Taking Care of Number One 

Published on: October 23, 2019

Bangkok Dad Eddie Yii shares his story about the mental and physical toll of fatherhood and how he rediscovered the importance of looking after himself so that he can be there for his family. By Eddie Yii Life is about priorities. I’ve always believed that if you get your priorities right, decisions will come naturally and more often than not, things fall into the right place. Family has always been my top-most priority, to be a good husband and father to my immediate kin in Bangkok, who are here solely because of me. When my wife was pregnant with our firstborn, we took up the challenge mutually, to raise our children in Bangkok with no external help. Unhappiness caused by domestic helpers was a battle we chose not to fight in our limited capacity. I had to step up. No longer was I just the sole breadwinner in the family. I was a husband supporting my wife at home, and a parent walking beside my children at every milestone. Work became a distant second on my list of priorities. For a long while, my commitments at home reduced work-related travel/entertainment to virtually zero. However, staring down the barrel of almost two decades of international education for two kids, gave me no choice but to step even harder on my career accelerator to make ends meet. For everything to work, some things had to give. Friends no longer asked me out after multiple rejections. Sleep became a rare commodity. I got used to waking up by 5am to cook family meals before work so that my wife could focus on the kids. I struggled to sleep at night due to the kids waking up and my brain’s refusal to shut off with planning the next day’s activities and worrying about the company. Perversely, I was actually starting to feel proud of being able to operate on minimal rest. Dadbod happened. Starting my day before 5am and working on overdrive until the moment I slept made it impossible to even think of working out (not that I was a fitness freak in the first place).  I soon found myself nearly 10kg heavier after the kids arrived. Taking time off to work out was not a realistic choice in my situation. I tried to eat in moderation and sought oral weight-loss options, which only worked to a limited extent. The days were long and the years were short. I took immense satisfaction standing beside my devoted wife as we raised our kids with our own hands. I looked at my family and felt vindicated. They were worth it. Until one day, after a short football session with my son in the garden, a small abrasion wound on my foot quickly deteriorated into a severe foot infection. It gave me excruciating pain even when I was not moving. The doctor told me how close I was to losing my foot and admitted me immediately for 72 hours of intravenous-antibiotics. It was a stark reminder.
In this everyday battle to give my family the best, the biggest thing I ended up giving, was myself. The long-term lack of self-care was taking its toll. My wife was likely going through the same thing. It was a dangerous vicious cycle that could undo all the good we did in an instant if one of us fell.
Thankfully, my little girl started school. Our finances inevitably tightened, but the extra time allowed us to concentrate on ourselves a little more. We reconnected with friends, went out for occasional dates (thank goodness for that) and most importantly, took better care of our health. Just this week, I have started jogging with friends at the park on Saturday morning. Being a Dad isn’t easy. More often than not, the efforts we put in are not seen or appreciated the way they should be. I am thankful that amid my ‘busy-ness,’ I joined a few Dad communities online, both in Singapore and Thailand. On these portals, dads from all walks of life support each other, patting each other’s backs when the going gets tough. It’s often the only place we can feel completely understood. Fellow Dads, love yourself a little more. Make that list of priorities and put family right on top. But don’t forget to put yourself on the list, unless you already know the simple truth that you have always belonged at the top, as a part of that word, “family.”

About the Author

Eddie Yii has been in living in Bangkok since 2010 and is an active member of BKK Dads HQ, facebook.com/bkkdadshq, where local dads discuss family, business, activities, and community. He runs a Malaysia-based company that wholesales agricultural equipment but takes more pride in introducing himself as the Daddy of his two beautiful kids Noah and Ellie. You can read more about his cuties, or the delicious food he eats on his blog, strangerinbangkok.blogspot.com.
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