Some friends from Singapore are in town and they very generously trekked over to East London for dinner last night. Lucky me as I wasn’t sure my 36-week pregnant self would take me very far these days. We went Turkish and headed for Mangal on Kingsland Road.
As they have two children, conversation automatically steered towards the topic of children. Typically.
I am always curious about my Singapore friends’ childcare arrangements. Just for background information: Singapore’s a city-state in Southeast Asia famed for its high standard of living. Low crime rate, good food and an education system that regularly tops global league tables. The streets are so clean you could even lie down on it – although why anyone would want to do that, I wouldn’t have a clue.
Back to the topic of childcare. Nursery fees in Singapore average $700 (Montessori nurseries probably about $1400) a month, which comes to roughly £350. The majority of families with kids have live-in help. Filipino maids are paid about $600 a month (£300), but you can find cheaper ones. For $400 (£200) a month, my friends’ Burmese maid looks after their two kids, cooks for them and baths them. Both parents work, and long hours (10 hours) is normal. Leaving just weekends for family time. A typical week day for my friend would be reading bedtime stories and none of the chores that come with bringing up children.
A part of me is envious. But the more time I mull over a set-up like that, the less I think it suits me. Peel away my daily grumblings and frustration, I do actually enjoy being able to do the basic things for the kids like picking them up from nursery and slaving over a hot stove. How often do I wish I could be relieved of these chores so I can concentrate on work or have an hour of time to myself? All the time.
But without a family life routine consisting of boring chores which the kids are integrated into, I think I’d feel very disconnected from reality.