Since the last time we went to Petit Bowl, we've been back there twice to get more frozen meals - to help tide over this period where I'm training the new helper and in preparation for the Lunar New Year. I must say this cafe is really a god-send and I wish there are more such truly family-oriented businesses in Singapore.
Even as the government scratched their heads for ideas to coax and entice Singaporeans to procreate, I strongly feel that giving monetary rewards is not the only way to go.
What else then?
For me, I am definitely looking forward to having more services that can help families cope with the care of our littles ones - from caregiving related services such as infant-care centres, childcare centres and babysitters, to something less critical, though not any less important, like Petit Bowl that takes care of the dietary needs and make the parenting process an easier one for first-time parents. In the case of Petit Bowl, it's a great service for parents who are too busy to cook, have run out of ideas of what to cook or are just not good cooks - like myself!
I feel that the government should do more to encourage the growth of businesses that are geared towards serving the families. If there are more support and services available to help parents cope with the responsibilities and tasks of looking after their children, then I believe more people will be willing to have kids.
Consider this - the extended family is shrinking in size. This means that young parents are getting lesser help and social support from their family members and relatives. It is also getting more common that many grandparents these days are not keen to help take care of their grandchildren, either because they are working, or they hope to spend their golden years pursuing their hobbies and interests or spending more time with friends. After all, they have slogged for decades to bring up their children, isn't it time they enjoy life? And looking after a newborn is no easy task, I shudder at the thought of going through the cycle again, what more them, when they are already in their 50s, 60s or even 70s?
As a result, more young families are depending on maids to look after their offsprings. But we are now facing a maid crunch and to make matter worse, their salaries are rising (17 major maid agencies have recently announced that the monthly salary for Indonesian helpers will be raised to $450), thus having a maid may no longer be a viable option for some.
So what's the alternative? Infant-care? However, from what I understand, places in infant-care centres are limited, and often, there are long waiting lists in some of the centres. With limited social support and the lack of services, it's little wonder that many Singaporeans are not keen to have children or to simply stop at one.
So even as the issue of declining fertility rate is being debated here (it's fallen to all time low of 1.16 for 2010), I would love to see what the government will come up with the encourage Singaporeans to give birth.
Back to Petit Bowl - it's been nominated for the 'We Welcome Families' Award by the Businesses for Families Council and they asked me if I'd like to vote for them. Needless to say, they've got my vote!