Working from home with kids - Hear how these dads make it work.
Once upon a time, dads were not expected to be as involved in their children’s upbringing as moms. Today, however, fathers are much more hands on and taking on more domestic duties. The work from home arrangement in the last year or so have also given working dads more time to spend with their kids.
This Fathers’ Day, let’s hear from three dads – Loh Shi Wei, Eden Seah and Mehul Shah – on how they juggle their public service careers with their role as fathers.
Our GovTechies Eden, Shi Wei and Mehul share how make WFH work in this Fathers’ Day Special! PHOTO: GOVTECH
First off, tell us more about what you do at GovTech?
Shi Wei: Both Eden and I belong to the Services Group, which means we are GovTechies that are deployed to other government agencies to help build up their ICT systems and capabilities. I’m the Agency Chief Information Security Officer (ACISO) at the Singapore Land Authority (SLA). I oversee the information security management of the agency and am also responsible for the planning, development and implementation of information security strategies and policies in line with regulatory requirements and whole-of-government direction.
I sit at the Ministry of Education (MOE) as an Application Infrastructure Engineer and handle ICT and cybersecurity governance. Mostly I will review MOE’s IT systems and environment and provide advice on protecting systems and data against cyber and internal threats.
I am a Manager in Government Digital Services division – the team that creates many digital services and products for our citizens and businesses in Singapore. I help the team with product marketing and engagement for TraceTogether. I also support internal communications efforts within the division. Since earlier in the year I’ve been picking up UX (User-Experience) design as well, on the HealthCerts project.
How would you describe yourself as a father?
Eden: I’ve only become a father last year; my daughter is now 8 months old. Since becoming a father, I feel a deep yearning to see my daughter every day and watch her grow.
Shi Wei: I think I’m a chill father as I allow my children the room and space to explore and learn new things at their own pace rather than worrying if they are lagging behind other kids of the same age group.
Mehul: Apart from the typical guidance role, I enjoy being his friend, and partner-in-crime in cheeky or crazy activities! My son’s a ball of fun and spending time with him energises me.
Has your role as a dad changed since Covid-19 struck and work from home began? How have your teammates supported you during this time?
Shi Wei: I do not see much changes to my role as a father except that I am spending more time at home and am able to witness my childrens’ growing up milestones. The pandemic has given me the opportunity to bond with my children more, which is something I am grateful for. It has been a trying time for everyone, but I am grateful to my bosses and teammates for their support during the times when I needed to take some time out to take care of my children when they are unwell and cannot attend school. They have been very understanding.
Mehul: Agree with Shi Wei, my teammates and bosses have also been very understanding during this period. I am very grateful for that!
Eden: My daughter was born when COVID-19 struck. Work from home became the new norm and I had the opportunity to spend more time with my daughter. Like Shi Wei, I see this as a blessing in disguise.
My teammates have been very supportive and reassuring. They give me the confidence to take time off to look after my daughter when needed as they help to cover some of my duties.
What’s a typical day like for you when working from home? And do you struggle with balancing full-time work with giving your kids daily attention?
Mehul: I start my day by helping my boy get ready before sending him to playgroup. I would then return home to start planning out the tasks to work on for the day prior to meetings or checking emails.
It isn’t that hard to balance between work and my kid, because most times he’s in playgroup on the weekdays. However, if he’s at home then it’s about prioritising less urgent tasks for later and spending that time with him to play or keeping him company as he plays. Sometimes I have to remind myself while working, to cherish those fleeting moments with him as he grows up fast!
Shi Wei: I start my day at 7.30am in the morning to prepare my elder son for school and will send him to school by 8.30am. I will then have a quick bite and start my workday. Lunch break is spent with my wife (who is also working from home). I will typically stop my work at about 6pm to pick up my elder son from school and have a good dinner with my family at about 7pm. I devote the remaining time to my family after that before helping the kids to bed at about 10pm.
While this sounds neat and organised, in all honesty, it can be really challenging at times, especially if my elder son is at home. He will tend to come into my room where I work and ask me to play with him. In such instances, if possible, I will take about 15 minutes off my work and give him some attention before resuming my work.
Eden: I will be working alongside my wife in the study room during working hours, while sneaking in some time during work to have small chats and play with my daughter. After work hours, I usually spend the rest of the evening with my wife and daughter over dinner and more playtime.
It must be hard for my daughter to be away from her parents during the day when she is most active and wanting to spend time with us. At times we can hear her crawling to the door and knocking it as if she is calling out to us.
Sounds like quite a handful to handle. Do you take “me time”? If so, what do you enjoy doing?
Eden: I do evening runs or high-intensity workout sessions. I also enjoy watching Japanese anime and shows on Netflix.
Shi Wei: I definitely do “me time”! It is important to have “me time” as a way of relieving stress and staying sane, more so during this pandemic. It is also a way to recharge and refresh my mind and gather my thoughts. I enjoy building something out of Lego and playing games on my mobile during this time.
Mehul: My favourite time of the day is when I get to relax with lo-fi music. Recently, I have also been enjoying outdoor walks with friends.
You guys seem to have it all together. Any top tips for your fellow fathers to achieve balance of work and kids?
Mehul: I’ll share a quick story, there was one time, my son was going through a reel of washi tape while I was on call. He was sticking it on himself, the walls, all around the house! He somehow also has the uncanny timing of coming into the room whenever I am in a call. There highs and lows of fatherhood, but it is important to appreciate all these moments and make time for their growing up years.
Eden: As a new father, I think balance can be achieved with supportive family and a wife who shares the difficulties and joys of raising our kids. To all the dads out there, share the Father’s Day happiness with your wife who is also juggling both work and raising our children.
Shi Wei: Not sure if these are top tips, but they work for me. One, always make time for the little things such as having meals together with the kids (without the distractions of the phone / tablets) and everyday interactions such as sending them to and picking them up from school. Two, know what’s truly urgent and important. Work can be urgent and important, but your kids’ growing up milestones are just equally important. Once you miss those milestones, you will never have them back again
Finally, what are the joys that being a father brings to you?
Mehul: Watching him grow, discover and learn new activities or skills. The fact that you would feel instantaneously refreshed to see him even after a seemingly tiring day.
Eden: I guess every parent melts at their childrens’ smiles. My joy comes from my daughter’s smiles and giggles whenever she sees me walking out of the study room.
Shi Wei: Seeing my kids grow up healthily and happy. The smiles on their faces can really make me forget about any stress or troubles that I am facing.
Kudos to all fathers who wear many hats in their daily lives and for keeping a strong front before your families and colleagues. A good support system is important, and we hope that you have found time for yourself and enjoy the special moment you currently share with your children. Happy Father’s day!https://www.tech.gov.sg/media/technews/working-from-home-with-kids