Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A modern dilemma

From TODAY, Voices
Wednesday August 13, 2008

Time to create a new model for contemporary parents

Letter from Gilbert Goh Keow Wah
in Sydney, Australia

I REFER to “The struggling father” (Aug 12).

I have a 14-year-old daughter and have come to realise that it is not easy to be a father in our society. Men have to be the breadwinner and also spend time with the family. With the family unit being so small these days, there is little support from relatives or friends.

Fail to perform in either role and you will be labelled a “lousy” father. Yet, many men do what their fathers have done — bring home the bacon and let their wives do all the “mothering”. Some fathers do not even want to change a nappy. But there are also fathers who want to get involved with their kids but do not because of potential conflicts with their wives over parenting styles.

With wives now holding their own in the corporate world, many men also feel that their role as a breadwinner is diminished. Who will wear the pants when wives earn just as much, if not more than their husbands?

These are issues that a contemporary man needs to resolve so he can contribute with confidence to his family.

My father was a taxi driver who would take the family out occasionally for dinner or movies. But he hardly spoke to us and I grew up wondering if he disliked me. The “generation gap” was so unbearable and cold.

A year before be died of cancer, he opened up and we spoke for hours daily to catch up on lost time. I realised he was a warm man who deep within him, cared a lot for the family.

The role model of yesterday’s fathers should be forever consigned to history.

He told me that he did not know how to connect with us as an Asian father beyond trying to provide for the family — which he felt he had failed at. I guess he felt bad that he could not provide for us in a material way and so lost the confidence to be a good father.

Because of my experience, I spend a lot of time with my daughter even more so when she was growing up. I would come home earlier from work. We would cook, watch television and play games together. Although she does not allow me to hold her hand nowadays, an occasional hug is still permissible!

Sometimes, I wish my own dad would have done the same with me… The role model of yesterday’s fathers should be forever consigned to history.

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