Being A Father

Just some random thoughts on a Sunday afternoon.

On February 5 2019, my kid came into this world bawling. 18 months later, I find myself sleeping in a room full of baby stuff, changing diapers multiple times a day and bottle feeding my kid at 4am in the morning.

I feel that as I get older I find that I value material things alot less. I am still partial to gadgets and the occasional computer game, but things that I have rarely paid any attention to in the past like conversations, walks, waking up next to your kid. These experiences have started to matter alot more than things.

I have a friend. He was previously a mechanic that repairs oil tankers and cargo ships. There are often times when he had to station overseas for months. Back home, he had 2 young children and a wife waiting for him. The money’s great and he get to sail around the world, but he had to sacrifice time with his family.

When I got to know him, he had already left this life and started one with a regular 9-5 job back home in Singapore. When I asked him why, this is what he told me,

“I worked 16 hours days, seven days a week and never spent any time with my kids. My wife did everything, from driving them to school to taking them to piano practice. What struck me was when my five year old daughter asked her mother who is that ‘uncle’ who keeps hanging around the house from time to time — that ‘uncle’ is me.”

He went on —

“When my daughter called me “uncle”, I knew that enough is enough and it’s time to come home. I have missed the process as being a father. I wished that I had the chance to do that but I had threw it away. Now, as they grow older, I’m spending whatever free time I have with them.”

Listening to him, I felt enormous sadness for him. He is willing to trade all his money and lifestyle away to be there for his kids but this is something money can’t buy.

I was deeply impacted by his story because, as a father who works longs hours in the family business learning the trade, I was asking myself, am I doing the same thing to my kid? As I was mentally asking these questions, my definition of what success means got completely redefined. It is not how much money you make for your children, it is the memories you give them.

However, as someone who works in the family business, you always want to grow your business larger. Your current revenue and profit are never enough; they just set the bar higher for next year. We always want more and it has become your responsibility. But this “more” has a cost, a cost we don’t see at the time: time with our family. It’s my core responsibility to provide for my family, but where is the point when more is not worth it?

I feel that until your basic necessities like food, water, shelter, clothing and education are taken care off, there is no other option but to slog it out and work long hours as it is the most practical way. You cannot be in two places at once and this means that you have to allocate your time to work and family well. It is all about finding the balance.

At the end of the day, we have to go back to this question.

“Am I being a good father?”

Just some random thoughts on a Sunday afternoon.


One thought on “Being A Father

  1. we kept our kids at home and not have them attend preschool or even kindergarten because we treasure our time with them … yes, even to that extent. we love being with them. Besides we got to be their first teachers. I beam with pride when my kids when asked who taught them to read or play the piano, they replied, “my daddy!” The best thing the kids have from us are not toys, or games, but time with us. Enjoy your time with your boy … money you can always make, but your kid is only a child once.

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