Holding my first baby
I can still remember the day I held my eldest son, Ethan, in my arms when he was born. I was the first person in this world to hold him that way. Although I had always wanted to be a father since I was a little boy, nothing prepared me for this moment. Feelings of joy, anticipation, excitement and love coursed through me all at the same time as I placed him close to my chest. Fatherhood was no longer an idea or concept in my head. It became reality.
Now, I am a father of three. With Ethan, Chloe and Brandon, my wife, Joanne, and I have a much lively house to look forward to everyday. I dare say I was more prepared for fatherhood than many of my peers. I went through many nights of discussion with Joanne, met up friends with children who shared their experiences, read up as much as I could about parenting and went over umpteen times in my head what kind of father I wanted to be.
Jim with Ethan, Chloe and Brandon
Even then, I found out that being prepared for something does not guarantee that we will get it “right”. With Ethan, as first-time parents, we realized no book or website could give us the parenting strategy that was perfect for our child. We realized each child is so different and unique. I knew very soon that we had to figure out our own rhythm and ways to bring him up. I also knew I had to parent my child on the foundation of a strong relationship with my spouse and shared experiences as a family. I also felt I needed to spend more time with him. That meant lesser time for me.
I used to host friends over at my home ever so often. I had the luxury of time and energy to go for an occasional jog or a late night supper (I admit the suppers happened more often!) I could spend hours in front of the computer for leisure or for work. I remembered moments where I lazed on the couch during weekends and fell asleep when I liked. When Ethan came into my life, I could do none of those things, unless with good planning and help. Most of my time and attention was given to Ethan. Even at night, when it was time to sleep, I would be woken up by his cries for milk.
Fathering and finances
I thought things would be better with Chloe and Brandon because I already had some parenting experience. I was wrong again because every child is different. Some things remained the same though – diaper-changing, bathing, burping, feeding, cleaning, sterilizing and playtime. But the difference in personalities of each child was very real and I had to discover new ways of relating to each one of them. It was also interesting to see how three children with different personalities could come from the same set of parents. I discovered they needed different love languages.
Finances were also another priority. Although we now have sufficient to get by, I still need to think about the future of my children. With three more mouths to feed and their foreseeable educational needs, I now pay more attention to how I spend my money. Also, they fall sick quite often and medical bills can really stack up. I have to make some adjustments and that means fewer expensive meals at restaurants, no whimsical purchases of gadgets and looking out for good deals online.
If my experience of being a father paints a less than rosy picture for you, take heart and let me offer some encouragement as I want to give an accurate picture of what fatherhood can be like. For everything in life, what really determines our attitude and responses are the expectations that we bring into an experience. Because I am, to the best of my abilities, mentally and emotionally prepared for fatherhood, my expectations about what I will go through as a father are managed well. Although I may not have pre-empted everything that I will experience as a father, I am able to avoid huge surprises. I came into fatherhood with my set of expectations. This is a crucial factor why I can deal with the lack of personal space and time.
Having children is really not just about what we can give to or teach them. We often think of them as a responsibility, even for some, a "burden". For me, having children is teaching me about life – to be a better husband as I firmly believe I am first a husband then a father.
Here are some lessons my children are teaching me…
…to be a more patient man.
…to laugh at myself and to laugh together with them.
…to be a child again.
…that life's simple pleasures can only be experienced, not bought.
…how good it feels when I am their everlasting hero.
…there is ultimately hope in life.
What I am going through now? It is not fatherhood. It is personhood.
Contributed by Jim Lim, Director of REAL Academy, a Relationship Consultancy that has been helping individuals, families and companies build great relationships that last. He lives each day as a hero to his children.