Bryan Tan, CEO of Centre for Fathering is father to four children aged 1 to 12 years old. From not wanting to have children, to being an absent father and then an involved father of his children, what brought about this change of heart?
Bryan spent his growing up years living under the shadow of a family plagued with strained relationships and a divorce. He struggled with pain and shame, and as a result, he did not want children because he felt he would not be able to raise them well given his experience. Coupled with a successful career in the Ministry of Defence which consumed much of his time and effort, he didn’t think he had much to offer his children, if he had any.
After he married Adriana Lim Escano, he changed his mind, resolved to become a good husband and father, and they started a family. However, things went downhill from there. “The arrival of my second child broke my resolve to continue being a family man in view of my lack of capability and capacity of building good families,” he said. Things deteriorated to a point where Bryan almost made the decision to leave his family to focus on his fast advancing career. He chose to work long hours and was not there for his family when they needed him.
At the lowest point of his marriage and parenthood, Bryan was introduced to volunteers from Centre for Fathering and DADs for Life who walked the journey of fatherhood with him, providing support as accountability partners. It was then he gained a renewed mindset towards fatherhood and marriage. All around him, marriages are breaking up between people he loved and know well and Bryan observed how children would suffer from that decision – something he did not want his children to go through like he did.
He discovered how unaware he was of his children’s needs at significant lifecycle stages and the importance of his presence and involvement in their daily lives. He thought he could make up for his absence over the weekend or holidays, but that was not true for his children. Through Centre for Fathering’s programmes, he equipped himself to become a more involved father and reconciled with his children through the experiential father-child programmes. Bryan also gained a better understanding of what his wife required of him as a partner in raising their children together through these programmes.
Today, Bryan is cognisant of his wife’s needs in fulfilling her work obligations and coordinate with her to ensure they achieve the optimal outcomes for both their jobs and household responsibilities. “There was a time when I took for granted that she would always take time off her business to tend to the children’s needs but the disparity made her feel that her business was less important than my work. Today, I take my fair share of leave to tend to the children and support her during the hectic work seasons, because our marriage is a partnership that I would not compromise on. I fully utilised my paternity leave, and more, to render her support both physically and emotionally, by being present in all the significant moments of our family life,” shared Bryan.
Bryan also finds himself closer to his children today and inspired to be the best husband and father for his wife and children. He also has a clearer appreciation of who he is and also the many roles he plays in society, which enables him to prioritise so as not to neglect family and relationships. He has noticed how his children would mimic the way he speaks and behaves at board and management meetings, and even towards his colleagues and service staff.
“That made me very aware of the importance of role-modelling to my children the types of values and attitudes that I bring to work and towards life and others. I might not always be right, but I have to show them how to navigate disappointment, fear and frustration, and to pick ourselves up from failure,” said Bryan.
As the CEO of Centre for Fathering, Dads for Life and even Mums for Life, his work hours are intense and irregular as he attends events in the evening or over the weekend. However, because the organisation offers a flexible work arrangement, he is able to make up for the time away by sending his children to school, picking them up from school and having the occasional lunch with his wife on weekdays.
He concluded, “I’ll tell myself to enjoy the rite of passage as a father, and not to be too hard on myself if I perceive myself to be lacking in some aspects of that role. My wife and children know that I am trying to be the best that I can be for them and that is all the affirmation I need. With DADs for Life and Centre for Fathering, I know that as a father in Singapore – You’ll Never Walk Alone.”