|Paramesvaran tries to spend as much time as he can with daughter Tanushri.
By SHAMALA VELU
One of the biggest challenges for a father going through a divorce or separation is to deal with the fact that he may not be able to live, or see his children as much as he used to. Most of the time mothers usually get custody of the children while fathers have to settle for visitation rights.
This scenario is changing and today not every divorce case in Malaysia sees the mother gaining custody of the children.
Many fathers are doting parents, wanting to spend more time with their children. Two fathers relate how they deal with the challenges of not living with their kids.
Preparing the kids
Consultant R. Paramesvaran, 43, says one of the most difficult times of his life was enduring the separation from his daughter, Tanushri Natasha Anne, 12.
Both father and daughter were separated in December 2009 and the doting father admits he was never prepared for the breakup.
“I feel it's unfair to my daughter and me, even heart-breaking to think about it. We are very close, finding time to be with each other every day - that is until the court granted us only two days every two weeks and half the time during school holidays. It was difficult to digest the news,” he says.
Disappointed with the arrangement, he laments that there is just not enough time.
“Imagine trying to cram 14 days of bonding in two days with less than 15 hours a day to do anything? There is just so much to do with so little time. I believe when the moment arrives to part with your child, no one can be prepared for it.
“All of a sudden there is a change in our daily routine enforced by the law. That's when it hit me: What am I supposed to do with this vacant 'spot' in my life?” he shares.
According to Paramesvaran, the saddest part was when they had to build up the courage to say goodbye.
It was difficult not being able to see Tanushri on a daily basis or having much say in the day-to-day matters related to her. It was certainly a different life altogether after his divorce.
Businessman Razali Abdullah, 46, has been living apart from his nine-year-old son, Shahir Razali, for the past eight years.
“However, I can see him any time if I want to as my ex-wife and I have joint custody of our son and I have access to him any time,” he says.
Razali's main problem is that he is unable to spend enough time with his son as many of his business projects are out of town.
As his office is situated near his ex-wife's house in Shah Alam, Razali he usually goes to the house whenever there is any emergency.
“When my son is sick or has a high fever, it’s easy for me to rush over and take him to the clinic,” he says.
Because he is away most of the time, Razali makes up for lost time by taking his son out for dinner. He feels Shahir is spoilt in many ways.
“He speaks his mind freely and with no reservations when I'm around. He has grown up to be very bold, too,” says Razali.
Staying in touch with kids
Paramesvaran says being apart from his daughter has not hampered him from fulfilling his responsibilities as a father.
“I couldn't bear the thought of being far away from her as she is the reason for my journey thus far. We can explain to a child about the separation, but it is difficult for them to accept it,” he says.
He keeps in touch by calling Tanushri every day to check if she has done her homework and other daily activities.
“Our conversation sounds like a tape recording sometimes! I also call her just before bedtime to say how much I miss her and that I always pray for her,” he says.
When it is time to end the call, Tanushri usually starts a new topic, hoping to carry on the conversation a bit longer.
It used to be too heartbreaking that Paramesvaran would sometimes visit his ex-wife's home in the evenings to take Tanushri out to the playground to try to make her happy.
“I want to be there for her and give her the confidence that she is important to me. She's definitely my main concern,” he says.
Time for parenting
Imparting values comes naturally when father and daughter spend time together. In fact, because they spend less time together, Paramesvaran tends to be protective and “super” observant, making sure he guides, and imparts good values to her wherever possible.
“When she's with me, she gets to choose what she wants to do. Most often it is spontaneous activities. Her favourite pastime is going out to shop for books as she loves reading. Her other hobbies include watching movies at home, playing badminton and Uno.”
Sometimes Paramesvaran allows her to indulge in some computer games.
|Roadtrips are the best time for Paramesvaran to bond with his daughter Tanushri.
During school holidays, father and daughter plan trips to places they have never been to before.
“During road trips, we have a lot of spontaneous plans, like on the way to the Taiping Zoo recently we decided to drop by at the Lenggong Archaeological Museum in Perak. There was a time when she wanted to go on an aeroplane, so we took a flight to Langkawi and went island-hopping as well,” he says.
There was a phase when she was interested in planets and constellations so he bought her a telescope to inspire her interest.
“Nowadays, she is into outdoor activities and travel so my next holiday might be to Hong Kong Disneyland or Australia,” he says enthusiastically.
As for Razali, he says he tries to make up for lost time by taking his son out for dinner or supper.
“I call him quite often and check on his school work. Frankly, I think Shahir is better staying with my ex-wife because I have a business to run and I'm not at one place all the time. I really do miss him when I'm away,” he says frankly.
According to Paramesvaran, Tanushri is quite matured for her age and doesn't really need disciplining.
“We treat her like an adult and she doesn’t take advantage of the situation that she is in,” he says, adding that the daycare cum tuition centre and the school she attends has trained her to be a refined individual.
“Most importantly, we treat our daughter as an individual and respect her views.
“She does confide in me and if there is a problem with her behaviour, I try to figure out what caused her to behave that way. Not being able to be there physically for her does pose challenges,” says Paramesvaran.
Since both he and his ex-wife do not always give in to Tanushri's requests, she knows she cannot get her way all the time.
Initially, Paramesvaran admits he gave in to her every whim and fancy but he soon realised that he was not doing the right thing.
“She was getting confused, not knowing the difference between what she needed and what was wasteful spending. So, I decided to teach her about budgeting. That way she could differentiate between wants and needs,” he explains.
He and his ex-wife also do not believe in giving her two different sets of rules.
“That would certainly make her life more stressful,” he says.
Unlike Paramesvaran, Razali says his son seems to break all the rules!
“At times I will tell scold him when I feel he has crossed the line, especially if he has not done his homework,” says Razali.
“Though he does take me for granted sometimes, I think he will grow out of it as he gets older,” he says.
How do both fathers feel about a stepfather walking into their children's lives?
Paramesvaran believes all fathers with daughters will definitely be concerned about a new father coming into their lives.
“It's not about not trusting the mother's choice but it has to do with paternal instincts. My concern is my daughter's vulnerability and whether she can accept another father figure,” he says.
Razali believes his son would do better if he had a father figure around as he cannot be there all the time.
“However, I'm concerned about his welfare and how he will be treated. I'm very protective over him and I think as fathers we are all caught in a situation where we want to do the best for our children but are unable to do so sometimes due to circumstances,” he says.