Single fatherhood is a bit of a mystery in our society because it is not talked about as often or as openly as single motherhood. Yet divorce happens. Many children live in single parent households and the struggles of raising these children alone remain the same. The main difference is single fathers may not have access to the myriad of networking, resources and community or NGO support that single mothers enjoy. Can single dads be both a mother and father? To successfully provide childcare whilst nurturing and raising their children? And more so when it is a daughter? One such father speaks to Motherhood Story. Divorced for 6 years now, Jimmy Koh (aged 44) from Melaka has been raising his daughter as a single dad since she was 9. Today, June (not her real name) is 15. This is their story. Q1: Your daughter was 9 when the divorce happened. She is now 15. How are both of you coping with the situation so far? Father and daughter are deeply bonded. Jimmy: So far, I\u2019ve done everything I can by being her father and mother at the same time. I have informed her about all the things she needs to know as she is growing up. I remember once when I picked her up from school, she told me she had her first menstruation. I seriously panicked. So, I rushed her to my sister-in-law and she assisted me in telling June how to use a sanitary napkin and how to do the cleaning process. There are things that I can\u2019t teach and show her especially about body changes in the growing up stage. What I can share with her is what I learnt back in school during the sex and biology chapters. Q2: What led to the breakup in the marriage? You have 50-50 custody? How do you feel about the arrangement? Closeness from then till now. Jimmy: Communication breakdown and financial reasons. I couldn\u2019t provide for my ex-wife financially and she was earning more than I was at the time. Apart from that, she never knew that I had big financial debts because she maxed up the credit card that I put under her name. When she couldn\u2019t pay anymore, banks started to hound me and I had no idea where to find the money to pay them all back.\u00a0In the end, I had to resort to AKPK (Agensi Kaunselling & Pengurusan Kredit) to settle the bills so that the banks would stop calling me and I can have better focus on my job. My ex-wife was the one who looked for the lawyer and had all the discussions and we never met one another until court day. I changed some of the terms set by her i.e., both parties must inform the other party whenever one is bringing June out of Melaka. However, she always breaks the rules. I just put the rule there so that I know where June is. Q3: How did you break it to your daughter at the time? What did you say to her and did she understand? Father and daughter activities \u2013 in an Extreme Park in KL. Jimmy: My ex-wife actually talked to June first before even mentioning divorce to me. She told me about it through WhatsApp. I only found out many years later, through my daughter, that she never knew what divorce meant at her age and she was lied to by her own mum. However, she didn\u2019t get angry with her mother and still has a close relationship with her. We had a house of our own but sold it because my ex-wife said it was too far away. So, we all stayed together at my ex-wife\u2019s mother\u2019s place. When June was in school one day, I just packed my clothes and left as I didn\u2019t want her to see me packing and leaving. We did everything to minimise the damage to her. Q4: Was it difficult being a single dad in the early days? What was the most difficult part? Jimmy and June at two of the many charity walks they always participate in. Jimmy: Time adjustment and luckily, I\u2019m in the sales line, so my time is still flexible. I\u2019ll spare my time with her whenever I can and help out with her school work. Q5: What was the reaction of your family, relatives and friends? Jimmy: Actually, up till now, my family\u2019s side never knew the root cause behind why we divorced. I only told them that I cheated on her and she found out. Why I did that, as na\u00efve as I was, was just to protect her name so that she would come back. Only a handful of my best buddies know the real reason. Q6: Is your ex-wife remarried now? Jimmy: Yes. Even if you are unhappy about certain decisions, look back at your kid\u2019s face and you will see it is worth the sacrifice to put a smile on her face. ~ Jimmy Koh ~ Q7: What\u2019s the current living arrangement like? Jimmy: I know that I can only keep her till she finishes Form 5. After that, I will be sending her to college and I probably will be having less communication time with her from then on. During weekdays, if she\u2019s not too tired or if she doesn\u2019t have too much homework, she will come to my place and spend the night before going to school. Or else I\u2019ll be waking up about 5:15 a.m. to prepare her breakfast and send her to school. Normally, my side will be having a small family dinner every Sunday evening. Q8: Did single fatherhood bring you closer to your daughter? What\u2019s your relationship like? Having fun and goofing around outside a themed restaurant. Jimmy: For me, a father and daughter should be close with one another no matter what stage of life you are in. Sometimes, you just have to put down everything and cherish the moments you have with them. Life really is short. In the blink of an eye, suddenly you realise that they have grown up faster than expected. Instead of being a strict father, dive into their world and their interests and become their friends instead. We talk about anything that she's curious about. By doing that, you can actually monitor what they\u2019re doing every day and educate them on right and wrong. Let them have their own creativity and decide for themselves, but remember not to let go of the string completely so that you can still guide them back to the right path. Share the same interests with them and know about their friends. Q9: Now that she is growing up into a young lady, do you feel the relationship might be changing? \u00a0How are her studies and homework? On a holiday in South Korea. Jimmy: At this moment, June is still down to earth and has not made any radical changes. Due to the pandemic, she has been at home most of the time. I do set the rules on homework and free time. As long as she finishes up her school work and revision, I don\u2019t mind her doing what she wants but she must have at least 7 hours of sleep per day. Q10: She may not be interested in boyfriends yet but how will you handle the situation when it arises? Jimmy: I believe I\u2019ve told her that she can have boyfriends in the future but only after she finishes her college years. I also told her to choose the person who makes her heart flutter and not someone to impress me. I\u2019ve warned her about men, that sometimes a guy just wants to get into a relationship just to get the feeling of sex. So, if that guy just wants her for that, leave the guy as she won\u2019t have any future with him. Q11: What are the things you two have done together and are still doing together? At the NASAM Colour Walk in 2018. Jimmy: Movie time is our favourite time together. Thriller, action, mystery, science fiction, etc. In order for me to dive into her world, I watch anime with her. The latest is Demon Slayer which just finished Season 2 on Netflix. I was supposed to bring her to Japan last year so that I could bring her to see a Cosplay show. But I will postpone it until everything gets better. Once a year, we will also join the NGO support programmes like the National Stroke Association of Melaka\u2019s (NASAM) Annual Colour Walk and the Persatuan Kanner Autism Walk. We do a lot of local travelling. Q12: What are the good things about being a single dad? And what are the bad? Jimmy: To me, there\u2019s no good or bad thing being a single dad. It is how you manage it and how fast you accept the reality. Compromise with your ex and work out the best schedule for your daughter. Don\u2019t make things too personal till it affects the kid\u2019s psychology. Even if you are unhappy about certain decisions, look back at your kid\u2019s face and most of the time, you will see it is worth the sacrifice to put a smile on her face. When you\u2019re off duty during your roster, go indulge in the things you never had time to do. Treat yourself better and the world will treat you better. Q13: Whenever a marriage breaks up, society often points the finger at the husband. What are your thoughts on that perception? Jimmy: Movies always paint a picture of the guy being the villain. Have you ever seen one that paints it the other way? There\u2019s always a different side to a story that you won\u2019t be hearing; for example, you heard my side but never heard the other side from my ex. It really does not matter what people think about you. The most important thing is you do your best in giving all you can in bringing up the child as a single dad. Q14: What tips or advice would you say to other single dads handling the same situation? June and Jimmy on their journey together. Jimmy: Work things out and pre plan properly first and never be in a rush to marry. I made my mistake as I was not ready financially to get married and have kids on the first day. For all single dads, help is everywhere, swallow your pride or ego and just open your mouth. The first to be there will always be your family members. At this moment, I\u2019m not ready for a second marriage. I prefer looking for a life partner instead, where we can take care of each other in our old age. June and I have discussed this. I will bring her to meet June and June will evaluate her. *All images are courtesy of Jimmy Koh. Mummies, don't miss out on your chance to get limited Motherhood.com.my vouchers today by casting your Motherhood Choice Awards 2022 votes here! For more insightful stories and fun recipes, stay tuned to Motherhood Story!