their children instead? Therefore in such a model where the family income is drastically slashed by roughly 50%, the financial health of families is usually worse off than families in Singapore. 


Coupled with the much higher cost of living (i.e eating out), if a Singaporean family expects to dine out as often as they did in Singapore, they will find it unaffordable. Some shell shocked Singaporeans will find themselves waddling in despair because they could no longer dine regularly or have as many cup of coffees as they wanted chatting with friends in a cafe after work. These debunk another myth that Australia offers you a higher standard of living.


But it really depends on how you define your standard of living. For me, I find having home-cooked food everyday is a luxury I couldn't afford in Singapore even when my mum was willing to cook for me every evening. The problem for me back then was that more often than not, I could only get home to have supper, not dinner.  Raw food prices are considerably affordable in Australia and cost of meals is drastically reduced (compared to eating out) if one is willing to prepare his own meals. The problem for me was that I didn't even have the time, or perhaps energies, to enjoy the process of cooking a meal, caressing my food and rolling my peas about before eating it gently. To me, that is a higher standard of living. To some, that is a nightmare. I am sharing this with Australia migrants wannabes so that you know what you are getting into. My good friend Duchess of the Brook will be happy to share with you the shocking array of household skills she had picked up since her move which practically transformed her life of a "tai-tai" with silky smooth hands to "a maid". If this kind of lifestyle isn't your cup of tea, do not attempt an application.


Alright, so a family with kids and a stay-at-home mother who works like a maid with a family income lesser than one of Singapore's family. So why are people still doing it? (and why people in Singapore are not) I can offer you a few of my observations.


1) Peer pressure

We want to think we are unique people but humans have the herd mentality after all. Just look at your mobile phone on your hands now. The only thing less common about it is probably your phone case. Oops, that fat old guy opposite you in the MRT is using the same case is raising eyebrows at you. Fuck.


2) Support

It can be daunting if you are the only mother in the whole island staying at home but it isn't if a horde of other mothers who are there to offer their kids to play with, a chat when you need it (researches had shown the top mortality cause of human females left alone for prolong periods is the lack of talking, followed by lack of water and food by a distance.), a dash of salt when it ran out "unexpectedly" and even babysitting when you need it most. That explains why I make it a point to visit my good neighbour Angie, who stays at home with her little boy, during working hours whenever I am back in Singapore, just to check if she starts talking to her wall.


3) Mother

Mother and maid starts with the same alphabet but the similarities end there, though some Singaporeans seem to think otherwise. If a maid spends more time with her kids, cook their (and your) meals, clean your home and know where items are kept better than you and everything in the household better than you (hopefully excluding your husband), then what are you? When I told my wife (who started learning cooking only after we came to Perth) her noodles tasted strangely good, reminding me of my mum's noodles and asked her what special new ingredients she put in, she replied with a big smile, "Love."


4) Children

When I was in Singapore a few weeks ago, it saddened me to see children hugging their maids like their mothers and picking up their accent. I am not implying that maids do not deserve love and there is anything wrong with the way they speak. In their earlier growing stages, children are like sponges absorbing everything around them. So when you found out that your kids grow up with a different behavior or a set of morals than you expected, don't blame the teacher in school for not performing because the teachers at home didn't do their jobs for years. Children are not pets. There are special responsibilities that you may have to be prepared to sacrifice your time or money to perform them properly. If you are not willing to sacrifice for your children, they will not sacrifice their time for you when you find yourself too old to work and society no longer wants you. Your boss certainly can't wait to show you his finger by then. On the brighter side, at least your kids will hire a maid to take care of you.


5) Fun

If you do not enjoy spending time with your young children, something really wrong needs to be addressed. Unfortunately, there isn't an option to drag kids into recycle bins yet so you will have to work out something else. Otherwise, why are you resisting the fun?



So what if we cannot afford it?

A dual income family in Singapore is only made possible if there is a carer, such as grandparents or a maid to take care of young children. In many cases, grandparents are not viable options so many families turned their heads towards hiring a maid. That is only made possible because the government made laws to allow the exploitation of this group of people. We often console ourselves that no matter what scraps we pay them, they will be able to "build a castle" when they return home to justify our exploitation. Two wrongs don't make a right. That is why hiring a stay-in maid (with no or minimal annual leave) with on a super suppressed salary is illegal in Australia and is widely perceived as slavery. Our thirst for convenience has blinded and convinced us otherwise.


So how do can families in Singapore cope on a single income? How not to, when everything in Singapore (except for cars, alchohol and milk) is cheaper than Australia when thousands of families in Australia are coping. No, most of the men are not on super-scale salaries, especially after paying tax. It can certainly be done, with a paradigm shift, careful financial planning and ... the willingness to sacrifice (your wants) for your children. Also remember, it is only temporary. Your children will not be young and by your side forever. You'll return to work sooner than you want, once you have tried being a stay-at-home mother.


Before anyone reports me to those fucken no-lifers in AWARE that I advocate turning respectable women to maids, please understand we men work like dogs out there, some under the sun through scorching Summer and biting Winter. The life of a maids, in my humble opinion are relatively better one of a dog. So you will expect SPCA to represent me if AWARE bitches come running at me. Dog vs Dog

11 comments:

  1. It is certainly a different lifestyle and mindset. In the west, blue collared workers/tradesmen earn respectable amount of income and as much as office workers. Having skills to attend to repairs in the house or even renovation is a big plus as it is expensive to hire plumbers or contractors. Hence, many people DIY themselves.

    I eat only home cooked food these days. I even pack food from home when I go to work to save money. I eat out once a week, as a treat. No fancy labels when I shop. This kind of lifestyle is certainly not for everyone. But I am happy as it is less stressful.

    O.S.

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  2. We take turns to fill the cookie jar in our little office department pantry. I have learned to bake stuff including buns, pizza and cookies. And baking is another fun and cheaper way to fill the cookie jar than buying overpriced snacks from the supermarket.

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    1. 1) I put that down not without any basis as I've seen it first hand, being the only guy in a chat group consisting on all females. I will not elaborate much on this as the effects of peer pressure are both subtle, profound, influential yet underestimated. I'd say 80% of our actions and decisions are due to peer pressure in Singapore.

      2) You have to come to Australia and see this for yourself. Maybe you will understand the underlying meaning to the kind of support I was talking about. Women of the characteristics you described in your point 1) would need exactly that kind of support to be a stay-at-home mum because it can be a depressing role to perform - no pay, no leave, and lack of opportunities to feel useful, as you cited.

      If you think Singapore has a pro-family environment and culture in the government sector, come over and have a look. But hold your jaws.

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  4. I think expectations play a part. Everyone in Singapore has more cash in pocket due to low taxes. Hence, many people buy expensive things (branded items, eating out in restaurants, expensive overseas holidays etc). At the same time, some people take out huge loans to buy a car or a condo. This results in both parents needing to work to make sufficient money to cover such a lifestyle. If people are willing to lower their expectations and live more simply. For example, living in a reasonably sized hdb flat instead of a 1 million $ condo. Taking public transportation instead of driving. Eating out less etc. Then I think it's possible to live on 1 person's earning. Of course this depends on the salary the person makes and the number of mouths to feed.

    O.S.

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  5. In general, caucasians dominated countries are more pro family. Asians dominated countries are more subjected to how their rulers want them to live. Basically, the asians do not fight back, protest, rebel etc.

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  6. I have found that food prices have risen astronomically in Singapore in the last five years. Having lived abroad for a decade, I have become used to cooking meals most days - but I recently calculated that we spend around S$1,500 on groceries alone a month to feed my family of five. We try to buy things from NTUC, and only shop at Cold Storage for special items such as Tahini and RIcotta Cheese. I even shop at the local wet market.

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    1. 4 to 5 percent inflation every year. What you expect?
      "The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function." Prices are rising exponentially, buy incomes are rising linearlly. Nuff said.

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  7. It's no longer the case where those who hire maids in SG are the wealthy lah. The working poor -- dual income families -- in this case, feel compelled to hire a maid so as to 'free up' both parents (the mum typically) to enter the work force, even when the additional income from the second parent is only slightly higher than the expenses towards hiring a maid, because every bit of income helps to contribute towards the household.

    And how much lower could expectations go? Three meals a day at hawker centres, food courts or restaurants?

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