“Children are a blessing from God.” “Having many children does not result in poverty.” These were statements recently heard from Perkasa.
My friend Tarmizi (not real name) of Terengganu is the oldest of eleven siblings. His father was a carpenter and his mother a housewife. Upon completing his degree from a public university, Tarmizi took over from his father as the family’s breadwinner.
With nine of his siblings still in school and his father choosing to retire due to old age, Tarmizi had to push aside any idea of building his own life because he had to dedicate it to his parents and siblings. Although it was his parent’s decision to have a large family, it was he who had to shoulder the burden of their decision.
I once asked Tarmizi if he planned to have a large family like his parents. He laughed and shook his head. With his youngest sibling still in kindergarten at the time, he doubted if he’d ever even have enough time for himself.
“Even if I do, I will never have more than two kids,” he said.
My neighbour in Bukit Mertajam, Jyothi, has five children. Twelve years ago, she was a happy housewife with one toddler to care for. Back then, the family depended on her husband’s income as a lorry driver. However, as the family grew, things got tougher. Her husband’s income could no longer cover expenses. So she started working as a domestic help in a few houses around our neighbourhood.
She earns about RM1,000 a month. The job requires her to make a couple of trips a week to a number of houses to wipe windows, scrub toilets, mop floors, wash and iron clothes as well as help the house owner with other chores to fill the two-hour slot. Her work begins at eight in the morning, right after she has sent of the kids to school, and lasts until the late evening. There’s a long break in the afternoon when she fetches the kids from school and settles them down at home.
However, whenever Jyothi is taken ill and unable to attend her duties, it is her children she depends on to fill in for her. Usually her first and second kid are the ones entrusted to do the washing, cleaning and scrubbing instead of her. They have to skip school on those days.
Recently, I met the eldest daughter, who used to do pretty well in school. Through our quick chat, I found out that she was not doing so well anymore. Indeed, she seemed to have lost interest in her education. With her mother falling ill often and her father continuing with his drinking habit, she prefers to stay at home, cook and take care of her younger siblings.
Jyothi’s decision to have a large family seems to have affected her children’s future.
Seng is a taxi driver who lives in Petaling Jaya. A father of four, he has been driving a taxi for some thirty years. He is hard working. When his children were growing up, he worked from seven in the morning till ten at night while his wife managed their children’s schooling and tuition needs. He took care of his family’s financial needs, freeing his wife to give their children the attention they needed throughout their growing years.
Today, Seng is still driving a taxi around the neighbourhood although his job is not as hectic as it used to be.
All his four children are graduates of foreign universities. Their studies were fully paid for by Seng’s taxi driving income. However, none of his children live with him now. They are happily settled abroad, with careers and families of their own.
Seng and his wife have fulfilled their responsibilities as parents with flying colours, but they have declined their children’s invitations to live abroad with them, opting to enjoy their old age together right here in Malaysia.
“Usually Chinese parents stick to one or two children,” said Seng during one of the trips I took in his taxi. “But we had four. What to do? We like kids so much. But it comes with responsibilities lah. If cannot carry out the responsibilities, better not have that many lah.”
It is true that children are a blessing from God. But how do we raise these blessings? Clearly, raising children is not just about feeding them and sending them off to school. We have to nurture them into wholesome human beings. That’s how we show our appreciation for God’s blessings.
Bringing up a child is certainly not entirely a financial issue. However, anyone who plans to expand his family without considering its financial implications is just being irresponsible.
How many farmers, shopkeepers, clerks, nurses and teachers can afford to care for many children without jeopardising their future? Even if you make, say, RM5,000 a month, it would be a challenge to raise more than one child.
Sadly, many lack common sense in family planning. FMT