'Not doing it to make a statement': Here's why this stay-at-home dad doesn't want to be praised for what he does
She can, He can is an original AsiaOne series where we showcase Singaporean men who are working in female-dominated jobs and their empowering personal journey in overcoming stereotypes.
Amos Wu used to spend his waking hours caring for the well-being and hygiene of some 15 cats each day all while juggling operations, sales and customer service at a cat cafe.
But now, the former cat cafe manager's day revolves around his one-year-old son.
"My routine is set by my son," said the 34-year-old who has been a stay-at-home dad since November 2021.
On a typical day, Amos will wake up when his son does – usually around 6am or 7am – to give him a bath and prepare breakfast. He then spends the rest of the day caring for his son with any remaining pockets of time left for himself.
Amos, who also runs an e-commerce store selling cat supplies and does freelance production work, had planned on being a stay-at-home dad since five years ago.
When asked about his decision to switch careers, Amos told AsiaOne that this was a decision that was years in the making as he believed it was more "financially sustainable".
Given the rising cost of living over the years, he felt that being self-employed will offer him greater chance of gaining financial freedom. When his last job as a cat hotel manager was affected due to the pandemic in 2020, he took the plunge to focus entirely on his business.
Besides the financial aspect, staying at home and working for himself also allows him to spend more time with his child.
"The most important part of this routine is that I can be at home with my child and watch him grow up, instead of having someone watch him grow up," said Amos, adding that a child may lose the bond with their parent in the latter case.
"If you missed this [time with your children and family], it would be gone forever."
Lessons learnt from caring for felines
Besides relying on his paternal instincts, Amos' past experiences working with cats also bode well for his role as a stay-at-home dad.
Some key skills he picked up include critical thinking and multi-tasking – both of which come in handy when caring for his child.
He recalled an incident when his son experienced an eczema attack that caused his neck to swell and become red.
While any typical parent would be running around in a frenzy, Amos said his past experience had taught him the importance of staying calm. The episode was eventually resolved after having consulted three doctors within a day.
Amos added that he is in charge of making these impromptu decisions most of the time since his wife, who is a full-time nurse at Ng Teng Fong General Hospital, is uncontactable when she is on shift.
"We always hear about how women are drained [from caring for children] but a guy can never understand how tough it is to be a mother," said Amos.
"But being a full-time stay-at-home dad, I can relate to how tired a mum is and that endurance [they have] is really not easy."
Resetting traditional gender roles
Contrary to expectations, Amos said his family and friends were supportive of his decision to become a stay-at-home dad. In fact, it didn't come as a surprise – given how he always shared about how much he loves and wants children.
His in-laws, who live in Sarawak, Malaysia, are equally supportive of him today, though he mentioned that his mother-in-law was worried and sceptical when he first shared about wanting to be his own boss.
"But I felt that it's normal because most people will think that being a boss is not easy, especially when your wife is pregnant," he said.
Despite the support he has from those around him, Amos admits that the traditional mindset surrounding gender roles still persists, especially when interacting with the older generation and doctors.
"The elders still have the traditional mindset so they will prefer to speak to my wife about our child and sometimes I have to get information from her. Like what did your mum talk to you about, what should we do about this," he said.
Similarly, Amos noticed that doctors tend to focus more and communicate directly with his wife during medical checkups, even when he is the one responding to their questions.
"I feel that many people still have the mindset that mothers should be the ones taking care of the children and doing housework, while fathers should go out and earn money," he continued, describing this as an unhealthy mentality.
Just like in any other career, he believes that gender should not be an issue in terms of caregiving.
"You can't let gender affect your expectation or mindset in a marriage, [how parental roles are split] has to be communicated and both parties should come to an agreement on how the family will operate," he said.
"All you have to really care about is whether your child is growing up well."
The little things that count
As with every job, there are perks to being a stay-at-home dad and Amos' most fulfilling moments are the little ones he shares with his son.
He said that the day-in-day-out routines are the most fulfilling moments, rather than milestones like his son's first crawl or steps.
"It's more of how you're able to comfort your child, how they listen to you and how they run to you to seek comfort," he added.
Another plus point was that his relationship with his wife has improved since they became parents, as they have to communicate more and face unexpected challenges together.
But if there's one thing Amos dreads about being a stay-at-home dad, it is receiving compliments.
While his wife's friends and parents-in-law praise him for taking care of his child "like a professional", he believes that these actions do not deserve praise as he is just fulfilling his basic responsibility as a parent.
"It shouldn't be complimented or criticised because there's no right or wrong. What works for us as a family, may not work for other families," said Amos.
"I understand their kind intentions but it gets a bit draining because I have to force myself to say thank you and show my appreciation."
For now, the pros definitely outweigh the cons and Amos sees himself continuing being a stay-at-home dad until his child reaches "the age of rebellion".
He urges more fathers to join him in experiencing the role of being a main caregiver and to ignore the comments of naysayers.
Although he believes it's normal to feel uncertain and strange in a female-dominated space, Amos is of the camp that men should get rid of the mindset that they are "here to prove something".
"For me, I'm here to fulfil my son's and my family's [needs], and take care of them. I'm not doing this to challenge people or make a statement," he said.
"We shouldn't pollute our minds that we're here to prove something."
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