I recall a conversation I had with my best friend about two years back. It was a conversation about absent fathers; the audacity of some men to father children that they do not raise, maintain or support even from a distance. It baffled our minds how this was possible. How someone could just turn their backs and avoid such a responsibility, a lifetime responsibility.
We both grew up with our fathers in our lives and we appreciated and valued their presence and love. Both our fathers have since passed on but the impact they had in our lives moulded us to be incredible, educated young women who are not afraid to speak their minds and stand on their own two feet. Our daddies were not educated but they shoved books down our throats until we learned to chew them.
It is one thing when your dad dies and you grow up fatherless because of that twist of fate he had no control over. It is however something else when your father abandons you at any stage of your life.
According to Pamela Thomas, author of Fatherless Daughters (a book examining how women cope with the loss of a father via death or divorce), women who grew up with absent dads find it difficult to form lasting relationships. In the 2007 UNICEF report on the well-being of children in economically advanced nations notes that studies repeatedly show that children without fathers positively present in the home suffer greatly.
A study on absent fathers by the Centre for Social Development in Africa, University of Johannesburg and Sonke Gender Justice discovered that South Africa has an exceptionally high number of absent fathers with approximately half of the children in this country living without daily contact with their fathers. The study also found that father absence in South Africa is intricately connected to historical, social, economic and cultural contexts.
The percentage of fatherlessness is so high. It should be a crime to father a child that you leave. Maybe if these fathers were be arrested, jail could knock some sense into them. Maybe the fear alone would enable them to be active fathers.
We have so many absent fathers that the statistics are appalling or they should be yet it has become perfectly normal for women to bring their children up on their own. Society has made it acceptable and normal. You even get older women telling you, “Umtana waka-mama” which means that a child is solely for the woman; if the man is around to help out then you are blessed.
The law has since intervened on this growing crisis that one may legally force the father of their child to pay maintenance and it has worked for so many women worldwide. It is a great help with the financial relief of raising a child alone, however, the court cannot force the fathers to spend time with their children, to love them, kiss them or support them throughout their upbringing.
I have seen my fatherless peers whilst growing up and I took it for granted to be raised by both parents. I did not understand their pain although I saw the struggles they went through growing up without fathers. It was only until I mothered my own children that I felt the struggles of having to raise a child on my own. I still can’t comprehend the fact that I am struggling to make ends meet whilst my baby daddy has a stable job with decent pay and is not even concerned about nappies, clothes or at the very least what his child is eating.
The decision not to go to the maintenance court was a personal one. I strongly felt that I could not force a grown man to feed his own child. I had also seen my cousin go through the process with her baby daddy and it was not pretty to watch her go through it. She would cry, curse, and break down after these court proceedings. There were so many cancellations and reminders that even my own head spun. I watched her lose weight and saw the joy in her eyes drain away. I refused to put myself through that.
When my father passed away my little sister was only two years old and before she was three years old she would shop for daddies in magazines. She would choose well-dressed men and give them big kisses and then ask my mom how much it would cost to buy that dad and bring him home to live with us. I was still a child myself and didn’t think much of it until now.
My 17-month-old baby has discovered the word “baba” which means father in isiZulu. Now, whenever we go out into the streets he calls every male he sees “baba” and runs to him with such affection that it is unsettling to watch. My solution has been to strap him around my back but even then he still continues to greet every male we meet and calls him “baba”. I really don’t know how to deal with this situation and I dread the day he will have enough speech in him to ask me where his father is.
No child deserves to grow up without a father and have to face unnecessary hardships that could have been prevented. No child deserves to shop for a dad in a magazine.
Dear child it is not your fault that you grew up without a father and that he chose to abandon you. You had nothing to do with the choices of a grown selfish man. Be a better person and if you are a male child be a present father. The world needs real men and fathers not sperm donors.
I want to take this moment to thank all of the fathers who understood that a break up does not give them a break from fatherhood and have continued maintaining and supporting their children in every way that they can. I salute you and most importantly I have the utmost respect for you! Continue bringing up those young men and women of our future to be amazing people because your presence alone in their lives is of paramount importance and is invaluable.
If you’ve ever been in a toxic relationship, read these tip on how to leave here.
Tell us: Do you think it’s important to have a father present in the home? Why or why not?