It’s not every day that we come across a Singaporean father who has been a stay-at-home dad. 38-year-old Winston Tay, who blogs as The Blogfather, did just that a few years ago. And no, he was not forced by his wife (she blogs too!) to do so. The hands-on dad of two, Xander, 7, and Yvie, 2, is currently a Marketing Manager at Epigram Books.
What was the inspiration behind The Blogfather and Daddy Matters?
The Blogfather started out in March 2012 as “Blogfathers”. The original intention of the site was to bring together the small community of dad bloggers in Singapore for… well, I didn’t think that far at the time. The inspiration? The mums had one, so why not the dads?
But after a while I realised that the site was turning into an outlet for sharing my opinions based on my own personal fatherhood journey, so I decided to drop the ’s’ and make the site my own. I wasn’t about to give up on bringing dads together, though. A year later, I did an April Fool’s post announcing a new blogger group called the Singapore Man Bloggers, as a companion to the Singapore Mum Bloggers group.
People actually took it seriously, and a week later, I got another 10 dad bloggers together to talk about forming a real group to promote active fatherhood, not just for bloggers, but for dads (and only dads) in Singapore. That’s how Daddy Matters came about.
How has becoming a parent changed you?
I’ve learnt to see inter-personal relationships in a different light. My kids force me to re-evaluate my mindset in order to understand how to communicate with them, and in the process, the renewed sense of empathy I learned from the re-evaluation has carried over into other aspects of my life. I find myself better able to deal with extended family, friends, colleagues and even strangers. My children have opened me up.
What’s a typical family day or weekend like?
Wake up. Feed the kids. Clean up. Remind son to wear pants. Go out. Feed ourselves and the kids. Stop son from bouncing. Walk around a bit. Stop daughter from screaming. Feed the kids and ourselves. Stop son from screaming at daughter. Go grocery shopping. Stop daughter from slapping son. Go home. Clean up. Remind son to wear pants. Go to sleep.
What have you learnt about yourself as a parent?
When my son turned three, I hit a wall in my career after attempting to switch industries, and had trouble finding my feet after that. I spent a year as a stay-at-home dad, trying to figure out what to do with my life whilst spending time with my boy.
One day I had an epiphany, that the path I choose in life need not be based on a career choice—I just wanted to be a dad. Everything began to fall into place.
Why is advocating active fatherhood important to you?
On the one hand, the father has almost always been seen as a supporting role in the parenting team. It’s a stereotype that needs to be broken, because dads who want to be more involved, or who already are actively involved, and even dads who are primary caregivers have been facing discrimination and bias on various levels.
On the other hand, I’ve seen fathers who would rather spend time in an office than at home, or at a coffeeshop drinking beer instead of facing their family, and I’ve known father-child relationships that go south after marriages break down. Regardless of the circumstances, the fathers that end up down this path walk it with very deep yet silent pain and regret. I want these men to know it doesn’t have to be this way, that there are solutions, and that to find their way back into fatherhood, they need only ask another dad. That’s what I hope Daddy Matters can be for them, and for us.
How has the fatherhood role evolved over the past few decades?
No one father is the same. I feel it’s not so much a generational difference as it is a character difference. I cannot assume that the things my father faced during his time can have a situational equivalent to what I experience today, and I do not assume my son will face the same things we do. If we were to compare, we’d see similarities between the way we parent and the way we were parented.
I do find myself influenced by my father. I think we all look at our own dads, and learn what to do and what not to do based on what we feel worked with us—and didn’t.
Why haven’t you done reviews of child-friendly places like other daddy bloggers?
Because the other daddy bloggers are already doing it. Why compete in an area where others already have their craft honed to a fine art?
What’s your blogging style?
From very early on, I’ve been identified by my peers as more of a social commentator, so I don’t blog like a conventional parent blogger. More than just writing for an audience and sharing information, I offer thinking points and opinions that often create active engagement. It also helps that I try to speak my mind on matters that few dare to broach but everyone wants to read. Also, I have a sense of humour.
How would you describe your parenting style?
If you saw the way I parent, you probably won’t associate me with the word “style”. I’m tough with my children when I need to be, but I also want to be there for them when they need me to be.
How do you strike a balance between work and family?
I’d like to show you something.
This was a cover letter that I created to send out to prospective employers. Note the part after the sub-header “… Now, here’s the thing…” Before this, I never thought to mention family in any of my job applications, because I didn’t think the two should ever be mixed.
I’ve had cynical reactions from people who have seen this cover letter, saying, “Good luck finding a job with that clause.” Instead of seeing this as reducing my chances of getting employed, I see it as increasing my chances of being employed by the right employer, and I’d rather be upfront with companies I want to work for, so we don’t waste each other’s time in case they can’t fit family men into their workplace culture.
I came up with this cover letter because I needed to be accepted even as I make family my priority (getting home on time, taking hours off for childcare, attending to family emergencies, etc.), whilst committing myself to working for my employer to the best of my ability.
Complete the sentence: “The best thing about being a parent is…”
“… that you learn to live for lives other than your own, and you learn to love and be loved for doing it. And if you learn the lesson well enough, its ripple effect can reach far beyond your own family, into the world you live in.”
SingaporeMotherhood wishes all dads out there a Happy Father’s Day!
Images courtesy of Winston Tay.