Dreaming of being a young dad or mum but feeling that you haven't achieved enough in life before you take the plunge into parenthood?
Contrary to common perception, you don't have to have it all before you can finally "settle down and have kids".
Just ask Jeffrey Wee, 31, who has been married to homemaker Elicia, 30, for five years. The couple had their first son Cohen, now 4, just a year into their marriage.
"The common perception would be to ensure that you are economically stable before you start planning for marriage and a family", says Jeffrey, who works as a manager in a bank - so it's inevitable that money matters and concerns about financial stability crossed his mind when planning for a family.
"In the early stages of my budding career, I thought of personal success in terms of the amount of monetary and non-monetary recognition, as well as the career advancement opportunities, that one received in one's job."
Things changed when he met Elicia. "It was fortunate that my wife and I thought otherwise from the common perception," he adds, "as we both strongly believed that we could achieve success at work and in our family life concurrently."
And that, they did. Just a year after Cohen was born, the Wees' second son, Colson, arrived, following closely on the tiny heels of his older brother. Just five months ago, the couple welcomed their little princess, Caryn, into their family.
A happy family…Jeffrey, Elicia with Cohen, Colson and Caryn.
However, Jeffrey recognizes that his decision to embrace parenthood earlier than most of his peers was not without sacrifices.
For some young couples, this could mean missing out on late-night dinners and drinks with colleagues after work, the postponement of a carefree round-the-world backpacking trip, having lesser time to pursue personal interests or simply having to eat a packed lunch alone in the office cubicle while desperately trying to finish the day's tasks in order to rush home to see the kids.
"The couple has to understand that the short-term sacrifices they make are all for a reason," says Jeffrey, "and the benefits of having children early in marriage and in life clearly outweigh the smaller things that you decide to give up along the way."
One such practical benefit would be that his children would probably be financially independent by the time Jeff and his wife turn 55.
"We would still be able to explore and enjoy the things we missed out on earlier in life, such as traveling more, before we get too old."
But there is no need to wait more than 30 years to reap the benefits.
"Going home to my family everyday provides me with an avenue to gain 'mental balance' after a hard day at work. All parents will tell you that receiving a big hug from your kids and hearing them say 'I miss you' will bring a smile to your face, however busy a day at the office you may have had."
Parenthood, it seems, has redefined the idea of success for this family man. "I now see success as being able to support my family's basic needs while ensuring that I have time to explore my own interests beyond work."
It's Never Too Early To Start
For some couples, knowing that they could have difficulty conceiving, even at a young age, drove them to start planning for a family early in their marriage.
Dawn Sim, 30, is a mother of 4 year-old Nyx and 2 year-old Nya. She and her RSAF pilot husband, Kok Choon, started trying for children after they registered their marriage - when she was just 22, and he 23.
A picture perfect family moment…Dawn, Kok Choon with Nyx and Nya.
"We wanted kids early in the marriage so that our parents could enjoy spending time with their grandchildren while they are still fairly fit and mobile. We also didn't like the idea of having to worry about aged parents and a young infant, which would be the case if we were to have children later in life," explains the fitness consultant who teaches yoga and Pilates.
It was a good thing they started early. Dawn suffers from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, a condition that makes it difficult for her to conceive naturally.
The couple tried for almost four years and were on the verge of resorting to In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) when they finally conceived their first daughter, Nyx. Nya followed soon after as a delightful surprise, when Nyx was only nine months old.
While the couple was overjoyed to have their daughters, the challenges didn't end with conception.
Dawn's unusually slim bone structure meant that both her babies had to be born through C-sections and that she had to stop teaching fitness classes for a living until her body fully recovered and she regained her strength.
Also, the couple was living on their own in France at that time, so family support wasn't readily available.
"I had to watch YouTube videos to learn how to bathe my first baby!" laughs Dawn. "I also had difficulty understanding the doctors and nurses at the hospital because they spoke in French."
Through sheer determination and keeping a positive outlook, the young mother overcame these initial challenges to fully embrace motherhood.
"Being parents at an early age turned out to be the right decision for my husband and me. Although it was extremely tiring without help and having to look after two young kids while taking care of the household, I always told myself it was temporary and that I was given a gift to be able to spend so much quality time with them during these tender years."
Even though caring full-time for Nyx and Nya is keeping her occupied, Dawn still has plans to pursue her career.
Girl power! Mummy taking princesses out for a walk.
"I still miss working like I did before I had my children and being financially independent. Eventually, I will go back to work and my children will want to spend more time with their friends and have their own activities. But for now the hubby and I try to make the best of our time with them before it's just the two of us left in the nest again."