Monday 12 April 2021
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When fathers are absent

ama” appeared for the first time in the Daily Gleaner.  Widely understood, it’s a Jamaican Creole word which is used to describe the mother of your children. Inherently the meaning denotes “not married”.

If all men are cut from the same cloth, it is safe to assume that the trend started a long time ago and that our grandfathers grandfather also had additional children from ‘outside.’ The stark  difference between then and now would be that most of these children still received their fatherly love in contrast to today. What makes men lay eggs in every warm nest and how does this affect the upbringing of the child in today’s society – this is the worry today as society introduces single mothers and children who have never fully enjoyed their father’s love because they are just too numerous to give adequate attention to. Also because of the drama, children born out of this happenstance grow up, often without the loving guidance of a father in their lives.

Thomas has five boys from three different mothers. He is now in a new relationship with a new girlfriend with whom he does not have a child with. He lives with one of his boys and only sees the others now and then.

Jakes has three children from two different mothers and is currently with none of the mothers nor does he live with any his children. He lives in Windhoek and all his children live in the Northern towns.

Joseph has six children from three different mothers. All his children are in the care of their grandparents and only sees them with he visits the north during the festive seasons.

These are three men with 14 children from eight mothers impacting a circle of 25 persons. While it is easy to point fingers to the fathers, James Ithana, Gender Program Manager at Lifeline Childline Namibia  believes before naming the culprit, the issue at hand is that of unplanned pregnancies to which both parties play a role.

“When someone moves on in a new relationship, they do not get to know each other and define the goals of their relationship. If a baby is not part of your goals, how do you then make sure that it does not come in the picture? Today you find out people get into a relationship and two weeks later they are already having sex, unprotected. And there is always the perception that the man should be the one to take out the condom. That is what needs to be addressed first,” said James.

When the children are already born, raising these children is mostly the challenge. How does one take care of six children from different mothers each in different settings? “Today you have men getting ‘likes’ on social media for posting photos of them enjoying a ‘good life’ but do not make time to buy one of their children a pair of shoes that cost N$50,” laments the mother of two Toini Hasheela.

Toini says men should make children only when they know that they will be there for them. “These things of sending the child to your grandmother does not work. Children need a father figure and role model in their lives.”

James shares the same sentiment saying that children raised in the absence of the father often go through experiences which are not child-friendly. “In cases where the mother is not happy with the father and they are no longer in an intimate relationship, the mother often tries to cut out the father and make sure that the two do not share time together. To make things worse, the mother tries to pressure the father into maintenance and makes sure the two do not co-exist.”

Toini however argues that there are cases where responsible men really make time to be part of their children’s lives regardless of the sour relationship often between the parents.

Raising a child requires time, energy and resources. As such, the presence of both figures plays a big role in the development of the child. “The child needs a role model and someone he can look up to. Regardless of the arguments between the parents, the child still needs to look up to both so it is the duty of the parent to establish a parenting plan.”

“Boys need someone in whose footsteps they can follow. They need to be taught and see how women and other men are treated. This is where the father comes in.” He adds that cases on misbehaving are often in boys due to the absence of the father.

“The girls need a protector and someone who shows them love. They need a teacher of right and wrong and a guide through life. Girls who have not received fatherly love often seek it from wrong people. That is why at times you will find young girls dating older men.”

The crux of the matter is, even if the father is around, which will mostly be on a part time basis, there will always be pieces which will be missing. According to studies done on the importance of the father relationship with his children, having an active father figure who keeps close with his boys specifically, is a deterrent to boys becoming criminal. For a fact, children gain their sense of identity from the same gendered parent.

Besides the child development reality, Toini also highlighted that it is an injustice to women who carry children and end up being dumped. “There is nothing more painful than having a child whose father has ran off with another woman. It is very hard to even get into another relationship because today’s men do not want to get involved with mothers. To make it worse, he is going to get married with some woman who doesn’t have a single child, and start a new family. As the ‘baby mama’ you will just be a reject.”

Be that as it may, the trend continues and more children grow up without either parent. The blame game continues but what society cannot take away is that children born from these circumstances are likely to continue the trait.

The apple does not fall too far from the tree. But the basket which speaks to the environment in which it falls also plays a big role on the shape and condition of the apple. Teaching boys to grow into men is not simple task, but it’s certainly the way forward. The reality is that men have to do better. In the final analysis, even though you may not live together it is advisable that fathers show an active interest in their children.

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