People always asked me how it’s like being a single-dad. I wish I had a better answer, but all I can say is, it’s not easy, nor is it impossible. While most mothers and perhaps other single-dads would know what I go through daily, I thought maybe giving you a typical daily schedule would help. And bear in mind, I have optimised most of the factors around my life, like living near Will’s school, and choosing an office that is too and picking office hours and clients that worked for me.
0656 – First alarm fires up. Self test if I wanna sleep for a bit more, before the second alarm kicks in.
0707 – Final warning. Get ass out of bed, on the right side.
0708 – Prepares Will’s stuff for school, i.e. water bottle, school bags, cloths, the whole works. Usually I’d tah pau some buns from the night before. Makes a warm cup of milk/milo/Nestum for him.
0730 – Wakes Will up if he haven’t already on his own. Kinda nice now that he showers himself, but once in a while he’ll yell out if the water is too cold or hot (he’s still too short to adjust the temperature. Shorty…)
0731 – 0759 – Chasing him to speed up as that boy really day dream epic shit all the time. I pack my work, shower, get ready and chase him more. Packs extra cloths if we’re heading out to networking events in the evening.
0800 – Leaves home and join the LDP traffic (Thanks MRT project!). Will usually practice his sight word reading in the car, and if he gets an entire new page right and a previously page right, he gets RM1. This is also the time he usually asks for other RM1s he deserves, like making sure he drinks 2 full bottles of water everyday, vegetables, wash his stuff etc. My kid’s a millionaire, I know, but the money goes to buying Lego only, and we’re both cool with it.
0825 – Kiss him goodbye as he heads into school. I noticed the older he gets, the faster he tries to get out of the car or to face his back against me so I can’t kiss him anymore. Will irritate and embarrass the hell out of him until he sues me, I figured.
0845 – Work day starts for me, and the work desk can be anywhere between office, Starbucks to car seat or park bench. One thing I truly mastered, is to be able to work from anywhere, anytime.
1715 – Starts wrapping up whatever I’m doing to have buffer time to beat the traffic to Will’s daycare. After school, a transporter picks him up and drops him at another place. There, he would complete him homework, but if he’s stuck, it means we gotta do some additional work in the evening.
1830 – Can’t pick him up later than this or will kena fined by daycare, but they are pretty flexi with me still, although I try not to test boundaries. Sometimes when I reach his daycare early, I would either take a quick nap in the car or work from the car.
1900 – Dinner outside. I suck at cooking, really. I can cook myself into a hospital, a story on that later.
2000 – Here’s where there are some varieties. Sometimes we go for networking events, other times we do some grocery shopping, or an evening cup of coffee while he plays with wooden blocks at Borders@Curve, or he go see his Lego stores for the 100th time that month.
2130 – Reach home, and the checklist includes, but not limited to, feeding our guinea pigs (Will’s two brothers), cleaning up the house a little, doing the laundry, folding the laundry, get him to do some homework or he gets to play his Lego and tablet, wash up his lunch box, prepare breakfast for him if needed, pack clothes to be brought to daycare, check his homework, remind him to FaceTime his mom.
2200 – Bed time chit-chat like ‘How’s your day?”, “What’s your favourite part of the day?”, “Why is that?”, “What are you grateful for?”. He usually asks for a hug before he sleeps, and he has started to sleep on his own (we used to share a queen size bed)
2230 – Started doing some work, connect with people, pay bills, occasionally, write stuff like this, make world domination plans, watch a movie, read up weird stuff, some personal me time.
0230 – Hit the sack, but before that, give Will the last kiss of the day, make sure he’ll covered with his blanket knowing he will kick it away 2 minutes later.
Hard days are when I have an early meeting or one that ends late. The pressure of being on time is constantly on my mind. Days when Will’s sick, although his health has improved a lot as he gets older, those are tough too.
Occasionally, more often recently, he spends a couple of hours with his mom, and I get to rest, or do some domestic chores at home. We talked a lot, like what he did at his mom’s place, what junk food he ate again, did he sleep soundly the night before, which is the next Lego set he wanna get once he earns enough money. Sometimes we talk about the future, of how he wants to become a scientist, rubber-tycoon or clumsy ninja. I try to get him off the tablet as much as possible, but as any parent will know, letting them play with the tablet for a while means some decent rest/peace time. I always cringe when I heard non-parents telling me the harms of tablets and iPads and phones. I used to justify, but then I realised the effort saved means I’ll be in a better state of mind to ask Will about the movie he just watched for the 97th time, or why he likes the new game so much, and what are some ways he can make the game better.
Being prepared for emergencies is crucial. Once I had a very bad case of food poisoning and was literally sprawled on the bathroom floor. My girlfriend couldn’t come cos we lived apart and she couldn’t walk/drive due to a leg injury. Had to call Uncle Jikey to come bring me to the emergency ward, and when I called Will’s mom to come pick him as I won’t be able to take care of him, she said it was already late. I didn’t know if the diarrhea was worse or looking at Will’s face and telling him he has to stay somewhere else that night cos daddy’s gonna be at the hospital. My girlfriend Win Nee said he cried himself a bit to sleep that night, but till today, I never told him that his mom didn’t want to come. That taught me a lesson never to cook myself a steak (that was the cause of the food poisoning), and also to have solid backup plans.
Sometimes people ask me why I try so hard and centers my life around Will. Well, partly he’s my son and my responsibility, but also because if not, he may be sent back to Ipoh until he has grown up. I understand that in the career-driven world of today, a child can be a burden on top of the work stress, but it’s no excuse to deny our own responsibilities, especially on his upbringing. Will being 3 hours drive away means I don’t get to see him everyday, and be part of him growing up. I admit, when he was much younger, a toddler, I was pretty much a shitty dad. So focused on my business, I didn’t realise that he could walk until two weeks after. Late night yum cha sessions with my friends, sneaking off to cinemas at night, those were the bad stuff I had done towards my ex-wife, and over the time of taking things for granted, I guess I couldn’t blame her that she asked for a divorce. And I’m always grateful that she asked for the split after my mom had passed away. Fighting cancer, I don’t think my mom will be able to see his son fail a part of his life yet again, and in so saved her one heart break.
I used to be a Buddhist monk, so I do subscribe to karma. Mistakes done in this lifetime, and perhaps even in lifetimes before, I pay the price of them now. The price is not heavy everyday, because on those tougher days, I would sneak into Will’s room and watch him sleep. Or slip my finger onto his palm, and watched as he naturally, and unconsciously, tighten his grip around it. A friend told me when a child sleeps, angels watch over him/her. I don’t know how much of that is true, but watching Will’s steady breathing as he rests, I can’t help but think of the days to come – will he ever grow taller than daddy, will he break a girl’s heart first or the other way around, how many PCs will he crash and burn before he masters troubleshooting and problem solving. Parents would understand these little fantasies we’re often guilty of, but hey, if it put a hopeful smile on our face, and pushes us to become better parents so we can guide our children better, why not, eh?
In the spirit of KICKSTART, I always encourage people to try running their own business at least once in the lifetime – that’s how you live to tell a good tale. In the spirit of parenthood, I try to encourage people to have kids, if not just one. Every time I meet a new parent, I would tell them “In the days to come, your life will change. You’ll never cry harder than any other time in your life, but you will also never laugh as much watching the simple gestures of your child. It’s a package thing, yo.”
And in the spirit of leadership, I think of my mom, whom at 54, left Will when he was barely 4 years old. My mom had always been a strong influence in my life, and as much wisdom she tried to give me, I sometimes wished I got a chance to consult her on being a single-parent. But then, as if she is still beside me, I would hear her voice saying, “Yong, do your best, and everything will turn out OK. But make sure you do your best.”
Will’s so gonna get that psychoed in him, haha!