Recently at a lunch with a few of my new course mates, one of them revealed that she had recently been married and very quickly as if anticipating our next question, professed that she and her husband do not plan to have any children.
As we were all not that close, we didn’t probe further and frankly there was no need to.
But that conversation got me thinking. “Why did I choose to have kids?” or for that matter, “Why did I choose to be a Dad?”. After all, we had 9 long years of childlessness due to infertility issues. During those days, we were able to enjoy the carefree lifestyle of a ‘DINK’ (Double Income No Kids). Financially, we did not have to plan much aside from each other and our first marital home, we could decorate it any how we felt like it, without a care for it to be child-proof. So, why did I choose to give up all that to become a Dad?
Actually, there was a point in time when I had resolved to be childless…not to be a Daddy. You see, our second IVF pregnancy had gone awry and as a result, my wife’s life was threatened. Even the senior consultant cautioned me that if we proceeded with more pregnancy attempts, I may lose my wife. The choice was clear.
It was nothing short of a miracle that our daughter, Dana was born a year after. But her birth was not the first occasion I used the title, ‘Father’. That privilege belongs to her elder brother, Nathaniel, who was delivered stillborn. As Nathaniel was our first child, I was in complete shock when we lost him. So much so that I had made the regretful decision to let the hospital dispose off his remains. It was there on the consent form that I wrote for the first time, in the column ‘Relationship to the Deceased’, I penned, ‘Father’.
Fast forward 12 years later. I’m now a Father of 2 (by God’s divine providence!). 24/7 juggling work and home commitments, trying to fulfill expectations of bosses and my own expectations as a Dad; struggling to ferry the kids around vs setting aside time for my own hobbies; balancing financial commitments to ensure that there are enough to go around for now and for the future. With the addition of Buddy two years ago, I’ve also had to put up with nightly feeding routines and nappy changes, even while travelling. All these a far cry from our carefree days as a DINK couple.
So why? Why did I choose to be a Dad? Despite all these challenges of being a Dad and having to give up certain liberties, Why didn’t I pick the ‘easier’ route to remain childless…just like my newly married course mate?
In fact, one of the first sacrifices I had to make was when Dana started learning to walk. This audio aficionado sold away all his beloved European floor-standing speakers and other components along just to make the home child-proof.
The wife and I love travelling but due to our experiences with child-loss, I have become very risk averse and have always insisted the kids come along with us everywhere we go, near or far.
At work, I had to make some ‘career limiting’ choices when it comes to approaching my bosses to apply for leave to tend to my children (esp on days when they are ill). It didn’t help that my bosses were mostly bachelors or spinsters. One in fact blasted me point blank, “What would our organization become if it’s not for singles?” During performance appraisals, staff who often take child-care / child-sick leave are seen as people with “commitment issues” and hence ranked more unfavorably compared to their peers who don’t have any family commitments (sad but true). Last year, when applying for leave to attend Dana’s P1 Meet-the-Parents session, I was given a lecture by my superior and told that the needs of the organization should always come first. I was asked to make a choice, “You decide, David, if you still want to go.” I went.
I asked some Daddy friends for their personal experiences on 1. What are some of the sacrifices that they had made as a Dad. And 2, Why they still chose to be one nevertheless.
“I honestly can’t remember what luxuries I used to have. I live so much in the present that I treat everything I have now as a Dad, as luxuries. I don’t think anyone chooses to be parents because no one can possibly know what he is going to be in for to consciously make the decision to become a parent. We choose to have kids. But being a Dad, that just happens without warning” (Winston, Daddy Blogger at http://blogfather.sg. In his 30s, father of 2 young kids).
“One of the things I gave up wasn’t so much of a luxury. Rather it was a portion of my career I sacrificed. My job requires me to meet most of my clients on weekends but since the kids came along, I made a choice to scale back on my appointments during weekends and make do with less income so as to spend more time with my family. Becoming a Dad is not simply a software update for adulthood. For me, I chose fatherhood because it gives me the excuse to continue buying toys and watching cartoons! Sharing the world that I know with the is important as I highly suspect that the connection being formed over colouring paper, the removal of training wheels, walking though parks and nightly reading will pay huge dividends down the road” (Kelvin, Daddy Blogger at http://www.cheekiemonkie.net. In his 30s, father of 3 young kids).
“No more boys night outs, husband / wife only occasions, late nights and weekend golf games. I guess its paternal instinct. I’ve always believed that marriage is synonymous with children. Kind of an inseparable eco-system of sorts. I’ve never ever thought of marriage w/o kids” (Geoff, 60, father of 2 adult kids)
“I gave up my hi-fi and surround sound system. My 100-inch projection and 200 DVDs. It was a natural progression for me and my Mrs. To be Mum and Dad to build our home.” (Andy, Daddy Blogger at http://sengkangbabies.com. In his early 40s, father of 4 young kids).
“We sacrificed long travels to off the beaten road areas. I chose to be a Dad because it’s a God-given privilege plus a family isn’t complete with the kids – they are so much joy to have around.” (A.L., in his late 40s, father of 2 adult kids).
“Freedom was definitely a big sacrifice. As a couple, we used to be able to travel out late. But now as parents, our travel planning now revolves around the child. We also have to return home earlier to ‘hit’ our son’s sleeping time.My wife and I love kids and being a Dad was a natural progression in our relationship. Our son was born in the same year when we wed. Our friends ask us why, I always tell them we cannot fight nature besides I wanted my parents to experience the joys of being Grandparents adding meaning to their own parental journey – to see their own children have children of their own. This to me, is the bliss of having a family.” (Marcus, in his early 30s, father of a 1 year old).
“I’ve always been an animal / plants person. But even since we had the kids, my attention has all been on them, my newest “pets”. Really can’t think of what I had been missing, Coz taking care of them is like second nature to me now. Perhaps sleep is something I missed at times.” (Steven, Daddy Blogger at http://theperfectfathersg.blogspot.sg. In his early 30s, father of 4 young kids).
“Sleep! To me , it is a natural progression to create our own life if you choose to spend the rest of your life with someone you love . That would apply to the first child. The second one is mainly because we felt the house is a little too quiet and the older child needs a companion . Haha . Being a Dad is secondary to fulfilling the desire to complete the family.” (M, Daddy Blogger at http://www.thewackyduo.com. In his early 40s, father of 2 young kids).
“Some of the luxuries- probably a nice 2-seater sports car, vacations alone with my wife. No one to fight with me for the TV remote! Why Dad? – I considered it a blessing a be able to be given a chance to speak into someone’s life.” (Edmund, Daddy Blogger at http://edunloaded.com/. In his early 40s, father of 3 young kids).
For me, I personally believe that one of the highest form of connection is a relationship. We all want to make connections but it is a relationship with another human being – someone you can have meaningful interaction with, that makes our existence significant. Better still, if the person embodies your values and shares your vision (ideally, our children) then that’s where a legacy is passed on. That’s the level of relationship (usually in marriage or in parenthood) that I believe, make the ‘inconveniences’ and sacrifices of fatherhood worthwhile.
One of the ‘sacrifices’ I make as a Dad is the tireless need to prune my own heart. I remind myself daily that I have got to be a good role model; I have to rid myself of any un-edifying conversations and eradicate any ungodly thoughts, behaviours and habits. I constantly pray for God to help me be a better father because beyond just bringing a life into this world, my children’s lives are those which I am solely and divinely responsible for. They are constantly looking up to me and I cannot mis-guide them or let them down. I owe it to God to raise them up well, as best as I could. As such, their needs have to come before mine.
Countless studies have been done on the extent of influence Fathers exert on their children’s lives. Here are some:
- In an analysis of over 100 studies on parent-child relationships, it was found that having a loving and nurturing father was as important for a child’s happiness, well-being, and social and academic success as having a loving and nurturing mother. Some studies even indicated father-love was a stronger contributor to some important positive child well-being outcomes.
- According to child psychiatrist, Kyle Pruett, a father’s more active play style and comparatively slower response to a toddler or infant frustration serve to promote problem-solving competencies and independence in the child.
- In a 26-year-long study, researchers found that the number one factor in developing empathy in children was father involvement. Fathers spending regular time alone with their children translated into children who became compassionate adults.
Source: Focus on the Family
As fathers, we parent our kids out of an instinctive love and responsibility, not coercion by statistics. On days when the going gets tough, let us be reminded that we are not alone. Here are several fathering websites which we can draw strength, inspiration and insights from in our journey.
Dads for Life: http://dadsforlife.sg/
Centre for Fathering: http://fathers.com.sg
Focus on the Family: https://www.family.org.sg/
The Fathering Project (US): http://thefatheringproject.org/
National Center for Fathering (US): http://www.fathers.com/
Happy Fathers’ Day!