Stepping Up To Fatherhood

Stepping Up To Fatherhood

As a father of two young boys, Josiah Ng aims to be as supportive as he can to his wife.

(Photos by Janelle Ho)

For first-time fathers — and even some experienced ones — the thought of caring for a newborn can be a daunting prospect. Coupled with the excitement of preparing for the baby’s arrival, some may completely forget to spend quality time and bond with their young child after birth.

According to figures from the Ministry of Social and Family Development, the take-up rate for government-paid paternity leave (two weeks) stood at just 55 per cent in 2019. But increasingly, more fathers believe that early involvement in a child’s life brings myriad benefits. Such theories have scientific weight behind them: Studies show that a highly engaged father has a positive impact on his child’s development, from their social competence to overall IQ and other learning outcomes.

For other men, taking paternity leave holds a symbolic value — it’s a way of showing solidarity with their wives, who may be overwhelmed by the initial weeks of parenthood. One such husband is Josiah Ng, who is a Producer/Director. “I wanted to be as supportive as I could to my wife,” says the father of two boys, aged six and 18 months old respectively. That meant doing everything from being responsible for late-night feeds to running errands and caring for their elder son.

While Josiah reveals that he is not sure whether his efforts had lightened the household load, he is confident that, at the very least, his wife didn’t feel like parenthood was a one-person job. “Mothers go through so much during pregnancy and in the first critical weeks after childbirth. It’s important for them to know that they have support,” he explains. Josiah’s approach is aligned with his general mantra to parenthood: “The best way you can love your children is to first love your spouse.”

Josiah used to get anxious about parenting effectively, but he has now learnt to trust himself.

It’s hard to imagine Josiah was once plagued by self-reproach about not doing enough as a father. But that’s what he — and many of his peers — go through. Known as “dad guilt”, the condition affects nearly 6 in 10 fathers here in Singapore, according to a 2020 survey by Focus on the Family Singapore. For Josiah, the feeling of worry would rear its head every time each of his kids was born, making him question if he was fully fulfilling his responsibility as a father. This was despite him already having taken his paternity leave in full and spending time with his children on weekends and after work.

Today, Josiah has no qualms about admitting that “dad guilt” is not something he has fully overcome. “I definitely don’t have all the answers and I think this is something I am still learning — that being a father sometimes means that you work at problems together with your family.”

Gaining fresh perspectives on parenthood is not new to Josiah. He’s not even in his mid-30s (he turns 34 this August) but has already spent the better part of 20 years plotting his parenthood journey.

“I’ve always wanted to be a young father and feel like I have been preparing for my children’s first day since I was in my mid-teens,” Josiah recalls. The preparation journey included observing other fathers, reading articles and speaking with mentors.

But Josiah found himself trapped by his preparedness. “I inadvertently set ‘standards’ for myself, which I became anxious of trying to reach,” he lets in. That also caused Josiah to second guess if what he did was the best or most effective way. “In hindsight, I realise that no amount of ‘work’ can prepare you for fatherhood. After all, there is no manual on how to be a good father. You just got to love your spouse and your children, and trust yourself.”

However, Josiah says that there are definitely inspirations. “I pray every day that I have the wisdom they have when it comes to raising kids,” he says, referring to his own parents.

For Josiah, getting enough playtime is a crucial factor in his children’s development.

Josiah believes in the power of play when it comes to a child’s development in their early stages. “I must admit that I sometimes struggle with disciplining my kids as a result of having them play too much. I’m now in a season of learning how best to correct them in a healthy way,” he shares.

This is characterised by frank conversations between his children and him. Josiah recalls, “Tyler, my eldest son, told his grandparents, ‘My papa is the funniest man in the whole world.’ I was a bit taken aback as I didn’t know if it meant I was being too relaxed as a father.

“I spoke to him after and he told me, ‘Papa, please always be funny. I want to be like you. I want to make people happy like how you make me happy.’ This happened during a stressful period at work, and I told him that he made me happy with his affirmation,” shares Josiah. “Tyler’s been reminding me since about the importance of bringing joy to others.”

This Father’s Day, Focus on the Family Singapore celebrates fatherhood and encourages men to answer the “Call of Daddy” — by being intentional and playful in the small, everyday moments with their children, and looking out for and supporting other fathers. Learn more here.

Connect with your kids!

If you, like Josiah, believe in the power of play, here are some programmes you can enjoy with your child.

  • 0 to 6 years: Make a beeline for the Sports Hub Library. While it’s known as a centre of sports knowledge, it also boasts a dedicated kids’ corner.
  • 7 to 12 years: Deepen your child’s knowledge of Singapore’s sporting achievements and art through 18 heritage markers, artefacts, architecture and art pieces found along A Sports, Arts and Heritage Trail.
  • 12 to 18 years: Concerts are making a comeback at Singapore Sports Hub, with headliners like Taiwanese rock band 831, May Day and Jay Chou. Tickets to these will likely win you the “Coolest Dad” title among their peers.
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