This evening, Dads for Life posted a short video of something that happened on Channel NewsAsia this evening:
They were interviewing a man for his expert opinion on how Japan’s tax hike would affect Japanese consumers, when the man’s child (off camera) started making some noise and needed his attention. He tried to answer the question, and then said with a smile, “we’re going to have to stop”, and got off camera to tend to the kid.
The comments on the Facebook post were very interesting. Some viewed the man’s behaviour as a lack of professionalism; (“surely he must have known he would be going on the air!”) Others saw it as somebody finally putting family first, and that it was something to be lauded.
I’m just thankful we are able to have this conversation. It wasn’t too long ago when it would be inconceivable for a man to leave his work so unceremoniously for his kid when it didn’t seem like an emergency.
For the past three months, I have spent nights sleeping on the couch in the living room or the recliner in the baby’s room. Sleep has been constrained to short stretches between bottle feeds, washing and sterilising said bottles, and preparing the breast pump for Faith. At best, this cycle is stretched over four hours. On bad days, I lay my head down for 20 minute stretches at a time, before I decide the commute between the land of the living and the realm of sleep too tedious, and I give up.
Work hasn’t been a walk in the park either. When Caleb and Faith fell ill, I took sick leave and stayed home to tend to them. But deadlines are what they are, and being connected means work never really leaves you alone, despite the best intentions of colleagues. It was when I pushed Caleb aside while trying to tend to an urgent email that I realised we had some way to go as a society if we were ever going to make work part of life, rather than its totality.
Parenting is messy. It throws up unexpected surprises, makes unscheduled stops, zips past when we’re not noticing. It is the perfect embodiment of what life is.
Parenting is unapologetically hard. If you’ve ever tried putting a baby to bed you’d know that some days it is nigh impossible, no matter how hard you try. Then at your wit’s end, when you’ve screamed, shouted, thrown in the towel; when you’re halfway through your monologue, ranting against heaven, you discover the kiddo fast asleep. There is no formula: what worked today may not work tomorrow. There is only the now.
It is also unbelievably beautiful. In that moment when your child is asleep and your voice still hoarse from cursing the gods, there is an aura of peace one can only describe as godsent. When your child speaks his or her first words, you may not understand the babble, but the moment is filled with meaning.
Along with my wonderful folks at work and with the help of many creative people, we put together two short video clips that encapsulate these parenting moments.
and for Dads,
As I look at the visuals of my own parenting journey taken over the last 8 years, I am thankful for all that I have been blessed with, and reminded to be the man my wife and children can look up to.
I may not or may not go off camera during a live feed to tend to my child, but it would be nice if we regarded the needs of the child a little more, and the slight inconvenience to millions of viewers a little less; the value of being a parent, and not merely its cost.
If you’d like to support this cause to make Singapore better, we started the Heybaby Facebook page where we will be facilitating the sharing of parenting stories and moments. If you’d like to contribute some stories of your own, there’s an online form over at Heybaby.sg.