The pandemic has taken a huge toll on everyone. But has it been all bad all of the time? Two dads share a different perspective of how the pandemic has had positive impacts on their relationships with their kids
Parenting’s a tough gig, especially if you’re living far from family and your kids haven’t been able to bond with their grandparents or cousins the way they would’ve prior to Covid. But there have been some positives to pandemic living – one of the big ones has been that dads have been spending a lot more time with their children. So much so that researchers are saying there has been one of the most profound shifts in caring responsibilities since the second world war! Dads in Singapore, David Wishnowski, hotelier and father to Kesha and Andrew Symonds, Senior freight analyst and father to Ophelia both share how the pandemic has impacted their relationships and lifestyles for the better in some respects.
“I have actually enjoyed those 18 months quite a bit more than I feel I should have… right up there at the top of the list is the excess of quality time I get to spend with my two and half-year-old girl Kesha.”
“The last 18 months have understandably been extremely tough on many, but I have actually enjoyed those 18 months quite a bit more than I feel I should have. The forced opportunities have kicked us outside our comfort zone and led to a long list of positive steps including a renewed focus on health and well-being, a chance to explore Singapore, time to create a better home environment and connect with some old friends. But right up there at the top of the list is the excess of quality time I get to spend with my two and half-year-old girl Kesha.
We were quite fortunate to be returning from a family break in our home country at the time of the first circuit breaker. On returning, our daughter had just clicked over the 14-month mark and in the short time away she had become more energetic, curious, and most noticeably very mobile. We had moved to an older, but much larger apartment (which we would soon realise the immense importance of) and slowly but surely, it has become our oasis. We even created an expanded play area for Kesha that would give a small Montessori a run for their money and providing an outlet for her energy if circuit breakers persisted or worsened.
Positive impacts of the pandemic
Being spoilt by the incredible weather here, we were initially in the pool morning and night with Kesha, it came with the added benefit of helping her with both her appetite and sleep. In response to the ‘circuit breaker’ when the pools closed, we began taking long family walks, which in turn opened us up to some of the wonderful parks and tracks here in Singapore that we had previously largely ignored. The initial family walks highlighted our daily routines had been much akin to Groundhog Day and we had also been neglecting our physical wellbeing a bit too much. So, with a little one in tow, we embarked on a journey of righting this. Soon the gym, biking (along with the masses), yoga, and eventually swimming again became in some way part of our daily lives.
With no travel for most families, Kesha (and ourselves) have become more involved with our small community of fun-loving families and the children who live here. With those regular interactions, we are seeing further benefits for her through play, language, and a vast development in her social skills. The latter, my wife thinks she could now help me with.
Benefits of working from home
Because of the setup, working from home has been a wonderful opportunity to be more involved in the day-to-day parenting of my daughter. I can actively participate in the preschool drop off or pick up, throwing a child seat on the back of the bike has added an extra bit of fun to this and listening to her chat and sing as we cycle always brings a smile. At home we can sneak in a quick swim, I can help put her to nap, or enjoy lunch and dinner together as a family. We already had a great family dynamic but still, the work/life balance has improved even more along with productivity.
Of course, like many expats here, we do look forward to once again being able to travel for that much needed mental and physical break. We miss our families, seeing parents, uncles, and aunties, or nephews and nieces grow, and mostly miss sharing Kesha with them all. While we just get a bit greyer, kids change dramatically in these early years, and I am sure they will all be surprised and thrilled to be reintroduced to an extremely active and engaging version of the little person they last met.
I have always worked in an industry that relies significantly on travel. I see good people today working extremely hard to promote and enhance travel in the current environment, some to the extent of pushing strongly at a government level for safer travel options. The need is there, the want is there, just we are not there yet, so we will continue making the best out of the circumstances at hand and be ready to join the mad rush when the time comes.
I would love some of the aspects brought on by restrictions to continue, even just a little – mostly those that enable me to see Kesha grow in her little ways each day. I’m sure the time will come when hanging around with dad is not as much fun as with her friends but until then, I will milk every penny out of the opportunity of our little family being so close together.” ~ David Wishnowski
“My parents worked from before sunrise till after sunset. I have no complaints about my childhood, but I realise how much more quality time I get to have with my daughter.”
“I like to drag my wife around the world to wherever my career takes us. We’ve clocked up the UK, Switzerland and now Singapore. It can be exciting and adventurous while also frustrating and solitary. There have been as many high points as low points, but this Covid situation is something different. I’m at home working full time now as most are in Singapore. It’s 2:30pm as I write this, and my five-year-old daughter Ophelia just snuck into my office to give me two gummy bears. Earlier today, before school, she gave me a list, conspicuously in my wife’s handwriting, that tells me what I need to do for her today:
- Go somewhere when I have done my work
- Cook dinner (I think my wife added this one)
- Be nice to me (daughter)
- Go to the shop to buy a thing for her
- I will give you a prize if you do all these things for me
- I love you
While my wife writes fiction novels (First Past the Post by SJ Garland is due out 4 July 2021!) and has been working from home for a long time now, this setup is new to me. I quite like it. My work is flexible, and I have more time for my little girl and wife, although sharing a workspace can be challenging. Like most of my generation, my parents worked from before sunrise till after sunset. I have no complaints about my childhood, but I realise how much more quality time I get to have with my daughter.
My wife and little girl have their routine from morning till night – a mix of homework, piano lessons, writing, playdates, editing, arguments, play and swimming, of course. They are always swimming. We have a laughing, happy little home. We have a lot of friends, with whom we socialise quite a bit. Ophelia and I swim as much as we can, which is a great part of living in Singapore. My daughter has grown gills, but I often wonder if they will survive in the cooler waters of New Zealand or Canada. Poorly, I suspect.
My pre-lockdown fitness was ok; now, I’m better. Looking back on this time, I reckon we will see this period as a spark for many to start a healthier lifestyle. My weekend riding group has bloomed from a handful into a solid 30-plus count of MAMIL’s (Middle-Aged Men in Lycra). Barrels Riders are now a regular sight in Singapore’s round-the-island, hamster cage track. A solid island ride followed by pre-lunch beers at the Pasir Panjang Hawker centre at 11 am on a Saturday has become a dangerous habit!
Not having left Singapore now since December 2019, I am aware of all those friends and family in my home country and my wife’s home country of Canada, who we haven’t physically seen in years. Ophelia turned five in February. Both sets of grandparents haven’t seen her since she was three. She had a lot less hair back then, and it was a whole lot flatter, especially in the zero humidity climate of British Colombia. My daughter’s cousins know her through mutually shy exchanges over web calls. Little do they know the mischief they could create as a posse. My daughter can only watch as her cousins swing round and round on the clothesline to laughter and screams.
My daughter is possibly the best age to be during Covid
Father’s Day in Covid is not ideal. Although when I reflect on the past year, I have had plenty of quality time with my favourite little girl. Covid has allowed us to steal time from the man and forced us to spend it with our immediate family. There are no trips or holidays but an increase in time spent a day in and day out in each other’s company. Joking and teasing in times I would be in the office or commuting. My daughter would love to visit her extended family but is almost as excited to see her friends down at the pool. She is well-travelled but knows little of the wider world. She is only five, after all. My daughter is possibly the best age to be during Covid.
So, I’m grateful this Father’s Day for the extra time I have been able to spend with my two girls. I would dearly love to see my father, sit down for a beer and discuss the world’s concerns, but for now, we bide our time and let the world heal. Just a little longer.” ~ Andrew Symonds