Malaysian Stay-At-Home Dads Share What It's Like To Give Up Full-Time Jobs For Their Kids
"People call me Mr Mama and assume I'm under my wife's 'queen control'"
We spoke to three Malaysian fathers who made the decision to leave their jobs to raise their kids. Here are their stories:
1. After spending nine years in advertising and design, Henn-Wei gave up his job to stay home and raise his baby girl, Arabella
It's been three years since Henn-Wei made the leap to be a stay-at-home parent to Arabella, who has since been joined by a little brother named Charles.
"There are no typical days when you're a stay-at-home dad," says Henn-Wei. Although he does add that his day starts at 5am when he gets work done and prepares breakfast for his family.
The kids are up by 6.30am, eat, shower, and get ready for school. While the kids are in school, Henn-Wei comes home to do the laundry, clean up the house, run errands, and in between it all, continue doing work.
He picks up the kids from school, and dinner is either a meal out or his wife cooks. Then it's a shower and a story before bed. Lights out for everyone by 9pm!
"The joy on their faces when they discover something new is something money could never buy"
Henn-Wei's favourite part about staying home is being able to learn and experience everything new alongside his kids every day.
The only difficulty Henn-Wei says he faces is having to balance work from home with caring for the children. And of course, the biggest misconception he's experienced from others is that it's a mother's job to stay home and care for the kids.
2. Salahuddin is a father of four boys. He used to work long hours in the video content department of a music label from pre-production all the way to post-production, and would freelance on top of that.
Then five years ago, his company started laying people off, so Salahuddin was left without a full-time job. He relied on his freelance jobs to get by, but considers the lay off to be a blessing. Because at the time, his second child needed therapy at the hospital and he could be there for him.
He adds that the many cases of babysitters abusing children and their rising wages cemented his idea to look after his sons himself.
Salahuddin's days are full. Mornings are spent sending his wife to work and kids to school, bathing, feeding, preparing milk, and coaxing the younger ones to nap. Once they wake up, he plays with them, brings them for walks, then prepares lunch. In the evening, he picks up his wife from work, then he either cooks dinner or buys back food (depending on how tired his wife is).
When everything is settled at home, Salahuddin heads out to any shop with WiFi to work on his freelance jobs.
"When I was still working, my marriage faced a lot of problems..."
Salahuddin says he and his wife were both so exhausted from working long hours that they were constantly at each other's throats. His wife would be upset and he wouldn't even have the energy to pujuk her. It didn't help that he was always on call and would regularly have to work late nights on shoots. Salahuddin laments at how little time he used to spend with his wife and kids back then.
Now that he's stopped working, he loves being home and watching his kids grow up. He also has the freedom to pick and choose the projects he works on and plan his own filming schedule. Salahuddin believes that the more men work at being househusbands, the more they will appreciate their wives and parents.
For Salahuddin, the most difficult part of being a stay-at-home dad is fulfilling his responsibility as the breadwinner. His work life revolves around his children now - he's even begged clients to have meetings at night because he won't leave the kids during the day!
The biggest misconception he faces regularly is that people see him as a "Mr Mama" and assume he's under his wife's "queen control". But he wants people to know that the husband's responsibility is not merely in providing nafkah, but also to ensure a happy household, which is the most important thing.
Salahuddin can't imagine that there are some fathers who have never bathed their child or changed a diaper. For him, these moments are special, and if you miss them, you'll never get them back. He loves the thought of being able to tell his kids about the video projects he worked on while looking after them as babies.
3. Sam says he's not a 100% stay-at-home dad as he still works, however he keeps his hours as flexible as possible to spend time with his son
For Sam, it was an easy decision to make changes to his lifestyle and job so that he could be as hands-on as possible when his son Isaac was born. It's been two years and he says things pretty much run like clockwork.
His typical day includes lots of food prep and planning fun activities to keep his bubbly two-year-old occupied and happy.
Sam's greatest struggle is thinking about what to cook every day for his little family
Despite feeling tired of planning different meals every day to keep things interesting, Sam wouldn't trade his life for anything. His favourite part of being an almost stay-at-home dad is being able to raise his son with the values he believes in during his most formative years.
Unlike the other dads on this list, Sam adds that most of his friends think it's cool that he gets to stay home as much as he does to care for his child, and wish they could do the same.
Big love to all the stay-at-home dads out there!