A version of this letter was published on The Straits Times Forum at Recognise dads for their efforts in more active parenting.
As we have just celebrated Father’s Day, it is heartening to read how dads in Singapore have taken advantage of the Circuit Breaker as well as the new normal of work-from-home arrangements to spend more quality time with their children1.
As a father of two, I also appreciated the opportunity to observe and interact first-hand with my kids every day for the past 2 months. While there inevitably were moments of friction and frustration, there were also times where we just had lots of fun together.
Research shows that a father’s involvement in their child’s life brings unique benefits related to the child’s emotional regulation, social adjustment and mental health. Even in terms of academic ability, children whose dads spent time playing with them were found to do better in maths and reading at the primary school level2.
It is therefore heartening to see that more fathers in Singapore, especially younger dads, are inclined towards being actively involved in their children’s lives.
However, the rise of ideas such as co-parenting and shared parenting, together with the pervasiveness of social media, has created an expectation on dads to be involved in their children’s lives at a level that is disproportionate to the affirmation and appreciation they receive when it comes to child-rearing.
While there has been much discussion of late on “mum guilt” and the increased mental load that most mothers bear, fathers are often painted in broad strokes as not pulling their weight sufficiently when it comes to parenting and taking care of the home. A recent study by Focus on the Family Singapore showed that almost 60% of dads polled experienced “dad guilt” – a sense that they can and should do more for their children3.
While it is good that fathers want to be more involved in their children’s lives, we should not default to feelings of guilt to encourage their involvement. Instead, we should continue to appreciate and affirm the dads in our homes. Rather than focus on how we wish they should be and only criticise their weaknesses, let us recognise and thank them for the effort that they are putting in.
The support and love that dads receive will go a long way towards encouraging them to continue showing up more at home – and when they do, their children and society will be better off for it.
Family Life Education Trainer
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