I have to admit that when I came to Singapore, with a 3-month old baby in Feb 2013, nothing about living in this fast-laned country looked appealing to me. I had no immediate family (grandparents, friends and the handy helpers that one has access to in India) and honestly, I was
scared terrified of being alone with a baby all day long. What if I could not understand what he was crying for? What will I do if my husband’s phone is unreachable in the event of an emergency? What if I slip in the bathroom, crack bones and baby left unattended?
Get the picture?
I was a stay-at-home-mom then and it can be a super hard life with unwarranted levels of stress on days. Housework, stocking grocery, laundry, get the cooking underway, eat healthy to be able to feed baby, ensure baby is cleaned-diapered-entertained etc. The list of what needed to be done in a house in insanely endless. And mind you keeping a few month old baby entertained is no joke.
My escape was taking walks with my baby tucked in his pram. One evening while strolling at my neighbourhood, United Square mall, it suddenly hit me why I saw so many moms with kids in tow in malls at any single day. Because everyone was like me! They were looking to keep their babies bewitched with mall, lights, bustling crowds, and get some exercise (walk walk walk) as they covered the length and breadth of the precinct. It’s all free AC, cheap food in foodcourts, some good shopping options and clean baby rooms for a quick diaper change. Win-Win all around. It is also a huge stress-buster for moms to be in adult surroundings.
This was complete opposite of how things were in India. With most neighborhoods in India comprising of crowded markets & encroached footpaths, there’s hardly a decent space to push the pram. Not to mention the blaring horns from all around that will in all likelihood scare the baby. Trying (and failing) to soothe a wailing baby, on road with everyone looking at you questioningly can make one feel most lubberly. Thus it is a rare sight in India to see new moms with babies in public places. Perhaps, the trend is changing in metros or a few posh neighbourhoods, but bulk of Indian babies have restricted exposure to outside world in early months.
It is not just the malls in Singapore where moms and babies are welcome. It’s a liberating feeling to be able to get out of house, onto the pavement with a pram and start walking. There are rarely any blaring horns, you won’t have cars or bikers jumping lanes and coming dangerously close to pedestrian areas, traffic signals are followed, pavements will never be blocked with wrongly parked vehicles, and most importantly the roads are designed to be wheelchair/pram friendly.
Most public places (malls, metros stations, bus interchanges even neighbourhood shopping centres) have dedicated spaces for kids & babies, complete with some swings in a corner. There are clean baby rooms in most malls that are terrific spaces for moms who want to breastfeed, or just quieten down a fussy child.
Even more amazing is the fact that Singapore, in its current political state, has only been around for 50 years. Yet, it has been able to think and plan its infrastructure for the 21st century and ahead. It leads the world in education, banking, shipping and has created a everyday existence of unrivaled cleanliness, safety and stability. In Singapore even petty theft is uncommon. I know it sounds like a rehearsed version of Singapore but for I come from a country which is still struggling to get its basic infrastructure in place and so it’s hard to ignore the built-in conveniences of this country.
If you are raising a child in Singapore or any such metropolis you would have probably used each of the facilities I have listed here, which we all often taken for granted, but mind you urban infrastructure is a blessing we fail to rightly acknowledge.
PS: Here’s one of my favourite guides to Singapore for parents. Via Sassy Mama