Profoundly Selfish or Profoundly Selfless
While motherhood is undoubtedly a selfless and beautiful vocation, have recent cultural shifts begun an inversion of our priorities and values, diminishing maternal altruism?
When the availability of empowerment options, narratives around choice, and the promulgation of rights-thinking are constantly advanced, are children increasingly being re-cast as objects to fulfil adult desires rather than being the true centrepiece of the whole enterprise?
Has the availability of choice subverted the social order that traditionally puts the needs of children above the aspirations of adults, and are we inadvertently putting our interests before theirs, asking them to shoulder the relational costs of intentionally delayed pregnancies?
Some may say, “it is maternally instinctive and right to want the best for one’s baby, in terms of giving the child a responsible father.” Absolutely. But it is also important to understand what a good man is and how we might encourage more young men to be good fathers. (We’ll discuss this more in part 2 as well.)
Some may reasonably argue that wanting to first complete their education, have financial security, and have good housing before taking on the responsibility of parenthood is not selfish but rather a consideration made in the best interest of their future children. Framed like this, it is in fact a self-sacrificial act to defer pregnancy in one’s most fertile and optimal years so the child can be given their “best possible life.” Apart from the subtle implication that couples who have children earlier and with fewer means aren’t giving their children “the best life,” this seems like a well-intentioned choice at the very least. But this raises a couple of questions:
1. “Best possible life” according to whom? Aren’t the best lives found in the joy and closeness of family ties regardless of financial ability? Do we unwittingly project “our best lives” onto our children by trying to be the fully-prepared parents they never asked for?
2. Do money and homes ultimately buy happiness and a great life, or are there other ways to provide for one’s children in relative modesty?
While EEF is a triumph of female empowerment, it is the role of good policy to also take into account the silent stakeholders, children. Has our culture so elevated adult choice, self-actualisation, and personal freedoms to the point that we have demoted our responsibilities to the next generation? How else have we seen, and can we expect to see this trend of adult desires taking precedence over the rights of children play out in the culture?
In part two of our analysis on EEF, Regardless will look at how the upcoming policy shift is at best therapeutic, and at worst, subversive of national efforts, even having the potential to exacerbate the problems we currently wrestle with as a nation. What does the root system of this social problem look like, and what can be done to address the problem of Singapore’s fertility crisis in a more meaningful way?