The perks of being a young parent
18 Mar 2019
By Arif Tan
GRAPHIC: NAMITA KUMAR
Over the last two decades, the median age of marriage of both men and women has increased from 28 to 30.3 years old and 25.3 to 28.3 years old respectively, according to a report by the Singapore Department of Statistics in 2017.
Incidentally, during that same period, the total fertility rate in Singapore has been steadily decreasing, reaching a new low of 1.16 in 2017, according to the Manpower Minister Josephine Teo early last year. Experts have attributed this to Singaporeans marrying later in life.
Yet, amid this trend, there still exists a handful who choose to settle down and start a family before the age of 25. I speak from experience – I am a young parent and an undergraduate at NTU – and I see many perks of young parenthood. This experience has improved my discipline and productivity, and has made me more mature.
Nurturing resilience and discipline
The top concern one might have about marrying early and having a child is the huge commitment they must shoulder. Increased care-giving responsibilities can cause significant stress to an individual, a study published by the American Sociological Association in 2008 revealed. Coupling this with the factor of being a student can surely overwhelm some.
But it is exactly these tough circumstances that help to build resilience, which in turn increases maturity. The challenge of marriage can make a young person rise up to the occasion.
When one has to wake up in the middle of the night to attend to a crying baby, one must get used to being deprived of quality sleep. With the baby’s ongoing care needs, one also realises how important it is to make every second in school count. But knowing that these sacrifices are made for a little human being that they love and treasure can give them that added push to voluntarily give up some personal luxuries.
Having to go through all this at an earlier age makes one feel more empowered to face life’s challenges more confidently. In 2015, Bayan Raji, a freelance writer and mother of two, wrote on care.com, a global online portal addressing family care needs, that young parents learn important lessons earlier in life due to their duties towards their child.
Furthermore, being a young parent instills discipline. Before I got married, I could afford to laze around a little. However, such a behaviour is something that I (gladly) can no longer afford as I now have to be accountable to my wife and child. Having them constantly on my mind has pushed me toward a better work ethic.
Consideration and servitude
Being a young parent also means one has to make more calculated and informed decisions. A married person does not decide to do something simply because they want to. Both parties have to seek the opinion of the other and discuss matters openly.
To some, such a life may seem restrictive. But for me, the hours of communication with my wife and going through important milestones in life with her has helped me learn to appreciate views beyond my own and deal with circumstances with more tact. I have grown more considerate and compassionate as a result.
Singaporean journalist Shea Driscoll shared his experience as a young parent in a Straits Times article in May 2017. He mentioned that, even though young parents lose some privileges that a single person may have, that loss is compensated by the satisfaction gained from voluntary servitude to another being (the baby). The simple joys of seeing his son healthy and sound asleep, and seeing him grin, laugh and take his first steps, have given him much happiness. This satisfaction that he has felt is something I can relate to very well.
The often youthful idea of "You Only Live Once", in my view, is not about taking a hedonistic approach to life, but rather to find purpose and direction with every step that we take. This interpretation, I believe, would drive young people to spend their time more meaningfully and in more fulfilling ways.
Nonetheless, not everyone will want to get married at a young age, and that is all right. It is more important that one is mentally and emotionally ready for marriage and parenthood as these are huge responsibilities. Although not a path commonly taken by many, with the right motivation and attitude, early parenthood may prove to be more advantageous than crippling.
Indeed, we need some trailblazers in our society, who are willing to step outside of the traditional path of graduating from university, getting a high-paying job and then getting married and having children. Choosing to take up the challenge of having children while still in university is an example of that.