Active Fatherhood: An Uphill Battle

Dads don’t have it easy in Singapore. (Bear with me ladies; there is a silver lining.)

While mothers (who, under the Child Development Co-Savings Act, get up to 16 weeks maternity leave) get an entire section dedicated to maternity leave entitlement on the Ministry of Manpower’s website, dear old dad gets a less-than-honorary mention at the bottom of their Annual Leave page stating:

“There is no statutory entitlement for… paternity… leave under the Employment Act. The entitlement to such leave depends on what is in the employment contract or agreed mutually between employer and employee.”

So in short, if you’re looking for a good paternity leave package (employment contracts will usually stipulate paternity leave at between 2 to 7 days), go talk to your boss.

The law also has a special section just for women; the Women’s Charter, according to the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations, “was passed in 1961 to protect the rights of women and girls in Singapore”. While the Charter does try to promote gender equality, it was formulated on an assumption that the female is the weaker sex and thus requires more protection. Speaking as someone who’s been working in a law firm, I would say with some trepidation that given the modern society’s mindset on gender equality, that’s a lot of protection in the arsenal of women to have; in fact, to run through the Women’s Charter as a man, the prospects of being male can be downright scary.

The mindset is not lost in women’s perception of men in parenting either; in a recent Huffington Post article, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg remarked, “I don’t know a lot of men who feel guilty for working full time, it’s expected that they’ll work full time…I wonder if there were more shared responsibility if more men would feel guilty too and women would feel less of it.”

The Men Actually Agree

The strange thing about all this is that most men are actually okay with this mindset. We generally accept being seen as “men of the house”, able to traipse through our career without the guilt of sacrificing family time in favour of work; we understand how women might require more legal protection; and most importantly, we agree that because our wives effectively go through so much more through child-bearing and childbirth, and thus deserve their time off work.

It won’t seem so strange if you look back at what happened in Western society way back in the 50’s and 60’s when women’s lib was first introduced. The fight for independence in gender was so strong coming from the women – what men can do, women can do too – it led to a cultural tectonic shift that enabled women to take charge fo their own lives, establish their own careers, and even have a stronger voice in politics. That fight for independence was strong indeed; but traditional sentiments that govern society’s view of the man’s place – in family, in particular – was much slower in development.

While the women are still gaining a foothold in the corporate/political arena, the men are still expected to (mainly) bring home the bacon, pay the bills and ensure their family is well provided for at any cost, to have a strong focus on their careers in order to provide, to be okay with sacrificing time with their family for their family. Indeed, through talking to a stay-at-home dad about the issue, it seems it’s a generally accepted view by both men and women, to the point where the hapless stay-at-home dad in question was wondering if he was actually doing the right thing by choosing to be the homemaker.

And because this perceived role of men is so widely subscribed – by both men and women alike – society struggling to deal with what modern parenting experts are struggling to push – we’re short of active fathers.

And Here’s the Silver Lining

The truth is, the men are changing (more like adapting) too, and it started a good 2 decades ago. We’ve witnessed in the 90’s a trend of SNAGs (sensitive new age guys) and metrosexuals, and guess what? those very same SNAGs and metrosexuals have grown up to become fathers (at least, the ones that still like women).

Here’s more good news; society seems to be changing with us. Case-in-point: I frequently find myself taking public buses and trains with just my 3-year-old in tow, and though there are times when commuters don’t know what to make of me, I would say 80% of the time someone would stand up and gesture to me to take his or her seat without a second thought. And no, I do not look like a woman, despite what my widely publicised wedding photos show.

It was really quite surprising for me in the beginning, and given that I’m a father (read: male), I still don’t take such offers for granted. Being conscious of what society still deems men as in many aspects of living and lifestyle, I wouldn’t take anything for granted at this point.

That’s why Blogfathers! is looking for a way to connect to fathers in general, be they active or otherwise, firstly to understand what makes the Singapore dad tick, then where the challenges in fatherhood lie, and finally to find solutions for dads who want to play a more active role in their children and families. From what I’ve seen and heard, that last bit with the solutions is the hardest to decipher, and it might take more than an idea and a website to get the point across.

But I’m going to try.

[Image via Listen To My Whine]

Happy Mothers Day

Dear Xander,

I have been told on a number of occasions by a number of people (I count 3 so far; your eldest aunt – my eldest sister – and both your grandparents) what an unfilial son I have become, particularly after I settled down, had my own family and am struggling to keep things afloat financially whilst trying to ensure the happiness of those that matter to me. I know the sacrifices parents make first hand because I see and make very much the same sacrifices with our own son.

This isn’t a day to mark up your filial piety a few notches to show your appreciation to your mother; you should be doing that every day (Brian Richmond said that). It isn’t a day to judge your siblings for what they are doing with your mum, whether it’s not enough or too much (I said that). It most definitely shouldn’t be a day for retailers and restaurateurs to jack up their prices in the name of a special day (students around the island who try to celebrate Valentine’s Day say that).

It’s a day to remember the person that gave you the rest of her life so you could live yours. Making this one day extra special isn’t going to relieve the work she has done, and continues to do, or make up for the sacrifices and suffering she’s had to go through. You just need to make sure that your mother already feels extra special because of her children – you – and the love you have for her that you’ve been giving from the moment you’re born to the day that you die.

If filial piety is judged upon what I’ve done for my mother, then I’ve been a terrible son and all these words mean absolutely nothing. But my love for your grandmother has never died; life just got in the way, and words are pretty much all I have right now.

We may describe you as many things for now and for the future, but we will never accuse you of being unfilial; your mum and I already know how much you love us, and for as long as we live your mother and I will remember that your gift to us has always been love and happiness, nothing more, nothing less.

Now go give your mother a big kiss and a hug.

Love,

Dad

Review: Dads for Life Conference 2012

“I would rather stay with my family and be a dad than go to a conference to hear about other fathers.”

That was one of a few responses I got when I was trying to garner support to purchase the Dads for Life Conference 2012 tickets at a group discount. And I need to qualify: I only got a few responses.

I did in fact agree to a certain extent; as a father contented and happy with how my family is doing, why would I need to learn how to be something I already felt I was good at – and for that matter, in a conference? Furthermore, fatherhood is such a personal experience; what would other dads have to offer that might apply to me?

If it wasn’t for the need to find something to talk about in Blogfathers!, I would most probably have avoided the event for fear that it might turn into a very large self-help group meeting complete with confessions, crying and excessive group-hugging.

But go I did, and I found about 800 men (plus a handful of wives) apparently not sharing the sane trepidations i had about the event. Regardless, I found myself leaving with much more than I bargained for.

Wilfrid C. Hoecke: Why Men and Women Don’t Understand Each Other

Just the first keynote alone sought to address the one biggest mystery of the universe for men – women.

While Mr Hoecke did not delve into how fathers can gain a better understanding of the mothers of their children, he did succinctly and knowledgeably explain why we don’t understand our wives, drawing particular attention to maternal vs. paternal parenting processes.

For example, mothers will continually communicate guardedness and safety while watching over their child during playtime words like “Be careful”, “Don’t do that”, and “You’ll get hurt” are very common phrases you’ll hear from mothers. Fathers naturally do the exact opposite; while playing with their child/children, they seek to push limits and achieve greater heights in play, using encouragement such as “Climb higher”, “Don’t be scared” and “You can do it!”

It’s a stark contrast in parenting style between genders – while mums protect their children from the dangers of the world, dads will prepare them for the real world, and we are naturally wired to do so because despite the conflicting sensibilities, both approaches are essential for the children’s rounded growth and development. It’s why parenting is always deemed a team effort, and not as adequate if done solo (and also a main source of family squabbles if not understood properly).

Dr John Ng – The Mediation Expert Who Needed To See a Psychiatrist

The second keynote, led by mediation expert and leadership guru Dr John Ng, spoke of understanding and dealing with parent-teen (and parent-to-parent) conflict. The premise set forth by Dr Ng was that conflict itself is a neutral entity, and it is the management of conflict that commonly determines the negativity of the experience. By understanding that conflicts reside on neutral ground, (coupled with research showing that 68% of conflicts arising from the home are unresolvable), you may be able to avoid the fighting, cold wars and general discontent that arises from disagreements at home.

The highlight of this second keynote came from Dr Ng’s 18-year-old daughter, who gamely came on stage for about 5 minutes to give her perspective on family conflicts seen through the eyes of a teenager. Her message to her father – and the audience – was frank and very clear: listen to your kid, and respect your kid’s expressed opinion, or face the consequence of being shut out by your child in return. As far as I was concerned, the well-spoken young lady stole the show from her dad, and I am sure her father is very proud of that.

This would be the 3rd year the Dads for Life Conference has been held. The event looks to be growing from strength to strength, with a foundation of credible fathers-turned-experts and experts-turned-fathers feeding the cause with well-researched information, and strong support from men (and women, too) who care enough to want to see their parenting abilities improve despite their masculine selves. More importantly, Dads for Life understands and drives the point that being a good father is more than being a dad; it involves being a good husband, a good listener, a good caregiver and a good student.

That being said, the event does show a little room for improvements and possible enhancements, but then again, who am I to talk? Before this event, I was a good dad. Now I know I can be better.

Happy Mother's Day!

I have been told on a number of occasions by a number of people (I count 3 so far; my eldest sister, my dad, and my, er, mum) what an unfilial son I have become, particularly after I settled down, had my own family and am struggling to keep things afloat financially whilst trying to ensure the happiness of those that matter to me. I know the sacrifices parents make first hand because I see and make very much the same sacrifices with our own son.

motherofblogfather

This isn’t a day to mark up your filial piety a few notches to show your appreciation to your mother; you should be doing that every day (Brian Richmond said that). It isn’t a day to judge your siblings for what they are doing with your mum, whether it’s not enough or too much (I said that). It most definitely shouldn’t be a day for retailers and restaurateurs to jack up their prices in the name of a special day (students around the island who try to celebrate Valentine’s Day say that)

It’s a day to remember the person that gave you the rest of her life so you could live yours. Making this one day extra special isn’t going to relieve the work she has done, and continues to do, or make up for the sacrifices and suffering she’s had to go through. You just need to make sure that your mother already feels extra special because of her children – you – and the love you have for her that you’ve been giving from the moment you’re born to the day that you die.

If filial piety is judged upon what I’ve done for my mother, then I’ve been a terrible son and all these words mean absolutely nothing. But my love for my mum has never died; life just got in the way, and words are pretty much all I have right now, so if these words hold any meaning for you, or has touched you in any way, do something about it.

Never Gonna Give You Up

Mummy: I think you were too harsh on your last couple of blog posts.
Me: Harsh? How?
Mummy: For one, you were really harsh on Andre. Also, you sounded like you were asking Xan to give up.

Dear Xander,

Sometimes, even though a person means well, he or she will inadvertently overstep boundaries, or make mistakes, or push too hard on a piece of advice they think is the only right way to go about doing things.

Sometimes, the person will be stubborn and insist his way is the right way.

Sometimes, the person will realise what he did and deal with the embarrassment with a quick brush of the hand and say, “i didn’t mean it that way. It was an honest mistake. Let’s move on.”

Sometimes, the person will admit he was wrong, and not only apologise, but try to make it right again, no matter how hard making it right might be.

What your mother said about the last two letters made me realise what I did. Bringing another party into a story published on a public platform will always carry risks; sometimes it pays off, everyone has a good laugh or a thoughtful read, and life goes on as planned. Sometimes, you screw up, and then you pay for it. On this occasion, your father screwed up, by passing judgment on a 4-year-old.

Andre is a very bright 4-year-old boy, always smiling, always friendly, socially engaging, and very caring towards the people whom he loves and who love him. He is also an only child; aside from his daily 2-hour interactions with the children from his kindergarten, the only other “sibling” of his age group he has contact with on a regular basis is his 3-year-old cousin – you.

In light of these circumstances, triggered by the sobering reminder your mother gave me, I realise I have absolutely no right to make any assumptions about Andre’s character, attitude or behaviour, much less pass judgment on him based on such assumptions.

Did I mean to pass judgment? Yes, albeit unconsciously. Was I wrong? Undoubtedly. Am I sorry? Yes, I am. Can we move on? No; not until I make amends.

A more drastic mistake your mother made me aware of was that my message to you in my last letter implied that you should give up making friends with a person when it seems like a futile endeavour. The notion is so subtle yet so impactful, it’s even made me rethink the entire premise behind Dear Xander.

My intention behind these letters is to provide you with a resource that your father can impart his knowledge and experience with, using a medium that I was most comfortable with – the written word.

That being said, the knowledge and experience I have with making friends – remembering that I mentioned having taken a lot of hits and earned myself a lot of grief and misery – hardly qualifies me as an expert in the area (for that matter, I am now reconsidering my self-perceived expertise in every area I thought I was an expert on).

Your father didn’t have many friends in his youth. I wasn’t particularly close with most of who I hung out with; I had a handful of very strong friendships, what I felt was a pre-requisite for truly regarding people friends, but at the end of the day, I found I had made more people hate me than like me.

It left me jaded, pushed me into bitterness, and made me cynical for a long time afterward.

These days, I have grown to treasure the few friends I have left from the days of my youth, and thankfully, the ones who hated me are hardly anywhere to be seen.

I really don’t want for you to resort to giving up like I did when frustration got the better of me. There is a way – there is always a way – to get through to people, as long as the kindness of your heart remains strong and your goodwill prevails no matter how people treat you. Understand that good begets good, and as long as you persist in being a good boy with the heart that you have, no one will be able to resist you for long.

For all my imperfections, I am sorry.

Love,

Dad.

One Night at Grandma's (Part 2)

This is the second of a two-part letter, which began here.

It was already a good half hour past your bedtime as we prepared to leave Grandma’s house that night. As we were waiting outside, you climbed up on the wood benches in Grandpa’s garden, plopped your chin on the tabletop and continued to sulk.

I came over and sat opposite you, asking if you were all right. You replied me with a question.

“Why Andre don’t like me?”

Times like this really make me wonder if I had missed out on some milestone whilst I was researching on the mental development of a typical 3-year-old, or you were just growing up too fast.

Though I wasn’t sure you’d understand, I still tried to explain that in life, you can’t please everyone, and realistically, you shouldn’t even try. Soon after that, you added, “I don’t like Andre any more.” Looking at you then, I knew you meant you resented how he treated you but not him personally; you cared enough to continue sulking through most of the ride home, despite your mother consoling you by saying Andre still liked you, though it was getting late and he was getting grumpy.

Your mother and I understand the importance of your learning good social skills, to the point where we are heartened to see you being able to maintain your best behaviour during social gatherings, interact politely with strangers, and even extend a play-date invitation to another child who isn’t inclined to do the same to you.

There is, however, a harsh reality in learning these social skills that I realise, through your reaction to that Friday night incident, can only be taught by yourself, through your own experience.

The society we live in and try to fit into – whether it be classmates in school, playmates in your neighbourhood, colleagues at work, or even relatives in your extended family – will inevitably consist of 1 or 10 people who simply will not get along with you, no matter how hard you try to be nice.

While still a teenager, your dad took a lot of hits and earned himself a lot of grief and misery from trying too hard to be liked by people who just plain didn’t – and couldn’t – like him. It took a pretty long time to learn that I was competing in a Mr Congeniality contest against no one in particular, trying to impress no one who cares, and winning the hearts of no one who was worth it.

Your dad is giving you a pre-emptive heads-up here, knowing full well you’ll try to sign up for the same contest, expecting results where none can be given. I know also that eventually you will understand, the best way to get people to like you – people who will value your friendship and add value to you as friends – is to not try so hard to be liked. You only need to work hard on being the sensible, energetic, big-hearted, kind soul you already are, and you won’t need to look for good friendship; the good friends you need will come find you.

Love,

Dad

One Night at Grandma's (Part 1)

Dear Xander,

Your relationship with your cousin Andre is at best a tumultuous one. There are days when the both of you will laugh and play like best friends, and then things can suddenly turn ugly, when Andre refuses to play with you or share his toys, or you decide to do the same.
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Andre is about a year older than you, and communicates in spoken English at a level we feel is well beyond his age. He lives mainly with Grandma, which is also where you and Andre get to interact on a weekly basis. One thing that Andre hasn’t quite got the hang of is playing well with others over an extended period of time, being an only child, much like you. More importantly, he sees you as a competitor for the otherwise unadulterated affection and attention he usually enjoys from his mother (your mother’s sister) and Grandma; a sibling rivalry between two children who aren’t siblings in the traditional sense.

Which is why you surprised everyone in Grandma’s house last Friday night.

The night had expectedly come to the point where Andre was beginning to irritate you by not playing with you, and snatching toys away from you. You got fed up, and tried pretending to sleep on the sofa with a grumpy pout for a while (your mother and I have never seen you do that before), before walking over to seek consolation from your mother.

Andre was with his own mother in the middle of the living room reinforcing the fact that he “doesn’t want to play with Xander”, and “doesn’t want to share”, when you turned to him and suddenly said, “I want Andre to come play at my house.”

Your mother and her sister started looking at you in bewilderment. Your mother then tried to confirm, “You want Andre to come play at our house? With your toys?”

You said, “Yes. I want to share my toys with Andre.”

Andre was stunned; he sat in the middle of the living room, mouth open, not knowing how to react. On your behalf, I further extended the invitation, reasoning with Andre that it would only be fair that he come to Xander’s house to play with your toys as often as you come to play with his. Through the turn of events, we could see he wasn’t able to reconcile your offer with his intentional bad behaviour towards you, though; he declined the offer, then hid in a corner, apparently in shame.

Andre’s mother puts the incident down to a heartwarming generosity unexpected of a 3-year-old. I likened it more to an equally unexpected play of reverse psychology. Either way, you stunned everyone in the living room, and your parents were immensely proud of your big-heartedness/the most impressive psychological counter-manoeuver I have ever witnessed by a 3-year-old.

This would usually be the point where I would sum up the lesson to be learnt, a moral of the story, so to speak.

Except that this story hasn’t ended, and the lesson had yet to begin.

To be continued.

The Celebrated Master of Baby Kung Fu

Those who have watched Ip Man, the kung fu action flick starring Donnie Yen, will have either marvelled at the talent this underrated actor has, or if you’re of the feminine persuasion, fallen in lust with his dashing 46-year-old Asian good looks.

We watched Ip Man when Xander was still in my wife’s womb, but we could tell he was watching with us. As with our experience while watching Quantum of Solace, the sound of every gunshot, kick and punch would illicit a kick from our dear boy in my wife’s third trimester.

But where am I going with this? Third trimester is soooooo yesterday. Well, fans of Ip Man may be heartened to know that there will be a sequel…

Xander decided he will not be outdone by some old man with big hands and nice eyes.
Xander decided he will not be outdone by some old man with big hands and nice eyes.

Our kid’s even got a training video! (Click the link if video doesn’t show here)

How’s that for an early start?

Week 2: Blurry Days, Sleepless Nights

At some point in a new father’s life, one might come to the conclusion that newborn babies are in fact a Samsonian test of strength. Who would think a 4kg bundle of flesh and cuteness could wreak such havoc with his parents’ biological clock to the point where one barely knows what day of the week it is (my wife has already given up keeping track).

It’s the end of Week 2, and Xander’s appetite has increased overnight. What used to be 60ml of milk a feed every 2 hours has shot up to 120ml of milk or more in 3 hours. And if you’re wondering where it all goes, last night I had the answer sitting in my hand after another sleepless night deciphering my baby son’s cries of complaint; at about 5am this morning, I had removed and disposed of what I believe to be the heaviest diaper load in the history of diaper changes. If I weren’t so sleepy, I’d have had it weighed and submitted into the Guinness Book of World Records. Instead all I can do now is open a can of Guinness and celebrate my victory of having learnt to change diapers properly without my son peeing all over himself and me. And I don’t even like Guinness.

You’d think I’d have gotten used to it by now, and I thought so too, but the sudden increase in appetite threw the entire house off-guard, even though I was pre-empted 3 days before the 2-week mark from the instructions printed on our (largely unused) can of S26 that from the second week onwards, baby feed will be increased from 60ml to 120ml, with slightly less frequent feeds per day. Slightly less frequent feeds? It feels like Day 1 after the hospital all over again, except this time, my mother-in-law had trusted me enough to run my own show for the night. Either that, or she was too bushed to wake up from my boy’s screaming.

My wife is also having a hard time keeping up with the total breastfeed program. She is now breastfeeding a lot more often, and pumping out reserves a lot less, because dear little Xander has seemingly inherited the Tay family appetite, and someone must have taught him not to waste a single morsel of food that’s served to him, so he’s sucking my wife dry every time. And when I take over to burp him after a feed, he tries to latch on to my boobs too (kudos to Xander for not discriminating). If he weren’t so darn cute, he’d be a fictional alien offspring with a voracious appetite for nipples in a B-grade bisexual softcore horror movie.

So, on Week 2, I have learned:

  • When newborns cry, it can only mean one of 3 things; either he’s hungry, or he’s soiled his diaper, or he’s in pain. If only adult life were so uncomplicated.
  • I am proficient enough with burping babies to be awarded with a certification. My big hands seem to scare the air out of my son the moment I sit him up and start swinging him around all Indian dance-like (video coming soon). nobody else in the house seems to know how to get him to burp, without lack of trying.
  • Diaper changes require quick thinking and pre-planning. Wet wipes, powder, nappy rash cream on a sterile cotton ball at the ready, and a fresh diaper positioned for optimum switching with soiled one. I haven’t timed it yet, but if I did, I might get a job swapping tires in the F1 pit with the Honda team.
  • Breastmilk poo is greenish-yellow, runny and has curds. I can no longer look at feta cheese the same way again.
  • When baby takes a shit, timing is essential. You got to wait for him to complete the transaction first (usually takes another push or three, and is usually punctuated at the end with a glorious fountain of pee if you’re not careful (a huge warning sign is if his pee-pee goes to 12 o’clock position, but by then it’ll be too late and you’re gonna need another shower).
  • Newborn baby farts are as dangerous, if not more, as fountains of pee.
  • Nappy rash hurts. Just ask Xander.
  • Hiccuping, though disturbing at times, needs to be accepted as a newborn’s routine, so there’s really nothing to worry about, and nothing much you can do. At first we tried everything from burping to feeding water, but now we just stand at his cot and laugh at how cute he is when he’s vibrating.
  • Just when you think you got the hang of it, your kid will pull out new surprises to keep your days a blur and your nights sleepless. Patience is key, and shift duties are essential for the sanity of any newborn’s household.
  • Being there to father your son and husband your wife is the best gift you can give to your family at this time, and especially to yourself. So don’t run away from those diapers and take it like a man. Your child will hiccup to thank you.

Week 1: Searching For The Joy of Parenthood

I’ve been reading through some other blogs on the topic of post-natal confinement, and it seems that while people are lauding over the joys of pregnancy, few people actually speak of the aftermath of giving birth. In fact, the most I’ve gotten about the subject prior to Xander’s birth were either a very sympathetic “Good luck, bro” or a very solemn “Welcome to parenthood. Try to stick with it.”

It really isn’t until you’re in the thick of it that you realise exactly why these responses sound the way they do. And even then, they don’t even begin to describe the ordeal you have to go through, regardless of whether you are the father or mother.

Take my wife (not literally). Having been through the pains of the 3 major types of delivery in one sitting (normal, assisted and C-section), one can only imagine the pain she must be going through during the recovery process. Add breastfeeding (proof that big boobs does not necessarily a happy husband make), a strict regiment of confinement foods (and very little else), perpetual house arrest, an overbearing parent, and of course a baby that cries for milk, a change of diapers or colic relief every hour without fail, and you start to wonder if it’s really hormonal changes that’s affecting her mood or just emotional retaliation to the conditions she has to go through. Whatever the case, from the day Xander was born, my love and respect for her has grown to such a level no words or actions are enough to justify its worth.

The baby, too, seems to be having a tough time. Jaundice is common among newborns, requiring a short stint in the morning sun at a specific time frame so you don’t overcook him. And since he’s only a week old, one cannot expect the kid to tell you he needs to pee or poop, though he has learnt since day 4 (to my knowledge anyway) to make known to the entire household when he’s made a bowel movement or bladder clearing (sometimes he emphasises the point some more by peeing over everything within 2 feet of his cot halfway through a diaper change). Our first night we had to pile on wet wipe after wet wipe over his poo, resulting in a sculptural masterpiece on his soiled diaper that resembled a half-serving of lasagna. And just like any offspring of mine would, he has a voracious appetite, further laying claim that he is my son by loving every minute of his face being immersed in my wife’s bosom (he’s luckier though; he gets to do it at least twice a day, while I get nada). But it is his cry that really gets to you; my wife once quipped with such terms of endearment that his crying carries such sadness with it. I can best describe it as a sudden sucking of air, followed by small whimper that grows a little in volume until it trails off into a high-pitched whisper as his lungs run out of air before he lets out a big blast of a wail that’s guaranteed to wake the other side of the estate. You got to hear it to understand how heart-piercing it is.

Being the new addition to the family, he is also showered with attention by my mother-in-law (commander-in-chief of the Great Confinement Period), her trusty maid (sometimes second-in-command) and me (the blur recruit). At some points during middle-of-the-night diaper changes (and some daytime changes), my son gets molested all over by 6 hands trying to make sense of his soiled buttocks, the diaper his clothing and his swaddle all at the same time. I’ve since learned to back off during this kind of situation. You have to trust your mother-in-law knows what she’s doing; she did bring up your wife, after all.

After all this, I cannot possibly lay claim to having the toughest job of all. over the past week, I have taken on the task of night-time nanny, allowing my wife to rest while I took care of Xander, with some help from Commander-in-Chief and her trusty sidekick and when they wake up to the sounds of Xander’s crying and think he’s complaining about me. The past week I have been clocking 2-4 hours of sleep a night – none of those hours consecutive – forcing me to retreat like a beaten dog back to my Sengkang flat as soon as the night is over to assume the foetal position in my bed and suck my thumb. I am lucky on 2 counts; that it is the holiday season (so most of the time I don’t have to work in the day), and that I got my driving license (so I can get home in 20 minutes as opposed to the 1-hour public transport option).

To all mothers (including my wife, my wife’s mother and my own), I take my hat off. If my hair weren’t so short and ugly right now, I’d take that off too. And if I didn’t need my skullcap to protect my brain, I’d take that off too.

To all new fathers, … Good luck, bro.