Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

The journey to parenthood

Monday, December 28th, 2020

CONCEIVING may not be as simple or direct for all couples. Unfortunately, when infertility strikes, distress and finger pointing begins, often directed at the woman.

However, it’s an issue that affects both men and women, with infertility among men on the rise.

According to a study by the National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN), the fertility level among men below 30 has decreased by 15 per cent from 2010 to 2019.

The male factor is also thought to contribute to up to 30 per cent of cases of infertility.

Sunway Medical Centre Velocity’s consultant fertility specialist, Dr Farah Leong Rahman says infertility affects 1 in 7 couples – some of the causes include lack of regular ovulation, blocked or damaged fallopian tubes, endometriosis and poor semen quality.

However, in a quarter of cases, it is not possible to identify the exact cause, in which case it’s labelled as “unexplained infertility,” she explains.

However, this does not spell the end for every couple as some of these causes can be addressed by making simple, but effective changes to their lifestyle.

A healthy and balanced diet is crucial in keeping one’s body in peak condition, while smoking and alcohol consumption should be avoided.

Exercising regularly and maintaining an ideal body weight can also be of great help.

Starting a family may not be as simple and direct for some couples. Picture: Created by freepic.diller - www.freepik.comStarting a family may not be as simple and direct for some couples. Picture: Created by freepic.diller -

Dr Farah also stresses the importance of visiting a doctor to ensure any underlying medical conditions such as diabetes are treated and kept under control.

In the unfortunate event that a couple is unsuccessful in getting pregnant after a year, they should pay a visit to a trusted fertility doctor to figure out their next step.

“Do see the fertility doctor if the woman is 35 years and above, as fertility declines with age. The ovaries will have fewer eggs to offer and these may be of poorer quality. It is also important to take note of other factors such as the patient having undergone any treatment or procedure that may result in infertility such as cancer treatment, or any previous surgeries related to the female reproductive organs such as removal of fallopian tubes.”

Doctors will usually carry out hormonal blood tests on the woman. One of the tests is called the “Anti-Mullerian Hormone” test which helps estimate how much eggs a woman has in reserve.

A tubal patency test is also advised to determine if the woman’s fallopian tubes are blocked.

As for the man, a sperm test is necessary. Dr Farah explains that men with a history of undescended testes, problems with pubertal development, previous genital surgery or infection, fertility problems in current or previous relationships and problems with erection or ejaculation are advised to see a fertility doctor.

It would also be best if the couple are present together during consultation as the doctor will ask questions to get to know the couple better in order to help them.

“The doctor will also carry out an ultrasound to check the womb and ovaries. If you do have any previous test results please bring them along. A thorough discussion will be carried out and fertility tests offered if not done. Treatment options may be different for each couple depending on the underlying problem and discussions made.”

Couples who face difficulty in getting pregnant may go through emotional and mental stress, with some even falling into depression, or experiencing bouts of frustration, anger or loss of self-esteem.

For this reason it’s important for the couple to support each other through the infertility journey and also receive support from family members and friends.

“It is important to be honest about your feelings and be able to express them in the right way. There are also support groups out there and counsellors if one needs help. Good mental and emotional health should be present throughout this period and continue when you are pregnant. Always remember that you are not alone in this journey.”

Couples need to support each other through their journey. Picture: Created by freepik - Couples need to support each other through their journey. Picture: Created by freepik -

SMART PARENTING: Power of hugs

Sunday, December 27th, 2020

TO complement the verbal part of parenting, parents should also show their love by throwing hugs and kisses a few times a day.

Physical contact is the best way to reconfirm and reassure our children of our love for them.

The warmth of the love from a father and mother goes a long way towards creating a psychologically-balanced and smart child.

The late Princess Diana once said, “Hugs can do a great amount of good, especially for children.” I couldn’t agree more.

The University of North Carolina once conducted a study involving 59 women and the results were quite interesting.

After a question-and-chat session about their partners, some of the women ended the exercise with a 20-second hug.

The women who received a hug from their partners were discovered to have lower blood pressure and heart rates during the more stressful parts of the testing.

The researchers believe that a hormone called oxytocin was released during hugging. It might be the cause for their better heart health.

Studies have also shown that babies and children who receive a lot of appropriate physical touches, hugs and kisses grow up to be more confident, sociable, well behaved and pleasant than those who don’t.

Generally, they feel more secure and loved and hence, there’s no reason for them to misbehave or disobey their parents.

Meanwhile, those unlucky children who do not receive enough physical contact from their parents or primary caregivers tend to be more aggressive, less confident, insecure and are unable to focus on their studies.


Physical contact between parents and their children will help cleanse their mind from any negative feelings.

This is reason enough for us to give them generous amounts of hugs and kisses before dropping them off to school.

With a clear and positive mind, they’d be readier to absorb their lessons and become better students.

Any child craves assurance of love via hugs and kisses. This is especially true when they feel down, frustrated, angry and dejected.

The negative elements need to be quickly eliminated by soothing words and loving gestures.

If left unchecked, they’ll fester into feelings of hopelessness or insecurity and could manifest into aggressive and anti-social behaviour.

Let’s make a commitment to give our children a generous dose of physical parental contact.

For me, my dose of hugs and kisses are strewn in the morning, in the evening after returning home from the office and before bedtime.

Even if I’m on a business trip, which is quite often, I make it a point to call and send them hugs and kisses — remotely.

Now that we cannot travel, use a webcam to make everyone feel that no one is far away from each other!

By Zaid Mohamad.

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Lam Thye: Avoid breaking the piggy bank if possible

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020
Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, said as the fund was instituted to provide savings for the future, withdrawals from the account was akin to “short term gain, long term pain”. - NST/file pic. Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, said as the fund was instituted to provide savings for the future, withdrawals from the account was akin to “short term gain, long term pain”. – NST/file pic.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Alliance for Safe Community has urged Employees Provident Fund (EPF) contributors to think twice about any request to withdraw money from the their EPF Account 1.

Its chairman, Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, said as the fund was instituted to provide savings for the future, withdrawals from the account was akin to “short term gain, long term pain”.

“If therefore the funds are depleted or reduced prematurely, there will be adverse circumstances later in life when the need is greater. Although there are good reasons to permit such a request, there are also strong reasons on why all the rules covering the account should remain.

“There is no clear answer to the question of whether or not one should be allowed to withdraw their monies from the account as there are cogent reasons for both. In the final analysis, it is a question of what outweighs the other,” he said in a statement today.

Lee said the government has been trying to help the rakyat by providing several relief packages since the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

“The government has disbursed short-term relief aid for the rakyat through Bantuan Prihatin Nasional, Bantuan Sara Hidup, a moratorium on the repayment of National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) loans and consumer loans.

“In the latest cash-aid given under the Kita Prihatin package, the (government) has set aside RM7 billion for disbursement between now and January 2021 for varying sums to be paid to B40 households, single parents and local workers in various fields and micro-traders in various fields. This covers the segments of the population who are in need the most.

“These payments should tide these target groups over a short-term period until they can get back on their own feet when the health and economic effects of Covid-19 wear off,” he said.

Lee said EPF contributors should avoid breaking the piggy bank as nobody knows what the future holds.

“There’s an old Chinese proverb that best describes the current situation; ‘In every crisis, there are opportunities’.

“The current pandemic situation has thrown up new opportunities. We can take a leaf from the case of an overseas airline pilot who had lost his job and became a bus driver instead.

“The affected target group of workers are encouraged to venture into new field”.

Lee said the country’s population is ageing and therefore, there are more reasons for EPF contributors to think twice before withdrawing from Account 1.

“According to a Welfare Department survey, by the year 2035, the number of people above the age of 60 would constitute 15 per cent of the population and thus, we will be classified as an ageing nation.

“Would the country be able to cope with this large number from this segment if the elderly did not have savings to tide them over?

“The government would then be hard-pressed to provide for a quantum leap in ensuring adequate healthcare and related facilities.

“If we revise EPF rules to allow for partial withdrawal from Account 1, it must be done on a needs basis. Applicants must prove that they are in dire straits and without any other means of support.

“And then, there must be a cap on withdrawals, in terms of scope and number of withdrawals,” he said.

By Farah Solhi.

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SMART PARENTING: Parenting during the pandemic

Sunday, November 1st, 2020

“WE take care of ourselves; we take care of our families; we take care of our communities and we take care of our country. Controlling Covid-19 infection is the responsibility of the MOH (Ministry of Health) and the responsibility of the people.

This is a shared social responsibility,” wrote Tan Sri Datuk Seri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah on his Facebook page on June 7, 2020.

Four months have passed and his advice still rings true today. Covid-19 made a comeback, causing more havoc. Coincidentally, the government via the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development Ministry (KPWKM) had declared November as National Family Month. Suffice it to say, this year’s celebration will have to be severely scaled down in line with the new norm.

However, the task of taking care of our family must never be neglected. We can start by checking if we’re being the right role model for our children. Do we diligently follow the standard operating procedure (SOP)? How about physical distancing? Are we observing it strictly? What about when we come home? Do we wash our hands first?

Sandra Dupont, a parenting columnist with The Huffington Post, wrote: “The foundation of effective parenting is leading by example. When children observe how we treat them and others, they learn how to behave. A parent’s interaction with their child literally impacts their child’s brain development, and parenting styles can be passed down through generations.”

It’s true that children will not always remember what we said, but they almost always do what we do.


Even the World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued a warning about dealing with family and children during this difficult time. Some children and young people may be feeling more isolated, anxious, bored and uncertain. They may feel fear and grief over the impact of the virus on their families.

Besides physical health, the WHO has also released posters related to parenting during the pandemic. “It’s hard to stay positive when our kids and teenagers are driving us crazy. We often end up saying “Stop doing that!” But children are much more likely to do what we ask if we give them positive instructions and lots of praise for what they do right,” proposed WHO.

“Use positive words when telling your child what to do. For example, “please put your clothes away” (instead of “don’t make a mess”). Shouting at your child will make you and them more stressed and angrier. Get your child’s attention by using their name. Speak in a calm voice,” it advised.

Praise your child when they behave well. It’ll reinforce the good behaviour. It also sends a signal that you notice and you care. Be realistic in your expectations. No child can sit still for more than 15 minutes.

So, if we must work from home, factor the disruptions into our routine and manage them positively. It’s easier said than done, but it’s not impossible. After all, our job isn’t just to take care of ourselves and them physically; it’s also mentally.

by Zaid Mohamad.

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Study: Covid-19 spread fastest by teens, tweens

Monday, July 20th, 2020
A new study of 5,706 coronavirus patients in South Korea shows that older children are more likely to spread Covid-19 within a household than younger children and adults. - AFP picA new study of 5,706 coronavirus patients in South Korea shows that older children are more likely to spread Covid-19 within a household than younger children and adults. – AFP pic

OLDER children are more likely to spread Covid-19 within a household than younger children and adults, according to a new study of 5,706 coronavirus patients in South Korea.

The researchers traced and tested nearly 60,000 people who had contact with the infected people and found that, on average, 11.8 per cent of household contacts tested positive for Covid-19, according to the early release of a study published on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

For people who lived with patients between the ages of 10 and 19, 18.6 per cent tested positive for the virus within about 10 days after the initial case was detected – the highest rate of transmission among the groups studied. Children younger than 10 spread the virus at the lowest rate, though researchers warned that could change when schools reopen.

The study comes on the heels of an intensifying debate about whether, when and how schools should resume classes. Working parents around the world have been struggling to balance their own remote work with the added complication of school closures. There is intense pressure on political leaders. In the US, the Trump administration has threatened to withhold federal funds for local school districts that fail to reopen.

At the same time, virus rates have been rising again, even in places that thought they’d extinguished their outbreaks, and many teachers are wary of returning to the classroom. State data suggests the infection rates among children could also be far higher than the 2 per cent reported by the CDC.

The South Korean study suggests that older children may be particularly contagious, although the researchers point out that household contacts could have contracted the virus elsewhere. Still, given the high rates of infection within families, the study called for more research to understand how to limit the spread of the virus at home.

by Bloomberg.

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Improving parenting skills during the pandemic

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020
Parents become the primary teachers during the Covid-19 Parents become the primary teachers during the Covid-19

LETTER: Parents need time to let their children adapt to the new norms during the Covid-19 pandemic. Parents have to multitask, manage home and office work, as well as take care of their children’s needs, especially education.

In other words, parents have become the primary teachers.

Parents are updated on their children’s school work through social media such as WhatsApp groups administrated by class teachers.

One of the programmes being conducted by schools is online learning. There are two types of online learning: Google Classroom and face-to-face learning.

Online learning is fun because children are provided learning activities that help them to be active learners. As gadgets are ubiquitous in their lives, they can connect the new experience with what they normally do in their lives.

Interactive quizzes, YouTube videos and downloadable worksheets are examples of lesson contents that are shared by teachers in Google Classroom. In face-to-face learning, students meet the teacher “in person”.

Individual or group learning takes place with the teachers explaining and discussing the lessons or the children reading and carrying out tasks set by the teacher.

The experience makes the children feel as if they are learning in a real classroom.

As parents, we learn to come to grips with technology and upskill our knowledge of information and communications technology. We learn to see technology as an educational tool and not a tool to merely entertain.

Nonetheless, not all students have access to the Internet. Some families do not have good Internet connection due to the location or cost.

This could pose a problem because some task sheets on Google Classroom need to be printed out for the children to complete, or uploaded once the assignment is finished.

Apart from that, parents with schoolgoing children must let them take turns using the gadgets. Parents with young children need someone to oversee them while they focus on a child’s school work.

Recently, my son’s school introduced a method where the teachers prepare the homework in printed form and parents would collect it from school. This seems to be an easier and efficient method.

This pandemic is a good time for parents to reflect on our parenting skills and involvement with our children’s learning process.

We spend more time addressing our children’s issues through interaction. We probably do more activities together too.

It must be challenging for parents who work from home to focus on the children.

Perhaps by sharing parenting and household responsibilities, parents can strike the right balance between work and family. It is not easy to be patient and passionate with children all the time.

Teaching them to toe the line, managing arguments between siblings, entertaining, and coping with the pestering and whining. All these can be a big drain on our energy.

This requires knowledge on how to handle emotions and remain calm and positive at all times. Besides, cooperation between spouses is paramount.

In all, the pandemic has allowed us to self-evaluate our skills to be better parents.

by Soraya Lin

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Parents remain concerned

Wednesday, July 1st, 2020

KLANG: Despite some nagging concerns, bank employee M. Chanddradevey will go ahead with plans to send her five-year-old twins Nashwina and Nashwin to their daycare and pre-kindergarten centres today.

“They have been very pampered by their grandmother and have become extra mischievous during the movement control order period,’’ said Chanddradevey, 36.

Both Chanddradevey and her 39-year-old husband Reuben Victor, who works for a telecommunications company, acknowledged however that they were worried about their children’s safety at the centre.

“But we feel a little reassured after the centre contacted us and explained their new standard operating procedure,’’ she said.

According to Chanddradevey, before the Covid-19 pandemic, she would send her children to the centre in Kota Damansara while they were still in their pajamas as the twins would be bathed and dressed by the staff there.

“They have now told us that the children must be bathed and dressed at home,’’ said Chanddradevey.

She said that parents were also told not to come directly from their workplace to fetch their children from the centre.

“Parents have to go home first and shower before coming to get the children,’’ said Chanddradevey.

Meanwhile, kindergarten teacher Kalyani Subramaniam said only eight out of the 18 children enrolled in her class had confirmed their attendance.

“We called their parents and most of them are not comfortable sending their children yet. Some of them said they would send their children in August. Others said that their children would return to the kindergarten in September,’’ said Kalyani, whose kindergarten is in Teluk Pulai near here.

She said the kindergarten’s management had also prepared a SOP to ensure everyone’s safety.

“Children are no longer allowed to bring anything from home, including water bottles, as we will be providing everything for them from now on,’’ she said.

Kalyani said that body temperature would be taken at the start and end of the day. Shoes will be disinfected before the children enter the premises.

In Melaka, six-year-old Marcus Neo Chao Wei had been pestering his mother about wanting to see his buddies.

Less playtime soon: Nashwina and Nashwin will finally be going back to kindergarden today after a long impromptu break.Less playtime soon: Nashwina and Nashwin will finally be going back to kindergarden today after a long impromptu break.

His only playmate for the past few months was his brother, said his mother Gan Swee Wai. “And now, he would be pleased to meet his friends,” she said.

Today, the boy will attend kindergarten, which has been allowed to reopen under the recovery movement control order.

Gan, 39, said she was confident of sending Marcus to kindergarten as safety measures had been taken by the operator of the preschool.

Besides temperature checks, she said the kindergarten had also carried out disinfection exercises.

“With the SOP in place, I believe that my son will be in good hands,” she said.

Gan, who celebrated her birthday yesterday, said she was also happy to see her boy returning to kindergarten.


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Fathers can become ‘Better Dads’

Sunday, June 21st, 2020
A father has enormous power. For good or for bad, by his presence or absence, action or inaction, whether abusive or nurturing, the fact remains that a father influences and impacts his children deeply.A father has enormous power. For good or for bad, by his presence or absence, action or inaction, whether abusive or nurturing, the fact remains that a father influences and impacts his children deeply.

LETTER: We often say that nothing is more important to us than our children. But many times, our personal and societal priorities do not always seem in accord with our professed belief.

If we envision a future in which all our children have the opportunity to live rewarding lives, then we must consider the role of fathers more carefully. Doing so will strengthen the family, help mothers, promote equality and create a brighter future for our children.

A father has enormous power. For good or for bad, by his presence or absence, action or inaction, whether abusive or nurturing, the fact remains that a father influences and impacts his children deeply.

In his book “Fatherneed”, Yale University child psychologist Kyle Pruett notes that children whose fathers are deeply involved in their lives do better in school. Toddlers with involved fathers are better prepared to handle the stresses and frustrations associated with schooling than children whose fathers are less involved. And young men need dads who are present as they embark on their own life’s journey.

In other words, society benefits in tangible ways when fathers have the time to invest in the lives of their children.

Most men do want to be effective fathers but often times, a major obstacle is that we lack complete and effective models. Our own fathers are the default models – if our past experience with our fathers is negative and if we reject them as models but fail to replace them with new ones, then we often end up using them as our models anyway, in spite of ourselves.

Hence, we need a plan for being an effective father – a practical action plan that makes sense and that considers social research.

Better Dads Malaysia is here to help provide that practical action plan through our globally recognised ICAN Fathering Workshops designed exclusively for men. And it is never too late to start intentionally to become a Better Dad as we take it one day at a time.

Whether having a stay-at-home or working father, anyone who experienced riding on their father’s shoulders, putting their tiny hands in his large ones, or dancing on his toes, will always cherish the memories. Chances are, Dad remembers those moments too.

Fathers are also the most important role model to their children for being a good husband, friend, worker, and community supporter. Fathers represent something different and unique to everyone.

For many men who have never experienced fatherhood, there is a strong realisation of love they never thought possible as they see their child for the first time, and assume an important role that is ironic, awkward, heartwarming and portentous, all simultaneously.

Father’s Day is an excellent time to celebrate the fathers we love, cherish memories of fathers who have died, express gratitude to men who have been like fathers to us when our own fathers were unable to fulfill that role, and provide support to those who are trying to figure out how to be a father without their child.

Fathers, whether good or not so good, make an indelible mark on our lives but all fathers can be ‘Better Dads’. Happy Father’s Day to all.

by Jason Leong.

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Essence of a father

Sunday, June 21st, 2020
 Balancing youth and parenthood is something Afeeq is getting to grips with.Balancing youth and parenthood is something Afeeq is getting to grips with.

“EKKKKKKKKKK…” the high-pitched shrieking emanating from the toddler who’d hitherto been playing happily under the dining table with her cat startles Muhammad Afeeq Mohd Azam, or Afeeq as he’s better known.

Apologising profusely for his daughter’s untimely interruption of our interview session, he promptly scoops her up in his arms and patiently settles her on his lap before turning to me sheepishly.

“Sorry, where were we?”

The 23-year-old father of one, who’s still studying for his degree in Sports Science, had been sharing about his journey as a young father trying his best to manoeuvre fatherhood.

He was only 21 when he was informed by his wife, Nur Naszurah Maisarah that she was pregnant.

“I was petrified when I heard the news. To know that someone was going to call me ‘dad’ was a terrifying thought because of all that it constitutes,” begins Afeeq solemnly.

Absently stroking his daughter, Mya’s hair, he continues: “But at the same time, I was also quietly excited. To be honest, one of my goals in life has always been to become a father. I guess it came a bit earlier than I’d planned! I was thinking maybe nearer 25!”

He confides that the days thereafter became a blur as he grew more introspective. “I was wondering how the baby would turn out; how I was going to take to the role and whether I’d be ‘qualified’ enough to even call myself a father,” shares Afeeq.

But the niggling doubts dissipated, replaced by one of awe the moment he clapped eyes on his baby — all 2.4kg of her.

Chuckling, Afeeq, the eldest of two siblings, says: “I literally froze when I saw her. Even the nurses and my wife had to shake me. I couldn’t believe that the baby was mine. I was so stunned that I couldn’t even register the bustle around me.”

Asked to recall any funny incidents, Afeeq grins before replying: “We were still at the hospital. The baby had poo-ed in her nappy. My wife and I had no idea what to do!”

Chuckling, he continues: “It was rather hilarious now thinking back. The two of us discussing furiously what to do with the baby. And just beyond the curtains was another patient, probably listening in on our crazy conversation!”


 Spending time with daughter Mya is important to Afeeq.Spending time with daughter Mya is important to Afeeq.

Life as they knew it changed the moment they brought baby Mya Althea Amanda home. The young father recalls receiving plenty of well-meaning advice from older family members and friends.

“Of course, we welcomed it. But at the end of the day, we discovered we were more comfortable doing things our own way — through trial and error.”

He admits he’s fortunate that Naszurah fell into her new role — motherhood — naturally.

Throwing a glance at his wife seated on the sofa, Afeeq shares: “My wife seemed to know what to do while I was still fumbling. If she was stuck, she turned to Google! Also, we were lucky because during her confinement period, which was spent at my in-laws, she was guided by her own mother.”

Afeeq shares that he wasn’t able to seek the counsel of his circle of friends as most of them were still single.

Wryly, he says: “They were actually more incredulous than anything. They were sceptical whether I’d be able to handle this new role. They said they couldn’t even look after their younger siblings let alone a baby!”

When Mya was born, Afeeq was still juggling classes. On weekends, it was his part-time work at a local gym. Suffice to say, life was terribly packed.

“But I didn’t mind it,” he says, thoughtfully. “The routine of having to attend classes, go to work, handle the baby and look after my wife… it was my responsibility. I guess if you’re genuine about your intentions, you don’t question. You just do.”

Despite everything, Afeeq managed to complete his assignments, achieve reasonable grades and ensure that both wife and baby were well provided for.

“Actually, I’m supposed to have completed my studies by now but because of the MCO, everything has been postponed,” he adds, ruefully.


 The young parents know it will be a hard slog but worth it.

The  young parents know it will be a hard slog but worth it.

Unlike many young men of his age, Afeeq doesn’t feel like his freedom has been curtailed as a result of early fatherhood.

“I’ve never yearned to travel the world with friends or do stuff that people my age are doing,” he muses.

Adding, the taekwondo practitioner says: “If I wanted to travel, I can still do so — with my family. Also, having been a sportsman since I was young, I’ve already travelled so that need doesn’t arise anymore. It’s like ‘been there, done that!’”

However, if he could turn back the clock to change one thing, it’s to have graduated first before becoming a father.

“That would have been better. Now I have to balance studying, parenthood and a job. Finances are a challenge. Of course, I do feel stressed knowing there’s a lot to do but I just need to push on.”

Now that his wife is pregnant with their second child, Afeeq is aware that life’s about to get harder. But he’s happy to go with the flow. “We’ll adjust accordingly,” he says simply.

His demeanour changes when he confides that he’s had to grow up — fast.

“I’m not single anymore. And it’s not okay to behave like I’m single. I can’t be spending all my time hanging out with friends, or waking up late and then playing video games all day. I used to do that!”

“Me-time”, he adds, has had to be sacrificed. “If I want to play or do my own thing, I have to fit them in, in between the things I need to do first. It’s not great but it’s still something.”

Fatherhood and marriage have matured this happy-go-lucky young man.

Chuckling, Afeeq shares: “I used to think my dad was so unreasonable when I was growing up — especially when it came to girls and socialising. Now I can see just why he was so protective. Even when I watch movies these days, I find myself on the side of the parents!”

Another shriek from Mya reminds me that I’ve taken this young father’s time far longer than I’d planned. Signalling to my watch, I ask Afeeq a final question: What’s his most favourite thing about fatherhood?

His handsome face breaks into a wide smile. “Coming home to see Mya. To be honest, even when I’m in class, my mind wanders to what my daughter’s doing. I’ll scroll her pictures on my phone. And I can’t wait to get home!”

Concluding, he adds: “I’m really looking forward to ‘growing’ with my growing children. I can’t wait to walk the journey with them…”


 Julian is very much a modern, hands-on dad to his two daughters.Julian is very much a modern, hands-on dad to his two daughters.

AN FX (forex) strategist, Julian Suresh Sundaram was 38 when he became a father to his first-born, daughter Jaeda.

When wife Melissa told him the news of her pregnancy, Julian recalls a lengthy pause ensuing as he grappled with what to say.

“I guess there’s no such thing as the best thing to say so I just smiled, hugged her and I can’t really remember what I said thereafter!” he begins, voice laced with mirth.

The now-44-year-old recalls the early days of fatherhood as being somewhat challenging.

 Happy family.Happy family.

“Wrapping my face with what was worn moments before to clean Jaeda. The trials of feeding, more so during the haunting hours. The anxieties that came with every cough, every rise in temperature, every unending cry,” he recollects, as if it were only yesterday.

Continuing, he reels off breathlessly: “The marathon of putting her to sleep, rocking her and counting to 200 because if the rocking was too short, she’d wake up when put down. If the rocking was too long, well… that’s just bad for my back!”

With a gentle smile, he swiftly adds: “But you know, none of that matters now. It’s just wonderful to have a daughter who looks at you with new eyes every day. It’s God’s clean slate and I pray I’ve painted it well for her.”

Asked whether he had any help from his friends during the early days of fatherhood, Julian pauses for thought before recalling that he did ask a particular friend — a father-of-two — for tips on being a parent.

Chuckling, he shares: “My friend just shrugged his shoulders and said there’s really nothing. I was a bit disappointed. Not even a single tip! But soon enough, I quickly realised that there are no tips. One would just have to learn as one embark on the journey.”

His support system then comprised his wife and mother-in-law who took care of little Jaeda in the first year of her life.

“My own parents were also always there whenever emergencies arose,” says Julian.


 Reading to his two girls is one way that Julian bonds with them.

Reading to his two girls is one way that Julian bonds with them.

Suffice to say, the early years of parenthood took some getting used to. Julian remembers feeling particularly helpless whenever he was unable to be of much help to wife Melissa.

“Coming back from work and seeing her totally frazzled and knowing that there was nothing I could do to make it better… that was hard for me.”

Brows furrowing, he continues: “Whenever Jaeda cried and I had to pacify her somehow… that also made me feel helpless. Feeding time would sometimes end up being a marathon, complete with nursery rhymes and Bole Chudiya (from Kabhi Kushi Kabhi Gham) stuck on repeat!”

Now that Jaeda is bigger and the family has grown with the addition of another adorable daughter, Jia, Julian admits that as a father, he’s still a work in progress.

“There are too many distractions and I think this is the main challenge of modern-day parenting. You want to be there for the kids more but there are those distractions that hinder that aspiration.”

Fatherhood, confesses Julian, who loves to read to his children, has been a beautiful journey, despite being peppered with the odd challenges.

Enthusiastically, he declares: “I can’t even describe the feeling I get when I see Jaeda’s face light up, especially as a result of having learnt something new that I’ve taught her. Of course, I can’t explain everything that she asks, because she’s too young, but she accepts when I tell her that I would do so when she’s better able to comprehend.”

If there’s one thing he has learnt about himself as a result of fatherhood, it’s that there’s nothing else he’d rather do.

Concludes Julian thoughtfully: “I’ve also learnt to accept that I’m not always right and the fact that it’s not ‘me’ anymore, but ‘we’!”


 Despite being a busy father, Patrick believes in making time for his sons. Seen here with young Mervin, left and son, Adrian, right.Despite being a busy father, Patrick believes in making time for his sons. Seen here with young Mervin, left and son, Adrian, right.

From his favourite perch on a comfy rattan chair in one corner of the bustling cafe, his cup of coffee cradled in his hands, Patrick Chin Beng Chew smiles broadly. Business has been brisk today and of course, he’s suitably pleased.

His son, Mervin Chin, the 28-year-old proprietor of this popular café, Rinse in Bandar Sri Damansara, Kuala Lumpur has yet to make an appearance.

But dad Patrick is unperturbed, contented in the knowledge that his mere presence there will ensure that everything runs smoothly.

Tearing his watchful gaze away from proceedings, the sprightly 58-year-old turns his attention to me, finally able to begin our chat. “Fatherhood… hmm… that has certainly been an interesting — and fulfilling — journey,” he begins, tone reflective.

I duly learn that this driven businessman was already 31 when he became a father. A lengthy courtship with his then-girlfriend (now wife) — of 11 years — culminated in the decision to tie the knot and start a family immediately.

“I’d waited long enough, done enough (he had a steady job in sales) and I felt that the time was right to start a family,” shares Patrick, an engineer by training.

After nine months of matrimonial bliss, their much-awaited first son, Mervin was born. Little did they know that with the new arrival, their world would be completely altered.

“Bringing up our first child wasn’t easy at all,” recalls Patrick. “In fact, it was downright challenging.”

The newly-weds didn’t have the luxury of in-house parental support as they were living in their own home.

“Everything was new to us and we hadn’t a clue what to do. A flurry of phone calls to my mum became the norm as we consulted her for countless advice,” confides the hiking enthusiast.

The young Mervin wasn’t an “easy” child to raise, he remembers.

“Our son gave us plenty of headaches! The moment he came out, he cried. And would continue to do so for a long time!”

Leaning closer to make his next point, Patrick continues: “You know there’s this Chinese belief that if a baby comes out crying non-stop, he’ll cry for 100 days. And it was true! Our introduction into parenthood was really exhausting!”

Patrick admits to being completely baffled as to why his son was always crying.

“Colic?” I ventured. “Maybe,” is his quizzical reply. He goes on to confide that he even went as far as to consult traditional Chinese healers for answers and undertook several rituals but to no avail.

“In the end we resigned ourselves to the idea that we just needed to struggle through this. We believed that better days would come — eventually.”

 A proud day for Patrick and wife seeing son Mervin graduate.A proud day for Patrick and wife seeing son Mervin graduate

Grinning, the doting father adds: “That’s probably why our second son, Adrian only arrived three years later! We were so worried that there’d be a repeat of the first time. Luckily, the second journey into parenthood was pretty smooth.”

Despite his busy work life, Patrick shares that he was very much a hands-on father.

“I went to the market; I helped prepare the milk for the baby; fed him; took my shifts whenever my wife needed her rest. We had a good system going. Knowing that I had to work, my wife took care of everything at night so I could get some sleep. On weekends and when I returned from work, I’d take over.”


 Although relationship with his father was somewhat tumultous during the early years, time has seen it mend. Here, Patrick's dad with his wife and grandchild, Mervin.Although relationship with his father was somewhat tumultous during the early years, time has seen it mend. Here, Patrick’s dad with his wife and grandchild, Mervin.

If there’s one thing that Patrick, the third of five siblings, is determined to do, it’s to give his sons everything he never had from his own father, growing up.

Tears well in his kindly eyes as he travels back in time to offer me a glimpse into his childhood.

“What I’ve done — and am doing — with my children is the opposite to what my dad did with me,” he exclaims, voice breaking as he wipes a tear that has accidentally escaped.

His gaze travelling to the window, he continues: “We were just the typical traditional Chinese family with a father who hardly spoke. I remember the only interaction we had was when we showed him our report cards. We were closer to our mother.”

Desperately trying to control his emotions, Patrick mumbles: “There was no such thing as a man-to-man talk with my father. It was just so… different.

“I craved that connection but never got it. Yes, he gave us our education and supported us financially… but the emotional connection? That’s why I vowed to myself that my children would not go through what I did or ever want for anything.”

His sons have grown up with a father who has been hugely prevalent in their lives.

Sports day, report card day, school registration day, graduation day… Patrick has ensured that he’s been present. “I’m proud to say I can hang out with my sons — and their friends. We can go drinking together and travelling. In fact, we enjoy each other’s company.”

The sound of the door swinging open prompts us both to turn. It’s Mervin, bespectacled and smiling broadly. He throws a jaunty wave in our direction before disappearing behind the counter to supervise proceedings.

Grinning, Patrick, whose formative years were spent in Kelantan and Pahang, muses: “Come to think of it, Mervin is a reflection of me when I was younger. Adrian is closer in nature to my wife. When Mervin and I are at loggerheads with each other, I can usually understand where he’s coming from. And we actually make amends pretty swiftly. I guess we just look hard on the outside, but are actually pretty soft inside.”

Any big dreams for your sons, I ask, furtively scanning the cafe as it begins to heave with a raucous lunch time crowd. Lips pursed, Patrick contemplates the question.

“I’ve learnt that no matter what you decide to do in life, you need to give it your best. I don’t mind what paths my sons choose. I was shocked when Mervin, who’d just graduated with a Masters, told me he wanted to become a barista. But all I said to him was, ‘Fine, try it and see if you like it. Just give your best.”

 Patrick is proud of the success his son, Mervin is enjoying with his passion.Patrick is proud of the success his son, Mervin is enjoying with his passion.

Voice low, Patrick confides: “I’m sentimental when it comes to this. Actually, it was also my dream to own a cafe when I was younger. But it was just that — a dream. And now Mervin says to me, ‘Dad, I’m living your dream.’ Perhaps one day Rinse can grow further and be our legacy. Maybe Mervin can tell his kids that he did this with their grandfather. That’d be great!”

Any advice for young fathers out there? Downing the last trickle of my coffee, I wait expectantly for Patrick’s reply. Again, the brows furrow. “Life is short,” he answers solemnly. “If you don’t spend time with your children, you’ll regret it one day. Don’t say I’m busy now, I’ll be with you later. Don’t.”

Concluding, Patrick, whose proudest moment was seeing Mervin graduate with a Masters, shares: “My wife sacrificed her high-flying career and for 15 years she looked after our growing sons. We decided we’d just make the best of what we had. And we’ve never regretted it.”

By Intan Maizura Ahmad Kamal.

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Parents must help prepare kids for return to school

Friday, June 12th, 2020
Teachers preparing a classroom for the reopening of schools in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.  PIC COURTESY OF  SEKOLAH BERASRAMA PENUH INTEGRASI  GOMBAK Teachers preparing a classroom for the reopening of schools in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. PIC COURTESY OF SEKOLAH BERASRAMA PENUH INTEGRASI GOMBAK

KUALA LUMPUR: Teachers have called on parents to play their part in preparing their children for their return to school on June 24.

They believed that with more than half the curriculum yet to be covered in the remaining school year, it would require a concerted effort by all parties to ensure that the schoolchildren’s interests are taken care of.

Congress of Unions of Teachers in the Malaysian Education Service secretary-general Mohd Said Hussin said schoolchildren could be mentally and physically ready to continue the curriculum with the help of their parents.

“It has been three months since they last received guidance from their teachers physically. They will now have to enter a different situation.

“They don’t have much time left to complete this year’s curriculum before the year-end exams.

“As such, parents need to help their children focus and prepare them for the exams,” he said.

West Malaysia Religious Teachers National Union president Muhd Fadhli Jusoh addressed the doubts some parents and schoolchildren might have on the safety aspects of reopening schools.

He called on teachers to be courageous and set an example in braving the new normal.

“It is important that the teachers lead the way and inspire confidence in schoolchildren and parents.

“If we are brave enough to face the situation, everyone can do it as well,” he said.

Peninsular Malaysia National Union of College Graduate Teachers president Sahibul Bahrin Ahmad urged teachers to focus on the Teaching and Learning Programme (PdP).

Failure to do so, he said, could see teachers face difficulty in completing the curriculum.

“They need to assign tasks focusing only on the PdP.

“Teachers should also carry out lesson plans based on the remaining days of the 2020 schooling period.

“Don’t be distracted by other co-curricular activities, such as research and unrelated outside programmes,” he said.

Association of Vocational and Technical Education Teachers of Malaysia president Razak
Md Radzali said the priority among technical and vocational training and education (TVET) schools would be on social distancing.

He said as TVET lessons involve lots of skills training, the schools would reduce the number of students per classroom to minimise the risk of Covid-19 infection.

“Normally, a classroom would consist of between 20 and 35 students, subject to the availability of equipment.

“During this period, however, we will limit it to no more than 20 students per classroom to ensure social distancing is practised.”

Priority, he said, would be given to students who are about to take examinations, such as the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia, Malaysian Vocational Certificate, Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia and international equivalent examinations.

By Esther Landau.

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