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A full-time dad from Singapore shares the life lessons that parenting has taught him, and gives fellow fathers practical ways to be “hands-on” dads and help their wives out with the kids!
Parenting is not easy, especially for a dad!
I’m Milton Goh from Singapore, a full-time dad to my daughter Maeleth who is currently 2 years old. I have been a full-time dad ever since my wife Amilee got pregnant. During her pregnancy, I helped her with the physical chores that she didn’t have the energy to do, and helped her to moisturize her body daily such that her body has no ‘battle marks’ of pregnancy.
After Mae was born, due to Amilee having a difficult labor of 22 hours which somehow resulted in her sustaining a tailbone injury, I was forced to step up and take the role of being Mae’s main caregiver.
It definitely wasn’t an easy path. As Amilee says (and I agree), men don’t have the natural maternal instincts so it’s harder for them to learn how to take care of a child.
Many things are difficult at the beginning, but if it’s important to you, don’t give up!
You should have seen me fumbling awkwardly in my first month or so as a dad. I had to be taught how to carry my child. How to feed her milk from the bottle, how to bathe her, change her diapers, burp her, put her to sleep, etc.
On the other hand, Amilee was like a pro, naturally knowing how to do the above things much better than I could, even though she couldn’t do them for long because of her tailbone injury and carpal tunnel syndrome which came from breastfeed Mae.
The funny thing is that I thought the antenatal classes that Amilee and I attended together would have sufficiently prepared me for parenthood. Nothing could be further from the truth. Knowing things in your head and actually having to do it are totally two different issues.
It’s like when the moment came to actually apply what I learnt in the classes, all the knowledge got thrown out of the window and I started to improvise.
You will never be prepared for parenthood. You have to learn on the job. If you think that you’re going to read books about parenting and suddenly become the world’s best parent, then think again!
Parenthood isn’t something that you’ll ever be able to know all the answers to because it’s such a multi-faceted role with so many things to consider, learn and do. You will learn as you go along.
Remember how parenting wasn’t easy for me at the beginning? It still isn’t, but I got better with practice. The only way you’re going to get better at it is by doing it repeatedly and learning from your mistakes.
Today I can confidently take care of Mae more or less alone even when my wife went overseas for a 5-day trip to Poland for an international voice conference (she’s a voice rehabilitation teacher and coach).
Parenting is a rewarding role that will bring you happiness if you invest your time and heart into it.
I wouldn’t never trade anything for the honor and bliss I have enjoyed from being Mae’s main caregiver. Many people say that daughters are naturally ‘daddy’s girls’, but Mae is a girl that literally grew up with her daddy by her side, for the whole day, every day.
She’s become quite clingy to me in a way that I like – it’s like almost everything is “I want daddy to do it”. My influence has rubbed off on her a little because I play quite roughly with her, as if she were a boy. So, she’s very strong and active as a result.
She likes to do assisted pull-ups, running, being flung up in the air and caught, swimming, playing at the playground, and many other rigorous and fun activities. She likes to do them with me by her side.
I know for sure that she loves me, and I make sure that she knows that I love her too. Every night before she sleeps, I make sure to kiss her and tell her that I love her when saying goodnight and sweet dreams.
It’s important to show love and affection for your children and your loved ones.
I believe that it gives children a sense of security and confidence to know that the person closest to them has got their backs.
My dad is a different kind of dad from me. When I was really little, he played with me and we were close, but as I grew up, he kinda didn’t know how to connect or relate with me anymore and we drifted apart.
Now, I feel like we are so distant even though we meet weekly. We don’t even have the closeness to hug because he gives off this unwelcome and closed off vibe. I feel that it’s probably due to him losing his dad at a young age. If I remember correctly his dad passed away when he was only 4 years old or younger. So he never had a dad growing up, and didn’t have a male role model to look up to and ground him as a child.
Your role as a parent is more important than you think.
There is a domino effect from my dad losing his dad at a young age. He didn’t grow up properly because he missed out the teaching and training from a father, and because of that, he wasn’t able to be the best dad that he could be to me. He did what he felt was important and necessary as a dad, always providing us with good food at the dining table, making sure that we were shuttled to and fro from school, tuition and other commitments.
However he is sorely lacking in the area of communication with us and showing his love and affection. Instead, he always speaks with a hard, commanding tone.
I believe that the presence of both parents, mum and dad, are crucial to a child’s development. I think that a person’s soft skills and nurturing side are cultivated from the time spent with mum, and that a person’s stability, character and values are shaped by time spent with dad.
The lack of one parent causes imbalance. The lack of both parents is truly sad. My heart goes out to orphans who have never know the true love of their parents. Research shows that many of them grow up with insecurities and go chasing after love in ways that don’t fulfill them.
After feeling this unfortunate disconnect with my dad, I made a commitment to myself that I would be a better father than he was to me. I guess that’s something good that came out of it. However now as a dad to Mae, I don’t feel that I’m doing this just to prove that I can be a better dad, but I genuinely enjoy this journey of parenthood.
As you shape your little one’s life, yours is being shaped, too.
I have grown in so many ways since I became a full-time dad. I discovered things about myself that I never knew before. For example:
- I can eat, prepare to go out, and shower really quickly now compared to in the past.
- I can project my voice much better now (from yelling at Mae from the other end of the apartment to come over when she’s doing something naughty).
I feel that parenting helps me to grow because it pushes me out of my comfort zone in many ways. Just like how muscles grow by being torn and reformed, parenting tears us away from what we used to know and be and forces us to grow to meet our children’s needs.
Watching Mae live carefree, smiling and always looking for the fun in everything she does, teaches me about life too. I learn from her that it’s possible to look for the bright side of everything and that I don’t need to worry because things will just work out.
Just like how she scales a rock wall confidently at the playground, unafraid of falling, I can be unafraid of failure when pursuing my other goals and passions in life too.
Life will never allow us to fall beyond what we can bounce back from, as long as we don’t allow our failures to be the end of our story. I believe that.
We can climb up again, just like how after Mae injures herself and cries, she’s back at it (some form of playing) again after a while, but learning from her mistakes, doing it better, looking out for the dangers, and navigating more skillfully this time round.
If you’re married, remember to prioritize your marriage. “Parent” is not your only identity.
Parenting has this devious tendency to consume you and make you so insular that you neglect the other important parts of your life. For example, when we fuss over Mae a lot and focus too much on her, Amilee and I suffer in our relationship as a married couple.
We must remember that our children will grow up and start their own family units one day, and when that day comes, the person that will still be with you in your house is your spouse.
One of the best things you can do for your children is to have a strong and loving marriage with your spouse.
When your kids see you showing love and affection to your spouse, they will feel secure, like everything in their life is held together, stable and held together. By seeing your example, your children will learn how to treat others and also how to show love.
Invest in your marriage by having regular ‘date nights’ if possible. When our mum is available, Amilee and I get her help to watch Mae for a few hours while we spend some quality couple time together.
The best is not to watch a movie at the cinema because when you do that, you have no chance to communicate. It’s just two people sitting side by side but focused on a screen, even if you’re holding hands throughout.
Do something on your date nights that encourages communicate and fosters true bonding. Have dinner together, talk about your dreams for the future, reminisce shared memories, but don’t talk about the children! It’s a time for you and your spouse to reconnect over something that’s not about parenting.
If you have trouble finding common topics of interest (other than the kids) to talk about then it’s a sign of trouble. Talk about feelings, be genuinely interested in what your spouse is going through, and be a supportive, listening ear.
7 Ways for Dads to Practice Hands-On Parenting
I want to end this post by giving fellow dads of babies or toddlers a list of ideas on how to be more hands-on in parenting. Especially if they are working dads who don’t have much time with the children every day. As a full-time dad for 2 years and counting, I wouldn’t say that I’m an expert at being a dad, but I can share based on my experience.
These past 2 years are definitely worth some learning lessons. Here’s some for you fellow brothers:
- Whenever you can, feed your child. Mealtimes are great for bonding. Food is a way to a child’s heart. Or at least for Mae it works that way. Mae still wants me to feed her milk from the bottle and she likes it when I sing for her while she’s drinking.
- Be in-charge of the bedtime routine whenever you can. Read a bedtime storybook to your child in your routine.
- Do you have a skill or passion? Share it with your child. For example, if you like playing the guitar, spend some time playing it for your child whenever you can. If you like sports, find a way to do simple sports together with your child, or you can do push-up with your child sitting on your back, like in those viral videos online.
- Speak respectfully to your child like you’re talking to a fellow adult. Don’t just bark orders at him or her. Reinforce the good behavior by giving compliments and encouragement every time your child does something well. Reduce the number of times you say words like “No” or “Don’t” which can limit your child’s freedom of expression, confidence, creativity, etc.
- Sign your child up for an enrichment class on a day that you don’t need to go to work. Attend the classes together with your child. Currently Mae is attending swimming classes and mandarin playgroup classes. Both have proven to be great ways of bonding, and your child will learn something useful in the process.
- After a long day at work, don’t go out and spend time with your friends. Come home to your family. It’s much better for you to spend time with your wife and children. Don’t say that you don’t have time – it’s a matter of prioritizing and choice. If you want to spend time with friends, do it once or twice a month only or just rarely. If not, it’s time to make new friends who are parents too who are open to the idea of hanging out with the whole family. Then both whole families can spend time together – everyone important can be present and get involved.
- Schedule fun activities with your kids on days where you don’t need to go to work. It’s great for bonding together. For example, bring them to an indoor playground and have a day of fun. Children learn a lot through playing and it’s not wasted time.
Fellow dad, this journey of parenting is life-changing. What you get out of it is what you’re willing to invest in it. Trust me, the harvest of fruits that you will reap are worth the efforts!
About the guest author:
At this time of publication, Milton is a 25 year old full-time daddy to a 2 year old girl. He lives a simple and blissful family-centred life in Singapore and regularly writes about Parenting and Christianity content on his blog which is ranked #8 on Feedspot’s list of Top 30 Christian Parenting Blogs worldwide.