The Education Minister from Sierra Leone made headline news just about a month ago. David Moinina Sengeh was feeding his 10-month-old daughter when he had to attend an official virtual meeting.
So the African minister decided to tie her to his back in order to carry on with his meeting. A photo that he shared on Twitter quickly made its rounds, and the minister was widely praised for promoting gender equality. In an interview with BBC later, the minister said he wanted men to “think about themselves”, and to consider that it is indeed “possible to take care of their child”.
The role of fathers in childcare is not often talked about in today’s fast-paced society, where most men spend their days in the office and come home late, sometimes after their children have gone to bed.
But during the past two months, men across our nation have been forced to work in all kinds of different situations, given the Circuit Breaker measures intended to keep the coronavirus at bay. Kids have also been staying at home and doing home-based learning instead of going to school.
This period has given rise to a whole new generation of superheroes – the “Superdad”. These are fathers who rise above and beyond the call of duty, to make the world a safer place.
For instance, there is the doctor dad who chooses to make the sacrifice of staying in the hospital in order not to risk infecting his wife and children with the coronavirus.
Then there is the pilot dad, who needs to continue flying passengers out of high-risk areas, and as a result is hardly able to spend time with his family. And there is the delivery dad, who shuttles all around Singapore each day, in order that others can stay at home and keep safe.
Another breed of Superdad has supercharged his culinary skills in the kitchen, and spends time whipping up delectable creations for his family.
Yet another has taken on the role of a "home-school principal”, directing the efforts of his children as they study and learn from home.
Let’s not forget the DIY-superhero who is making use of his hands (and some YouTube instructional videos) to repair the spoilt fan by himself.
Superheroes exist in all shapes and sizes. But oftentimes it is not the extraordinary that makes you a superhero. Conversely, it is in the ordinary that your true superpower is realised.
The Circuit Breaker may have ended but Phase One of the safe recovery period requires most people to continue to work from home and kids to continue to learn from home on the weeks when they are not in school. It is a rare moment in history where fathers are gifted with more time to spend with their kids and to recalibrate the father-child relationship.
With everyone staying in close quarters, it can be tough for the Superdad who is doing his best to balance work, chores, and caring for his kids.
I do not consider myself a superhero. But if you were to ask my kids what superpowers I have, they would say that I have the power of spending quality time with them.
My older child, for instance, would say that he enjoys playing board games with me. While my younger kid might tell you that he loves talking about his hamsters with me, and teaching me how to hold them and play with them.
In recent weeks, my sons have also been spouting a few random lines, “Hello, this is Mark from The Social Factor. Welcome to Wednesday Wellness with Mark.” These are two lines that I say when recording my weekly mental wellness podcast to help people make sense of and cope with our COVID-19 times. And I can see the glow on their faces when they say these words, almost as if they are proud of their father for producing these podcasts.
I hope that they too will grow to become superheroes and make a difference in the lives around them.
What is your superpower?
Dads, I hope that you will take these few weeks to reflect on your relationship with your children, and to ask your wife and your kids how you have made them feel loved. Their answers may give you a glimpse of your own superpower – something unique to you, and that you can use to impact your family in a powerful and meaningful way.
Mums, this Father’s Day, go ahead and let your husband know the different ways he has made you and the kids feel special. It may seem small and ordinary, but every man needs an extra word of encouragement!
By taking time to affirm your spouse for all the things he has done for the family, you may be giving him the motivation and desire to do even more.
© 2020 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
Mark Lim is Consultant & Counsellor at The Social Factor, a consultancy and counselling agency which conducts training on life skills such as parenting, mentoring and special needs. He and his wife Sue co-write a parenting blog Parenting on Purpose, where they chronicle the life lessons from parenting two young boys aged 9 and 7.
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