Being a parent is an unrivalled experience — intense, exhilarating and beautiful. Much has been said about the joy it brings and how couples eagerly anticipate the arrival of their child.
But not many people like discussing the less pleasant facets of fatherhood — the anxieties, uncertainty and doubt. When men are about to become first-time fathers, they might think they have a good idea of what to expect. But when the challenges and responsibilities hit, it can get overwhelming and catch them off guard. This can escalate to tensions running high at home, as couples struggle to cope with this life-changing new addition to the family.
So here is some advice to help you navigate through the most rewarding time of your life as new or soon-to-be fathers:
1) Google has all the some answers
One common mistake dads make? Assuming they are sufficiently prepared by doing copious amounts of research. You can do plenty of Googling and read all the articles, blogs and how-to guides you want. It will not be long before you realise that every baby is different and each comes with his or her own unique needs, quirks and issues.
Doing your homework is great, but being mentally prepared for the fact that you are never going to be 100% ready is just as important. So fatherhood is best approached with an "anything can happen, but we'll figure it out" mindset. Simply accepting this will help a lot and do wonders for your mental well-being.
2) Find some friends
Parenthood is obviously a team effort with your partner, but you can also find support from your peers.
Hearing from fellow parents is a great help, and you might be surprised by how supportive the online community is. Facebook groups are good channels for parents to pool advice and resources, as well as trade tips and anecdotes. Commenting on parenting blogs and forums and interacting with others may land you a new friend — or who knows, your kid's future playmates.
3) Be in the moment, be prepared for the future
What they say is true: kids grow up really fast. Savour every single memory and moment. Meanwhile, it is also important to keep one eye on the future and be financially prepared for your child's needs when they grow up. This is where the Child Development Account (CDA) can come in handy. Within three to five working days of your child's birth registration or after completing the application form for the account, a CDA will be created for him/her.
You have up to 12 years to save in your child's CDA, with the government matching your deposits dollar-for-dollar as below:
|Child Order ||CDA Benefits ||Total CDA Benefits |
|CDA First Step ||Dollar-for-Dollar Matching|
|1st & 2nd Child||$3,000 ||Up to $3,000||Up to $6,000|
|3rd & 4th Child||Up to $9,000||Up to $12,000|
|5th Child and higher||Up to $15,000||Up to $18,000|
These CDA savings can be used to pay for a wide variety of educational and healthcare expenses, from school uniforms to MediShield Life premiums.
Every cent counts so make sure you are up to date on the schemes and incentives that benefit your family, and make good use of them!
4) Remember you still have a life (and a wife)
You cannot take care of a child if you do not take care of yourself. Work out a schedule with your wife to take turns looking after your child, so that each of you can get enough quality time to recharge.
However, looking after yourself is more than just taking care of your physical and emotional well-being. It extends to your family's financial health as well. One simple thing you can do is keep track of your expenses. This can provide some insight on your spending habits and help you take small measures to curb the unnecessary purchases that can add up. For example, consider trading in your midday latte at work for a glass of water, or taking public transport whenever possible, instead of a taxi.
For financial stability in the long term, you can consider topping up your spouse's CPF Special Account under the Retirement Sum Topping-Up Scheme (RSTU) — you can read about it here. This will help build up her retirement savings with an attractive interest rate of up to 6%*, while you enjoy dollar-for-dollar tax relief of up to $7,000. It's never too early to plan — healthy finances go a long way in building a happy family!
5) Get your basics right
You cannot escape this one. Think of parenthood as a video game. You do not progress at all without some basic moves, like moving left and right or jumping. So make sure you master diaper changing and baby swaddling, because you'll be doing them an insane number of times.
Most importantly, master them before your child is born. Leaving it for after the birth is going to make the parenting experience more stressful than it needs to be, when you struggle to find time amidst all your newfound responsibilities to pick up these essential skills. Watch a YouTube video tutorial or check with your child's hospital if they offer any classes.
Fatherhood is no walk in the park, but with some foresight, good financial planning, a sense of humour and the five tips above, it's an incredible journey that you can embark on with full confidence. Good luck!
*Inclusive of an extra 1% interest paid on the first $60,000 of a member's CPF balances, with up to $20,000 from the OA. Members aged 55 and above will also receive an additional 1% extra interest on the first $30,000 of their combined balances, with up to $20,000 from their OA.
^$7,000 for top-up to self and additional $7,000 for top-up to your spouse, siblings, parents, parents-in-law, grandparents and grandparents-in-law.