This week’s iteration of “Redbrick conversations with” covers Bryan Tan, the CEO for Dads for Life and the Centre for Fathering. He shares with us how he balances work life with fatherhood, and how fatherhood and parenthood shift perspectives on definitions of success, alongside steps he has taken to strengthen the family unit.
Q: Share with us more about how you got to be where you are today
Bryan: I was formerly with MINDEF, and sometimes found it challenging to juggle the tensions of work and family, often prioritising work over family. At the point where I was struggling the most, I met some of the Dads for Life volunteers who pointed to the resources and gave me support in my role as a father and a husband. I have benefitted greatly from this and volunteered to give back whenever I could. Subsequently, when the opportunity arose to take a position as a staff, I took it. My journey started as a beneficiary turned volunteer, turned staff.
Q: What are some of the milestones that you have reached since joining the organisation?
Bryan: There is more traction in the community now, with 4 nationwide initiatives. The largest is our Father’s Day campaign, which lasts a whole month in June. Alongside Dads for Life, Mums for Life was formed in 2019 to strengthen families through clarity of the unique yet complementary roles that Dads and Mums bring to the family.
Q: What is the vision for your organisation to maintain its appeal?
Bryan: Firstly, we have to remain strongly convicted with the message that we have always been carrying – a Dad’s presence in the family is very important all the time, not just on weekends and holidays. We also need to support men creatively to remain present in their children’s lives, even if this requires using tech platforms. Secondly, we encourage couples to come together to have a better appreciation of shared parenting and being equipped with the competencies required at the various life-cycle stages of their children’s lives. Most importantly, we invest in our volunteers so that they may become advocates for active fathering and mothering movements in Singapore.
Q: What does success mean to you?
Bryan: In the past, success used to mean the accomplishments achieved in my career, community service and anything which I directly contributed to. Now, with 4 children, I have come to appreciate the influence that I have on my children and the values that I present to them. These are blueprints for what it means to be a good husband and a father, and consequently what they will pass on to their children. Being successful not only means leaving a good legacy for them, but helping them to achieve their aspirations and dreams to fulfil their potential, without imposing my ambitions on them. I measure this by the validation from people around me who are important to me, and success to me can be defined by the good quality of relationships between people in my life. Everything else are enablers to this end.
Q: Is there a unique fact or something that most people don’t know about you?
Bryan: I rear 5 hens at home and they lay eggs almost every day. The kids help to feed the chicken and collect the eggs daily, and on the weekends, my eldest will cook the eggs for breakfast!
Q: What are some of the important values that your organisation prides itself in?
Bryan: Authenticity. This involves coming to terms with circumstances, and that no one is perfect. Being comfortable with our vulnerabilities and weaknesses and being able to hold conversations about it is important, as others may find the key to unlocking the cages that we trap ourselves in with regards to parenting, marriage, family life, or even about your personal identity.
Q: What is a regular workday for you like these days?
Bryan: I spend equal times between our two offices during the week, where most of the time is spent meeting stakeholders, donors and volunteers. I usually clear the admin work in the night after the kids sleep. Typically, I am expected to work on weekends and public holidays because those are the days that we can engage the volunteers to serve alongside us.
Q: Could you describe your current residence?
Bryan: Within the house, my children share the rooms and I believe this helps the children to learn to live with one another and being able to share. We have common areas for playing and work, but the dining table is designated for meals. I make sure that I come back for dinner to have dinner with my family, even before heading off for night engagements which I try to limit to 2 times a week, as I treat dinner as a sacred family time. On the weekends, we aim to have a family meal on Sunday lunch and dinner, a practice I wish to always include in the family.
Q: Do you have an ideal residence?
Bryan: Ideally, it is one which I can live in with my children and their families, everyone under the same roof. If not, at least in close proximity to my kids to ensure that there will always be family support. Location wise, I struggle choosing between close to public parks and gardens, and being close to the sea.
Q: On property financing, do you believe in “leveraging as much as you can” or to “pay down as much as you can”
Bryan: We do capitalise on leverage as much as our risk appetite allows us to, always being mindful that there are risks associated with leverage. It is important to be prepared for these risks, and to try to mitigate them wherever possible.
Q: What advice would you give to young families starting out of their journey?
Bryan: As a couple, it is important to have a discussion about how much money is enough. We must be comfortable enough in our relationships to talk about the value of money and how money defines us, since all of us have different definitions of money and whether this plays a central role in our life, or if it is an enabler to the things that we truly wish to achieve. In my case, I treat money as an enabler to how I want to live my life. For young families who are learning to have the confidence to speak about such issues, it is important to find good counsel to facilitate good conversations to guide them. Gaining knowledge on these matters is a journey for a lot of couples! I’m still learning today, to be a better communicator in my marriage than I was yesterday.
For more information about Dads For Life, you can visit their website dadsforlife.sg or follow their facebook page here.