How many children do you want?

I was having lunch with some friends when one of them asked everyone, "How many children do you want to have?"

Everyone, including those who are single/unattached and older than me, had a number in mind - with 2 or 3 being the common answers. The number that I had was a little different - I answered, "Step 1: Find a donor."

How do people know how many children they would like to have without even first having a partner?

I think the urge to have children is mainly biological but also influenced by society.

It is natural for all living things to want to reproduce - to pass on my DNA with one or more offsprings. I'm also very curious to find out whether my offsprings would be of great beauty and/or intelligence. Chances of that would be higher if I am fertilized with seeds of superior quality (I know even this is not a guarantee). It's a nice idea to see a mini-me grow up to (hopefully) be someone I'm proud of, and I whisper to a stranger beside me, "That's my girl!" like I've seen on TV. The "idea", is implanted into my mind by social conditioning.

Many years ago when the Singapore government was trying to limit population growth with the motto "Stop at 2", you hardly see pictures of celebrities or anyone famous in the media. Women were supposed to hide themselves and their children because people really didn't like seeing pregnant women and were even less interested in their babies and children. The photograph of the nude and very pregnant Demi Moore on the cover of a magazine and the display of any pregnant woman's belly in public was thought to be disgusting. Couples, especially Catholics and Malays, who tend to have more than 3 children attracted sniggers. (I am not debating whether the government was right or wrong in introducing the "stop at two" campaign.)

Now, developed countries are facing labour shortage and need to increase their population. Curiously, whenever a well-known woman is pregnant, the media publicizes every stage of the pregnancy, and photographs of the babies can even be worth millions (Photos of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's twins were reportedly sold for US$11 million). And when people see pregnant women baring their bellies at the beach or pool, nobody gives them the disgusted look.

I asked some of my friends, "Why do you want to have children?" The 5 most common answers I received were:
1. I love children.
2. It makes the family complete / draws the couple closer.
3. Raising children is a fulfilling experience.
4. So that someone will take care of me when I'm old and I won't be lonely.
5. It is weird not to have any after being married.
(Not counted: 6. Accident!)

The first 4 reasons sound selfish to me. The children are used to fulfill personal needs. But I'm not going to judge whether it's right or wrong to think that way becausenobody gives something for nothing. It, after all, is not easy to raise children.

#4 sounds unrealistic. Having children is not a guarantee or an investment for one's old age. A better guarantee would be to save/invest your money and buy yourself a bed/room in a nursing home, tell them that you are making the home the beneficiary in your will and I assure you that you will be well taken care of and won't be lonely.

As for #5, many married couples who are married will be constantly asked the question by their parents, relatives and friends, "When are you having children?" until they have one. Then the next question comes, "When's the next one coming?" Some couples get so irritated that they choose to skip family gatherings. "We don't want to have children" or "we don't want any more children" seems to be unacceptable responses because it will always be followed by "why not?" and a long explanation from the couple. So some couples lie that they are trying but have not been successful when they in fact have no intention to have any children. When people see that a couple has been married for many years and have no children, they assume that the man has low sperm count or the woman is barren.

People should really ask themselves why they want to have children. Especially when so many of them leave their children to be taken care of by maids or babysitted by the TV, do not discipline their children and are bad examples to their children, e.g. spousal abuse or extramarital affairs (children are young but they are not stupid!).

Yes, we have a labour shortage in Singapore. But I'd rather live in a world with fewer but more caring/capable people because 10 poorly disciplined people can hardly do the job of 1 disciplined person.

Related post:
[Making babies with the dead]


Anonymous said...

Reading this article, I thought about my situation 16 years ago.

We had no kids yet. I think it must have been fate because all of a sudden, we long for a kid to fuss with; y'know - put em to sleep in a dreamy cot, bring him/her to Australia on holidays.

Life was kinda fun then.

True enough, we watched in amazement as my wife's belly swelled. We were so tickled by the baby kicks, hearing her heartbeat, etc. Choosing her name was an ernomous task but we settled on the name of a spice - Cinnamon.

Labour was hard on the wife though. But the day she arrive, boy oh boy - that was the happiest day of my life!

Eyes wide open, bright and angry, she was so sweet and adorable. She gave very energetic yawns and smiles.

And scared me witless when she could not pass motion.

Every moment I had, I held her near. Every moment I had, I kiss her dear.
Every moment I had, I smile at her.
And every moment I had, I love her dear.

2 weeks old, and we let her out to see the crowds at the malls. I spent a lot of time at the kids shops, dolling her up in Dior, Jacadi, etc. Her milk powder, hot water thermos and diapers were in a backback for a full day's journey. She slept, burp, smiled sweetly, all nestle between my arms and shoulders.

At home, we bathed her, dry her more carefully than rice tissues, played with her, sang to her, and rocked her to sleep (in my arms).

When she grew bigger and a brother came along, we played the 'Happy Wanderer' song where she would ride me (I'm the horse). She would shrick when the horse had to run away from the lion, jump over an imaginary river, slow to a snail pace (exhausted horse!). And after that, we had the pleasure of watching her sucked the 8 oz. of milk and cooing her back to dream land again!

Nothing is more beautiful than a sleeping baby.

Now she is 16, a stressed up teenager, demanding, rebellious; and my wife and I are left wondering - when did the magic of this adorable baby left?

You dont want to miss it for anything in this world !!!!!!

Best wishes, Leo

Anonymous said...


Congratulations! Your little girl is now 16 and your young man will soon follow.

Things will get a little more "interesting" from now on!

The next time you say "You dont want to miss it for anything in this world !!!!!!" will be when they are married off! (David,..I say "married" not "cohabit" ok? lol)

Till then, you will be tearing your hair out. lol

But that's the magic of having your own blood, sweat and tears!

curious cat

Yu-Kym said...

Good luck Leo :P