by Marilyn Peh on

“Unless you’ve ever had a child yourself, it’s very hard to understand, one,” a friend of mine says with an air of resignation.

She wasn’t just referring to the expert lunge she had just performed mid-salad, intercepting her young toddler as he attempted his 12th bid for freedom in the café that afternoon.

From in-law tensions, to workplace judgment, and even to the reception towards parents with young children in public – she was explaining why the easiest part of parenthood may have been the 20 hours she spent in labour.

We want more babies in Singapore, but we’re not as supportive or understanding as we should be to make life easier for parents. Is that really true?

Well, my friend certainly got one thing right – without children of my own, I can’t claim to understand their point of view. So, in the spirit of research, I spoke to some individuals who can.

“Already no space in the lift, why must they squeeze in? Isn’t the escalator available?”

Not to make light of the seriousness of war, but any parent will tell you that preparing for an outing with young children in tow requires proper battle-readiness.

There is the Battle of Poo, the Battle of Milk Bottles, and the Battle of the Stroller. A well-packed arsenal of diapers, milk formula, clothes, baby wipes and a carrier or stroller is key to victory.

With so much on hand (literally), 30-year-old June Loh makes sure to do thorough research before each outing.

The mother of a six-month-old says: “When I’m alone with my child, I avoid taking a stroller as I’m concerned that the lifts may be inoperable or too crowded. I also only use the stroller during off-peak hours, and make sure I check ahead that the building has large and clean lifts that also stop on every floor.”

While others are usually helpful and will hold the lift door when she has a stroller, she observes that these are typically other women with children of their own.

Last year, a CNA report found that parents with young children in strollers sometimes resort to taking the escalators as they are unable to use the lifts. This can be dangerous for them and their children, and they could also end up putting other escalator users at risk. It is also possible for the strollers to damage the escalators, such as when the wheels get lodged in the steps.

In a comment left on TODAY’s Facebook page, user May Wong shared: “It is so extremely difficult to squeeze into a lift with the stroller when there are many able-bodied people who choose to take the lift instead of the escalators. What choice do we parents have except to take the escalators with our strollers?”

If you’re not in a real hurry, holding the lift door or letting a family with their stroller go before you won’t hurt.

No sane parent will expect others to roll out the red carpet for them and their children, but your single gesture of kindness could really help soothe their battle nerves.

“My colleague doesn’t work as hard any more after having a kid.”

A wise man who was pretty nifty with his calculator once said that it takes a staggering $670,000 to raise a child in Singapore.

This means that unless you’re the lucky heir to a sizable fortune, you’ll want to channel your inner Jack Ma for a headstart on that Mindchamps piggy bank.

It’s no wonder then that many parents in Singapore work full-time, juggling the demands of caring for young children with fulfilling work responsibilities. But with that can come judgment, where each day of childcare leave taken can be seen as a drag on work deadlines.

In this case, absence may not make the heart grow fonder, but it certainly doesn’t mean that no work gets done. Working parents are quite the expert jugglers, you see, like senior marketing manager Lim Yifang, who believes that some flexibility goes a long way.

“I try to leave work on time at 6pm, then spend time with my son until he goes to bed at around 10pm. I’d then pick up from where I left off at work if there’s anything urgent to attend to.”

With work and family on her plate, as well as a perennial sense of mum-guilt, she makes a necessary sacrifice that most other parents can relate to – sleep.

What they may find less relatable is her next line, however, as she quips: “I’m quite lucky that I’ve always been able to get by on less sleep than the average person.”

So do your working-parent friends or colleagues a favour, please. That kopi you grab for them on your morning run could well be the elixir of life that keeps them sane and functional for the rest of the day.

Remember to make it gao.

“Why is their child like that?”

Imagine having an off-day when all you want to do is to stay at home and keep to yourself.

Now imagine if someone knocks on your door every hour, expecting you to chit-chat and socialise with them.

That’s hardly the idea of fun, is it?

In a way, it was a similar predicament that Lim’s son faced, as his quieter personality was often misunderstood by others, who would persistently try to make him greet them in a friendly way.

She explains: “People think that boys should be rowdy and active, so there’s a bit of a snap judgment that my son is rude or shy, and they would even tell me this in a not-so-positive way.

“In reality, he just needed some time to warm up, and doesn’t take well to strangers immediately. Now that he’s almost five, he’s become friendlier and more outgoing, and would even take the initiative to share his toys with others.”

Never judge a book by its cover, another wise man once said. In a postscript somewhere was also this: never judge a child through a brief interaction that tells you very little about what he or she is really like.

Instead, you could perhaps be the adult in the room and allow the child the time and opportunity to develop into a fine, well-adjusted specimen of a grown up that you already are? His or her parents will be so grateful for that.

“Why aren’t they doing anything when their child is throwing a tantrum?

You’ll hear it before you see it. A child screaming and wailing with enough gusto to give Pavarotti a run for his money.

Occasionally, this evolves into full-blown performance art, complete with generous amounts of feet stamping and thrashing on the ground.

We’ve finally arrived at every parent’s worst nightmare – the kiddy tantrum. As unpredictable as they are loud, kiddy tantrums are unfortunately a rite of passage for any parent, and a surefire way to attract dirty looks and unhappy “tsks”.

Lim says: “When my son was younger, there were times when he had full-blown tantrums where he cries, and ended up lying on the floor and refusing to move.”

In her view, the worst thing she could have done then was to yell at or reprimand him publicly – an act that may have ironically gained her some approving nods from onlookers.

“I believe that children have a fight-or-flight mode, where they either run away or fight back, which just makes the tantrum worse. I’ll speak to him sternly and bring him to a quiet corner until he calms down, before explaining to him why he can’t have his way.”

Indeed, a child’s screaming tantrum is not exactly music to the ears of its embarrassed parents, but it could be an opportunity to teach the child an important lesson. Giving in just to flee the glare of disdain could also mean encouraging soil or bratty behaviour in future.

Besides, if you’re already bothered enough by the child’s screaming, having his or her parents join in will only result in a pseudo death metal concert your eardrums didn’t ask for.

It takes a village to raise a child, they say.

You know from the anecdotes that it is by no means child’s play, but while the parents don’t expect that village to help change diapers or take on babysitting duties, it can certainly make life a little easier for parents with young children.

Cutting them some slack and being less judgmental will go a long way in helping struggling parents raise their tiny monsters into upstanding citizens of the future. And while you’re at it, could you hold the lift door, please?