The Singapore family raising 7 kids on under S$3000 a month
It's tough, but they wouldn't change a thing, they say.
We often grumble about the costs involved in raising one or two children. Let’s pause a moment and think, what would it be like raising seven kids? Food, clothes, education, tuition: the accumulated cost would be phenomenal, right?
However, one Singaporean family is teaching us that you don’t have to spend thousands and thousands of dollars to raise a large family right.
In a beautiful story featured on Channel NewsAsia’s “On The Red Dot”, we are introduced to the Hengs.
The Hengs are one of Singapore’s rare large families –in a time when family sizes have shrunk. In their story, they share the financial, logistical and parenting challenges they’re encountered along the way.
Apparently, Mrs Heng wanted to stop at two kids. But daddy David Heng wanted more, a desire fuelled by his love for children. They have seven kids between the ages of three and 16.
Mr Heng explains, “Many couples would rather not have children, or they have a maximum of two. I see children not as a burden but as an inheritance – as a blessing.”
Both he and his wife come from “regular” families. Mr Heng has two siblings, and his wife, one sister. After the birth of their fifth child, Mrs Heng decided to quit her job as a secondary school teacher, a job she had for a decade.
Currently, Mr Heng is the family’s breadwinner. He is employed as a social service worker. The family’s monthly expenses amount to around S$3000 and this means they can barely save anything from Mr Heng’s salary.
Of course, they do get help. Mr Heng’s parents help whenever they can. The family also gets government assistance. For example, the conservancy charges for their five-room Housing and Development Board flat, and the Education Ministry’s Financial Assistance Scheme. They can also get help with the medical bills from the Community Health Assist Scheme, reports CNA.
Mr Heng also gets help from his church friends sometimes. “They’d drop by and bless us with groceries or even bless the children with tickets to Universal Studios,” he tells CNA. His family has even been gifted with staycations and trips to Malaysia.
However, despite the help, the family still has to control their expenses very carefully. For example, when eight-year-old Raphael asks for his favourite snack at the supermarket, mummy Esther often has to turn down his request.
She asks, “Which one is more worth it?”pointing to his snack and a loaf of bread that would feed the whole family.
The younger kids also must share their toys in order to cut down on costs. And Mrs Heng has to be extra careful while grocery shopping, often checking for discounts and offers.
They rarely eat out too. When they do, it’s only at coffee shops or food courts.
Looking after one or two kids is stressful enough. So can you just imagine how it must be for Mrs Heng?
From dawn to dusk (and beyond), Mrs Heng’s time is devoted to her family. “I cook, I wash, I fold the laundry. I can do without the TV, but… if the washing machine breaks down, that would mean I have to hand-wash five to six people’s clothes every day. It’s no joke.”
She has no helper either, since they cannot afford one. “Me-time” for this busy mum is non-existent.
“When I’m overwhelmed with their schoolwork deadlines and then a lot of housework, or if one of them is ill, and I’ve to handle so many things… I do think about whether I’m raising them all by myself. There are times I just want to have a meal by myself, without the children calling me every 30 seconds: ‘Mummy, I need a bowl; Mummy, I need this; Mummy, my drink spilled; I need chopsticks,'” she tells CNA.
Her day – which starts at 6 a.m. and ends at 11 p.m. – involves making meals, walking the kids to school and tutoring them. On weekdays, their youngest daughter Isabella stays with in-laws. Yet, Mrs Heng is still too busy to be able to cook each meal, so they rely on a tingkat meal delivery service.
Mr Heng feels the strain on his wife. He feels that in the last two years especially due to shift work, his time with his family dropped in quality. “I was doing so much for these other children (at work), but my own children didn’t even see me at home. I was an absent daddy. That, I think, in a way has caused some strains in the family,” he reveals.
He also admits that “as a husband and a father, I don’t feel good.” Mr Heng describes how after work, he’d be lying on the sofa and napping, and the kids would head straight to their (overworked) mother for their various needs. This left him “feeling jealous” and like a “lousy daddy”.
He also felt like he was drifting apart from his oldest daughter, 16-year-old Samantha, who agrees.
She tells CNA with tears in her eyes, “After Hannah was born (in 2013 – the sixth child), he had to work harder. He wasn’t at home as much.”
She also remembers the time when she only had one sibling: “It was only Rachael and me, and Rachael was a small baby. I miss it because, for example, it was 100 per cent about me. Now it’s 100 divided into seven portions.”
Due to these issues, Mr Heng quit his job at a children’s home and started his own enrichment workshop company. However, because the company is yet to take off, he still has to work part-time and as a freelancer.
Even though this move has added to their financial strain, when it comes to family, Mr Heng believes it was the right move to make.
Mrs Heng has her own “mum-guilt” moments. For example, she feels that her kids may be growing up faster than their peers. Also, her five-year-old daughter Hannah has a speech delay, and Mrs Heng feels partly responsible for it.
“I was expecting Isabella [when Hannah was two], so sometimes I wonder if it’s because I was too tired, and then I didn’t communicate enough with her,” she said.
However, at the same time, she understands the value of growing up with many siblings: “they do develop responsibility for each other,” she says.
So, by now you must be wondering, do Mr and Mrs Heng regret having such a large family? Not one bit!
“It’s quite enjoyable to see them grow up together” says Mrs Heng, while her husband add, “If I were to restart this whole thing, I may even have had more.”
We wish the Heng family all the best, and we are thankful to CNA for sharing this wonderful story that teaches all parents many lessons about the value of hard work and family love.
Also read: Help for Singaporeans with sick babies
Source: Channel NewsAsia