What It Means to be a Father
 

Rediscovering What It Means to be a Father

Finding my treasure in family, not work

By Lee Wee Song | 3 June, 2019

I grew up in a traditional merchant class family. My grandfather migrated from China, and worked very hard to establish his own TCM business in Singapore.

After secondary school, my father became an apprentice. This business demands credibility, so he made up for his lack of formal education by spending long hours practising the trade, which meant frequent late nights.

In the 70s and 80s, the rapid expansion of Singapore’s economy put a lot of pressure on traditional businesses, and my dad pushed himself even harder to overcome the new market forces.

I loved and respected my father deeply, but I did not like his constant absence in my life. I filled that void with father figures and role models, like comic book and Hollywood heroes. After entering adolescence, these were then replaced by scientists, tycoons and corporate honchos.

I loved and respected my father deeply, but I did not like his constant absence in my life.

Traditional notions of success

My family background has had a large influence on my narratives for manhood and fathering: Work hard and play hard, climb as high as you can on the ladders of your chosen trade, and make as much money as possible.

I subscribed to the notion that if doing so doesn’t hurt you and your family, you are not working hard enough.

I deeply valued my faith and family, and wanted to give my best to them, yet my concept of success seemed to be at odds with my values. In the end, the glittering appeal of the corporate world prevailed.

The corporate jungle welcomed me and I raced up their ladders. I compromised my relationships at home to win the graces of my superiors; my bond with my wife and children was strained from my frequent travels and absenteeism. Even when I was home, I continued to work.

Spiritual, mental and physical strains gradually emerged, manifesting in my poor temper, patience and lack of concentration. I experienced extreme stress and my health deteriorated; at one juncture, I even contemplated suicide.

Re-focusing on what truly matters

Thankfully, even as I pursued corporate success, my family and faith kept me grounded. My family’s patience and some encounters at work slowly broke through the hardness of my heart, and opened my eyes to the bigger picture.

Through what can be best described as divine providence, I was privy to the private lives of some key business leaders, learning about their struggles with their families. I even grieved the passing of a few of these leaders. These revelations shook me to the core and showed me how I had failed in my role as the head of the household, and especially as a father to my sons. I realised that I was unknowingly replicating my father’s example, as much as I didn’t like it as a child.

I decided to make some drastic changes in my life.

I realised that I was unknowingly replicating my father’s example, as much as I didn’t like it as a child.

In 2010, when an opportunity arose for me to leave the corporate world, I took the step of faith.

The adjustment was difficult, to say the least. Akin to a drug addict, I experienced withdrawal symptoms and a strong urge to reclaim the corporate power and privileges I once enjoyed. However, friends and mentors came alongside me to spur me on in this new life direction.

We often aim for worldly success, but overlook the relationships that grant us true significance.

Today, I’m thankful to be able to spend more time with my sons in order to inculcate and teach them the right attitudes towards life and work.

Besides family holidays, I also bring them on one-on-one trips where we can bond over camping, fishing or serving together on mission trips. I am dedicated to building a stronger fathering relationship with each of my sons, and understanding each one individually.

We often aim for worldly success, but overlook the relationships that grant us true significance.

I’m thankful that I’ve had a second chance to discover what it really means to be a father to my children, and leader of my family.

Wee Song is a Lifeforming Leadership-certified life and growth coach. He enjoys connecting with people, young and old, to help them understand and face life's challenges better. He is an advocate of effective fathering and sonship, as a way for one to establish stronger personhood, marriage, family, worklife and community. With each having their own fulltime leadership jobs, Wee Song and his wife, Huey Hong, enjoy working closely together to nurture their three sons, aged 10, 13, and 17.

Dear Dad, would you like to be more patient with your kids? Or wish they would trust you more? Figuring out how you can win their hearts?

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