For 7 years, Fandy Razak was a primary school teacher. At the same time, he was the drummer of now-defunct local band The Great Spy Experiment. Today, the 37-year old is a vlogger by night and wedding photographer on weekends.
But his 24/7 job remains his most important: house husband to a wife and two sons.
Since quitting the corporate world to embark on his photography career, he stays home on weekdays while his wife goes to work.
When he’s not busy shaping his sons’ formative years through involving them in various activities, from skateboarding to appearing in his vlogs, he is their domestic helper, chauffeur and tuition teacher all at once. This seems like a fairly ordinary arrangement, until I factor in his gender and the fact that ‘housewife’ still sounds more like a word than ‘househusband’ does.
Still, Fandy doesn’t see the big deal in this reversal of gender norms. He just counts himself lucky to be able to watch his sons grow up.
I catch him over a quick coffee break before he picks up his elder son from school, and find out what it’s like being a rare breed in a patriarchal society.
Fandy: Nah. If my wife earns more than me, more power to her. But I believe I should still do my part so she doesn’t have to fully support another human being. I have to be earning something, I have to get my ass out there.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with the woman being the main breadwinner. Societal pressure doesn’t apply to me. The only pressure is to get past your own ego.
G: Do people treat you weirdly?
F: Initially when my kids started childcare, I felt funny stares from fellow husbands. They’ll be in shirt and pants, and I’ll wear whatever I slept in the night before. The wives would look puzzled. I’m sure my kids’ teachers also wonder why this guy is so free to fetch his kids and go for excursions.
F: Hardly! I wake up together with the kids at about 6, send them to school, skate a little, come home. My elder son, who’s in primary one, will usually come back by school bus. Then I’ll make sure he does his homework and eats lunch. Around 4 plus, I’ll pick up my younger son from childcare, and my wife too, if she’s done. Basically, I’m like an Ahmad.
Once home, it’s dinner and bed. After they sleep, I’ll work on my vlogs. I usually end up sleeping at 3, 4am, despite being at home all day. If my kids are around, I want to spend time with them, because these are fleeting moments. Soon they’ll grow up and not want me anymore.
G: What is the biggest misconception about being a house husband?
F: You don’t actually have free time! As many housewives will tell you, there’s always something to do. At work, you have a fixed routine, but at home you have to organise your time yourself.
Sometimes, I have a block of 4 hours and want to work on my photography and videos. But after 1.5 hours, I may need to do something for my mother-in-law or kids. That interrupts the flow, and you need to wait for the feeling to return again, especially when you’re attempting something creative. It’s not like you can open the door and run on the grass and enjoy the sunshine.
G: And the most challenging part?
F: I find it a waste if my boys are not engaged. Sometimes I’ll work on projects with them, like spray painting, but those things take time and planning. It’s also hard to get two boys to listen. That said, it’s really tiring to engage them all the time. I feel guilty whenever I let them watch TV to shut them up.
F: Because it’s just a normal life and there’s no need to brag about it. We do it because it’s the right thing to do. I know fellow photographers who are house husbands too. They work weekends so during the week they run the house. One guy I know doesn’t have kids, but he will do the cleaning, gardening, and even clean his wife’s leather bags.
G: Do you think you’re a better dad now?
F: I’m more involved, for sure. That’s not to say that my wife isn’t, but while I could buy my son a skateboard as a ‘regular’ dad, now I can do that and immediately take him to the skatepark to use it. I believe there’s no point just buying things and not putting the kid in a position where they can explore or experiment.
Skateboarding forces them to be outdoors and doesn’t let them hold on to a phone. It’s also a way of training their mind to stay present. When you’re on the board, you have no time to focus on anything else if you fear falling.
G: Has being with your kids all the time shaped how you bring them up?
F: Yes, I want to expose them to as many experiences as possible, because how else will they get good at certain things? When I was young, my parents didn’t explain things to me. They’d cane me without telling me why. If I wanted to help my dad paint the wall, he would stop me. Now I let my kids do whatever they want.
But this also means we need to be honest with them. I want them to understand there are consequences for every action. I’m not going to stop them from doing anything, but if they want to do something stupid, they have to live with whatever happens.
F: No, man, not at all. I’m not the sort who enjoys wearing shirt and pants. Eventually though, I plan to go back to teaching, once my younger son is in primary school and more independent. I’d like to teach photography in a poly or ITE.
I have a natural anti-government streak in me, so I’m not good at being an MOE teacher. But I’m good at teaching; I enjoy seeing kids flourish.
G: Have you developed a newfound respect for women’s traditional roles within the family?
F: I’ve always respected them. My mom was a housewife and I grew up in a family of 3 boys. I’ve never thought it was easy, but now that it’s my turn to do it, I really treasure and appreciate her efforts even more. I mean, damn, son.