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A "recycled teenager" learning to blog.

Jan 9, 2014

Childcare for Parents at Workplace

My father was working at the Kheng Seng Chan Import and Export Company at Telok Ayer Street, Singapore for almost 30 years as a book-keeper before he passed away in 1977 at age 70.  The Chinese family commission agent business dealing with Indonesian suppliers of spices such as copra, pepper seeds, dried chillie, dried garlic and rice.  The traditional, old-fashioned Chinese management style owned by the proprietor do not have retirement age for their staff.

I had previously blogged about my father's "One Way Ticket to Singapore River" here . As an immigrant from Quemoy, China, he became a Singapore citizen and had never returned to his home village since he travelled on a slow boat from China to Singapore.

The 2 archived photos (shown above) of Telok Ayer Street with the courtesy of National Archives of Singapore were found by coincidence last month, with thanks and acknowledgement to NAS.

The 83-year-old uncle is the pioneer and founding Chairman of the Singapore Seah Clan Association (SSCA) who remember my father working at Kheng Seng Chan.  My father's favorite pastime on Sundays and public holidays was to play mahjong at the SSCA premises.

When I was 6 or 7-years-old during the primary school holidays,  my father would bring me to Kheng Seng Chan for childcare (or rather told me to take care of myself while he works).  In those days, Child Care Centres (CCCs) under the Ministry of Social and Family Development to provide full day and half-day care programmes to children below the age of 7 years. Some centres provide infant care services to children aged 2 months to 18 months.

In addition to providing working parents with reliable care services, CCCs have programmes aimed at educating and developing pre-school children through effective early childhood education programmes in a safe and conducive environment.

I grew up under the care of my parents and I was never brought up by maids except by wealthy families to employ servants or amahs.  I think I was an obedient child who obeyed the instructions of my parents and did not cause much troubles to them.

While I was at the shop, I just sat beside him at his table where there was an old telephone, pencils, a abacus he used for calculation, a stamp-pad (one in red ink and another in blue ink), a holder with various types rubber-stamps with words mostly in Chinese which I did not understand. 

I was given a few sheets of paper for me to play with the rubber stamps to print the red or blue ink stamp-pads.  It was like toys for me to play with the printing and was quite fun.  However, I was instructed to take care of the rubber stamp and not print too hard or break the wooden stuff.

I was taught to write simple Chinese words with paper and pencil and spend most of the time at the shop.

The shop owns one or two shops for the "coolies" to bring in and out the sacks of stuff.  There was only a ceiling fan and no air-conditioner.  My father's colleagues, the tough and rugged "coolies" who carry the heavy gunny sacks on their shoulders and would speak to my father loudly in Hokkien.  My father would then weigh every gunny sack with a daching (weighing scale) which moved in or out of the shop and recorded by my father.   That was the job of my father as a book-keeper cum store-keeper.

I was not allowed to walk about the shop to disturb the workers or cause obstruction for the purpose of safety.

Whenever the "coolies" and the lorries arrived at the shop, my father would have to be busy at work.

The "coolies" nowadays have become obsolete and replaced by trolley and various types of machines to carry goods.

Another Generation of Childcare for Parents at Workplace

My 5-year-old daughter accompanied me to my workplace on Saturdays when the office was closed and not in public to serve the customers and my staff were not working.  I was given permission to do urgent work without overtime pay so my boss agreed.  That was a stage of parenthood which most of us have to juggle our childcare and to get our jobs done whenever necessary with flexible arrangement at work.

The office was air-conditioned and computerised and it was quiet and comfortable.  She brought exercise book, pens and color-pencils to draw pictures and colored them.  She played with the rubber-stamps and stamp-pads the ways I did when I went to my father's workplace many years ago when I was young.

How many Singaporean workers have done childcare at workplace the ways done by my father in the previous generation and myself in my generation to bring up my children?

The  Ministry of Social and Family Development in Singapore have given a great deal of assistance to working parents with subsidies of fees and to build more childcare centers in the neighborhood.  Unlike the working parents in the previous generations to seek help from friends and relatives to look after their children while at work, more help for childcare are now given by the government.

While watching Singapore's director Anthony Chen who won the Best New Director and Best Original Screenplay for "Ilo Ilo" at the 50th Golden Horse Film Awards in Taipei November 23, 2013 on a SIA flight home on Sunday January 5, 2014 from Taiwan, I share the sentiments of young parents while their hearts and minds were at work, their hearts and minds were with the children, especially when they are younger.

Every parents share the same parenthood experiences at every generation.  I had not watched the full-length movie before that and I really find the stories meaningful and realistic for every Singaporean working parents during that period of the country's economy downturn.

ILOILO Official Trailer (Philippines)



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