Corporate Parent

family-org-chartDear Boys,

In Singapore, most couples/ parents are working class; thankfully for us, we are able to make do with our finances, enough to keep your mum at home, she do not have to work. But the norm is, we have both mummies and daddies working.

I noticed that this created a problem when both mummy and daddy  comes home after work and unfortunately, brought work home. What I mean is not the ‘work’ work, but their working mindset.

Back when I was working in a bank, I have this ‘not my department’ mindset, you can’t help it; an organization as large as a bank, you cannot possibly know everything. I am in the Collections department, and if someone wants to open a business account, it is truly and purely not my department, it is someone else’s job. Closer to my job, I am a credit card collections department, my colleague may work as a car loan collections department, again, anything pertaining to car loans, not my problem again. It is not that I don’t want to be helpful, but in a work setting, sometimes, being helpful is the least helpful thing to do.

If a guy finishes his work and come home, with a ‘corporate mindset’, he can sometimes say things like, “The children’s education is not my problem. I’ll pay an education centre to take care of that.” If the Wife comes home, and forgets to take her hat off as a Human Resource Manager, will say things like, “The dishes is not my problem, he has to do the washing.”

Lines gets drawn at home, very much the same way lines are drawn at work. 

I’ve seen this kind of parenting becoming more common. And it is unfortunate.

No Good Cop/Bad Cop Routine

Sometimes I get asked, ‘So who is the bad guy at home?’ Or ‘Who is the stricter one at home?’ Or ‘Who is the disciplinarian at home?’

Boys, your mum and I have long learned that if we play the ‘Good Cop/Bad Cop’ role, you kids will manipulate us over the other. Kids are smart, and as we learn to be parents, we deal with the situation, not who plays the role.

If Wayne does something naughty at home, in my absence, your mother does not say things like ‘Wait till you dad comes home and I’ll tell him to discipline you!’ She will discipline you, immediately. Your  um and I are good and bad cops all rolled into one.

That’s your department not mine

It’s quite funny, from our perspective, when we talk to some parents, and we realised that the wife doesn’t know certain things about the husband, and vice versa. That is where we can safely assume that both are working professionals who are also spouses who are also parents. Sometimes,  the mother will pay for the children’s school fees, and the father’s money is used to maintain the car, that will bring the whole family out.

On the surface, it seems like there is nothing wrong, but such demarcation can only bring so much value and depth into a relationship. When the car breaks down, and the man is short of cash to pay, is he going to get a loan from the wife? Can he justifies that the wife also benefits from using the car and hence, she should start paying for some of the car’s expenses? The wife can argue that the son’s enrichment class helps with the grades which makes the father looks good and he too should look into footing some of the children’s education bills? The argument breaks down the family.

Inter-department feud becomes parenting feud

Sometimes, I will have my bad days in the office fighting other departments over work matters. It happens and within departments, there will be finger pointing and blame shifting. If I don’t clear that, and brings it home, I will start finger pointing when things at home are not going as expected.

This will become exacerbated if your mum is working and comes home with an equally bad day, fighting other departments, and she wants to impose her parental expectations. She is going to pick on the ‘daddy’ department, and the ‘daddy’ department will go up in arms and blames the ‘mummy’ department over the most mundane of things.

 What works at work, does not always work at home
Honestly, I think this happens when parents, as spouses do not communicate unconditionally, instead they communicate expectations, sometimes subliminally. Some of those expectations could have been set when they are still dating. A guy may like the girl, who happens to have a lifestyle of manicure and pedicure. Naturally, the boy will not expect the girl to do the dishes when they settle down as husband and wife. And the dishes naturally becomes the guy’s ‘department’.
There is not such thing as your department and my department at home. Everyone has to chip in as one family unit. Sure, there will be some functional demarcation, like, I will be the one doing the lifting at home, changing the light bulbs, washing the toilets and other more laborious stuffs. That said, it doesn’t mean your mum can’t do it, she can and she will if she have to.
It is more about effectiveness than efficiency
You cannot draw an Organization Chart to run a family, and it is not the same as a corporate life. In a corporate life, jobs and functions needs specializing, so that when we work, we are efficient. Lines gets drawn so that everyone gets paid to do the work we are good at. An Accountant, does nothing but accounting, and not sales. The IT guy fix IT problem, and the customer service people do not manage the warehouse. It works like this at work, and this cannot be how it work at home.
Raising kids is all about being effective, more than being efficient. We need all hands on deck, it is not a ‘your department not my department’ mindset. As parents we cannot sit, with a problem on hand, for the other department to come and fix it, simply because it is not in our job scope. As parents, we have to fix anything and everything because, that is the job scope of a parent!
So to have family success, skills and mindsets that brings us professional success needs to be tweaked. There are habits better suited at work, leave them at work, being a parent and  raising a family needs us to have a different sets of tools altogether!

Ceremonial Parents

Parenting is not cool.

Dear Boys,

I noticed a new classification of parents.

Consistent with our ability to pay and outsource almost everything we do in life, many parents have found ways to outsource their roles as parents. Perhaps we humans, living in this era of busyness, are stretched a little too thin, wearing too many hats at one go, we have to forsake and get others to handle the ‘non-core’ functions in our lives.

Parenting is a very time consuming, life consuming role, with little material gratifications. Sometimes, parenting can clash with people’s self image, lifestyle. People want to look cool, being parents it is very hard to look good with a wailing child in your harness, it is very hard to look suave when you have to change diapers, in the hot sun, in the middle of a park. You cannot look Angelina Jolie-chic when you have to pin your kid down just to get them to take a sip of water. Parenting is not cool.

So a lot of parents, with cash to spare, little time to care, have their dirty jobs done by others. In Singapore, the main parenting workhorse is the ubiquitous domestic maid, typically hailing from countries like Indonesia, Philippines, Myanmar and other neighboring countries.

But that is not what I’m talking about.

To really qualify as a Ceremonial Parent, you have to make yourself scarce in your child’s life, turn up only at glam events, like your kid’s birthday bash, significant events, like when your kiddos need to attend other kiddos’ birthday bash. Well, ceremonial events.

Ceremonial Parents can pay for day to day duties to be handled by anyone else other than the parents themselves; domestic maids, the maternal Grands, the paternal Grands, childcare centers, the neighbor downstairs, the family pet dog, whoever and whatever has the time to do these mundane, unimportant stuffs.  The caretakers will pat the kiddos to sleep, feed them, medicate them when they are sick, cajole them when they are scared, clean them up when they are dirty. Well, the mundane stuffs.

While ceremonial, glamorous duties only occur like, every now and then, and the mundane duties taking up bulk of a kiddo’s life, already outsourced, doing so actually free up a lot of time for the Ceremonial Parents. Which is very effective time management!

What can Ceremonial Parents do with all these free time?

  • Look as if they are busy;
  • Focus on their job;
  • Make more money;
  • Socialise with their friends, drink party, be merry;
  • Live an image of a childless couple, and go home late after a party, wake up late after a party;
  • They are free to travel, for weeks on end, as a couple to exotic places, and experience ‘life’!

Ceremonial Parents are never tied down, never bothered by their kiddos sleep regime, diet regime, diaper regime, medical regime. When the Ceremonial Parents will return home from their crusades, they will come back bearing presents and bath their kiddos with gifts from faraway land, adorn them with apparatus bought home from their trip.

So why the gripe? Looks like a good life, win/win for all!

As a parent, there is no ‘non-core’ function, everything and every little time I can spare to spend with you makes me a father, upgrades my skills, trains me to be a better one, for you both. You boys taught me so much, everyday, to be a better human being than the one moments ago. While I lament not able to spend more time with you both, and it makes me wonder how Ceremonial Parents can spend so little time with their kiddos, and still qualifies them to be their kiddos’ parents.

And boys, just so you know, it is those ‘mundane’ times I spent with the both of you, that makes me qualifies to be your father, and no one else. Through the doldrums, I learned your character, idiosyncrasies, things you like, don’t like, have an opinion over or not. Through diaper changes, I see your butt grow. Feeding you, I know your diet. And call the both of you my sons.

I dare to call the shots for you because of all the times I’ve spent with you both, 24/7/365. Nobody can boss you both around the way I boss you both around, because I call you both my brood.

I cannot be there only for your good times, and absent for the bad.

Ceremonial Parenting don’t work for me, because it does not build trusts between me and you; it does not bond a biological relationship. Calling me ‘papa’ and me calling you both ‘sons’, are only words. There is a lot of work, time, and effort spent in action to make that bond, bond. I cannot be there only for your good times, and absent for the bad. Doing this while the both of you are young, under the impression that you both are too young to know anything, is telling myself a big parenting lie. What matters, is that my job as a father starts the moment you both are born, and does not end even when I’m long dead.

Ceremonial Parenting also sets a precedence, once you teach your kiddos that is how parenting works, they will learn to do that when they have kids. They will throw their kids back to the parents, now the grand parents, repeating the whole vicious process. It is detrimental, especially the kids, as they are left to be shuttled around, like cattle from one touch points to another. They will never have a chance to enjoy and experience the postive effects of being love, touch, embraced by their parent.  This is not how childhood is supposed to be.

There is no magic in parenting, being a father; it is hard work, action, and a lot of being present for the both of you, through good times and the bad.

I hope when you boys have your own brood, you both do not turn into Ceremonial Parents yourself, because children of Ceremonial Parents are worse than orphans, having parents and not having them there.

First published Dec 10, 2015 12:00 AM