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3 Lessons that Fatherhood has taught me - Philip Goh

Updated: Feb 13, 2023

By Philip Goh

For this coming Father’s Day, we asked one of our AR!SE community members to share 3 key lessons that he has learned from being a Father.

Lesson #1: The perfect work-life balance ideal does not always exist and it is okay.

For the longest time, I used to believe very much in the philosophy of work-life balance and was determined to live it out regardless of whatever life stage I would come to be in. However, I've come to realise and accept the reality that this is almost impossible to achieve, especially when your job consists of long, odd-hour shifts that are reactive and emotionally demanding in nature. In my case being a youth worker, my role revolves around journeying with youth from all walks of life under my charge. As every youth comes to me with a unique set of challenges and circumstances, this involves having to come up with different methods and solutions for each one of them which can be very exhausting and time-consuming. Hence, my idea of the perfect work-life balance no longer exists and I have learned to manage my expectations.

Now that I have progressed in my family life stage - from getting married to having a kid - I have found myself embracing a new philosophy called work-life integration where I have learned to involve my daughter in some of my work-related events and meetings appropriately. The results have been extremely encouraging as her presence has brought so much joy to the people that she meets while enhancing my relationship with the youth that I work with too! I guess you could say that this is how we get to spend and enjoy time meaningfully despite the challenges of being in a challenging job.

Lesson #2: A father’s love is irreplaceable and so very important in a child’s life.

In the midst of being busy, I have also come to realise that while there are many others out there who can easily replace my role as an employee, friend etc… There is no one else that can replace my role as a father to my daughter. Research (and just from looking at people around us) has confirmed how detrimental the effects on the development/emotional health of a child can be from an absence of their father's involvement in their lives. Many studies have also revealed that a lack of a healthy connection between a father and his daughter contributes to a higher likelihood of his daughter growing up lacking security and self-esteem. This has been pivotal in reminding me to always prioritise quality time with my daughter and to make an intentional effort to spend time playing and connecting with her beyond just fulfilling functional duties like changing her diapers and feeding her. After all, fatherhood is a lifelong calling and I thank God for my wife for constantly reminding me about this whenever I get too preoccupied with work.

Philip with his daughter, Rebekah, and his wife, Hannah on their family outing. (Credits: Philip Goh)

Lesson #3: Divide and conquer, unite and lead.

The most humbling lesson that I have learned is this: Fatherhood/parenthood is never meant to be a solo quest. While I am very thankful for an extremely capable and supportive wife, we can both attest to the wise saying that "It takes a village to raise a child". As such, I have come to appreciate the help we receive from our family members(parents and siblings), church friends whom we meet weekly, and the teachers at Rebekah’s infant care centre during our busy work days. Enlisting help from others when needed has allowed me and my wife to adequately care for myself (#selfcare) which has enabled us to continue giving the best possible care to Rebekah. Truth be told, there have been times in the past when I struggled to regulate my frustrations with my daughter's tantrums properly and fell short of disciplining her in the best way possible. Therefore, while there needs to be a good balance between enlisting help when we need to and taking responsibility as the main caregiver to our child, one must remember that we care for others best when our most fundamental needs have been adequately met.

As I am reflecting on these lessons from my fatherhood journey thus far, I am feeling very thankful and more confident in how I want to continue approaching my role as a father. With the arrival of our 2nd child in 6 months, I believe that there will be more lessons that I'll learn along the way. Ultimately, Fatherhood is also a journey of a lifetime filled with sweetness & bitterness that provide us with opportunities to learn and grow.

Happy Father's Day to all fathers!


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