For most of us, we are blessed with two parents. Why the word ‘blessed’? Because we normalise the axiom that every individual is half of a whole. Textbook narratives preach the bedrock of a family as a father and a mother, and thus we are led to believe that everyone has a picture perfect family. Needless to say, there are families that function in the absence of either one. Single mothers get a lot of attention in the media, often lauded for their amazing strength and will. But how often do we hear about single dads and their parenting stories?
Bringing up and nurturing a child is no easy feat, let alone doing it singlehandedly. Single fathers not only have to juggle between the customary roles of a dad and a mom, but also have to be the breadwinner, the confidante, and the list goes on. It is a tireless and thankless job that many of us, even with two parents, take for granted.
We wanted to celebrate and pamper single dads this Christmas. So, together with our partners, Esquire Singapore has curated 20 special gift bags just in time for the holidays—to appreciate the single father figures supported by the Centre For Fathering (CFF) for their resilience, courage, and perseverance as they continue along the fruitful journey of fatherhood. Each of the gift bags contains the following:
- Nike vouchers worth $200
- Lacoste vouchers worth $200
- Mamonde Recharging Line grooming products worth $106
- Sultans of Shave voucher worth $50 and a Byrd Tropical Coconut product worth $33
- Arbutus retro classic small seconds mechanical watch worth $345
- Latest editions of every respectful man’s go-to read, Esquire Singapore (June/July, October, and November issues)
We spoke to Bryan Tan, the CEO of CFF, to understand CFF’s work in the community and his personal journey with the Centre.
ESQ: Why was the Centre For Fathering set up? What is the CFF mission statement?
BRYAN TAN: The Centre for Fathering (CFF) was officially launched on Father’s Day in 2000, and was founded on the belief that an active and involved father is essential for a child’s successful development. For more than 18 years, we’ve helped countless families—and fathers in particular—through our father-child experiential programmes and fathering workshops conducted in schools, prisons, religious organisations, and companies. We organise five nation-wide events every year—Back To School With Dad in January, Paktor with Mummy in May, monthly Eat With Your Family days, Celebrating Fathers in Jun and Children’s Day in Oct—to remind and encourage fathers to set aside time to be with their families, and to help nurture a culture that promotes Active Fathering.
Our mission is to empower more fathers to be better role models and an enduring inspiration to their children. We are also championing the ‘Dads for Life’ movement, as we want to inspire and involve fathers to be good influencers in their children’s lives, for life.
ESQ: You resigned from the Singapore Armed Forces in 2016 to take up the CEO position at CFF? What inspired this move?
BRYAN TAN: I loved what I was doing at the Ministry of Defence and the Singapore Armed Forces. However, after 21 years in that role of national defence, I was inspired to move from a life of success to one of significance, when I met the founder of Dads for Life and Yellow Ribbon, Mr. Jason Wong, and the Chairman of Centre for Fathering, Mr. Richard Hoon. I was encouraged by their exemplary roles as active and involved fathers, and their hearts to empower other fathers in Singapore in strengthening their families. Both of them remained my mentors as I transited into the public sector as I worked on becoming a better husband and dad for my own family.
ESQ: What are the benefits to children for having an engaged father, especially during their formative years?
BRYAN TAN: When fathers are involved in the formative years, children develop better cognitively, socially and emotionally. Our children would also perform better in school academically. During adolescence, our children would be less prone to depression and stress. Active and involved fathering also benefits moms as partners in the co-parenting relationship, and also us dads in our own personal development.
ESQ: What challenges are unique to single dads in raising and supporting a family?
BRYAN TAN: All dads need the same thing. There is a need for competencies and resources in becoming an involved, consistent, aware and nurturing dad. A father’s responsibility remains in establishing moral authority, conferring identity, providing security and affirming potential. In addition, single dads are required to know how to manage maternal gatekeeping, which often comes as a consequence of child custody outcomes. Regardless of marital status, all dads require affirmation in their identity and roles and the support of a community of fathers who could render counsel and support at significant life-cycle stage transitions of their children’s lives.
ESQ: What programs and support does CFF provide to single dads here in Singapore?
BRYAN TAN: We want to stand in the gap for all fathers in Singapore and support their endeavours in building resilient families, hence the programs that CFF-DFL run focuses on preparing dads to better manage the needs of their spouses and children, at significant lifecycle stages of the first 20 years of their children’s lives. These programs comprise couples, fathering and father-child workshops and events. Our Dads for Life network comprises a few hundred active father advocates and coaches, who are willing to journey with another father to build strong and resilient families in Singapore.
ESQ: How do you think single dads will respond to the Esquire Christmas Gift Bag for Single Dads?
BRYAN TAN: I feel that the thoughtful gift from a renowned men’s magazine, in appreciation of the perseverance of these select group of single fathers who remained actively involved in the lives of their children despite overwhelming challenges, would be well received by our constituents. It would also serve to demonstrate the affirmation of their identity as fathers by our community, and acknowledgement of the struggles that they had to surmount, so as to maintain a presence in their children’s lives.