All the Single Ladies: Singaporean Women Share Why They’re Staying Single
Top image: Stephanie Lee / RICE File Photo

A recent article suggested that “the growing share of single women” is a major reason for our poor fertility rate. Suffice to say, the reception wasn’t great.

Single women felt blamed for not getting married and having kids. It sparked discussion on the uneven domestic responsibilities between husband and wife, evolving cultural norms that de-prioritise relationships and marriage, and the people left out of the fertility calculations like unwed mothers or adoptive families.

When we start pointing fingers at single women (or any demographic in general) as a cause of societal problems, it simplifies complex issues. Crucially, it eliminates nuance. What are the root causes behind low birth rates? How are single women finding personal fulfilment? Why is the societal value of women distilled into narrow definitions?

RICE reached out to single Singaporean women to understand how and why they’re choosing to spend their time in ways other than dating, marriage, and motherhood. 

“I work in social services and have little time for dating. I tried dating in my late 20s. It felt like I was rifling through Pokémon cards the way I was swiping mindlessly on dating apps. After months of online dating and going to singles events, I grew tired. 

I’m now in my 30s. I’ve decided to refocus on myself. I’m finding new meaning in being single. With no spouse and no children, I am privileged to have the time, space and energy to do more meaningful work for the community. I’m currently working with youths in school to help nurture the current generation.

I told myself that if I don’t have children of my own, I will help the children who are already on this Earth who are going through hardships and need guidance to navigate through life.”

— Olivia, 30

“I’ve been divorced for 16 years and have been enjoying singlehood. I travel solo half the time and enjoy my own company, so staying single came very naturally for me. And the best part? No snoring partner!

I don’t believe that one needs to have kids to make life complete. It is more important to leave a legacy than to continue one’s lineage. And in this crazy, stressful culture that robs you of peace, security and identity, why even bring kids into the picture?

I would rather spend my time travelling the world, experiencing the wonder of nature, and putting myself first.”

— Carol, 54

single woman
Image: Stephanie Lee / RICE File Photo

“I’m single because I feel like it. I keep myself busy with my fitness routine (just got back into the groove of working out regularly!), trying new food around Singapore, and playing video games in the evening. 

I don’t enjoy the idea of having children anyway. I’m not invested in following a traditional life script.”

— Hui Yan, 34

“It wasn’t a conscious choice to stay single. Things just didn’t quite work for me. I was in a long-term relationship until I was 37 years old. I missed my opportunity to get married then. And now I’ve kind of ‘missed the [fertile] window’ for having kids. 

Dating in this current time is just a nightmare, much less to say for someone who is 40. I’ll be dating people who are probably divorced and have young kids.

I like to try many new hobbies and I’ve picked up pottery recently. I’m also spending my time writing short stories based on my dating experiences.”

— Georgia, 40

“I haven’t found ‘The One’ yet. I’m very adamant about what I’m looking for in a partner. The thought of having small talk (which I hate!) is so tiresome as well. I’m fearful of the future as well. If I start seeing someone, how would I know that we’re going to be together forever? I would rather spare myself the heartbreak and anguish. 

The biggest reason is self-confidence. I was a victim of sexual assault, and that made me very conscious about being intimate with a potential partner. I’ve worked things out with my therapist, but I guess trauma still leaves scars.

Even now as I’m approaching 30, I don’t know how to ‘adult’ properly. I’m still learning how to take care of myself; it would be irresponsible for me to look after another human being. So I’m travelling the world, spending time with my friends and my dog, and just having quality ‘me time’.

I always joke to my friends and family that I will be that fabulous aunt who turns up to dinners bearing souvenirs. I could never have this lifestyle if I had children.” 

— Alex, 28

single woman
Image: Stephanie Lee / RICE File Photo

“I’m turning 33 this year. And I’ve been single for a few years now. Since being single, I’ve completed my Master’s and upon graduating, I started my own business running a shared workspace for mental health. 

Being a new entrepreneur comes with its own challenges. Not to say I reject the idea of partnership or marriage—I do look forward to the day I meet the right person. But until then, singlehood is more satisfying than chasing after potential dates.”

— Amirah, 33

“I never intended to stay single. My two-year-long relationship went up in flames when he cheated. After that, I needed time to heal. And when I did heal, I realised flying solo is so much better.

My mental health is at its best. This balance, freedom, and stability I have now is hard to trade for the uncertainty, compromise and sometimes impending heartbreak that comes with dating. So, I just don’t. And it’s been really good.

I work for a startup. After my breakup, I found the guts to jump into a new venture and helped to set up a company culture that I’m quite proud of.

I am knee-deep in learning a third language and aiming to master it for professional purposes. I have a lot of hobbies—little things I dabble in, and it’s been a fun journey. Because I’m single, I’m still able to do new things at my age.”

— Haneul, 48

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