Speech by Mr. Louis Ng Kok Kwang, MP for Nee Soon GRC at the Second Reading of the Child Development Co-Savings (Amendment No. 2) Bill [Bill No. 33/2016].
Madam, I stand in full support of this Bill, which is essentially about the most finite part of our relationship with our children. It is about the time we have with them, the time we spend with them.
I fully and wholeheartedly applaud the Ministry of Social and Family Development for the amendments they are proposing and for levelling the playing field for fathers, for adoptive parents and for single unwed parents. These amendments move us one huge step forward towards becoming a more inclusive society.
Parenthood has been one of the greatest joys in my life, and it remains close to my heart to see that every parent in Singapore is able to watch their child speak their first words, walk their first steps, and hold their hand every step of the way.
Ample research has shown that the bonds forged between parent and child in the earliest stage of his/her development is a one-time opportunity. Once this window closes, it closes forever.
Thus, Madam, during my term as an MP, this remains one of my highest priorities: contributing my thoughts and suggestions about parenthood.
Ensuring fathers take their paternity leave
With regard to this Bill, firstly, I firmly support the additional week of mandated Government-Paid Paternity Leave, and the increment of Shared Parental Leave eligible to fathers. These changes send a strong signal on the government’s resolve to put family first.
Minister Tan had previously stated that in 2013, about 28% of fathers took up the Government-Paid Paternity Leave; in 2014, it was about 36%. Can the Minister share what the percentages are for 2015 and 2016 and also what steps the Ministry will be taking to increase the percentage of fathers taking the paternity leaves?
Ensuring adoptive parents have time with their children
Secondly, I applaud the Ministry for a radical shift in the support given to adoptive parents. This is reflective of a government policy, which keeps up with the times, as adoption becomes more common.
While I applaud these changes, I would like to ask the Minister why adoptive parents are not given the same benefits as birth parents.
Why does adoption leave only apply to children under 12 months? Why do adoptive mothers who qualify for leave still get only 12 weeks of maternity leave compared to the full 18 weeks?
I understand that adoptive mothers do not require extra time to recuperate after childbirth, but it is still important to note that adoptive mothers – like birth mothers – require time to bond with their babies.
Could we further consider the age of the child to determine the length of parental leave accorded to adoptive parents, and consider giving adoptive mothers the full 18 weeks of maternity leave if they have adopted a newborn baby or a baby under a certain age?
Levelling the playing field for unwed parents
Thirdly, I have met many unwed parents. I hear about the struggles they face and the risks they are exposed to. By introducing these changes, we are levelling the playing field for children born to unwed parents and reducing the disadvantages they face from birth.
However, I hope we can do more and completely level this playing field for them.
I wish I had or I’m glad I did
Lastly, Madam I spoke at the Second Reading of the Child Development Co-Savings (Amendment) Bill in May this year and I spoke about my wish to have the power to turn back time.
In that speech, I said “As much as I try to live a life without regret, there will always be regrets and always a wish that we could have done things better, always a wish that we could have spent more time with our loved one.
Time spent with our children is precious and should be cherished and the memories created will last forever and are priceless.
We can’t buy time and we can’t turn back time. We can’t get the hours, the minutes and the seconds lost. But we can every day treasure and value the time we have with our children and our loved ones.”
I didn’t mention this earlier but when I wrote that, I wrote it thinking about my late father who passed away last year and whom I miss dearly.
He worked very hard and he didn’t work for himself or purely for money. He never wore branded clothes and never liked expensive things. He worked hard for his family, his company and his staff members. But he didn’t have much time for family and he passed on before he retired and before he was about to have more time for family, especially his grandchildren.
There is a quote, which reads, “Spend time with those you love. One of these days you will say either “I wish I had,” or “I’m glad I did.” With my father, I’m sure his reply is “I wish I had” and with him “I wish I had” too but I know I can’t turn back time and will have to live with that regret.
But with my children, I will make sure the reply is “I’m glad I did” and I hope everyone will ask themselves this same question as they start their parenthood journey and even those already on this journey.
I mentioned in my previous speech that this journey has changed me and it continues to. My daughter still is the most stubborn person in my family, she still says “no” all the time, actually that has changed as it is now more “NOs”. She says about five NOs at a go to be exact “no no no no no”. Well, it sounds much cuter when she says it.
But she has also learnt other words and her favourite words are now “Daddy what is this” or “Daddy what is that”. I swear to you that she says this even in her sleep. Everyday is like an exam now but thankfully for us parents these days, there is something called Google.
Madam, I hope members enjoy the stories I tell about my daughter and my parenthood journey because there are going to be more stories, as my daughter will now graduate to become a big sister.
I’m happy to announce that we are expecting our second child. And there was a one-for-one offer and so I’m happy to announce that we are also expecting our third child. We are having twins.
Just saying twins makes me feel tired already. But we are both excited, extremely excited about our two little girls and I can’t wait to welcome them to this world and spend time with them. I have to say though that this factory is closed after these two babies.
On a more serious note, I’m grateful for the amendments in this Bill especially as a father as it gives us more time to spend with our children. I’m grateful that this sends a strong signal about the importance of spending time with our children.
I’m hopeful that in the future when we are asked about the time we spent with our children, all of us will reply, “I’m glad I did”.
Madam, let me end with a beautiful quote from Jen Hatmaker, it reads:
“You will never have this day with your children again.
Tomorrow they will be a little bigger then they are today.
This day is a gift.
Breathe and notice.
Smell and touch them.
Study their faces and little feet and pay attention.
Relish the charms of the present.
It will be over before you know it.”
Madam, I wholeheartedly support this Bill.