We live in times where local couples are very careful in considering whether they should have one or two children. Having three seems to be a brave act. There are even cases where childbirth is consciously avoided, just a lifelong couplehood of intense careers and occasional exotic tours.
Here, Daulat Hakim defies modern Singapore mentality and has upped the ante with five kids! He chatted with Dads for Life on his life priorities, his daily schedules and of course, the kids.
A local Indian Tamil Muslim, 48-year old Hakim runs a family business of supplying goodie bags for corporate and mass events. He completed both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in computer and information systems.
“The unfortunate thing here is I still have to play computer technician every time any of my kids have a slight problem with their laptops or desktops. They have become too dependent on me and even bold in crashing their computers!” Hakim laughs.
The self-confessed ardent computer geek was also a recipient of the prestigious Raffles Scholarship awarded by the British Council some twenty years ago. Hakim had travelled extensively, especially to parts of East Asia, during his earlier days as an IT specialist and has prudently tailored his current self-employment to focus on raising good children. His wife Fatima quit her job as a teacher to raise the kids full-time. On to the children…
Dads for Life decided to start the chat with youngest of the brood, 9-year old Ismaeel. How were things with him and dad? “Despite me being the youngest and dad typically quite busy, I appreciate the time he set aside for me.” And what is the best thing about being the youngest? “I have many playmates and they have no choice but to cater to me!” laughs Ismaeel. “Whether it’s homework or brushing up my soccer or Playstation skills, I get plenty of coaching and advice too”.
12-year old Sawfi, well in the throes of PSLE preparation, is child number 4. While the three older children have done well in PSLE, Sawfi is under no pressure and he is grateful for that. And what’s good about being number 4 out of 5? “I have at least one to bully!” Sawfi seems gleeful. Turning serious, he expresses admiration for dad. Why? “Dad is very pious and he does a lot of volunteer work”.
Secondary Two pupil, Sulaiman, is technically the middle child. Soaking in the Gifted Education Programme in a top boys’ school, he is nevertheless cautious not to pressure Sawfi in any way to challenge his own PSLE performance.
The only rose among the thorns is 18-year old JC student Ayesha. Typically, girls can lament the lack of sisters to engage but she feels quite good about being surrounded by 4 brothers. “For one, I have my own room while they have to share rooms! Then, there’s a sense of being constantly protected or looked after by mini-security forces. They are quite protective of me, despite regular squabbles about this and that,” Ayesha shares.
And how does the lone princess feel about her dad? “He is actually relatively lenient with me but I have learnt to compensate with self-discipline. There is a lot to learn from him. He is SO organised and meticulous. I admire him for his selflessness and hard work”.
The first-born son, 19-year old full-time NSman Omar, expressed his apologies for not being present at the interviews as he had to book in to his army camp.
Daddy’s typical day…
Hakim gets up at 4.30a.m. every weekday. He reads widely for self-improvement and finishes morning prayers. By 6.45a.m., he would have walked youngest boy Ismaeel to school, using this time to catch up and bond. A good half hour to forty-five minutes is spent briskwalking in the neighbourhood park then. At 8a.m. sharp, there is a home breakfast followed by a trip to the office in Sembawang. Hakim makes it a point to take public transport as much as possible, occasionally sharing a car with his sister.
Summarily, Hakim remains clear that he will not push beyond 6 or 7 hours a day in terms of running his business. He stresses that earnings should be seen in perspective and not subsume one entirely at the expense of family life. He cites the reason for high rates of divorce in all communities in Singapore as mainly career and material luxury pursuits.
Hakim returns straight home after work to attend to his wife and kids. There is no ‘chilling out’ or ‘hanging out with the boys’. But does he get enough ‘couple time’ with his wife? “Admittedly no, but we do not see the need to get away from anything, you see. We enjoy our daily schedule and derive meaning in it. But any wedding or external event that we attend automatically becomes couple time because the kids refuse to come along!” he laughs.
On alternate Mondays, Hakim does counselling at Changi Prison for 2 hours. He has been doing this for 2 years.
Why did he take it up despite an already busy schedule? “The Islamic Religious Council requested for trained counsellors to deal with Malay inmates. While I’m Indian, I see this as an excellent platform for building ethnic community bridges as well as guiding prisoners to good values.”
“At some point, my wife and I felt that our five kids have had some strong foundation in basic values like honesty, discipline and co-operation. Then I confidently moved further to community service as the kids were able to ‘self-police’, so to speak”, Hakim explained on. He regularly relates his prison counselling visits to his kids, minus the confidential details. “Interestingly, the kids feel very grateful to me and my wife for their upbringing when their hear of the prisoners’ family plights.
Hakim and his wife also run children’s and youth religious classes at a nearby mosque during the weekends. Naturally, their own kids are students as well as graduates of the classes. Hakim feels that this helps a lot in not just preaching but practising values, especially time management and focus for the kids.
Advice for daddies…
We must recognise that every child is different, stresses Hakim. “Don’t impose your desires or misgivings on them. For example, my first boy is inclined to the arts and humanities. My girl and the second boy like working hard at whatever they do. My third chap has creative art talent. I encourage them. We shouldn’t force children to become doctors or engineers for family pride and little else. I’m glad for the increasing diversity in university courses and career avenues”.
What are major considerations in raising a large family? “Firstly, financial prudence times ten” stresses Hakim. “We have to practise it for the kids to see”.
Another challenge, Hakim notes, was that he was not able to devote equal time for his later kids as to the first one or two. But he is glad that the first two, aptly a boy and girl, are able to play shadow parents for the younger three. “So you have to train up the older kids to assume responsibilities. We are not burdening them but helping them into adulthood.”
Hakim also suggests that dads reflect on their own childhood and ponder on what worked for them or didn’t with their parents. “For instance, my own father was all about discipline, hard work and not being wasteful. Over time, I saw how this works for me as well and these are the few things I stress on without apology. If you had negative experiences with your own parents, be mindful about not repeating similar approaches to your kids”.
Hakim recommends that whatever your religious faith, practise it well and involve the kids so that they have a moral anchor.
Will the kids go into the family business? So far, no interest has been expressed and not surprisingly, as they are still pretty involved in school activities, Hakim says. “But the family ‘business’ of doing community service and practising strong virtue – this is definitely going on and in that sense, all the kids are entrepreneurs!”
Looking back at the past twenty years of tight clockwork family operations, would Hakim have done things differently? “I take it that you are asking about the number of kids…” he smiled. “I see everything as a blessing. The kids are pretty much on auto-pilot and self-policing as I explained earlier. There is a little community within this house and I hope that they are good citizens for Singapore.”
About the Author : The Dads for Life Resource Team comprises local content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals, dedicated to developing useful resources for dads.