IN THE debate over the removal of controversial children’s books from the National Library Board’s catalogue, both sides have defended their definition of family.

Whether or not you agree with the ideal family proposed by the conservative majority, the banning of the books will have little effect on family life.

The breakdown of the ideal Singaporean family is driven by increasing demands placed on each family member.

Parents work long hours without necessarily being more productive. Their elderly parents may not be fit enough to care for themselves or their grandchildren. Children require after-school tuition and enrichment classes just to keep up in the fiercely competitive school environment.

It is a never-ending effort to stay on top or pull yourself up to the next rung.

Daily family dinners are now almost unheard of, with parents keeping punishing work hours and children being exhausted by academic demands.

This precious family time, where parents can de-stress and connect with their children, is the glue that holds the family together.

No amount of material wealth can replace strong family bonds, which take time, effort and love to maintain.

Undisturbed family time is what Singaporean families desperately need returned to them.

When a person’s needs are no longer fulfilled within the family, he will seek it elsewhere.

How can a husband and wife build a resilient family if they can no longer emotionally connect with each other or their children?

If family ties are weak, the members may choose to abandon ship in difficult times instead of trying to resolve the issues.

The following initiatives will create the right environment for families to flourish: pay equality, flexible work arrangements, sufficient paternity leave, a tobacco ban, responsible drinking, protected family time, enshrined work-life balance, social safety nets, appropriate academic competition, and more elderly-care support.

The conservatives are right: The Singaporean family is fragile. It deserves special protection through reforms that will actually improve family life.

Jaclyn Toh Ai Lin (Dr)

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