A version of this letter was published on The Straits Times at Forum: Encourage More Men to Step Up and Be Involved in Their Families.
The rising trend of fathers taking paternity leave  and being stay-at-home dads  is heartening. However, the national rate of paternity leave is at 53 per cent. 
How can we encourage more men to step up their involvement in their families?
An Institute of Policy Studies study revealed several obstacles to men being stay-at-home fathers , which are also relevant to working dads.
One factor was that being esteemed as professionally accomplished was important for men’s identity and self-worth. [ibid.]
Indeed, surveys show most men find their sense of identity in external achievements. They are concerned about whether they are adequate and good at what they do. 
Wives can therefore encourage their husbands to become active dads by giving them room and opportunities to attempt mastery of fatherhood. Instead of regularly pointing out their mistakes, wives can affirm their husbands for their efforts and what they have done well. Because men often wonder how others see them, it matters to them to know that they are valued and capable as fathers. [ibid.]
Another factor was men’s belief that mums are more naturally suited to caregiving than dads. 
In reality, fathers have been found to experience changes in their hormones  and brain , which prepares them to be more nurturing in taking care of and bonding with their child.
Men may not be aware of how essential their roles as husbands and fathers are.
Studies revealed that when fathers utilise increased workplace flexibility and paternity leave, it improves mothers’ mental health  and relationship satisfaction. 
Our “Wellbeing of Mums Survey” last year showed that mothers most need support emotionally and with household management.  Husbands can love their wives by providing them with invaluable emotional support, and co-shouldering parenting and household responsibilities.
Finally, dads need to know their fathering uniquely benefits their children.
A meta-analysis of 34 studies revealed that dads tended to be more involved in preparing children to handle life than mums. Father involvement was associated with better performance and attitudes at school, as well as lower delinquency and substance abuse rates. 
As husbands, men provide their wives with much-needed emotional and family support. As fathers, they contribute uniquely to their children’s formative development. Dads are biologically geared for fatherhood and can be encouraged to gain competence in it.
Indeed, men are irreplaceable in the home, and we must do everything we can to encourage their increased involvement, so as to build stronger families in Singapore.
Family Life Specialist
Focus on the Family Singapore
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