Aathif Suhail, 27, dad to 17-month-old Elham
A tide of mixed emotions is how Aathif describes his fatherhood journey. From feeling immense joy, when his wife Suhra broke the news about her pregnancy to months of yearning and loneliness when in lockdown the baby and mum were stuck in India, Aathif says he has experienced a whole spectrum of sentiments. "I cannot imagine my life without my son today. We are so close to each other that when I step out, he cries and when he is not around, I miss him."
Aathif, an assistant sales manager in Dubai, was always so fond of kids that, within a year of his marriage, he felt he was ready to embrace the exciting world of parenting. Elham, their son was born in India in January, 2020, a few months before the pandemic struck the world. Although Aathif was able to relish the joys of seeing his newborn baby, he had to rush back to Dubai because of work commitments. What followed was unexpected. "I had left them in India hoping to see them in a few months, but this timeline stretched far beyond what I could have ever imagined. Covid separated me from my son for the first seven months of his life," tells Aathif. "Zoom was my saviour. I saw his first smile, the day he crawled for the first time and all the other milestones on video."
Today Aathif wants to make up for all the moments lost by spending as much time as possible with his son. For him being with this family is the best way to unwind. "Elham is a very playful child. I enjoy being with him, exploring his toys, watching cartoons together and visiting places he is fond of."
His own father, he recollects, is a complete family man, who was always there for his children. Aathif hopes to follow his father’s footsteps and be supportive to Elham in every stage of his life.
Chris Clark, 26, dad to 11-month-old Hetty
Becoming a dad at 25 for Chris was a choice he made to have the advantage of youthful fitness and health for the upbringing of his daughter. "As young parents we have more years, time and energy to devote to our children," says Chris, a project development manager in Dubai.
Spending time with his daughter Hetty and being an integral part of her growing up years is top priority for the British dad. From bathing to feeding Hetty, to taking her for walks, Chris says he enjoys doing all his daddy duties every day.
And when Hetty giggled for the first time at five months, it became a deeply emotional moment for the young father. "I teared up realising that here in front of my eyes was a living, breathing human I had created."
Her first word ‘dad’, at nine months, is the most cherished moment of his life. "It’s an absolute pleasure to be a parent. We love exploring life together, bonding as a family. Hetty likes seeing places and faces. So, she goes everywhere with us."
Although Chris says he does not mind missing out on the late nights and partying with friends, he admits no one told him being a parent gives you so little ‘me’ time. "Children need our full attention and there is absolutely no time left for ourselves. This was something that I had never expected, before I became a parent," he shares.
As a football and rugby fan, Chris hopes Hetty would also take on to sports one day. For now, she loves being in the water and he plans to teach her swimming soon.
Chris, who grew up in the UAE, looks up to his dad even today. "My dad has always supported me throughout my life and that is definitely one thing I would love to emulate with Hetty. On my first Father’s Day I am excited to spend time with my daughter and the extended family catching up with them for lunch or dinner."
Hatim Asgar Ali, 27, dad to 7-month-old Husaina
Having lived in a large family with several nephews and nieces, Hatim always felt he had enough experience in handling little babies until he set his eyes on his own daughter. "Husaina was so frail and tiny when she was born, that I was too scared to even hold her. I did not pick her up for the first two days," he shares.
Unfortunately, Husaina had to be admitted to the NICU for few days after her birth. That was when Hatim says, he mustered the courage to take his baby in his arms. "I fed her from a bottle. It was such an overwhelming experience that I broke down and got the first taste of fatherhood."
The Dubai-based IT professional and his wife, Maryam, a General Physician, welcomed their daughter Husaina into their lives three years after marriage. The young couple share that they had weighed down all the pros and cons of parenthood before plunging into it.
The Covid lockdown period proved to be a blessing in disguise for them, they say. "I was working from home all throughout my wife’s pregnancy and it gave me ample time to be with her," says Hatim.
Today Hatim shares that he is a hands-on father. Baby care tasks are divided at their home. Hatim is equally part of Husaina’s daily routine as his wife Maryam. From changing diapers, to feeding her, to wrapping her in a towel post bath, he enjoys every moment of his parenting rituals.
But slipping into his new role as a dad so passionately, was something he never imagined he would do.
"Having both our extended families in Dubai, I always felt that there would be a parent or an older relative who would care for our baby. But as we chose to stay in an apartment in another part of the Emirates, away from our family, I had to naturally be fully supportive to my wife while caring for Husaina."
As a young dad, Hatim says, he has taken on this new role with ease and continues to look forward to new milestones of his daughter with awe and gratitude.
Travel buffs Hatim and Mariyam have decided to not let parenthood dampen their love for visiting new destinations. In May this year, they flew down with the six month old Husaina for her first vacation to Zanzibar. "It was tough in the flight at first, with the baby, but once we were at the beaches, she enjoyed every moment of the holiday," tells the proud father.
As Hatim had planned a cake and special dinner at home on Mother’s Day for his wife, he sniffs a similar surprise for Father’s Day from her.