Fathers want to be present too

  • Family
  • Thursday, 23 Jan 2014

WHILE the LinkedIn survey focused on women, the search for work-life balance isn’t a gender specific one. Father of seven-year-old twins Kua Chong Ming realised that he too needed work-life balance after his five-year-old daughter asked him why he was “always so crumpy (grumpy)”.

“They only did the survey for women? Men are parents too!” says Kua when told about the LinkedIn findings.

He relates his experience.

“I didn’t realise how grumpy I was at home until my daughter pointed it out. That realisation was hard to accept. And when she said that, my wife told me that sometimes, she’d take my daughters away to give me space because she saw that I needed it. This forced me to look inwards. What was happening to me?

“I love my kids. I love playing with them as they make me laugh all the time. But there I was … unable to enjoy spending time with them. I’d be driving them for ballet feeling unhappy, needing my space. I’d wait for their class to finish thinking this was a real waste of time. It was awful and I knew something had to change. I was a father first, not just a manager at work. So … I decided to take time off from work,” relates Kua, who was working as a senior product manager for a pharmaceutical firm.

It has been about six months since Kua, 35, made that decision and he has absolutely no regrets. It fact, he says, it feels like a huge weight has been lifted from his shoulders.

“My daughters are only going to turn one, two, seven or 30 only once in their lives. I want to be there for at least a part of it. I missed two kindergarten concerts, a visit to Batu Caves and God-only-knows what other milestones because of work and I can never get those back.

“I am taking this time to really look inside myself and understand my strengths and weaknesses. I am trying to find what makes me happy at work and how I can use this to benefit both myself and my employer.

“I do intend to go back to work but the challenge will always be trying not to allow work to influence how I look at things at home. We have all been taught from young that financial wealth equals success. And while that is partly true, in the pursuit of material wealth, we sometimes lose our way. It becomes insatiable. But it became important for me to ask myself if it was worth it if I was failing miserably on a personal level,” says Kua. While he was a little apprehensive after he decided to leave his job, Kua says he is “happier now”.

“Just because I wasn’t working, it didn’t mean everything came to a standstill. There were still bills to pay. Life still goes on. I did things here and there … some work for my friends and my father-in-law, but I wasn’t earning as much, definitely. But I did realise that I was happier. I was spending more time with the girls, watching them as they laugh and play,” he says.

Kua insists that he isn’t the only father to feel this way.

“A few of my friends have done the same. I think people are starting to realise the importance of a stable, happy family. This will translate into better productivity too,” he says.

Related stories:

Professional women's balancing act

Doing what works at the workplace

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