25 June 2019, by Joel Chng
Bringing home the bacon and being present.
Those, to me, are my two main responsibilities as Ezra’s dad.
In this day and age of connectivity and multitasking, being present and fully engaged in my child’s life is an everyday decision that requires conscious effort.
So what do I do to be present in Ezra’s life?
- Avoid thinking about work emails when reading bedtime stories to him.
- Refrain from making lengthy adult conversations with fellow grown-ups during outings with him.
- Silence my phone and put it away for a few hours – to stop myself from feeling the need to respond to the constant notifications whenever I’m spending one-on-one time with him.
Being present in Ezra’s life does not mean I have to shelf all responsibilities to be with him. On a typical day, Ezra does get time and space to explore and play on his own. But during the early days of fatherhood, I’ll admit, there were a few occasions where I felt stress or resentful when I prioritised completing some tasks, rather than being physically available for Ezra.
This led to some adjustments that Petrina and I made as parents:
1) A tag team approach. Being first-time parents, we felt guilty if we did not spend all our time during weekends with Ezra. But we realised that it was okay to ‘take turns’ – if I needed to attend to work calls and emails at home, Petrina would play with Ezra in his room; if Petrina needed to attend to some housework, I would play with Ezra in the living room.
2) Batch cooking. I love to cook and used to whip up different dishes every night. But the move to batch cooking (cooking triple or quadruple portions and saving the excess for our next few days’ dinners) now allows us to have more family time. Less time spent cooking for me and less time spent washing up for Petrina equals more time for Ezra.
3) Doing laundry after Ezra goes to bed. This way, the washing machine to dryer to wardrobe process would be interruption-free.
Being a dad is also about sacrifice. The last four weeks has been eventful because it is the June school holidays and we did not sign Ezra up for any enrichment classes.
I’ve also changed jobs two months ago and start work later than most people. This is good thing as it allows me to spend a few precious hours every morning with Ezra.
Some mornings, Petrina sleeps in and I’ll have breakfast for Ezra – either home-cooked or grabbing some local breakfast from the kopitiam downstairs.
Other mornings, we head out as a family to visit places of interest.
This requires some sacrifice on my part, as it is definitely tempting to sleep in till it’s time to get ready for work. But by the time I end work at 7 p.m. and make my way home, Ezra would be fast asleep. And if I missed hanging out with him in the mornings, I will have to wait until the weekend.
I am happy to sacrifice my morning temptations to sleep in as I want to cultivate a close relationship with my son in his formative years. I want Ezra to know that he can depend on me and that he can talk to me about anything even after he grows into an adult and after he has children of his own.
The role of dads has changed for the better. No longer are they viewed as the sole breadwinner. Dads today are rarely distant authoritative figures. Instead, they are now loving and stable figures in their children’s lives who take on important roles at home. Not to belittle mums, but the role of dads has long been underrated. I believe that dads are just as important as mums in bringing up children.
Someone once told me, “When you think about it, we only have 18 summers together with our kids.”
Life has no rewind button so I try as much as I can to leave a positive impact on Ezra’s life and cherish every day I have with him. And that’s what it means to me to be a Dad.