I’m a stay-at-home dad who fell into depression. It made me wonder if I was a bad parent
As a first-time parent and his child’s main carer, Kris Tan began feeling tired and irritable all the time. He talks about his experience, and the lessons from his struggle with depression, in the podcast series Imperfect by CNA Insider.
SINGAPORE: One night, Kris Tan realised he was out of control.
He had been trying for three hours to get his daughter Kyra, then two years old, to sleep. But each time he put her down, she cried or stood up and started protesting. He was exhausted.
Tan, 41, remembers the anger and frustration he felt in that moment in mid-2018. “I wanted to hurt somebody, and it couldn’t be her, right,” he says. “So I gave myself a very big slap.”
Then he looked at his daughter, and it was a shock to see her also hitting her face, copying him innocently.
That incident ultimately led him to seek professional help. He was suffering from depression brought on by burnout from being his daughter’s main carer.
The limited series delves into the questions every parent will face, with heartfelt stories — sometimes funny, sometimes poignant — about dealing with parental dilemmas.
LISTEN: Am I a bad parent … if I struggled with depression?
NO TIME TO RECHARGE
When Tan and his wife had Kyra in 2016, he was doing freelance social media work from home. His wife was a third-generation hawker selling prawn noodles at Tekka Market, spending long hours cooking and serving customers.
The question arose as to who was going to care for her, and it made sense to have him do it.
“(My wife) always wanted me to join her as a hawker, and maybe having children was the way to avoid that,” he quips.
The family hired a confinement nanny for the first month following Kyra’s birth. Once she left, Tan became the main carer.
And it was important to him that he should form a special connection with Kyra in her early years, which is why the couple decided not to send her to infant care or hire a helper.
As a first-time parent determined to do his best for his child, he struggled along for some time, doing as much research as he could when she napped.
“I’d be in a pitch-dark bedroom with the child sleeping there, hoping for at least two to three hours of break (time) so that I could read up on sleep training,” he recalls.
Being on the clock almost 24/7 meant giving up his hobbies, such as cycling, long-distance running and video games. Time to himself to recharge his batteries — something that is important to him as an introvert — was also gone.
It soon began to take a toll on him. He began feeling tired and irritable all the time. And he began snapping at his wife.
“I was always only looking forward to the next nap or bedtime,” he says. “Because that was when I knew I’d have a breather.”
It all culminated in the slapping incident, and Tan was diagnosed with depression in October 2018.
He wondered: Children are meant to be bundles of joy, so why do I resent spending so much time with them? Am I a bad parent for feeling this way?
Tan is now doing better, however, and has come to understand that it is okay to struggle, but what matters is how you deal with it.
Find out more about his journey as a stay-at-home father — and what else he learnt from his battle with depression — in Imperfect by CNA Insider.
This third episode includes insight from a clinical psychologist on the early warning signs of burnout and how one can have a conversation with one’s spouse should more support be needed.
Imperfect by CNA Insider is a podcast on which young mother Lianne Chia talks to other parents grappling with dilemmas that cause them to question whether they are doing things right. New episodes will resume in mid-May.