DAD SAYS Becoming a more involved father changed my life

He left a secure job to join a charity outfit, so that he could become a more engaged father.

Parents- DAD SAYS Becoming a father changed my life

I never wanted to be a father, as I did not know how to be one.

Growing up, I failed to appreciate that my father’s tough love and high expectations actually benefited me. I drew away from him as I got tired of constantly seeking his approval and love.

So, when I had my first child in 2010, I felt a little disoriented because I was too proud to ask for help.

Then, my next child arrived in 2014, and I was really at my wits’ end.

Fatherhood was a very lonely journey at that point. I decided then to provide materially for my family as best as I could, and mask my inadequacies by being present physically, but not emotionally, to my children.

So, for a while there, I even thought I was doing a great job as a father and husband.

The turning point came when I attended a “Breakfast with Dad” event with the Centre for Fathering — a charity organisation that provides support for dads through education and awareness programmes — with my eldest child, who was 5 years old at the time.

During one exercise, the dads in the room were asked to shout, “I love you!” from around a corner — loud enough for our children to recognise our voices and run to us.

Was I really being a dad, if my own son could not recognise my voice?

To my embarrassment, I had to attempt this three times before my eldest son, Michael, was able to distinguish that I calling out to him. It was no consolation that two other children at the event mistook my voice for their fathers’.

This episode kept me up at night for a week. Was I really being a dad, if my own son could not recognise my voice?

I decided then that I needed to get connected to the Centre’s wide network of active fathers and fathering coaches. I needed support, I decided, from other dads, and I needed to have access to the tools that would teach me how to be a more involved father.

Because of my journey, I left my Singapore Armed Forces job prematurely to join the Centre for Fathering as a member of the staff in August last year. My personal mission statement by that point was ― and still is — to help raise awareness of the importance of involved fathering, and to minimise the effects of “fatherlessness” in our nation. I’m referring to people who do not have fathers, as well as those whose fathers are not engaged in family life.

I want to help others to look beyond their households, to be a role model, and father the “fatherless” within their spheres of influence.