Some have kids because they think it’s part of the “marriage progression”, they want to carry on their bloodline or because everyone around them are having children.
Others feel that they want to leave a legacy through their offspring. Then there are those who do it simply because they have a strong desire to have children.
In Asia, it’s not uncommon for people to want to have children to ensure that there’s someone to look after them when they turn old. In fact, there’s even a Chinese idiom 养儿防老 – which translates to mean “raise children to safeguard your old age”.
Indeed, in Asian societies that have been strongly influenced by Confucius teachings, such as China, Japan, Korea and Singapore, the practice of filial piety is still seen as an important social value and esteemed as virtue to be inculcated in one’s children from a very young age.
Children are not only expected to respect and obey their parents, it’s also deemed their duty to look after their parents in old age.
In Singapore where I live, the government has even implemented a Maintenance of Parents Act, making it a legal obligation for children to take care of their elderly parents, failing which parents can sue their children for a monthly allowance.
You may wonder, at this point, why my interest in this topic of filial piety.
Recently, my mom was hospitalised and I found myself struggling to juggle family, work and going to the hospital to spend time with my mom. Being an only child, my mom has only me to rely on.
As I sat there in the hospital, I had much time to reflect and I couldn’t help thinking about my own old age. I came to this conclusion: I don’t want filial piety or the responsibility of caring for aged parents to become a shackle on my children, which they may end up resenting.
Sure, I hope that when my spouse and I grow old and frail, our children will be there to care for us. But I don’t want them to do it just because they feel obligated, or worse, because of a court order.
When children are born, parents have every obligation and responsibility to look after them. After all, parents are the ones who made the decision to bring the kids into this world, not the other way round. So when old age comes, as it surely will, I don’t want it to become my children’s obligation to look after me or my spouse when we are old.
Filial piety, in my opinion, is bordering on being authoritative. I much prefer that my children take care of me because they want to, because they love us – which is out of a genuine concern that comes from deep within their hearts, and not merely an act to be followed through or worse, an order made by some judge.
So instead of teaching filial piety, I will teach love. I want love to be the bond that binds us, not just a mere sense of duty. I will teach my children to love not only their parents but to also care for people around them.
I will also plan for my old age, this includes taking care of my health to ensure that I stay strong and healthy as long as possible and saving up enough for retirement. Because I love my children, I want them to have the freedom to pursue their dreams and passions, and not be worried about taking care of their parents.
And some day after we are gone, I pray that it is love that my children will feel and beautiful memories they will have whenever they think of us, and not how burdened they felt when they were taking care of us.
How important is filial piety in your society? Have you thought about your retirement years and made plans for them?