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Navigating Fatherhood

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Isn’t this a typical expectation between a father and a mother – the father provides and the mother nurtures? However, fathers, we’re facing an identity crisis! While mothers are increasingly taking on the role of providers, many fathers are lagging behind in stepping up as nurturers.

This dynamic played out vividly in a scene from “I Not Stupid 2,” where a couple was supposed to discuss how to help their younger son with his school problems. Instead, the husband blamed the wife for not being there for their son due to her late-night work. The wife fired back, questioning his involvement as a father. His defence? He had been busy working hard to provide for the family. It’s time for a change – fathers need to embrace their role as nurturers just as much as mothers are embracing their roles as providers.

See (1) for a more thorough treatment of this topic.

In the recent population census conducted by the Department of Statistics in Singapore, the proportion of married couples in resident households with a working wife was 60.0 per cent in 2020, a 13% increase from 10 years ago (2). This trend of wife/mother as co-provider seems set to continue with higher education for women.

Barack Obama said of fathers in this speech in 2009 (3): “we are reminded today that family is the most important. And we are called to recognise and honour how critical every father is to that foundation. They are teachers and coaches. They are mentors and role models.”

Fathers, your role has evolved beyond just working hard to provide and protect your family. You are now teachers, coaches, mentors – in other words, nurturers. Embrace your new identity as a Proturer, a powerful blend of provider, protector, and nurturer.

Proturers engage with their children in meaningful ways: becoming toys, shedding tears, and adding touch.

  1. Becoming Toys (please refer to the video at reference no.5)

Engaging in physical play with children is a form of nurturing as it helps children to learn about boundaries, risk-taking, teamwork and self-regulation.

When a father becomes a horse or a helicopter for his children, he stimulates their imagination and curiosity, preparing them for the future. By pretending to fight the dragon and protect the princess, he helps them develop a sense of justice, social skills, and a sense of community. These playful interactions are more than just fun; they are crucial for nurturing a child’s emotional and social development.

In all plays, a father emphasises learning and growth and finding the right balance between firmness and warmth. When fathers become toys to their children, they become safe attachment figures to their children whom they could rely on for exploring the larger world.

  1. Shedding Tears

Tough men do shed tears. When fathers can demonstrate strength through vulnerability by being open about their struggles, they are encouraging emotional expression and communication in their children.

Fathers can demonstrate that it is ok to ask for support and seek help. To be vulnerable is not a sign of weakness but a strength.

As a father, I struggle with openly expressing emotions in front of my children. Societal norms and traditional values have made this challenging, so I’ve had to unlearn and relearn by reading, talking to nurturing men, and experimenting with ways to express feelings.

When fathers learn to embrace their emotions, they connect more deeply with their children’s vulnerabilities, becoming a secure and caring presence rather than a distant one.

  1. Adding Touch

Growing up, my father never told me “I love you” or hugged me. Instead, he showed his love by asking if I had eaten. The only physical touch I received from him was during moments of discipline. In today’s postmodern world, we need to change that.

Research (4) had shown that nurturing physical touch promotes overall wellbeing. Conversely, the lack of touch stunts growth. Physical touch, also known as affectionate touch, conveys acceptance, availability and affirmation. Physiologically, touches stimulate the production of oxytocin and dopamine in our bodies that make us feel warm and pleasant. Thus, incorporating physical touch into the caregiving routines can profoundly impact children’s emotional well-being and contribute to a loving and supportive family environment.

Here are some examples of incorporating physical touch into the caregiving:

– Start the day by gently waking the children with a soothing back rub.

– Walk them to the school transport while holding their hands.

– Engage in physical play such as tagging, thumb wrestling, swimming, playing in a playground.

– Comfort distressed children with gentle gestures like holding them or stroking their back.

These acts come more naturally to mothers and often require more effort from fathers. If the only physical touch from fathers is associated with punishment, it can create fear and anxiety. So, fathers, be intentional in making your touch nurturing rather than a source of distress.

The nurturing role of parenting is now shared more significantly by fathers alongside mothers. In a video by Jason Wong, he suggests two parenting formulas (5):

– Parenting equals fathering and mothering, and;

– Rules + Relationship = Response, while Rules – Relationship = Rebellion.

Fathers, prioritise building relationships and embrace your role as Proturers!

To find out more about our free parent support services, register your interest at https://go.fycs.org/PSS, or email us at [email protected] or call 88694006.

Written by: Timothy Thong, Counsellor, Fei Yue Community Services


(1)Richard Reeves, 2022, Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male Is Struggling, Why It Matters, and What to Do about It, Swift Press



(4)Ardiel EL, Rankin CH. 2010. The importance of touch in development. Paediatr Child Health. 2010 Mar:15(3):153-6. doi: 10.1093/pch/15.3.153.

(5)Video on Parenting by Jason Wong. https://youtu.be/jjyZkKXE0Rc?si=lMNrvvx-MNip0qH3