He left his job as bank CEO

Former banker Alex Tee and his wife Kim Chan Young with (from far left) their sons Emin and Eli and daughter Ena.
Former banker Alex Tee and his wife Kim Chan Young with (from far left) their sons Emin and Eli and daughter Ena.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Towards the end of his 15-year career in banking, Mr Alex Tee felt that his children would benefit from having a stay-at-home parent who could home-school them.

He discussed this with his wife, Ms Kim Chan Young. But Ms Kim, 38, did not think she was up to the task of home-schooling, on top of being a stay-home mum, and declined to leave her job as a trader at Barclays Bank then.

So Mr Tee, 41, then chief executive officer at Bank of America Singapore, as well as the managing director of a trading division in the bank, chose to stay home.

"As the head of the household, you pretty much do whatever is necessary to serve the family.

"The only way to help my wife overcome this belief gap - that she was inadequate for the job of being a stay-home parent - was to do it myself.

"It's thrilling, two years on, that she believes enough to want to do it now."

Ms Kim, 38, left her job on the last day of last month. She will be helping Mr Tee to home-school their two boys, Eli, eight, and Emin, seven. Their five-year-old daughter, Ena, goes to kindergarten and the family has a domestic helper.

The plan is for Ms Kim to eventually become the main home-schooling parent, which would free up more time for Mr Tee to work outside the home, he says.

Mr Tee, who has no immediate plans to seek employment, has ruled out returning to banking.

His businessman father's bankruptcy during his adolescent years influenced Mr Tee's decision to opt for a career that gave him an "accelerated" path towards financial security.

The eldest of five children, Mr Tee left Banting, Malaysia, to study in Singapore when he was 12.

 
 
 

Working in banking was lucrative, enabling him to pay for his younger brother's medical school fees, for instance.

But Mr Tee, now a Singapore citizen, felt a "poverty of purpose" in his choice of career in recent years.

"You could never put a finger on how you could be useful for the society at large. I didn't want to live like that," he says.

He believes that the foundational years, especially before the age of seven, represent "a golden, if fleeting, window of opportunity" to shape a child's worldview, lifelong habits, values and character.

Favourably impressed by homeschooled young adults he had met, who were well-rounded and articulate, he started home-schooling his children for two hours a day before moving to full day.

He has been using My Father's World, an American home-school curriculum, grounded in his Christian faith.

"It's about taking responsibility in bringing up our children, cultivating tight family relationships and nourishing their minds with noble and beautiful ideas," he says.

After he became a stay-at-home dad, he came to experience "a sense of deep joy".

"Life became a lot simpler. I felt that we were really investing in the essential things."

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Since he left his job in early 2018, the family has scaled back on expenses by eating out only occasionally and paring down the number of kids' enrichment classes.

In return, he has reaped dividends of a much closer relationship with his children.

"Being a stay-home dad is not necessarily a permanent arrangement. A father and husband does anything for the family, even if it takes him down unexpected paths," he reflects.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 22, 2020, with the headline 'He left his job as bank CEO'. Print Edition | Subscribe