PETALING JAYA: The Covid-19 pandemic has meant that many Malaysians have had to change their daily routines and stay home as a family unit more than they’ve ever had to in the past.
Fathers and husbands who used to spend most of their days in the office now have a golden opportunity to be closer to their families in more ways than one.
A recent online forum organised by Better Dads Malaysia featured three experts who suggested that this new normal can in fact be a blessing in disguise for many families.
Dr Suresh Kumar, a Universiti Malaya professor, suggested that prior to the Covid-19 crisis, the daily lives of Malaysian men were primarily dominated by their career.
He said that by the time working men return home, they are often too tired to spend any time bonding with their families.
But when the movement control order was enforced in mid-March, men suddenly were presented with the “beautiful chance” to actually spend some time with their family at home.
According to him, men ought to draw meaningful experiences from their interactions with their family members.
He emphasised that technology has been something of a barrier between familial communication, with much attention diverted by digital devices.
“So, this is the occasion for us to stop and really reflect and see just how much time you’re spending (together),” Dr Kumar said.
Hence, he suggested that fathers take the opportunity to spend time with each individual family member as everyone’s expectations are uniquely theirs.
He also asserted that fathers consciously display confidence during these trying times to inspire their families to stay strong and face the days ahead bravely.
The Covid-19 lockdown is thus a once-in-a-lifetime event that, “we should see as an opportunity more than an obstacle.”
Ahmad Fakhri Hamzah, CEO and co-founder of Cool Mum Super Dad Consultancy, started off his segment by suggesting that human beings are akin to onions.
“We have layers and layers of personality,” he explained.
Men, he said, start off as bachelors before they become husbands, and afterwards, fathers.
He revealed that the word “husband” is derived from two old Norse words, “hus” and “bondi”, which together mean “house dweller”.
Hence, he said that men actually have multilevel roles which they have to play within a family.
“Those roles are just like a captain on a ship, a pilot on an aeroplane. We are guiding this whole family as one unit, to move forward.”
For men to be able to assume these roles, they must thus maintain their emotional wellbeing.
To this effect, said Ahmad, the MCO period should be used to self-reflect and figure out what one’s motivations in life are.
“There are two most important days in our lives: the day we are born, and the day we discover why we are born,” added Ahmad.
He also emphasised the need to connect with one’s children especially during the pandemic when families are still spending enormous amounts of time together.
Better Dads Malaysia co-founder, Jason Leong, said fathers should keep an eye on their children’s wellbeing as there are some concerns to be had about the mental health of Malaysian youth.
Citing a 2017 Health Ministry study, he said that 20% of adolescents reportedly suffered from depression, 40% from anxiety issues and 10% from stress.
With some Malaysian adolescents being somewhat distant from their parents, Leong said, the MCO period could potentially exacerbate the issue, especially if an adolescent is living in an abusive household.
Due to this, fathers have to be a positive role model for their children who are more perceptive than one might credit for.
“Children are very sensitive and they can pick up the tone of your voice. They can tell if you’re fearful or panicking,” explained Leong.
Fathers should therefore remain calm and give reassurance, especially during this period, so their children can also confidently move forward.
Leong said that there are three things that fathers must always tell their children, no matter how old they are, to boost their confidence in themselves and their talents.
“Tell them that you love them. Tell them that they are good in what they do. Tell them that you’re proud of them.”