Gurmit Singh thought about quitting his job for five years

Gurmit Singh at a press conference for his latest film Taxi! Taxi! -- NP PHOTO: JEREMY LONG
Gurmit Singh at a press conference for his latest film Taxi! Taxi! -- NP PHOTO: JEREMY LONG

For five years, MediaCorp star Gurmit Singh thought hard about quitting his full-time job as a host and actor to spend more time with his family.

It was not an easy decision, he tells Life! in a telephone interview on Friday afternoon: "I just didn't have the guts to do it, because I was really worried about the money situation. The cost of living gets higher every year in Singapore, and I had to sit down with my family and ask them how they felt about me working part-time, because a lot of our lifestyle would have to be changed."

The 49-year-old, best known for his role of contractor Phua Chu Kang in the now-defunct sitcom of the same name, adds: "But my kids said, 'Dad, if it means having you here with us, it's a no-brainer'."

On Friday morning, MediaCorp announced that he would be taking on artiste engagements "on a more selective basis", after his full-time contract with the company expires at the end of the year, some 21 years after his Channel 5 debut.

His family of five is the main reason for this.

"I thought I'd be able to juggle family and work from day one, but I've already missed too many of my kids' and wife's birthdays, wedding anniversaries and all the important milestones, so I think it's really time I spend more time at home with them."

His third child, a 20-month-old daughter, coming more than a decade after his second, was "like a reminder from God for me to get things right this time".

Singh, who also has a 17-year-old daughter and a 13-year-old son, says: "There are so many things I wish I could have done with my first two babies, and I really don't want to miss all of that again for my third child.

"Over the years, when I've been hosting live shows on TV, my head has been messing with me. Audiences may think I'm being funny, but in my head, there's this huge conflict. I'm just thinking, 'I'm missing my son's or daughter's birthday again tonight'."

Over the five years he considered quitting, he has been doing the financial planning for it. In April this year, he downgraded the family home from a house to a three-room condo, which he proudly says is "fully paid for so I don't have to worry about where we'll live".

Currently, he is wrapping up four simultaneous projects: okto arts variety programme Knockout Carnival, Channel 8 variety show Say It!. Channel 5's Meet My Family, and a Toggle web series to be telecast next year. Last year, he was the lead in local movies Taxi! Taxi! and Everybody's Business.

"I've always been doing a number of projects all at once - that's just been me. Well, when I'm done with this, I'll be able to go on holiday with my family."

His last official day as a full-time artist is Dec 16, before he flies off to Finland for a family vacation the next day.

Says the former host of the annual New Year's Eve TV countdown programme: "For the first time in 20 years, I would be able to spend New Year's Eve with my family".

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