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Raised by a single mother

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InterviewsYouth features

His mother took up both parents' roles after his father passed away when he was 3.

His friends find it uncomfortable to talk about their fathers with him. However, Ferdinand Mar, who lost his dad when he was just a toddler, gets a kick out of messing with his friends every time Father's Day comes around.

"They would be like, 'Eh, next week Father's Day, I don't know what to get!' Then I'd say, 'I also don't know what to get!'" said the 25-year-old undergraduate, with a laugh.

"They'd say, 'Eh Ferdinand, don't say this kind of thing, I feel bad!' But I find it fun because I'm not affected by it," he added.

The youngest of three siblings, Ferdinand was only 3 years old when his father passed away from nasopharyngeal (nose) cancer.

"I don't have any memory of my dad, sadly," said Ferdinand. "The fondest memory I have of the funeral was playing with the joss sticks during prayers and getting scolded for it."

"I guess I was too young to understand the whole situation or the difficulties that my family faced," Ferdinand mused. "At that age, I was just puzzled as to why he passed on and how he did."

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Ferdinand grew up with few memories of his father.
PHOTO CREDIT: AMIRA RAHMAN/YOUTH.SG

Growing up with a single parent

Even so, Ferdinand has never felt that his family was incomplete. Growing up, his grandparents took care of him and his older sisters while his mother worked.

"[My mother] never complained about having to do so much for the family or whined about her circumstances," said the third-year student at Nanyang Technological University.

"None of us felt like we needed a father figure, because we have her."

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Despite being the sole breadwinner of the family, Ferdinand's mother (second from right) still found time to do the housework and bring them out.
PHOTO CREDIT: FERDINAND MAR

His mother gave Ferdinand and his sisters a lot of autonomy from young. Ferdinand had the chance to make his own decisions, which taught him to be more independent.

For instance, he could choose which school he wanted to go to, after completing his Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE).

"Even when I was studying overseas, she wouldn't text me or check up on me. She knows that if I need anything, I would call her. She trusts me a lot," said Ferdinand, adding that it might not have been that way if his father was around.

There are times he thinks of his father

However, despite the solid mother-son bond, Ferdinand admits there are times he wishes he had a father to confide in.

"I've never had someone tell me what it was like during their days in army, or their experience playing outside and doing all the 'stupid' guy stuff..." Ferdinand trailed off, looking lost in thought.

"I've never had those kind of experiences because my father is not around to tell me these things."

However, he is comforted to know that he shares some similarities with his late father.

"I heard [from my mother and grandmother] that my dad used to be an avid football fan. It would've been nice to have him around and watch football matches together," said the sporty youth.

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Ferdinand (bottom left) was only in kindergarten when his father passed away.
PHOTO CREDIT: FERDINAND MAR

But as quickly as Ferdinand switched from his happy-go-lucky self to a young man wondering about having a dad, he quickly snaps out of it, choosing to focus on his mother.

The undergraduate, who is studying to become a teacher, grumbled that his mother likes to keep some of her problems to herself, instead of confiding with him or his sisters.

"I think to her, because she's the sole breadwinner of the family and also has to raise us, she  has to be strong. Like she can't appear weak in front of us," said Ferdinand.

"It's quite sad when I think about it sometimes."

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Ferdinand's mother, now 56, continues to work as a bank manager to support her family.
PHOTO CREDIT: FERDINAND MAR

Time to give back

Now that he is older, he feels it is time for him to look after his mother.

"I feel a sense of responsibility towards her, so I made it a goal of mine to take care of my mom by living with her when my sisters eventually move out," he said.

"I am very grateful for her," he added. "It's never easy to be the sole breadwinner of the family and to raise your kids alone. It must've been hard for her these past 22 years, since [my dad] passed away.

"I'm glad for the way she brought us up, because I've never felt like I needed a dad. I'm more than happy now."

BANNER AND TEASER PHOTO CREDIT: AMIRA RAHMAN/YOUTH.SG