At first glance, some of the statistics relating to marriage, divorce and childbearing that were presented at Focus on the Family Singapore’s 8th State of the Family seemed to make for grim reading.

The event, which was graced by Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law K Shanmugam as the guest-of-honour, centred on presenting and discussing challenges to families in Singapore, ranging from marriages to mental health.

Held on March 10, it was attended on-site and online by more than 500 participants representing schools, social service agencies, faith-based organisations and community partners.

In the main presentation, Alicia Boo, Chief, Impact, and Principal Counsellor at Focus on the Family Singapore, underscored certain trends which revealed that more Singaporeans are delaying marriage and increasingly reluctant towards having children.

Putting together reports from 2021, the situation suggests that marriages in Singapore are on a downward trajectory. For instance:

It was a picture that certainly seemed to resonate with many of my peers’ view on marriage, in that it’s tough enough to find someone, let alone face down Singapore’s stressors of marriage, housing, kids and the like.

Sharing what he personally desires for the state of family five years down the road, Guest-of-Honour, Minister K Shanmugam, said that he hopes to see more family formation, a reversal of Singapore’s total fertility rate and for family bonds to continue to be strengthened.

However, I spoke for a bit with Benedict Ng, Research Analyst for Focus on the Family Singapore, who offered a silver lining that such trends may not necessarily represent a total shift in attitudes towards marriage and parenthood in the next generation.

He pointed out that the National Population and Talent Division’s 2021 Marriage & Parenthood survey saw very healthy results for marriage and parenthood aspirations:

  • 8 in 10 young singles hope to get married and have children.
  • Over 9 in 10 married Singaporeans want at least 2 children.

So, it’s by no means a lost cause since the next generation do have these hopes and dreams (ones that have continued to hold firm since 2016!).

What we probably need to be doing more of is helping our youth and young adults succeed in forming healthy attitudes to marriages and families with the right support and initiatives. 

It takes a village

In my experience as someone who got married relatively early, a safe place to ask questions and have intentional conversations has been very helpful in my own marriage journey.

I can’t remember which mentor from church it was who told me — we’ve had a few delightfully different ones through the seasons — but a certain phrase stood out to me in one of these informal makan (eating) sessions: “It is good to have 过来人 to guide you.”

过来人 basically means people who have been there, done it and can show you the way.

I also recall doing a marriage preparation course at my church in the lead-up to the wedding as well as monthly couple mentoring, where we’d have dinner at a trusted older couple’s place with whom we would discuss certain topics.

My solemniser even met us before and after our wedding to ensure we knew what we were doing and that we were doing well after having said our vows.

As a deeply private person, it seemed strange to let a whole bunch of people into what is a very personal thing.

But I eventually came around to see it as surrounding my marriage with a community of mentors and married friends who have our best interests at heart.

In tough moments, a gentle word of encouragement, prayer and counsel have helped us along.

Through honest and intentional conversations, our mentors have helped us appreciate the purpose and beauty of marriage, and to really come to own our marriage.

Surrounding ourselves with caring mentors and good advice has made all the difference.

There are risks, and that’s okay

Again, as someone who bucked the trend and got married relatively early, I can speak to the invisible pressure of seemingly needing to have certain things in order or everything lined up nicely before one can “pull the trigger”.

But marriage shouldn’t be a simple equation involving a house, a car or a certain amount of money in the bank. I don’t believe marriage is about coming to some picture-perfect decision.

We chose to be with each other. We chose love, and we still choose it every day. We promised to.

Instead, to us, married life has simply looked like taking on new adventures as one. There are risks that come with that, and that’s okay.

We chose to be with each other. We chose love, and we still choose it every day. We promised to.

I was really impacted by what Timothy Weerasekera, Founding Editor of Regardless Singapore, had to say on the panel discussion towards the end of the event. 

What I was most stirred by was his reminder that “marriage requires a certain appetite for risk”.

He also added that you can’t control everything, which is a universal truth everyone agrees with, but not all subscribe to in actual practice.

And on the topic of children, Timothy urged attendees to move away from seeing children as a “liability” to viewing them as “assets”.

Panellists at the event (from left): Carol Loi, Founder & Principal Consultant, Village Consultancy; Mohd Khair, CEO, Chief Consultant and Master Trainer, SuChi Success Initiatives; Sophia Ang, Senior Director of Counselling and Psychological Services, Family Justice Courts; and Timothy Weerasekera, Founding Editor, Regardless Singapore. The discussion was moderated by Joanna Koh-Hoe, CEO of Focus on the Family Singapore.

As my wife and I approach the next stage of our marriage, which is possibly having children, that approach to life is something that I have been thinking about.

Convenience and comfort, while tempting, should not be the defining things in the family we build. Personally, I’m hoping for our family to be one of character.

So if you feel like you’re not ready for marriage and kids. Don’t worry. No one starts off perfectly ready! And even if you’re not ready, you can learn.

It helps a ton when you have people to guide you along as you ask questions about issues like family culture, finances and having children.

We’re at the end now, and I’m hoping you don’t walk away feeling like I told you to simply disregard the anxieties that might be holding some of us back from big (but bountiful) decisions like marriage and having children.

To be super clear: Those concerns are real for every Singaporean.

But I’d like to think that what separates followers of Christ from the rest of society is the beautiful privilege of having faith in a sovereign God who is looking out for us.

We can’t know what exactly will happen five minutes from now, let alone five years. But God does. And God loves us! That ability to trust in a good God is something worth holding on to tightly.

No matter the big decisions we face in the future, let’s remember that as we build families that reflect God’s light and love. 

Focus on the Family Singapore has a post-event piece you can refer to here. The Ministry of Home Affairs has also put up a summary of the speech and Q&A session by Minister K Shanmugam here.

  1. What are your attitudes towards marriage and having kids?
  2. What is the point of marriage? What is the point of having kids?
  3. Do you struggle to trust in God’s provision and sovereignty in this area?