Radha Basu wonders if money will make more mummies.
IN a Government survey made public in May, the majority of 6,000 respondents said more incentives such as baby bonus, maternity leave and tax rebates would make them have more children – and have them earlier.
Their prayers have been answered with the Government unveiling details today of its mammoth package to make more mommies.
But will these measures work?
Several voices on the ground - especially female ones - are already grumbling that making babies is not just about money.
Some say they don’t want to give birth to children in the "pressure cooker" atmosphere of Singapore, where an obsession with grades and the drive to always excel has become the motto of many lives.
Others who are educated and ambitious career women say they do not want to sacrifice corporate success at the altar of motherhood.
As a working mum raising two children, I believe that both arguments don't hold much water.
Let’s talk about the stress. Yes, Singapore has an extremely competitive ethos, but how stressful you want your child’s life to be would depend largely on you.
For the first few years at least, parents have far more influence and control over their child’s destiny than an external environment can ever have.
My husband and I agreed early on that we would give our daughters the gift of the same childhood joys that we experienced growing up.
So even today, my 10-year-old spends a couple of hours at the playground every evening, returning home happy and sweaty.
She does her homework and studies for her exams, but barring mother tongue - because she studies a language I don't speak - she has absolutely no tuition.
And the only "enrichment class" she goes for - weekly piano lessons - came about because she insisted she wanted to join.
She is not top of her class - though her grades are fair. But she values her freedom (from tuition), and it’s making her more responsible.
Aware that she could so easily have been marched off to half a dozen fancy tutors and denied sleep in the ceaseless quest for academic success, she is making her own little efforts to maintain her grades.
Last week, before her semestral assessment exams, I gave her a practice worksheet to do.
When I returned from work that night, she handed me not one but two completed papers.
Her grades had slipped the previous term. She said she wanted to make up.
Despite her efforts, I know she does not have much hope of scoring enough to even be among the first 10.
The elite list will be chockful of girls whose evenings are crammed with tuition sessions. But she is happy the way she is - and so am I.
My younger daughter is 21 months - and not yet in pre-school. I have decided to wait at least another month before beginning her "formal education".
By some standards, she is already quite late: I know nine-month-olds who attend three different kinds of classes. But as a mother, I can control how "stressful" I want my kids lives to be.
It’s harder to argue with the notion that having babies will harm a woman’s career. There will always be some collateral damage. Indeed, in Singapore like in most parts of the world, the upper rungs of the corporate and Government ladder are still dominated by men.
In cultures where productivity and merit are still largely weighed by how much time people spend at the office, some women may decide to curtail work time - and their ambitions.
And even as more companies open up to the prospect of flexi-time and weighing an employee’s worth by her productivity and drive rather than her investment of time, many working mothers may be disinclined to keep up with the frenetic race to the top.
Time, after all, is finite, and bringing up children would be a far bigger priority for them than chasing career dreams.
But most mothers I know do not see this as, well, sacrifice.
That’s because as their children grow, they realise anew every day that sharing love, moulding minds and making memories together are far more precious than anything money - or a career - can buy.