The Ho Family
L ife in the Ho family is simple and heart-warming. With their two young children, Jaylene and Jayna, the home always rings with laughter. Sometimes, the five- and four-year-old girls would collaborate on a birthday card for their father. Sometimes, the co-conspirators would “vandalise” the table with colourful markings and stand up to their parents’ reprimands together. As an only child, Peter Ho’s childhood was starkly different. “I remember playing alone and spending most of my time with my grandma. I didn’t have a sibling to share times of need and happiness with, and longed for a companion,” says the 41-year-old property agent.
Despite his personal experiences, Peter and his wife, 40-year-old headhunter Jasmine Lim considered stopping at one. A difficult childbirth and initial parenthood struggles put a pause on their plans to have more children. “We initially planned for a natural birth. They burst my water bag and my cervix had dilated, but the baby wasn’t moving down the birth canal. We took my gynaecologist’s advice and had an emergency caesarean. We later realised that her umbilical cord was too short and was hanging her. The trauma of the experience and the fear that we were close to losing her made us rethink our plans to have another child,” says Jasmine.
Peter and his wife, 40-year-old Jasmine Lim considered stopping at one. A difficult childbirth and initial parenthood struggles put a pause on their plans to have
This emergency caesarean lengthened Jasmine’s recovery process, and the first-time mother found herself struggling with night feeds and baby care. Her husband chipped in to help with the chores and night feeds. Their fragmented sleep began to take a toll at work. “I was very tired and started to miss appointments and lose focus at work. My income dropped by 30 to 40 per cent during that period,” shares Peter. Jasmine’s career was also affected. Having started a headhunting firm with a friend in 2013, a year before childbirth, she found herself struggling to juggle baby care duties and her new business. “Financially, it was very tight because of back-to-back big-ticket expenses. We got married in 2013, had a baby in 2014 and were expecting our executive condominium in two years,” she says.
Peter, as an only child, also had to shoulder the expense of caring for his elderly parents. His 78-year-old mother was semi-paralysed from a stroke and cared for by a helper. “I felt like I had to manage two families – my parents and my [nuclear] family. When your business is not doing well, you start to think of the financial burden. So we thought: One is enough,” he explains.
It felt like my life was upside-down.
I realised no matter how capable you are, if you have no siblings, you won’t have another person to rely on".
Expanding Their Family
All this changed when the couple went on a late honeymoon to Europe between January and February 2015, eight months after having a baby. They had originally planned to spend two weeks exploring France and Italy. However, three days into their trip, they received an urgent call. Peter’s father required emergency surgery after an intestine infection. Since Peter had no siblings, it fell on him to make important decisions. The couple initially wanted to cancel the trip and fly back, but they managed the stressful situation from Europe via WhatsApp calls and messages. A friend and an uncle helped to take Peter’s father to the hospital for the emergency operation. Peter also followed up with the doctors via WhatsApp every day.
This stressful experience led Peter to question the decision to stop at one. “It felt like my life was upside-down. I realised no matter how capable you are, if you have no siblings, you won’t have another person to rely on,” he says. “If Jaylene had a sibling, she would not have to go through what I went through alone – she would have someone to share the burden with, to love and depend on.” The couple reopened the conversation after visiting a friend at the delivery ward. “Peter’s friend gave birth to an SG50 baby in 2015 and showed us the special birth certificate and gift bag.
That got us talking. 2015 was the Year of the Goat in the Chinese zodiac, and because Peter and I are both Goats, we thought it’d be cute to have another baby that year,” Jasmine says with a laugh. The couple decided to wait till May 2015, when their daughter passed her first birthday, before planning for another child. Two months later, Jasmine found out she was pregnant. She admits, “It came as a shock. Though we were open to embrace another child, we didn’t expect it to be so soon.”
Double The Joy
Both Jasmine and Peter agree that having a second child has made their family more complete. “It is very heart-warming to see the two of them together. The first time Jaylene saw Jayna, she called her ‘mei mei’ (younger sister in Mandarin), and our one- to two-day old baby opened her eyes,” Jasmine recalls with a proud smile. The two sisters are inseparable. When Jaylene was hospitalised for five days due to food poisoning in January 2020, Jayna cried as she couldn’t visit due to strict hospital regulations during the Covid-19 outbreak. The moment Jaylene was discharged, Jayna ran over to hug her and tell her she missed her.
The initial period may be more difficult. But from the age of two, as they become more independent, you will find that having two children is really much easier than just having one. Because they can entertain each other, you can take a step back and enjoy more time for yourself”.JASMINE, ON WHY TWO KIDS ARE BETTER THAN ONE
Peter says, “The two of them bring me a lot of joy. When my wife and I occasionally quarrel, they will say: ‘Not so loud’. And both of us will calm down. When there is some unhappiness at work, they will give me a hug. And just like that, my whole day is okay again.” Jasmine’s advice for other parents thinking about taking the plunge: Having a second child is not double the trouble. “The initial period may be more difficult. But from the age of two, as they become more independent, you will find that having two children is really much easier than just having one. Because they can entertain each other, you can take a step back and enjoy more time for yourself,” she says.
While their family budget may be tighter during their daughters’ early years because of higher preschool and paediatrician fees, the couple shares that the Child Development Account (CDA) and Baby Bonus have helped. Moreover, by the time the children go to primary school and can see a family doctor, fees become more manageable. “The Chinese have a popular saying ‘first bitter, then sweet’. I agree with this. It’s not always easy to have two kids with a very small age gap between them. But it gets better with time. And if you don’t do it, you will never know the sweetness it brings,” says Peter.