It's about time! Equal maternity leave for unwed SG mums

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Babies do not choose the circumstances under which they are born. Singapore has ensured that the marital status of the parents would not affect the mum-baby bonding time in the early days.

2016 has been a confusing year. It has become difficult to see if the human race is progressing or going back in time. Taiwan is opening up to legitimising same-sex marriages. On the other hand, the Trump victory based on hate and paranoia attests to the latter. Singapore, however, has taken a step that is both prudent and progressive.

In April 2016, the Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin announced an amendment to the current rules governing the maternity leave. It will benefit mums-to-be who are not married by extending the maternity leave to a full 16 weeks of paid leave, like their married counterparts. This should take effect sometime in early 2017.

Earlier, this was limited to 8 weeks of paid leave and 4 weeks of leave without pay. This meant a tremendous physical as well as emotional strain on the mother. The early weeks are very important for the development of the child. Asking the mother to go back to work just because she is not married is a regressive thing to do at the very least.

The amendment in the law now ensures that the baby will not lose out on the vital presence of the mother, just because of her marital status. Not only this, the baby will also be entitled to the Child Development Account. The government matched the savings in the CDA account dollar for a dollar, up to a certain extent. This can be used for health and education of the child.

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This is a progressive step towards accepting the changing dynamics of relationships, not to mention a more broadened outlook towards the world as a whole. I understand that a few (or many) of the readers would think that this might disturb the cultural fabric of the nation, but to answer you, think of the role of the child in his/her own birth.

Why this makes me happy as a married dad

As the report goes, the number of women who give birth to children out of wedlock here is not much. And yet, when all the MPs stand for this cause, it assures me that Singapore has successfully resisted regressive myopia. When the world is in chaos regarding religion, race, nationality, Singapore chooses to take a progressive step.

As a married man with a child, this does not concern me directly. But then I think of my child’s future. I think about his school and school-mates. I fully understand the impact they would have on his upbringing. I think about the opinions he would hear growing up, read the ‘letters to the editor’ while travelling in the MRT. All these things are going to shape the way he is going to think.

And, I want him to grow up with an open mind. Yes, there are mothers who are not married. There are children who never had fathers. But then, there are fathers as well who are not married. There are fathers as well who do not/cannot offer their names to their own offsprings. And this does not change the type of people they are. If my kid understands this, accepts them as equals in the society and work with them for the betterment of the community, I will be a happy father.

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Friendships have a lasting impact on children

And this is only possible if the leaders of today and tomorrow choose to lead with an open mind. As the MP, Tan Chuan-Jin told Parliament, “Our children will not be babies forever” we see a move towards an acceptance of every child into the society, irrespective of the choices of his parents. It is the actions we take now that decides where we go from here. At such pivotal junctions, the past does not matter if we make wrong choices.

Needless to say, this progressive amendment will help those mums bond better with the babies without having to worry about going back to work sooner.

Also read: LTA to make travelling in Singapore more ‘breastfeeding friendly’

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