According to a recent survey conducted by IKEA, UAE dads are winning on the parenting front. Not only do an impressive 97% of them make sure they spend quality time with their kids, but they’ve also got their hearts in the right place. When asked what they wanted most for Father’s Day, the vast majority said the best gift would be the opportunity to spend more time with their children.

Being a modern dad is a constantly evolving role, with the position often less clear-cut compared to mums’. This can have a positive impact, of course, with the survey results showing that fathers in the UAE believe that they spend more time with their children than their dads spent with them, but it can also come with challenges too.

We spoke to three of our dad panelists, real UAE fathers, about their biggest moments as a dad. Taking a closer look at how fatherhood has changed them, what challenged them about being a parent and what was the best advice they ever received from their own fathers.   

Jean-Paul Smalls is dad to 19th-month-old Serena.  

In those early months, the role of a father very much felt mechanical at times: eat, feed, nappy change, sleep and repeat.  However, one of the key things I learned is to really get into a combination of routine whilst being as interactive as possible - as often as possible - with your child. Face time, tummy time, reading, it’s all helped towards ensuring that the time I do spend with my daughter is quality time and that she’s happy and content and not too crazy come 8pm!   

I think a stand-out proud moment for me would be the first time Serena walked properly. She was 10 months and we’d taken her to Cheeky Monkeys at JBR.  We were the only family in the place and she just decided to stand up and pretty much run across the play area out into the lobby!

Fatherhood has changed me. I would say I’ve definitely had to become more patient and a lot more organized.  Rushing bedtime simply makes things worse, and the nursery run is now executed with military precision! Also, visual learning has become more important to me for sure.  Your kids copy everything so setting the right examples in terms of food, fitness, reading etc. has made me actively change my lifestyle for the better. 

If could give some advice to my younger self about parenting, I would tell myself get into the routine early, trust your instincts, we also have so much information at our fingertips but you know more than you realise, and what you don’t know, you’ll work out - eventually!

One of the things I’m trying to take on board from my own dad is his energy. You would never guess how tired my dad was when returning from a long day’s work and commute.  He would come through the door happy and energetic and always have time for us. I want to ensure the same for my daughter.

Seth Love-Chappels is father to Raif (two years) and Atticus (six months, pictured).

Being able to say ‘no’ was something I had to learn as a parent. I realised I was potentially not having my sons’ best interests by always giving them what they wanted, and going against my wife! Finally being able to say ‘no’ the first time was the hardest, but now I know that in some circumstances it’s necessary. 

Being a father has definitely made me more tired! All my energy is spent on the boys - going to work is a rest!  On a serious note, fatherhood has made me more food conscious and aware of what I cook for the children and what we eat as a family.   

If I was giving advice to my pre-dad self I’d say think carefully before you respond to your children. Answers can be construed in different ways...! 

I learnt from my own dad the motto ‘If it feels good... do it!’ Sometimes you can be overcautious, so focus on having fun with your children." 

Paul Baker - aka New Dad in Dubai - is father to Jonathan, who is nearly two.

I realised the importance of being a dad before my son Jonathan even arrived. When it came to skin-to-skin, breastfeeding and all the other steps, I knew an important role of a father is to be there for his son but more importantly to be there for my wife, his mother. Parenting is a team effort and I see this often with other couples I meet and know. It is about putting the other person first (something I often forget) and when you both manage to do that consistently you reap the rewards as a family. 

I’ve been proud every moment since Jonathan was brought into this world, proud of my wife Lauren, Jonathan and myself. I’m proud every day after he goes to sleep that we have made it through another day and he is learning and growing. I am obviously also super proud every time Jonathan does something new: One of my favourites is when he ‘blesses’ me after I sneeze! 

We’ve overcome some challenges too. Jonathan was underweight for a long time and it took a few months with lots of interventions and assistance - but also lots of doubt - and it took a lot of effort to get through that as a family.

I think the biggest lesson that I am learning now that I’m a father is patience, and to put others before myself. If I could go back in time to before I was a parent honestly, I would have as many late nights and spend as much time with Lauren going out and doing pre-baby date nights as possible!

My dad taught me to always lead by example, making sure that I’ll be there for Jonathan whenever my son needs me. 

Read more on being a dad in the UAE: 

UAE stay-at-home dad: "Caring for a baby is a job in itself" 

New-dad blues: Why male postnatal depression is on the rise in Dubai 

How to support your wife after she's just had a baby 

Why we need to lose the 'useless husband' stereotype