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Mon, Jun 21, 2010
The New Paper
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Dad's the way to do it
by Kwok Kar Peng

DON’T blame dads for Singapore’s falling birth rate.

That’s the view of these hands-on fathers. They reject suggestions that local women don’t want to have families because the men won’t help with bringing up children.

And if all Singaporean dads are like these guys, there would be no argument.

Take Mr Arif Ghazali.

The 25-year-old mechanic has made his one-year-old daughter his first priority.

He has done everything – changed diapers, done overnight feeds, showered her and taken care of her alone.

But even if all local dads are not like him, Mr Arif felt that a recent statement by a foreign academic was just too harsh.

Swedish international health professor Hans Rosling told The Straits Times last month that Singapore women have to choose between having children or an active career.

According to him, husbands here do not give enough help in bringing up children.

And the Government does not give enough support to equal parenting.

As a result, women are saying no to babies, Prof Rosling, 62, was quoted as saying in the May 12 report.

It’s unlikely that he has met this bunch of fathers, who have just been named Super Dads.

Mr Arif spends two hours a day playing with his daughter, Sarah, and shares the household chores with his wife.

Second job

He took on a second job as a delivery man during the weekends to cope with the increased family expenses and has enrolled in a part-time diploma course in mechanical engineering at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

He said: “When my wife told me she was pregnant, I made a decision to do something about my career. I don’t know where the diploma will take me, but with it and my work experience, I will have better job prospects.”

He revises his lessons only after Sarah has fallen asleep, which could be after midnight.

Mr Arif was among those who received the Similac Super Dad award yesterday in a ceremony organised by Abbott Nutrition and supported by the DadsforLife Movement.

The movement aims to inspire and involve fathers to become good influencers in their children’s lives.

The award is to recognise fathers who actively share parenting responsibilities.

More than 140 mothers nominated their husbands via online written submissions, photos or videos for the inaugural awards.

One father, Mr Kelvin Thong, also nominated himself. And he won.

Ten shortlisted dads went through an interview with a panel of judges made up of MediaCorp actress Zoe Tay, Abbott Nutrition International general manager Hui Hwa Koh-Minjoot, Mr Adam Khoo, representing Fathers Action Network, and Professor Daniel Goh, president of the Singapore Paediatric Society.

From these 10, five were selected by the judges and the public to be Super Dads.

The winners will each receive half a year’s free supply of Abbott’s milk, a studio shoot for the family, a wireless HP Officejet All-In-One printer and a plaque.

All of them hold full-time jobs. Apart from caring for their children, they also share the household chores with their wives.

So what do these Super Dads think is the reason behind Singapore’s falling birth rate?

Tired after work
Mr Thong, 30, a general manager of a beauty company, believes it’s because kids now are harder to care for.

The father of two young boys said: “Children these days are different from (those in) my mother’s time. She had seven siblings and my grandmother told me the children would just sit down and play in a corner the entire day.

“Kids now are more active and harder to care for. All of us live a hectic lifestyle. We are very tired after work, but we sacrifice our time to let them grow up the best they can be. So maybe that’s why families don’t want to have too many kids.”

Another reason for the falling birth rates could be the stress of trying to conceive, said another Super Dad award winner, Mr Kelvin Teng, 32, a business development manager.

He has twin boys aged 21/2 years, and a six-month-old baby girl.

“We focus more on our careers, but it’s not that we don’t want to marry and have kids,” he said. “It’s just that with increasing cost of living, by the time some people get married and buy their flat, they are older and conceiving a child isn’t that easy for them.”

He said some of his friends had to seek medical help to conceive.

“They stopped at one child not because of the cost of the treatments but because they didn’t want to go through the stress and effort again.”

Super Dad Desmond Su, 29, a finance relationship manager and father of an eight-month-old girl, believes the Government can also do more.

He wished there could be more childcare centres as parents often have to be placed on a waiting list to enrol their children.

Mr Teng agreed, adding: “Those with vacancies charge very expensive fees, while those which are affordable have very long waiting lists.”

He spends $2,000 a month on infant and childcare centres for this three children.
Mr Thong felt free infant care and longer hours at these centres would help.

Super Dad Frederick Ling, 32, an executive chef, also hopes for more childcare leave for fathers. Working parents are entitled to six days of paid childcare leave every year until their children turn 7.

Still, Mr Ling, who has a nine-month-old son, wants to have another child.

Mr Thong summed up the joys of parenthood: “You see your child learn how to crawl, stand and then walk. And he or she grows up to call you dad. It’s a process so satisfactory.”

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