From being a husband, to finally becoming a father. From all the pre-baby preparations, to witnessing the arrival of my little ones, each step filled me with a sense of purpose that I’d never felt before. I desired to be much more than the ‘know-nothing’ dad, and true to my character, I tried to prepare as much as I could. But I’ve since realised that the best way to enjoy fatherhood is to simply go with the flow.
The day that changed my life
I will always remember the day my daughter was born. Til today, my wife still says that everything that happened during the labour process was a blur to her, and she remembers little.
But not me.
I remember every detail, and will cherish them forever. Nothing rivals witnessing the birth of your child, and whilst experiencing a newborn’s entry into the world is naturally different for mothers and fathers, it is, from an emotional perspective, equally intense, yet joyous. Since that day, I’ve gained a collection of unforgettable moments that I continue to treasure to this very day.
The day my first child, Eva, came to my life was magical – but it was also when reality struck. During the nine months of pregnancy, my wife and I had started to prepare ourselves physically and mentally for her arrival. We had many “once the baby gets here…” conversations over that nine-month stretch. But having a new born baby is a huge change for new parents. All of a sudden, you need to make big adjustments to your lifestyle, and to quickly adapt to a new way of life.
Taking on the “dad” role
This is also when I started to learn the role of being a father. I believe this role has changed, compared to those days where a dad’s sole responsibility was being the breadwinner of the family. Nowadays, fathers also play significant roles, alongside mothers- from changing dirty nappies and bathing and feeding the baby, to cleaning bottles, comforting the baby, and helping with the household chores. Far from being tasks left solely to the mother, these are shared responsibilities.
It is all about practice, practice and practice. After all, everything is a new skill to pick up. It is normal that you will fumble a bit at first, and things will get better as they go. At least the good news in being a father is that we don’t have to go through months of pregnancy and the painful labour process! This has helped me to better appreciate what my parents have done in raising me, and made me ponder what I would be if not for them. The same cycle now continues for me.
The joys of fatherhood
One of the real pleasures of parenthood is watching your baby grow and develop. Seeing them grip an object, smile at you, roll, crawl, sit up – the list goes on! These are experiences that money certainly can’t buy, and once these moments are missed, you won’t get a second chance.
So, I’ve learnt to appreciate the bonding time I shared with my baby, capturing these sweet, loving moments as best I can. I always remind myself that a baby is like a piece of blank canvas. It is our duty as parents to help to paint their landscape with wonderful colours, and to nurture them in the best possible manner.
For all the hassle, tiredness and effort I went through, all it took was just a smile on the face of my little princess – something in a league of its own – to make all the hard work worthwhile.
When my second daughter, Emma, came along, the whole process repeated itself – but this was still a different experience. I went up another level in my fatherhood journey, and developed a deeper perspective. One thing remained true however: that it was the most amazing experience to be a father again, and I will forever draw on those memories as a source of pride and joy.
The wholesome and positive development of children cannot be outsourced. This is where a father must learn to be intentional in his commitment to be with his child. Childcare is an entirely new concept for a man. You get to explore this new skill in the company and with the guidance of the people you love. Throughout the years, I have learnt to fail, ‘suffer’ throughout the process, and pick myself up again.
Remember: little humans just need little things – nothing fancy, just the freedom to do things at their own pace. And this changes from season to season.
The journey, not the destination
As we fast-forward to the present (with my eldest turning 10 and my second turning 6), I look back on the different seasons I’ve encountered. Each season and each year of my kids’ lives have brought different challenges. But if there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s this: that as long as we are doing something, we are doing well. This has been my process; learning to change my role constantly from being their playmate, friend, teacher, guardian – whatever it takes to help them as they grow.
Fathers are equally responsible for every aspect of a child’s life. I believe that active participation by fathers (as well as mothers) helps to nurture our children as they develop into the people they aspire to be. Watching my kids grow and develop their own personalities is such a blessing. I love them, but I love them each in their own way.
To me, fatherhood is a journey, not a destination. It is a long journey (or, should I say…never-ending!) and one I will continue to learn along the way bravely.
By Sean Ong
Sean Ong is a self-described “happy-go-lucky father” who cherishes every moment growing up together with his two little princesses. He likes to seek solace as a family together, connecting with nature.