Modern Tsinoy Dad: 5 life lessons

It’s almost 6 p.m., the time my parents come home from the store. I hear their distinct footsteps coming closer. And just as they were about to turn the corner…

“Bulaga!” I’d shout.

My parents would have a good laugh. A nice end to another tough day.

People say children bring families together and I agree now that I have a 9-month-old daughter of my own. We have more family bonding time as opposed to everyone going off to their own apartment after dinner. And it helps that we live just one floor away.

My mom though made a curious observation about us new Tsinoy dads. She says that we are more involved with taking care of the children than the older generation. Men would normally just take care of the livelihood while the women took care of the children. I find that a very interesting discovery.

Speaking of discovery, this month we’re going to celebrate Father’s Day, and I want to share five unexpected life lessons that I never knew fatherhood would teach me.

  1. Breastfeeding is tough, but my wife is tougher. I wasn’t breast-fed. So, it was an absolutely new experience when my wife decided to breastfeed because her sister highly recommended it. It was a heavy burden for my wife. Latching the baby on is a pain, especially at the start. Not to mention she has to pump milk at work every day. She’s been doing it faithfully for nine months now, and I’m very proud of her. I always knew she was tough but I had no idea how tough. Since this is a task that only she can do, for obvious reasons, I make sure to have at least one date a month – just the two of us to simply connect and unwind. Basically, just think that taking care of your wife is the same thing as taking care of your baby, simply because it’s true.
  2. No to daddy body. That may seem superficial but it’s not. It’s about health. As breadwinners, we have the responsibility to provide for our family and we can’t do that if our body fails us. Whenever I notice that my belt is tightening, daddy body is knocking. Like nearly everyone else, I don’t have the luxury of time and energy to go to the gym. What I do is exercise at home. Doing a simple exercise that you can keep up, like push-ups or yoga, is better than doing an intense workout that you can’t sustain. Developing healthy eating habits is also essential. I only have apples for breakfast and seldom eat rice at night. It might be different for you but once you find a routine that works, stick to it. Don’t worry, you don’t have to have six-pack abs, just fitting in your jeans is already a big accomplishment.
  3. Grace under pressure is easier said than done. I’m a planner. I have a list of things to do and work hard until I finish them. I consider myself a calm and collected person. That is, until the baby cries. For a guy who puts a premium on focus, it’s very challenging to get interrupted while you’re fully engaged with work. I never hesitate to stop and help with the baby but I don’t always handle it well (i.e. cranky face). That’s what I admire about my parents. When faced with this dilemma, I get intense. I tend to raise my voice and become bossy. My parents, on the other hand, are always relaxed and deliberate when confronted with such situations. Their demeanor has been fortified by their years of experience. That’s something I want to have.
  4. The power of leverage. Eighty-six thousand, four hundred. That’s the number of seconds we all have in a day. And it’s never enough. I’m a strong believer in the adage, “If you want to do things right, you have to do it yourself.” I have difficulty letting go of control and delegating. Again, that changed when my baby arrived. My list of things to-do may be a mile long but my time and energy is limited. My wife and I quickly realized that life isn’t about crossing out tasks in the to-do list but is about choosing the most important task and doing it yourself. The rest? Leverage it. In our home, we have hired a nanny and a house help to assist with the chores. In my business, I’ve hired freelancers to lighten the load, invested in software to automate tasks. It gives us much needed extra time to bond with our baby. Instead of buying new stuff for ourselves, we invest in these “luxuries” because we understand that time flies quickly. So while her world revolves entirely around us, we’ll make sure to take every moment in.
  5. It strengthened my faith. It’s not the things that we can foresee that scares us, it’s the things that never come to mind that do. As parents, we do everything we can to protect and nurture our child. We want to make sure no violence would ever happen to children, yet they still do. Just watch the news and you’ll see horror stories daily. That’s where faith comes in. I can try to be a superhero for my child but at the end of the day, I’ll have to surrender our faith to God. It’s the reason why I always take a moment every morning to give thanks to the Lord for the gift of seeing my wife and child peacefully sleeping beside me.

    Life owes us nothing. Everything is a blessing. Let’s enjoy this adventure because life is full of surprises. You never know, the next one might just be around the corner. — First published in Tulay Fortnightly, Chinese-Filipino Digest 29, nos. 1-2 (June 21-July 4, 2016): 12.