I sat on the “National Conversation” for quite a while without commenting, particularly when it came to our terrible fertility rate. I know a number of fellow blogfathers who have jumped in on the discussion already (namely, Sengkang Babies, J Babies’ Dad and Daddy Nivlek); I was also knee-deep in covering the opinion of various organisations (the Lien Foundation’s survey and NTUC’s not-so-well-thought-out recommendations, as well as dissecting the PAP Women’s Wing recommendations in light of the PM’s National Day Rally Speech). For us parents-at-large, vibrant discussions such as this is indeed a very welcome thing.
But I kept largely quiet about the whole issue here because something was missing from all the debate. Something I wanted to get to the root of, not only for the purpose of including my opinion to the already opinionated fracas, but for myself and my family as well.
My wife and I have been trying for No. 2 for almost a year. Evidently it hasn’t been easy to schedule some alone time, what with the kid and the recent changes in my life, but as I settled into my new job, something else unsettling grew in its stead, something I never realized until now.
I seem to have lost my mojo.
For a while, I thought it may just be temporary; I got my dream job, my wife and I are having the most wonderful time of our marriage together, and my son was growing up to be a beautiful chirpy little man. I should be in the mood for multiplying like rabbits every other night, but no. Then one night (the same night I’m writing this, in fact), I went on a cycling trip to ask myself why this was so, and this is what I came up with.
It was work. It always has been. This has nothing to do with parental leave of any sort, nothing really to do with money or paying the bills, nor of my son’s future in the Singapore education system. I mean, strictly to the very points mentioned (taking time off for family, money and preschool fees), do any of these really keep a guy from wanting to do the do? (Ladies, shush. This is a blog for dads, you know, that half of the species that’s supposed to be perpetually horny.)
But as I come to this realization for myself, I realise work stress does keep guys from getting frisky. Male executives will worry about keeping their deliverables delivered on schedule, male managers will worry about keeping their projects on track, male directors will worry about keeping their KPIs on target, so much so we don’t have the time nor mood for an erection. And if you were to compare genders, the men really can’t deal with juggling work and our sex life as well as our female counterparts can. We suck multi-tasking.
And really, isn’t that what is really wrong with our fertility rate? I know back in my parents’ day, my dad worked non-stop, never earned much, put his children through university with god-knows-what money, and still found time to have 5 children. So what’s changed over the last 40-50 years in our country that is making us argue that longer paternity leave, lower school fees and more work-life balance is required?
I might have an answer to that, and it points squarely at a legendary Singaporean 80’s icon: Teamy the Productivity Bee. Back in 1982, Teamy was conceived as part of the government’s effort to instill and drive the population into a high-achieving workforce, and the economy that would turn this nation into a first-world country. Teamy did his job too well; KPIs are now part of our culture. Singapore is ranked the 3rd most competitive country in the world, top easiest country to do business in and 186th in fertility rate out of a list of 195 countries by the United Nations.
Feel free to facepalm right about now.
You know what’s the worst thing about all this? Just about everyone is looking to the government for answers, but what’s really confounding to me is, why isn’t anyone asking the businesses, companies and enterprises to just stop bugging us with their bloody productivity standards and just let us procreate already?
I know this whole fertility rate issue isn’t just about one problem, and I may well be oversimplifying the whole issue, but I do acknowledge this is a viable talking point for dads especially, and it has become a very major point of contention for me. If this blog post has got you thinking a little deeper about what’s really up with our collective mojo, let me know if you’re facing similar issues with doing your so-called “National Service”.
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