To celebrate Father's Day, SUE-ANN TAN speaks to 'traditional' and stay-home dads to learn about the different sacrifices they make for their kids
"You have no social status as a house husband and you get disconnected from the world outside. I don't even use the new mobile phones with Internet. Mine is the old kind with pre-paid cards."- Stay-at-home dad Choy Wai Meng
While other dads work, 42-year-old Mr Lawrence Ng is at home making popcorn with his nine-year-old son, Kai.
His day consists of shopping for groceries, cooking, washing and cleaning, as well as swimming, having movie nights and engaging in Nerf wars with Kai.
This February, Kai was enrolled into Pathlight School.
He had been diagnosed with high functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in 2007.
"I simply thought that Kai was strong-willed and disobedient before. My punishments got harsher as I was determined to 'break his will'," Mr Ng says.
His boy could hardly obey simple two-word instructions, such that even getting him to eat or drink was a challenge.
Having worked for 14 years in Human Resource management and a few more years in counselling and social work, Mr Ng decided in 2010 to become a stay-home father to take care of Kai.
"Our family was under tremendous stress at that time. My son was frequently getting into trouble at school.
"My wife was steadily sinking into depression and I was dangerously stressed both at work and at home," he says.
The ASD diagnosis had been a great blow to the family and Mr Ng's subsequent choice to let go of his "Singaporean dream" of career advancement was painful.
"It is literally like ripping off my skin, repeatedly.
"The usual dreams of any parents of their children getting good grades at school... graduating from university, having a job with a fanciful income - all those dreams turned into smoke," he adds.
Mr Ng ended up home-schooling Kai until he was accepted into Pathlight School earlier this year. He taught his son English, Math, Science, Arts, Music and Social Studies, as well as practical skills like counting money, telling time and tying shoelaces.
"I learned to flow with Kai's interests and energy level. I used a lot of interesting entertainment such as Star Wars and Scooby Doo to engage with him. Kai is a visual learner, so almost all my lessons involved the use of pictures and videos, together with interactive activities and games," he explains.
Yet, Mr Ng admits that being a stay-home father is not easy. His wife now earns a quarter of his past income and they have to live simply. He also lost his social networks by leaving his career behind.
"Having a job provides a sense of routine and structure, as well as increasing opportunities," he says, adding that it also gives "spending power".
"I lost my sense of self. I felt very isolated and extremely lonely," he says.
Other stay-at-home fathers agree that their home job is not easy.
"You have no social status as a house husband and you get disconnected from the world outside. I don't even use the new mobile phones with Internet. Mine is the old kind with pre-paid cards," says 54-year-oldChoy Wai Meng.
He has three school-going children. His eldest daughter, 19-year-old Yun Zhen, says that she does not feel that their lives are any different from other children with working fathers.
"It has always been like this for us. I just know that there is always someone at home when we get back. My dad also cooks really good dinners - even better than my mother," she says.
Another stay-home dad, Mr Tan Choon Seng, 51, started his child-caring duties in 2003, when his domestic helper left. His two children were still attending kindergarten at the time.
"I was thinking that there should be at least one parent at home to take care of them. I knew I would face some social criticism but I thought it was the right thing to do. There are no easy answers to such life issues," he says.
Both children are in the Gifted Education Programme (GEP), but to Mr Tan, it is more important that they grow up well-adjusted and healthy.
All three fathers also do not believe that stay-home dads should be crowned with a "glowing halo". They see it as just doing what is necessary in the circumstances they are in.
Mr Ng writes about his experiences in his blog at stayhomedadandson.blogspot.sg
His fatherhood journey has brought much joy. He adds: "I enjoyed every moment of it, although it can be very lonely and tiring. It is truly not a task for the faint-hearted."
"You have no social status as a house husband and you get disconnected from the world outside. I don’t even use the new mobile phones with Internet. Mine is the old kind with pre-paid cards."
- Stay-at-home dad Choy Wai Meng