As I approach my late 20s, I have been starting to think about when would be the best age to have a baby. Or, whether I even wanted to have children in the first place.
I guess this is a question that many young adults think about after getting married i.e. is it better to have kids when you’re younger or older? What are the factors for consideration?
Having collated several perspectives and information after asking my family members and colleagues, I decided to compile some of the key points into a blog post.
For some women, they are motivated to have children earlier as they would like to lose weight quickly and become a ‘hot mum’ like Sonya D Sanchez (picture above). For others, they are worried about losing the freedom to travel and do whatever they like. No matter what, there are often so many factors involved and it isn’t usually as straightforward as one would like it to be.
I hope that by presenting the factors you may wish to think about, it can help you to better understand what would be the best time and age for you. Please note that my answers are based on Singapore’s context and for the average Generation Y PME like myself. It may not apply to every single person.
The key assumptions in my argument below is that older parents would have more savings and a higher income.
1) When you’re older, you often can provide better foundation for your children
As a parent, I believe many of us would want to give the best education and opportunities to our children. However, without money in Singapore, it is difficult for one to do so.
Some argue that if they are older, they would be better equipped to provide more for their children. After all, they’d likely be drawing a higher pay cheque or having more savings which they can use to invest in their child’s future.
They do have a point. Our Singapore education system seems to favours the wealthy. As Associate Professor and Head of Sociology at Nanyang Technological University, Teo You Yenn, observes:
“Class background, which buys tuition and enrichment programmes outside school, increasingly aligns with how one performs in school”
For instance, if you’re living in a wealthy neighbourhood, you have a greater chance of sending your children to top primary schools such as Nanyang Primary School (Bukit Timah), ACS primary (Newton), SCGS (Stevens) and Tao Nan (Marine Parade).
You can also afford to give your child a skill in sports or musical instrument such as violin, fencing so that they can enter top schools of their choice via Direct School Admission (DSA).
DSA grooming can be an expensive affair with sports coaches being able to charge up to $300 per hour for an individual coaching session. As MP Denise Phua highlighted DSA benefits children who have more resources from a young age.
On top of that, you can also afford private tuition for your children. As students in Singapore are graded on a bell-curve system, those with a private tuition have a clear advantage as they have more resources to help them get a leg up over their peers.
Just imagine, if you’re a young mum and have a primary 1 child. Your child just went to a regular heartland kindergarten to prepare for primary one. When he enters primary one, you realize that the rest of his classmates have parents who are older, much more established in their careers and who earn twice as much as you. Their kids went to a much better kindergarten, had math and mandarin tuition as well as enrichment lessons even before entering primary one. With our bell curve system, isn’t it like sending your level 5 Ratata to fight Gyarados?
Recently, there have been several great recommendations to resolve the inequality in opportunity in our Singapore education system. Some ideas include having a more egalitarian spread of rewards of going to an elite vs neighbourhood recommendation and decisive structural moves away from the current high level of sorting and differentiation.
However, until that happens, it is important to take into consideration the financial aspect when deciding when to have children.
2) When you’re older, you can better manage the expenses
As Millennials, we’re part of the the new sandwiched generation who would have to be caregivers for both their children and parents at the same time.
Let’s say if you’re a typical Singaporean who goes through the BTO, wedding , renovation and settling into your new house. As you’re middle income, you did not receive parental support for any of these.
With just wedding, renovations, down payment for house and repaying your study loans, you would have spent close to $100k.
It would take a while to build your savings to afford the cost of having a baby . Bear in the mind that baby bonus for your first child is at $8,000.
Do remember that while spending on life milestones are important, one also needs to start saving young so that we’d be able to retire in Singapore due to high cost of living.
If you have children later in life, you would be able to dedicate more resources to saving and investing while you’re young. This can work out to a lot as the years go on due to compound interest.
Another benefit is that you would have more savings and it would be less stressful and taxing to pay for all the above items at the same time.
However, there is also the perspective that the younger you have children, the earlier you can retire.
For instance, if you have your last child when you’re 30 and they graduate from university when they are 23, if you have enough savings you can probably retire at 53!
At the end of the day, it really depends on how much you’re earning and how well you can manage your personal finances too.
3) When you have children at an older age, you’re often in a better place in your career
When you’re older, you’re more likely to have climbed up the ranks in your career. This could work both ways for you.
Being of a higher rank sometimes give you more privileges.
For instance, instead of asking someone for permission, you could give yourself permission to work from home, come in later or end work earlier on selected days.
In many companies I’ve encountered, middle and junior level staff often do not have the same privilege.
However, it could also work the other way. When you’re of a more senior level, you could have much more important responsibilities at the workplace.
In that case, it would be harder for you to take time off or your work life balance may not be as good as the rank and file staff who simply tune out after 6PM daily.
I guess a lot of this really depends on the company you work for. Few companies so far are offering these to their workers. You can identify them via platforms like Glassdoor which shares insider information about a company culture and her benefits before joining.
There has been some suggestions made to improve work-life balance in Singapore. For instance, The Workers’ Party has called for a fair regulation of mandatory flexi-work arrangements, where companies should be obliged to cater for a work-life friendly environment for workers.
Employees who work for a company with more than 20 employees for more than 6 months should be allowed to make requests for flexible working arrangements. Employers can refuse the request on reasonable business grounds, but must discuss the options available with the employee.
The discussion must be duly documented, and employees may appeal the refusal if there is a dispute over the grounds for refusing a request.
Tax breaks and enhanced Work-Life Grants should be made widely available to help companies accommodate the flexi-work arrangements relevant to their respective industries.
4) The earlier you have children, the younger your grandparents
In Singapore, it is common to see grandparents helping to take care of grandchildren regularly. Statistics show that one in three people over the age of 55 look after grandchildren on a regular basis. One in four households with children under the age of 12 rely on grandparents as the main caregiver (Health Promotion Board, 2013).
If you’re one of those who feel that you may require your parents help with caring for your children, then the age you give birth might be a main consideration.
After all, the earlier you have children, the younger your grandparents will be. This would give them more energy and better health to take care of them.
I myself was brought up by my grandparents and there are certainly many benefits of grandparents caring for children. The way grandparents interact with children is different as they may be less burdened with the daily grind of work. This is especially beneficial for younger children as they are provided with the affection and attention they might not be able to obtain from parents who are time-stretched or otherwise constrained for various reasons.
It often means your parents and even grandparents will be around longer to create more memories with your babies.
However, I also understand that some may not feel the same as they may worry about conflicts due to different parenting styles.
5) Freedom and time to do what you want
I personally really enjoyed my university life and 20s as I’ve managed to accumulate many positive experiences such as an overseas internship, buying my first HDB and joining a pageant to promote my campaign to help the elderly.
I feel that this is probably the best time of my life where I have a reasonable amount of disposable income and also tons of freedom to do what I want.
I know that with children, things would be different. I can no longer travel as freely as I want to and would have to bring them along if no one takes care of them. I may have less time to dedicate to other important things in my life.
Time is the most precious thing in the world. Once it has past you never get it back. If you do decide to have children early, I would encourage you to travel and do all the things you want to do first before having children.
After studying the various factors, I came to a conclusion there is no single best age or time to have a baby. It differs from person to person.
As of now, the median age of first birth for Singaporean mums stand at 30.3 years old. However, the idea of best age or time really depends on an individual’s goals and their life circumstances.
There are no straight forward answers but these are just some important factors to think about.
Of course, there are also other factors such as energy level and fertility issues / health risks for the mother and baby which I did not cover in this article as it has been repeated many times.
Do you have any other factors that you feel young adults should consider? Please do share them in the comments below.