Your Job – The Ultimate Contraceptive

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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Honestly Speaking

Dear Xander,

When I was 11, through peer influence, I developed a kleptomanic streak (that means I used to steal stuff, and it became a habit). I only stole one thing in particular, though: back in my day, the large Emporium Holdings (similar to modern-day Isetan or Metro) had a display stand carrying brightly coloured button badges with rubber paint-penned slogans written on them. And I thought I was pretty good at it, too. My conquests, which grew to a good 30-40 button badges, were pinned on my schoolbag for all to see.

But I was caught eventually at my neighbourhood department store, and my dad had to come bail me out from the department store security room. What ensued was the hardest scolding I have ever received from my father, followed by an hour-long belting session that freaked out the entire household.

My mother made me kneel in front of our Buddhist altar – and the entire family – and made me swear never to steal again, never to commit any act of dishonesty, and never to lie to anyone again.

Since then, even if I wanted to, I could never lie. For the longest time, I thought it was because my mother’s altar really was a very effective telephone service to the gods it represented, and the higher powers made it a point to rid me of my bad character. It wasn’t until very recently that I realized it was because of something else altogether.

The day that I was caught stealing, the moment I got into the car and was getting the reprimand of my life, was the day I saw my father – your grandfather – cry for the very first time. And nothing hurt more than to see my father’s disappointment in raising a dishonest son.

Your father isn’t perfect; you probably already know that. And your father isn’t expecting you to be perfect, either; this you should know. But your dad does expect you to grow up to be an honest, upright man.

Don’t ever be what I was when I was 11.

Love,

Dad

Chasing Dreams is Hard Work

Dear Xander,

It’s been a month and a half since I switched careers to become a writer. You might have noticed it isn’t the easier of transitions; for one, I haven’t written to you or a while. Sorry about that.

I took this enormous leap of faith knowing it will be an entirely new experience, but knowing it and actually experiencing it seems to be two completely different animals. There are moments where I feel like I’m very much on top of things, as a vocal contributor to the company I’m working for and a suitably experienced parent (I am, after all, hired to be a parenting writer). Then there are moments where I feel like I’m in way over my head, wondering what I’m doing and whether I made the right decision.

And then, there are moments when I simply can’t write.

It isn’t writer’s block. It isn’t for lack of inspiration. It may have to do with time management, or a management of expectations from colleagues or bosses, or a lapse of confidence. I don’t know.

I will usually have some sort of takeaway for you, a moral of the story for you to chew and reflect on. Right now, though, I have no answers, not even for myself.

I’m writing this to you because I’m hoping one day, you can read about what I’m going through at this point in my life, and you can give me that answer. Hopefully by then, you’ll have grown into a better man than me.

Hopefully by then, this job would not have killed me yet.

Love,

Dad