A family trip overseas was all it took to convince Vinod Krishnan, 39, that he can be a champion dad too.
I welcomed my first child six years into my career as a cabin crew in 2019, and my second in 2021. I have always had a soft spot for children and wanted a big family. Initially, my wife, Revathhi (34), wanted to focus on her career. We eventually decided to start a family because we felt it was the right time, and we now have a wonderful boy, Nikhail (4), and a girl, Ishaanya (2).
I knew that starting a family would impact our professional ambitions. I can recall numerous conversations with my wife about the challenges of my frequent absence due to my job and how she would manage without my help. I am typically at home for about ten days a month, but during long-haul flights, I could be away for as long as nine days at a stretch. When I return, I usually get two to three days off, but I do have to be on 24-hour standby. So, it can get pretty hectic. However, I promised my wife that I would actively share parenting duties when I was around. It would not be fair for her to handle everything on her own and neglect her work. We had to make many adjustments, and arguments were common. But as time passed, we managed and found our rhythm.
“The pandemic nearly derailed my career as international air travel took a massive hit. With flights getting cancelled, I found myself grounded, with the occasional flight every few months. It was a blessing in disguise because I could spend more time with my children during their critical years and celebrate their milestones together.”
Balancing work and parenthood as a new parent was not easy. When my son was born, I suffered from dad guilt. I would often worry about how my wife and son were doing when I was abroad. I found myself constantly making video calls to check in on them. However, I tried not to let our distance affect my mood. My coping mechanism was to imagine my boy as happy as those children onboard a flight—after all, he has my wife watching him.
Over time, my anxiety eased. Nowadays, I have a hotel check-out routine—I would video call my wife, look at pictures of my children, and adopt a positive mindset before heading for my flight. It stops me from feeling gloomy, which could affect my colleagues and passengers.
At work, I make extra effort to plan my schedule carefully so I will not miss important courses or activities to upgrade and progress in my career. It is about staying focussed and getting support from my parents when needed.
I was performing well at work, but nothing could have prepared me for the curveball that was COVID-19. The pandemic nearly derailed my career as international air travel took a massive hit. With flights getting cancelled, I found myself grounded, with the occasional flight every few months. It was a blessing in disguise because I could spend more time with my children during their critical years and celebrate their milestones together. However, I could not help worrying about my future and my family’s finances. As the pandemic dragged on, the pressure mounted as I saw retrenchment happening all around me. I badly wanted to support my wife, who had become the breadwinner. Looking back, I am very grateful she told me to hang on to my job. She never ceased to keep my spirits up despite our situation. I steeled myself and pressed on for my family.
“… I will play with our children until their afternoon nap time, then help with the household chores. I am a stickler for cleanliness, so I handle tasks like laundry, changing the sheets, vacuuming the house, and tidying the house, like stowing toys away after play.”
Everyone’s parenthood experience is different. I have learnt to prioritise the present and focus on what my family needs and the things I have control over. Take my wife, for example. Since we do not spend much time together, she often asks for more date nights when I am around. There are days when I am exhausted after a long flight, and so I might suggest that we go somewhere nearer to our house for a simple meal or leisurely walk. That always brings a smile to her face, as it shows I am willing to make time for us. I believe small acts of affirmation work.
This applies to childminding, too, especially when our helper is not around. In those situations, my wife takes charge of cooking because that is what she loves. While she cooks, I will play with our children until their afternoon nap time, then help with the household chores. I am a stickler for cleanliness, so I handle tasks like laundry, changing the sheets, vacuuming the house, and tidying the house, like stowing toys away after play. Of course, there have been challenging moments, like when our little ones throw tantrums and things get chaotic. In those times, we try to manage our emotions and just go with the flow.
We recently travelled to London for our first family trip. It rained on our third day, so we postponed most of our planned activities. My wife took this opportunity to go shopping while I remained in the hotel with our children. So, there I was, just me and the two of them, enjoying our meals in the room. I was nervous at first, wondering how I would fare in this impromptu “parenting bootcamp” in a foreign country. But as it turns out, I managed just fine. The two did not cry or ask for their mum, especially my daughter, who is quite attached to her. It got me thinking, “Hey, I am doing an awesome job. I feel like a champion. I am not too bad at childminding and could definitely do it more often!” I realised that this is quality time—seeing my children happy, enjoying their moments with me, and having fun, even for just a few hours.
“It got me thinking, ‘Hey, I am doing an awesome job. I feel like a champion. I am not too bad at childminding and could definitely do it more often!’”
I think it is perfectly normal for new fathers to strive for perfection and sometimes feel overwhelmed by the pressure. My advice echoes what experienced parents have shared with me—take it easy, one step at a time, and trust that things will work out. When I see my children smiling and happy, I feel like I have done my best to create a strong bond with them. Even though I am frequently away, they still come to me for comfort, which says a lot. It lets me know that I am doing okay. Now that my son is older, he shows his understanding by telling me, “Okay, Daddy, go work. Take care. Have fun.”
His reassurance alone reminds me that I am more than enough.
“Now that my son is older, he shows his understanding by telling me: ‘Okay, Daddy, go work. Take care. Have fun.’ His reassurance alone reminds me that I am more than enough.”
Watch Vinod's story.
Published in Nov 2023