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Fathers take on the mother of all roles at home for reality show

By XING WEN | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-04-09 07:40

Holding his son, sailor Zhao Zhiyuan, who used to spend most of his time at sea, takes on the role of a full-time dad in the reality show, Father in Charge. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Putting oneself in someone else's shoes requires understanding and no small amount of dexterity, especially when doing so is related to the unequal engagement in child-rearing in relationships.

The new season of the reality show Father in Charge, which casts the spotlight on the lives of full-time dads and their daily experiences of caring for their families, seeks to inspire those fathers whose vocations have caused them to be absent from parenting to take a turn in their wives' shoes.

The third season is focused on four ordinary families. One of the fathers is already a stay-at-home dad, and the others get the chance to experience 100 days of being full-time fathers during filming.

Among them are Zhao Zhiyuan, 37, a sailor; Chang Jiong, 35, a retired serviceman-turned professional car racer; and locomotive driver Wu Yi, 32.

"Being a sailor is a very particular profession. Working hours are long and my longest stretch at sea can be up to 13 months," Zhao says.

During his wife's pregnancy, Zhao was only able to spend a week with her before she gave birth.

"The hardest part was when she needed me, and I was not there. I felt guilty," Zhao says.

"I want to be a full-time dad to understand the hardships and grievances my wife has endured over the years as a full-time mother. I also want to make up for things and have a closer relationship with my son," he continues, explaining why he took part in the show.

Chang says that his work completely occupies his time, and requires him to travel frequently to different cities for races, which leaves him only four to five days a month to spend with his family.

His son is 4 years old.

"I always feel that my son's personality is not as strong as it could be. Having been in the military, I have a strong personality, and I hope my son will be like that too. I want to cultivate in him a sense of responsibility and duty toward life. I can help him to explore unknowns and unleash his natural instincts," Chang said confidently, before beginning his attempt to be a full-time dad.

However, he later realized that taking care of a child is not as simple as he had imagined.

According to the program's chief director Lan Di, the show's focus is on fathers in different industries this season.

"After missing out on family life due to their jobs, how do they handle child-rearing when they return home? We want to tell these kinds of stories," Lan says.

Through the experience of being the primary caregiver, the fathers are expected to understand their wives' difficulties and the sacrifices they make for their families, the director adds.

Professional educators and celebrity parents also come to observe the fathers and share parenting experiences with them.

Korean American actor Nathan Lee Seung-hyun, who is married to Chinese actress Qi Wei and has years of experience as a full-time dad, and parenting expert Zhang Yalian are among the guests.

The first and second seasons of the show got positive reviews, attaining 8.3 and 9.2 out of 10 respectively on review site Douban.

"For the third season, our casting approach is completely different to the previous two seasons. We used to rely on social media platforms to recruit. This time however, we contacted major companies and collaborated with them for the new season," Lan explains.

The new season aired on video-sharing platform Mango TV.

"We wanted to present the audience with more ordinary families, and show how fathers take care of their children, to give viewers examples of real families," Lan says.

"We also hoped that the families would feel their participation in the show was rewarding. They could sit in the studio, learning from others, seeing how other fathers took care of their children and handled household duties, influencing one another."

The program has also started the Full-time Dad Support Group, a real-life group through which fathers can share parenting experiences, seek advice and find inspiration from others.

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