Nothing can prepare you for becoming a father, but it's the best thing in the world; at least that's what we've learned from chatting to these awesome dads in Singapore.
In honour of Father’s Day, we asked Robert Conte, Director of Operations at the W Singapore – Sentosa Cove, Brian Ng, the Co-founder and Director of the KC Group of Companies, Franklin Tang, CEO and Founder of Habitap, and Tan Jian Yong from Happy Fish Swim School, what being a dad means to them. We also talked about how their lives have changed since welcoming their little ones, and asked them to offer up any advice they could share for new or expecting dads – and their answers might surprise you!
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us today! Please share with us a little about yourselves and your families.
Robert: I am a US citizen but hold a PR status here in Singapore. I moved to Asia in 2004 and have since lived and worked in 8 countries. My wife is Singaporean, and my daughter was born here in Singapore during the pandemic in 2020. What’s ironic is that both my wife and I, throughout our 17-year relationship, had honestly not considered having children. However, since having Ryleigh, we have learned that despite all the challenges of raising a child, she truly is the most wonderful addition to our world.
Brian: I’m Brian, 43, the Co-founder and Director of the KC Group of Companies, one of Singapore’s fastest growing hair and beauty groups. My first business venture with two of my co-founders and friends since our university days, Bernard and Samuel, was a printing business. Since then, we have continued our entrepreneurial journey in the hair and beauty industry.
In my free time, I enjoy the outdoors and jog regularly at different locations, including the Botanic Gardens and Gardens by the Bay. I also enjoy a game of basketball with my friends. Besides that, I serve actively in church ministry. My wife, Agnes Ng, is a principal of two right brain enrichment centres. Together, we have four children – one girl and three boys, ages 13, 11, 7 and 3.
Franklin: I come from a family of two boys. Since my formative years, I have had a very close relationship with my dad. Despite his busy schedule, he made it a point to send me each day and pick me up from school. This was actually our routine until I finished junior college! I remember our routine each of those days included having lunch together and then hanging out in his office and taking me around to business meetings with him. We spoke a lot about current affairs and business. Today, he is still giving me advice on my business, Habitap.
I am married to my wife, Astrid. We have one son, Lukas, who is six years old.
Tan Jian Yong: I was born and raised in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. I studied in Chinese primary school, Malay secondary school and NYP for tertiary. So I speak Chinese, English and Malay pretty well. I have three kids, two girls and a boy. Laura is 8, Hillary is 4, and we have newborn baby boy, Tyson. They are all water babies, able to swim before they can walk.
You’re all very busy! What’s your favourite activity to do with your kids?
Robert: Ryleigh is just two years old, so we are enjoying teaching her the basics and exposing her to new things to help broaden her perspective every chance we get.
Brian: Kayaking is one of our favourite activities, and I enjoy every opportunity to bring the kids out to sea. While creating memories with our outings and activities, I also observe how each child reacts in their own way to new environments, develops self-awareness, optimism, perseverance, problem solving skills and patience. This experience has helped me to understand my children better and build a stronger relationship with them.
Franklin: Exactly like how I have experienced my childhood with my dad, I am doing the same now, which is spending a lot of time with my son. I drop Lukas off at school each morning and spend time reading to him his favourite book before bedtime. He loves the sea and its creatures, and we speak extensively about wildlife conservation and how we can all help in big and small ways. Astrid and I both love nature, and a lot of our weekend activity centres around going to various parks for physical activity as Lukas is also a very active child. Gardens by the Bay, HortPark, and the Singapore Botanic Gardens are part of our routine.
Our father and son routine includes breakfast together without my wife. An afternoon swim together is how we bond. I would say Lukas associates much of these activities with me.
Tan Jian Yong: It has to be water activities. We love it so much that we swim twice a week, play at the water playground and sail a yacht once or twice a month. Water activities are our favourite not just because we run Happy Fish Swim School, but because we enjoy the freedom of movement it gives us and also the fact that it is a high touch activity that encourages close skin to skin contact as a family. This, I believe, has contributed to the close bond we share as a family since we have been swimming as a family since the girls were tiny tots.
What would you say is the best thing about being a dad?
Robert: Feeling her little arms wrap around my neck upon entering my home after a long day.
Brian: Every child is unique and has their own personality, interests and habits. As a dad, I cherish the opportunity to bond and journey with my children, understand each of their strengths and weaknesses, offer them advice along the way, and observe how they adapt to changes and overcome challenges.
Franklin: Despite the many challenges, there are many wonderful things about being a dad. What stands out for me is an incident which happened three weeks ago. Someone asked Lukas who he would go to for advice and who he trusted. He said, “Dad”. I guess that was the best thing for me! Of course, like every dad, seeing their child learn basic skills and learn how to interact with the world is really rewarding. It makes all the effort worthwhile.
Tan Jian Yong: I get to kiss the prettiest girls (and cutest boy) in the world and hug them to sleep every day.
Is there anything you wish you’d known before becoming a Dad? Is there any advice you would like to share with new dads?
Robert: I was sceptical about the ideology of the “terrible twos” and have unfortunately come to find that everything about this period is real. My advice: get ready and be patient. Any preparation is futile.
Brian: Be prepared to spend lots of time with your children, especially in their formative years. Similar to how we grow a seedling, we have to take more time during the early stages to nurture and grow it before we see it blossom into a strong and independent tree.
Franklin: I guess the one thing I wished I did was to start earlier! Being a Dad requires time and energy. And I wished I had started earlier, so I had the advantage of youth, plus I could share a longer part of my life with Lukas.
Tan Jian Yong: Always put on your best smile. Your emotion will pass on to your child. If you want a happy child, you’ve got to spread that energy. I imagine myself putting on a cape, flying to work, then flying back home and removing my cape and all work related emotions along with it. This way, I can fully be in the moment, present with my children, positively.
That’s all great advice. So then, how has becoming a dad changed you?
Robert: Being a father has completely changed my perception on what is important. In particular, striving to achieve a more balanced life has taken precedence.
Brian: Being a dad is still new to me, even with four kids, as each of them is different. I changed my lifestyle quite a fair bit to spend more time supporting my wife at home and helping her with taking care of the children. My personality has also changed as I’ve learnt to be more patient, to lend a listening ear to each child and to share my advice with them.
Franklin: Becoming a dad requires a lot more patience. Fatherhood has taught me patience. I am sure all the dads will agree with me. Also, it taught me to lead by example. As a family, we have been trying to cut down on waste. One of the things we identified as a family was using electricity at home. I’m sure that my wife can tell you that I used to be one who would leave all the lights and air conditioning on when I was not in the room.
Being a dad has also taught me compassion. It reminds me of how lucky we are to love and be loved in return. And this gives me a lot to be thankful for, so we try to spread that compassion to others.
Tan Jian Yong: I became less interested in personal stuff such as socialising and personal entertainment. I’m so in love with my children and of course my wife, that initially it was very difficult to tear myself away from them. So naturally, I want to spend as much time with my family as possible. I don’t feel the need to have the proverbial “me time”.
I’ve always been family-oriented even as a child with my own family, but since starting my own, I became even more focused on family goals – which is to travel and explore the world on a sailboat – and I have been laser focused on doing everything I can to achieve this.
Tell us how your ideal Father’s Day would be spent…?
Robert: At home with my family.
Brian: At the beach having a picnic with the family. My children enjoy being under the sun and in the sea and it is great that we can enjoy each other’s company and laughter while having picnic snacks. I believe it will be a wonderful time that will create memorable moments for all of us.
Franklin: Spending time with my dad and my son in the pool.
Tan Jian Yong: A day spent with family without thinking about work.
We need some last-minute gift inspo.. Are there any gifts you’re hoping to receive for Father’s Day?
Robert: I expect nothing; however, receiving a new guitar would certainly sweeten my day!
Brian: A bicycle. I’d love to pick up cycling with the family. The children are growing up fast and have requested for more outdoor activities together. It will be great to bring them along and explore the interesting parts of Singapore on a bike.
Franklin: I love the handwritten notes by Lukas. I look forward to receiving a handmade card from him!
Tan Jian Yong: With my family, I have everything.
Thanks for all your insights, Dads!