As a stay-at-home dad of two, he gave up his job to support his wife’s dream of becoming a hawker
In order to care for the couple’s two young daughters, Kris Tan gave up his career as a freelance social media community manager to take care of his third-generation hawker wife. In the first of this series on men who champion women’s issues, he discusses the struggles and rewards of taking the road less taken.
My conversation with Kris Tan, a 41-year-old stay-at-home dad, struck me because I could fulfill any role a mother could, except breastfeed.”
In the past, I have heard many women assert that they can do anything that men can, but I haven’t heard men make the same assertion when it comes to primary caregiving.
There are few men who have experienced the challenges of being a primary caregiver, and even fewer, it seems, aspire to be one.
In contrast, Tan, a father of two young girls aged six and three, quit his freelance job as a social media community manager to devote all of his time to his children.
In the past six years, he has been there for not just the major developmental milestones, but also diaper changes, night feeds, sleep regressions, and meltdowns.
The stress of childcare and sleep deprivation has also contributed to his clinical depression. However, despite his struggles, he would tell you that it is all worth it.
A DAD’S FULL-TIME JOB
Before children, Tan worked from home as a freelance social media community manager. His wife, Li Ruifang, is a third-generation hawker at 545 Whampoa Prawn Noodles.
In the past, Li, 38, worked six-day weeks (although she now only works five), leaving the house around 2.30am and returning around 3pm to 4pm.
It was decided that Tan would take care of the baby while Li was at work, and that Li would pitch in whenever she was free, because Tan did not want to hire a maid.
In 2016, Li suffered a tailbone injury during delivery of their eldest daughter Kyra, so Tan had to take over all baby care after the confinement nanny left.
He said, “My wife was in great pain for a year or more after she sustained a tailbone injury. When she returned to work after four months of maternity leave, she spent weekends recuperating and childcare was left to me.” Tan managed two social media accounts and worked from 9am to 5pm at home. “It was quite manageable when Kyra was still a newborn and she had limited movement. But when she started crawling and needed interaction, I felt the strain,” he recalled.
“From the moment children learn to crawl … it is up to us parents to find a safe place where they can push their limits without hurting themselves,” he said.
“It was a constant mental load that I had throughout the day as Kyra’s primary caregiver,” he said.