A few days back, I was tending to my 4-month-old baby when a friend texted me on WhatsApp.
With one arm wrapped around my baby, I had to free up my left hand quickly to feed him.
Thus, I hastily replied:”Daddy’s Duty now.”
My friend who is single and very much available had no idea what I was talking about.
He was confused and replied.
“What the hell is daddy’s duty?”
Needless to say, there was no blue tick on his screen.
At least not until my darling boy had been fed and burped.
While patting my child, I tried to find an answer.
Not through WhatsApp at least.
Changing Role of Fathers
In an archetypical Asian family, the father is the stern guy who brings home the bacon and speaks very little.
He comes home, eats and sleeps.
Sometimes he disciplines the child if he or she is out of line but the main caregiver role is usually played by the lady of the house.
With women sharing the financial support of the family now, the modern father plays an equal role in the household.
Daddy is no longer a misnomer to describe the stern, solemn figure whose natural habitat seems to be in front of the TV.
But it has become an actual term of affection to the kids.
As a new member of the Fatherhood, I am glad for the change.
Not due to the fact that I have a problem being a sourpuss at home, but because I would like to play a bigger part in the growing up of my baby boy.
Despite that, I must admit that the path to being a great Pop is not easy.
It is a route that is accompanied by the unmistakable stench of baby poo.
And it is mandatory to wear a pee-stained shirt while you are at it.
Fathers now have a varied range of responsibilities to fulfil.
Allow me to reflect on my personal experiences to tell you what daddies do and pay tribute to those great dads out there who has done all these and more.
Living without Auto-Pilot Mode
Auto-pilot is a system that helps to control the plane without the constant hands-on navigation by the pilot.
The pilot can still reach the destination without it but he will be much more fatigued at the end of it.
Life as a Dad is akin to flying without auto-pilot mode.
What used to be a daily routine has become eventful with just one shrill from the infant.
The baby unilaterally decides to rename himself as Murphy and his cry is the Law.
Be it sleeping, showering or even taking a dump, my fatherly instincts take over, force me to drop everything and attend to the infant.
Nothing seems to work smoothly, unlike during the pre-baby era.
It is tiring enough to operate life with disrupted sleep.
And it becomes incredibly frustrating not to be able to complete most tasks without being disturbed.
Trying to Take Control of Your Emotions
My son Duncan was re-admitted to the hospital a couple of days after birth due to neonatal jaundice.
It is not uncommon for newborns to be jaundiced so I was relatively calm throughout his stay.
Nevertheless, there was one particular incident that broke my composure.
When Duncan was admitted, I was not able to follow him into the ward where the phototherapy treatment took place.
Only my wife was allowed in so as to complete some admission procedure.
The nurse removed Duncan’s clothes and placed him in a clear plastic incubator.
She proceeded to walk away and handled other babies.
My son became distressed and started crying.
I could not hear his wails.
But I could see his hands flailing in the air and his legs kicking angrily.
But no one was paying him any attention.
When the door to the ward opened occasionally as the nurses went about their business, I could hear his screams for help.
However, I was not allowed to enter the ward.
Although I knew there was nothing wrong with what the nurses were doing, I felt my anger building up.
But I was helpless; I could not do anything to comfort my darling son.
I could only watch as he continued to cry.
He would only stop to catch his breath and continued wailing after that.
As I watched on, my anger turned into tears.
I tried to compose myself.
But the tears just continued to roll down my cheeks uncontrollably.
My wife completed the paperwork (in another room) and attended to our son.
Thankfully he calmed down and so did I.
Nevertheless, I was pretty shaken emotionally.
That surprised me as I was usually a cool and composed person.
If a younger me had seen this unfolding, he would not understand the loss of emotional control.
After all, it was not a life-threatening situation.
But a fellow Dad would be able to empathize..
Being The Last Man Standing
Mothers are weakened by the childbirth.
That is why the first postnatal month is so important to the mothers.
They must be allowed time to rest and recover.
The heavy responsibility of taking care of the household lies squarely on the shoulder of the father.
As a first-time Dad, everything had to be learnt quickly.
I had to learn how to carry the baby safely, change his diapers and bathe him.
My back was aching from supporting my wife during childbirth.
I was dead beat from 2 sleepless nights at the hospital while the baby pondered over which date his birthday would be.
Yet I had to take charge of things and made sure both the mother and child were taken care of.
Of course, I did not do it alone.
The nurses at KKH and our parents supported us wonderfully.
Nonetheless, I had to do most of the heavy lifting (literally) as the man of this family.
Even after the first month, there were still many duties for the father to perform.
Ensuring the household never runs out of critical items such as diapers and milk powder.
Taking care of the financial side of things.
And naturally for a risk-averse individual like me, that includes the purchase of hospitalisation insurance.
P.S. If there is one insurance that you must get for your child, it is an Integrated Shield Plan.
Admittedly, each duty is not difficult.
But coupled with the lack of sleep and company, it was particularly physically and mentally tough for me.
After going through all these myself, I developed a new found respect for all Daddies who had undergone the same baptism of fire as I did.
Only Daddies know.
Despite the physical exertions and mental drain, I will definitely do it again if you bring me back to 5 months ago.
I trust that every Dad agrees with me.
When we hug our precious baby, the satisfying feeling of a job well-done permeates through each and every cell in our body.
The feeling is frankly indescribable.
It is fatherly instinct.
Love of a Dad.
So to my friend who had posed me this question, you need to experience it firsthand.
I promise you that it will be one of the best moments in your life.
Perhaps some things have never changed.
There are many Daddies out there who have silently performed all these mundane yet important fatherly duties but were never envious of the attention mothers are getting.
And never ask for any credit.
But here is one guy that has just joined your ranks.
And here is one article that you may be able to relate to.
On this one day when people sit up and appreciate:
What exactly Daddies do for the family.
Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful Pops out there!
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