It has been one long season of new beginnings for Xander Ong.

 The 39-year-old got hitched in 2022 and welcomed a baby boy in January 2023. Barely half a year later, he took on a new job: being the CEO of  Centre for Fathering (CFF), a non-profit organisation that promotes active and involved fathering and addresses issues caused by fatherlessness.

 “It’s been a very stressful period but I’m also very thankful,” says Xander who was candid in sharing the bumps he has encountered as a newlywed and daddy.

 “In the first few months of marriage, I came home from work fatigued and disengaged. It was a struggle,” says Xander, whose former job in a healthcare organisation was made more taxing by the pandemic. 

But things are different now.  Almost a year on, Xander and his family are more united than ever, thanks to the power of community.

No man is an island

Determined to devote more time and energy to each other and grow their tribe, Xander took the bold step of leaving his job mid last year while his wife Chloe took no pay leave.

 In his quest to become a more engaged husband and father,  Xander attended a workshop organised by CFF. There, he found a safe space to grow and learn—and a group of supportive dads who face relatable issues.

 “Just like how it takes a village to raise a child, a friend recently told me, it takes a community to raise parents,” he laughs.

When Xander was later approached to interview for the role of CEO at CFF, he and his spouse knew they must treasure the opportunity to positively impact other families, especially when they were making parallel efforts in their personal lives.

 Even before taking on the job, Xander and Chloe have brought their passion for building community into their marital home, a resale flat that is in the midst of being renovated.

 Picture a large space for neighbours to gather and chat, and an area for children to play and mingle. This has been a pet project for the couple who have no qualms about sacrificing personal space for the benefit of parents and children who live nearby.

 “We understand the importance of getting the community together, because we realised very early on that marriage is tough and parenting is tough. With this space, we can all raise our children together, keep an eye on them while meeting people around us,” he shares.

Making intentional shifts

Xander’s humility comes through in his responses, many of which are reflections of his own experiences, a ringing reminder that marriage and parenthood are journeys in equal parts fulfilling and challenging.

 One revelation that has struck during this transformative period was how many dads, including him, spend more of their time and energy casting their vision at work than for their family. “I hope fathers can reflect on this, and realise the importance of their roles at home,” he shares.

 Xander also concedes to have “grossly underestimated” the effort needed to raise a newborn and support his wife at the same time, a challenge that most new fathers will be familiar with.

 The hands-on dad has since learned to sing and dance with his baby to help regulate the latter’s emotions and prioritise time for dates with the spouse or family outings.

 “It isn’t just about keeping the calendar slot - it’s about making sure I relate to my child and wife when we are together,” he reminds us.

 “The change has to start with me, before I can ask other fathers to do the same,”