When real estate agency owner Christopher Pang's wife, Julie, went for a holiday in Vietnam recently, he looked after their three young sons on his own.
It was for a TV show, Mom's Time Out, to see how Asian fathers cope with the kids on their own. The Pangs were chosen from a casting call to be in the new Lifetime Asia reality show, which debuts on Thursday on Lifetime channel (StarHub TV Channel 514) at 9pm.
Over five days, Mr Pang and two other men - one in Malaysia and another in the Philippines - shoulder the responsibility of looking after the young ones with no contact allowed with their wives.
The show documents his solo parenting efforts with his sons Marcus, 12, Michael, eight, and Matthew, four, and how he gets used to being their sole source of emotional support.
Mr Pang, who is in his 40s, says that the parenting responsibilities are mostly "balanced" and shared "50-50" with his wife, who also owns a real estate agency.
"But when Julie went away, the responsibilities became 100 per cent mine," he says.
Naturally, Mrs Pang was the most enthusiastic member of the family about doing the show.
"It's hard to find peace and quiet by myself with three boys running around, so it was a break for me," she says.
It was not difficult to get the children's agreement. "I just wanted to see myself on TV," says Marcus.
But it took a bigger bargain to convince Mr Pang, who said being filmed for television was "not everyone's cup of tea, to be wired and have people following you with a camera".
Mrs Pang's promise to let him go on two fishing trips and buy him a beach buggy sealed the deal.
Having three sons requires extra stamina to keep up with their endless energy, both parents say.
Mrs Pang adds: "Sometimes the boys would take their toys and throw them around."
Mr Pang chimes in: "They can also take up to three hours to finish their dinner."
He would like to see the situation being reversed in a sequel with a Dad's Time Out version, a challenge which Mrs Pang breezily accepts.
"No problem," she says. "Women are great at multi-tasking."
How would you rate each other as a parent and a partner?
Mr Pang: We complement each other rather well, so I give both of us eight marks out of 10 as parents.
Mrs Pang: Seven out of 10. We still have a long way to go to train our children. As husband and wife, I would say eight out of 10. We hardly quarrel because we're a good team, but I'd like to have more quality time with Chris without the children around.
Are your three sons well-behaved?
Mr Pang: The oldest one is always setting the bar for the younger ones to follow, so Marcus is very well-behaved. We took care of him ourselves, but Michael grew up with a domestic helper who gave in to him all the time. Matthew, the youngest, likes to imitate our second son.
Mrs Pang: We are trying to undo that now and haven't had a helper for the last three years.
Marcus: I would describe myself as the angel because I'm peaceful. Michael is kind of like the devil and Matthew is the follower.
What's the naughtiest thing they've done?
Mrs Pang: When Marcus was about three, he was very defiant and loved to pull the table cloth off and cause things on top to tumble down and break.
Mr Pang: As for Michael, I think it's easier to ask about the days he behaves well.
Marcus: My brothers are always fighting over things such as the iPad and the football ball, which they kick around the house.
How are they disciplined?
Mrs Pang: After Marcus learnt that the consequences of his naughtiness are him being smacked or given one stroke of the cane, he became a very good boy.
Michael isn't scared of the cane, and he gets defiant when we smack him. We'd have to chase him around the house.
Mr Pang: He's afraid of the withdrawal of privileges, such as games. Matthew is afraid of the cane, like his oldest brother.
Is there ever any sibling rivalry?
Marcus: Michael would tease Matthew and they'd start fighting, like when he knocks over Matthew's building blocks.
Mrs Pang: They make you look good by comparison, right?
Do you ever wish you had a daughter or sister?
Mrs Pang: Of course, I would've liked to have a daughter. That's how we ended up with three kids.
Marcus: Yes. It'd be more peaceful with no riots or arguments. There'd be a second angel after me.
How do you divide your parenting roles?
Mrs Pang: Most of the housework is done by me, such as the vacuuming and mopping. Chris helps out with the laundry. Sometimes, he outsources the jobs to the kids.
Mr Pang: I'm more of the disciplinarian - the incredible hulk. I scold them and she provides the tender loving care.
What do you like doing together?
Marcus: My dad takes us swimming or bowling. We go to the park to cycle and do inline-skating.
Mrs Pang: Our family goes out together almost every week.
If the parent-child roles were reversed, what would you do differently?
Marcus: I'd be less fierce.
Mr Pang: There're so many things. If I were Michael, I'd eat my food in one minute. I'd probably not want to make my parents angry.
Mrs Pang: I'd study hard and appreciate my mother and help out more.
This article was first published on Aug 24, 2014.
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