Dads are chipping in, but mums still do more

Mr Mark Lim with his wife Sue and sons Zephaniah (left) and Elijah. In 2012, he quit his teaching job to spend more time with his kids.
Mr Mark Lim with his wife Sue and sons Zephaniah (left) and Elijah. In 2012, he quit his teaching job to spend more time with his kids.PHOTO: MARK LIM

Mr Mark Lim remembers clearly the longing he saw in the eyes of his two-year-old son as the young one woke up early to send him off to work.

"He used to hug and kiss me when I left for work at about 7am, saying 'Daddy, I will miss you'. It was a bittersweet and melancholic feeling.I couldn't bear to part with him but I needed to earn money to support the family," said Mr Lim, 40, then a secondary school teacher.

So in 2012, Mr Lim decided to quit his job to spend more time with his children. His younger son, Elijah, was a baby then and the older one, Zephaniah, was two years old.

The 2016 Marriage and Parenthood survey found that more husbands are sharing childcare responsibilities with their wives, though the bulk still falls on the shoulders of the women.

More husbands are helping their wives to feed and bathe young children or staying home with their children when their young charges are feeling under the weather.

However, most childcare responsibilities are still carried out by mothers, with mothers reporting to spend 2.6 hours on domestic chores on a normal weekday on average, almost twice that of the 1.5 hours spent by fathers.

  • 29%

    Respondents who shared the load equally in feeding and bathing young children last year, up from 24 per cent and 23 per cent respectively in 2012.

    35%

    Respondents who shared the load equally between mum and dad in staying home with sick children last year, up from 32 per cent in 2012.

Ms Sarah Chua, parenting specialist at Focus on the Family Singapore, said fathers are getting more involved with family responsibilities as couples who are both working are on the rise.

"More mothers are enjoying greater success in their careers. As such, the traditional roles of a mother being the primary caregiver while a father is the main breadwinner are evolving.

"This is a good development as research shows that children with involved fathers are more likely to be more confident, handle stress better and connect with others more constructively," she said.

Though Mr Lim resigned from his job, he was still busy bringing home the bacon by juggling various ventures. He runs a training and consultancy business, an online shop and is an adjunct lecturer in a polytechnic. He is also studying for a postgraduate degree in counselling.

"Back then, my wife did 70 per cent of the domestic chores, while I did the rest. But to me, playing an equal role in the house is not about splitting 50-50," said Mr Lim.

"It is putting in 100 per cent in the responsibilities that are your strengths. She does much better in ironing, for example. What is more important is I try to be present for the boys and meet their socio-emotional needs, beyond their physical needs."

Mr Lim shares a close bond with his sons. He knows that Elijah, now five, wants to be a marine biologist while Zephaniah, seven, hopes to become an architect, and he encourages them to pursue those interests.

His wife homeschools them and Mr Lim supports her by taking them out for learning excursions and family outings.

He teaches the children things such as World War II and the Japanese Occupation of Singapore by taking them to Fort Canning, for instance.

Said Mr Lim: "It is heartening to see fathers playing a bigger role in their families. I chose to invest time in the lives of my family, instead of just pursuing my career, because it is that which leaves a legacy."

His wife Sue, 41, said she and the boys welcome having more time with him: "It's precious family time."

She added: "It's so important for the boys to have their daddy around to spend quality time with them."

Janice Tai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 09, 2017, with the headline 'Dads are chipping in, but mums still do more'. Print Edition | Subscribe