This columnist compares the difference in commitment and enjoyment between having a car and having a child
Four Wheels Good, Two Legs Better? ILLUSTRATION: Foo Say Keong for Torque

Our Government is curbing the vehicle population because we have too many vehicles, and boosting the human population because we have too few Singaporeans. This is why we have COE quotas alongside baby bonuses. Couples who have more children are rewarded with incentives, while motorists with just one car are penalised with disincentives.

I know many people my age who choose not to have any children, and also some folks with four or more children. I would say that the average number of kids in a family is two. I also know people who don't own a vehicle, and others with a garage-full of nice rides. In some cases, the household has more driving machines than offspring.

I guess if you really love something, you'll try to have as much of it as you can, within your means – be it children or cars. But the "enthusiast" should bear in mind that any car can be replaced by another, whereas you can only add to your brood and cannot "change" an existing child.

Starting a family is hard work, but unlike buying a car, it doesn't have to be exceedingly expensive. You can choose which hospital to deliver your child in, which preschool to send him/her, where to take your child for outings and holidays, what he/she wears, and the stroller you use.

Getting a car, on the other hand, will be expensive for sure, even if it’s a so-called budget runabout. The upfront taxes and running costs are a burden, you cannot avoid them, and it's tough to drive on the cheap in Singapore (rental cars do not count in this case).

Of course, raising a child would call for much more personal commitment than maintaining a car. But between the two, I can safely conclude that even the most hardcore petrolhead is unlikely to forego having more children just so he can have more cars to play with.

After all, children bring indescribable joy not just to their parents, but to everyone around them. They can be an absolute test of patience at times, but any negativity is eclipsed by all the instances when they come up to you and give you a hug for no reason, break out into an "I love you, Mama" song out of the blue, bring home a card they made in school specially for you, or cook you makebelieve porridge in their toy kitchen when you are down with the flu and tell you matter-of-factly that it is going to make you feel better.

But are these reasons enough to make me do the childbearing thing over and over again? For someone who took all of four years to decide before finally taking the plunge into motherhood, I'm not so sure, despite having spent three wonderful years with my daughter and looking forward to what other young parents have said are the best years – between the ages of three and five, when they become sensible enough, yet still retain some of that toddler cuteness.

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This article first appeared in the August 2013 issue of Torque.

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