How much is a suitable amount to pay your parents for taking caring of their grandchildren? Does not paying them make you "ungrateful." We discuss the key issues surrounding this sensitive topic.
Lisa is, by all parameters, a successful woman.
She is a marketing executive working with a well established MNC in Singapore and her disposable income is in the range of $3500 per month. She is married to an equally successful man - with their combined income they can easily afford a domestic helper to take care of household chores.
But she's heard of horror stories about some helpers' interactions with children. Lisa can't bear to leave her toddler and six month old in the care of a stranger she does not know and does not trust.
Her solution: Rope in aged parents to become caregivers to the children.
Now she has peace of mind while she works. Her parents supervise the wellbeing of her children, while the helper deals with physically demanding tasks that accompany the caregiving.
Seems ideal right?
Not really, scratch the surface and you begin to see that there are tensions around the issue of should she financially compensate her parents for their time, and as a cost of missed opportunity. After all, if they were not looking after her child, they could be doing something else with their time.
But with hefty car and house mortgages, the helper's salary, the children's education and the never-ending list of monthly debts, the issue of paying her parents has become a highly stressful one.
Does Lisa's story sound familiar?
No easy answers
With an increased cost of living, necessity for a double income and fear of child abuse leaves most new mummies in Singapore with limited options for infant care: hire a domestic help or enlisting the help of either sets of parents. Wary of potential child abuse at the hands of their helpers, even families who hire domestic help rope in their parents to keep a watchful eye on their interactions.
This trend is not without consequences. The questions that young couples ask themselves and others are:
Should we pay our parents a "salary" for caring for their grandchildren? And if so, what is an appropriate amount? What happens if we can't? Are we ingrates? Do we deserve the label of being unfilial?
It's a favour not an obligation
Most Singaporeans are of the view that retirees should be allowed to do whatever they want with their time and resources. After all they have spent a lifetime working hard and taking care of their own children. They believe that their parents are under no moral compunction to take care of their children.
Diyanah, a 28 year old teacher points out that it is after all, our choice to have children, and therefore they are our responsibility - "Any help they [her parents] give is out of goodwill and should not be expected." For their efforts and time sacrificed, the general consensus seems to be that a sum of money to compensate them is a foregone conclusion.
While many believe that the effort and love in bringing up your own flesh and blood is not something that can be measured by money, it is also true that a sum to acknowledge the grandparents' contribution is a must whatever you may call it -- a payment, a salary, a compensation, a token.
Many young Singaporeans see this sum of money more as a recognition of the older folks contribution and to express their appreciation.
It is not entirely a surprise that some grandparents even put aside their "salary" for their children’s use in case of a financial emergency.
As Josephine, a grandmother of 2 puts it : "Both my children give me money, but I put aside most for them in case of a rainy day. You know kids these days don't know how to save. But, of course, I will use some when I go overseas. Old already must enjoy a bit what!"
Furthermore, many Singaporeans reason that if they would and should foot the bill for external help, similarly, they should not take their parents’ help for granted. Mr Tan Eng Chee, a 35 year old engineer and father of a 5 year old toddler points out "If you pay outsiders, why wouldn't you pay your parents for the same job - done better?"
But what if you can't afford to pay your parents? Click on next page to read about the importance of an honest conversation about hiring grandparents to take care of kids.