DAD SAYS I took 4 months’ paternity leave

After spending four months with his baby son, Kristian Berntzen says that this experience has changed his life forever.

DAD-SAYS-I-took-four-months-paternity-leave
As a Norwegian citizen working for a Norwegian company in Singapore, I was entitled to take four months’ paternity leave in 2015 when my Singaporean wife, Jassmin, returned to work after her maternity leave. Our son Andreas (we call him Dre) was then 6 months old.

I thought I was well prepared because I’d often worked from home during my wife’s maternity leave, so that I could give her a hand. “Can’t be that bad, can it?” I thought to myself. I’d feed him, change his diapers, make sure he napped and have heaps of fun along the way. Maybe we could even sit down to watch a rugby game together! Halfway through my first day, I realised I’d been so wrong…

Taking full-time care of a baby is hard work! It’s like a Rubik’s cube that is changing constantly while you are trying to put it together — there is no way of cracking the code of how babies operate, nor do they come with a how-to manual. As their personalities and preferences change so quickly, what works today may not work tomorrow.

 

 “I decided to stop trying to “fix” every problem, instead, I’d just follow Dre’s cues.

 

This caused me a lot of frustration, since I always approach every situation with an expectation that there is a solution. But I knew that I had to change my rigid ways of thinking if I was going to survive this thing called fatherhood.

I decided to stop trying to “fix” every problem, instead, I’d just follow Dre’s cues. What if today he refuses to eat the strawberry purée he’d lapped up the day before? Not a problem, let’s try some banana. Is he boycotting all his naps? No point forcing him…let’s go for a nice long walk instead. Because I followed Dre’s cues, I soon stopped feeling frustrated, got to know him better and could even fulfil his needs as I started to recognise what he wanted.

Fatherhood became so much more enjoyable after that. Dre and I have both braved the streets of Singapore, with me juggling milk bottles and a stroller. I fed him lunch in coffee shops, changed his diapers on park benches, and we both made it back home in one piece every day.

As for my son, I think he has benefited tremendously from having such involved parents. This is because women and men react differently to similar situations, which rings so true when it comes to parenting.

 

“Dads make more laidback parents… This will benefit Dre in the long run as he’ll grow up more self-sufficient, braver and ready to take on anything that life throws at him.”

 

If our son takes a tumble, my wife might pick him up in haste and make a big fuss, while I’ll pick him up calmly and reassure him that everything is fine. Dads, I feel, make more laidback parents. This will benefit Dre in the long run as he’ll grow up more self-sufficient, braver and ready to take on anything that life throws at him.

The best thing about spending so much time with my little man is that these days, he’ll turn to me as often as he turns to my wife when he needs comforting or a cuddle. I can’t even begin to explain how much this means to me.

I remember our prenatal class instructors who kept referring to mums as the primary caregiver. Well, in Dre’s case, he has two — mother and father. But if everything falls apart, it’s good to know that the wife is just a phone call away!

 Kristian Berntzen, 38, a vice-president of IT, is dad to Andreas Dhiraj, 2.

 Photo: Melanie Ng

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