It’s Father’s Day today!
What comes to mind when you think of your father? For many of us who grew up in typical Asian families, we think of father as the one who brings home the bacon, father is never around because he is working so hard outside, father is the strict no-nonsense one, father never shows his love.
But hey, in 2016, the world has changed. With more women joining the workforce and getting somewhere with their career, there are also more men opting to quit the rat race to stay home with the kids.
According to a Straits Times report, in 2014, 10,500 men cited “family responsibilities” such as childcare, care-giving and housework as the main reason why they were not in the workforce.
That’s compared to 3,000 in 2006, a more than three-fold increase.
So we spoke to five Stay-At-Home-Dads (otherwise known as SAHD) about what went through their minds when they decided they wanted to be a father more than a breadwinner.
Reason #1 – Not getting as much satisfaction with the normal 9 to 6
Jeff Yeo is a SAHD to daughter Alexis, 2 years old.
I’m a show and event producer and a dance choreographer. I like to push boundaries. It can be very exhausting to create and conceptualize ideas, but clients here can be very conservative and they just want me to do what’s been done before, and after a while, it just isn’t fun anymore.
I decided I should quit, do what I like, pick and choose my projects. My wife’s career is very important to her at this stage. She’s a commissioning editor with a media company. I’ve been through that, and career just isn’t that important to me anymore at this point.
I was burnt out. I wanted to reprioritize and re-focus on my life. We just needed to evaluate if we could have a family and live on a single income.
Reason #2 – Forced by Circumstances
Alvin Song is dad to son Zachary, 7 years old. He stopped work for about two years, but is now back in the finance industry full time.
I was hit in the eye while eating at a roadside stall in Bangkok some years ago. I was given three months medical leave. But I decided to quit and it took me 1.5 years to recover fully.
The hiatus cost something in terms of career progression and momentum, but it is certainly not time wasted. I see it as a blessing in disguise.
I took a very hands-on role in taking care of Zachary. Today, we have a deep father and son relationship. We understand each other.
Reason #3 – Don’t Want to Miss Out on Children Growing Up
Francis Ng is dad to Adelia, 2 years old. He does not think of himself strictly as a SAHD since he does freelance design work.
But he is also not traditional because he is the main caregiver to his two girls, aged ten and two, and arranges his schedule around them so that he can be constantly involved in their lives.
There are some jobs that are not conducive for flexi work, like my wife, who is a social worker. So I’m very happy that my job gives me the flexibility to look after my girls.
I think it’s really important to be part of the child’s life in the early years because you don’t want to miss out or regret.
As the child grows, they will start to have a life of their own. So it’s best to have time for them before they grow up.
Reason #4 – the wife’s career is more important
Dani Rubio, who has a degree in International Business and who moved here from Shanghai last year to be with wife Freida Lee, general manager of a digital marketing company. They just had their baby girl, Inez, recently.
Freida is doing very well in her career and she is at the stage where she does not want to stay at home.
We also feel very strongly that one of us needs to stay at home with the baby because the first three years of a child’s development are the most important.
So the plan is for me to stay home the first 18 months at least, then we see.
Reason #5 – It’s about who has the more suitable personality to stay at home all day with an energetic kid(s), and it isn’t always the mother!
Jonathan Reule is a stay-at-home dad to Scott, 2.5 years old. His wife, Kaye Lam, runs her own business.
I love working with children. I used to work in a children’s hospital. I am by nature gentle and patient, while Kaye is very passionate about her work.
When Scott was born, I could tell intuitively if he was hungry or angry. And in the middle of the night, I had the strength and vitality to wake up and take care of him while Kay was usually tired.
So slowly but gradually, we started to split into different realms and took on the roles that we did naturally.
But Singapore being a relatively conservative society with certain expectations of gender roles, what do people think of SAHDs? Are they seen as any less macho? Is it hard on them?
Jonathan shares his experience overcoming the stigma of being a SAHD.
Sometimes I would go to a play place, I see a lot of mothers and they make friends with each other easily, but not with me. Sometimes it’s what people say like only mothers can do this or that. Or I can’t do as good a job as a mother can. These are some of the pressures.
With Kaye’s family, it’s a bit of a struggle at first to explain why I am not working. We needed to take time to communicate and help them understand why we are doing it this way. Now though, they’ve become very helpful and supportive.
And that’s a common refrain we’ve heard – that parents usually do not take too well to a son-in-law who says he wants to do housework and childcare!
But as a sign of the times – the younger generation are much more open and accepting.
My friends give me a lot of respect for this. It’s actually a lot more work at home; all that cooking, cleaning up and running after a toddler.
Dani reminds us that a father’s role isn’t less worthy than a mother’s:
All our friends understand and support us. It’s just a role. There is nothing to be proud of or ashamed of being a stay-at-home-dad, just because we are not providing the food.
But think of what we are doing raising the children! Their growth is more important than money!
And when the children are older, and the SAHDs should want to get back on the corporate track again, are those “gap years” a boon or a bane?
Jonathan actually feels more confident after being a SAHD:
Raising a kid is a really stressful job. Dealing with a 2 year old, on a daily basis, that builds me into a sturdy person, sturdier than I was before.
I feel more confident now. I’ve learnt new skills and learn to deal with problems. I feel I have all the tools I need to deal with the challenges I hear my friends say they have to deal with on the job.
Alvin finds the gap years have broadened his perspective:
I’ve now got a much broader perspective to life and work. It puts many things into perspective. I also encourage my wife to take time off work.
It’s a lot of multi-tasking we have done!
Francis, who also freelances, wants to emphasize that being a SAHD doesn’t make one less able to perform the job:
I don’t always tell potential clients that I work at home, with my children around. Because sometimes clients may wonder about our commitment or quality of work.
But the fact is if we have to tend to the kids in the day, then we put in the hours at night. It’s tough but we are not any less committed.
So there you go. We are seeing more dual income families, more families where parents take the flexi work route, and more families where the mothers work outside full time with fathers staying home.
It’s different strokes for different folks. But it’s still about doing what they think best for their children and families!
Here is wishing all fathers a Happy Father’s Day whatever type of daddy you are!
Contributed by LK Lai
LK has travelled the world as a news journalist and enjoys interacting with people and listening to their stories. She likes to pen her thoughts and observations on family life, work issues, and anything that impacts societal development. She gets her inspiration from observing the antics of her three teen-aged boys and what goes on online.