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A celebration of ‘Life’ in a pandemic

Every year the Catholic News features a dad for Father’s Day, who is outstanding in his commitment to his role of husband and father. This year, we didn’t have to look too far.

Have you noticed that the Catholic News has a cleaner, more updated look? That’s thanks to the newest—and well-loved— member of the CAMSEL staff, as of September 2019, graphic layout artist Aadel Chin-Albert.

We were given more reason to celebrate on June 10, as staff was invited to witness via Zoom the baptism of his infant girl and fourth child, Chaya Chin-Albert. Chaya, who came into the world mid-May, is Hebrew for ‘life’.

Many articles on the work-from-home scenario during the COVID-19 lockdown, focused on women and the increase of their stressors. Very few looked at the impact on fathers in the same situation. In an interview with teammate Simone Delochan via a WhatsApp video call, Aadel admitted to feeling “overwhelmed” at times with the shift his life took when Trinidad went into lockdown, and with his wife Krystal only a few months away from delivery.

“I thought I was overwhelmed before with getting the kids ready for school and doing breakfast and packing lunches…” His day in ‘normal’ times had begun as early as four o’clock.

With work from home, “stress levels rose. I had to clean, cook, work [the paper], and work with the children especially Isabelle…drop off and collect my wife from work…..Working from home and taking care of the kids is very challenging but I take things one day at a time.”

Isabelle is five years old and he also has two older sons, Isaiah, 15 and Che, 12. Krystal continued working at her place of employ in one of the banks, while he managed domestic life, homeschooled, and worked on the layout of the paper.

Adding to the anxiety of uncertainty of life in a pandemic, his wife’s pregnancy was considered high-risk, and it would have been her first Caesarean section. “It was all a little nerve-wracking…I had a headache that entire day when she went in.”

He continued that although it was easy to get overwhelmed, he reminded himself “that through Christ, I have all that I need to navigate the unpredictable waters of life.”

A self-proclaimed “clean freak” Aadel, and his wife maintained a ritual to protect the family. She was given an office away from people, and he trusted her in taking the necessary precautions. On her return home, she would shower before greeting the children, and he would sanitise the car.

Aadel with Isaiah left), Ché and Isabella

For his own mental well-being, he listens to music, reads, prays, and meditates, maintains his grooming regimen and exercises whenever he can.

With schools closed, the mornings are more relaxed. With the baby, however, “I’m up whenever she’s up so my routine now surrounds her.” Aadel also tries to regulate his diet as best as possible to maintain energy and focus.

“Whenever I begin to feel overwhelmed, I breathe deeply, recite a couple Hail Marys and that usually settles the mind.”

There would not have been the usual welcome-the-baby rituals like a baby shower given the limits on numbers gathering, but he was aware of the amount of love and support that was given to them, both in terms of gifts received and words of care offered.

The addition to the household has seen both brothers and big sister checking in on baby Chaya while she is asleep, and assisting where they can.

Already, he sees the changes in Chaya in the brief period of a month: “She’s gaining weight and her face is changing already! She getting big too fast…,” he said in the mixture of joy and regret with which all parents are familiar.

In the context of the tumultuous year that 2020 has turned into, Aadel commented, “I will always worry about my kids, even as adults, but I hope they take my example of selflessness and love. I hope they incorporate that into their lives. I want them to know what they want, make use of this one life to be who they want to be. I want them to be happy.”