Single parenting: Getting support and planning your future
High costs of living, a competitive education system, and immense work stress are various reasons why raising a child in Singapore can be trying for any parent. For single parents, the task becomes doubly challenging as they face not only the limits of time, energy and a single income, but also having to navigate a different set of criteria for child support benefits. Here are some tips that may help.
1. Find a supportive community
Parenting can be a challenge, and asking for a helping hand when your schedule gets crazy is perfectly normal. Friends and family who step up with offers to help with child-raising duties can make a real difference to your sanity, and you should never feel guilty for saying “yes, thank you” to the offers.
In this age of blogs, forums and social media, it’s easier than ever to tap into online parenting communities for information on child raising matters. People who have previously encountered similar situations are typically eager to share their experience and knowledge on topics ranging from school admission, healthcare access and even housing needs. Check out these parenthood-centric sites: mummysg.com, singaporemotherhood.com and heybaby.sg.
2. Work out your finances
It is crucial that you work out your finances and budget for your family’s needs. Prioritise the needs and wants. With proper planning, it can be possible to lead the lifestyle you desire.
Find a job that meets your needs, allowing you to balance work and parenting duties. Some companies offer comprehensive childcare benefits, with affiliated child-care services near the office to allow you to concentrate on work whilst knowing your little one is well taken care of. Voice out your concerns to your (current or potential) employer if needed and tap on employee benefits such as the flexibility to work from home, childcare allowances or medical claims.
3. Tap on financial subsidies
There are numerous schemes available for single parents, and it pays to spend some time and effort to check if you or your child are eligible for them. For example, the Baby Bonus Scheme offers Child Development Account (CDA) benefits of up to S$6,000 each for your first and second child. CDA benefits include CDA First Step and dollar-for-dollar matching contributions to the CDA until your child turns 12. This money can then be used for your child’s expenses at Baby Bonus Approved Institutions like childcare centres, kindergartens, hospitals, pharmacies and more.
Here are some subsidies and policies you can consider applying for:
- Childcare leave and unpaid care leave;
- Foreign domestic worker levy concession;
- Centre-based infant and childcare subsidies;
- Kindergarten financial assistance scheme (KiFAS);
- Education subsidies;
- Child Development Credits and Post-Secondary Education Account (PSEA) top-ups;
- Edusave Pupils Fund;
- Maternity leave (for mothers, lasting up to 16 weeks);
- Medisave grant for newborns;
- MediShield coverage for congenital and neonatal conditions;
- Government healthcare subsidies and MediFund.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but a starting point for possible avenues of assistance.
4. Invest and secure your future
You may be working and saving hard for you and your little one, but with a projected core inflation rate between 1-2% by the Monetary Authority Singapore (MAS), your savings would need to work harder. You may wish to protect your savings against inflation with effective and shrewd financial planning.
Consider starting an education endowment plan such as ManuEdu First that provides insurance while allowing you to save regularly for your child’s higher education.
Smart investments will give you returns higher than inflation rates. There are simple investment programmes that help and guide new investors. For example, POSB Invest-Saver allows you to jumpstart your investment journey from as little as S$100/month.
5. Make time and space for yourself
While the needs of your child are important, it is also crucial to carve out some space and me-time for yourself. It is hard to be a good parent if you feel constantly stressed and on-the-edge, so learn to recognise any warning signs that your mental and emotional states are reaching a breaking point. Speaking with certified counsellors or tapping on support groups may help.
The Ministry of Social and Family Development and the Community Development Council also offer assistance.
You may be a single parent, but you are not alone in this journey. Having confidence in yourself is half the battle won. Let your children inspire you as much as you are an inspiration to them.