How do we make better husbands, fathers of men? -By Niran Adedokun

Filed under: Article of Faith |
Niran Adedokun

Niran Adedokun

Last Saturday, I had the privilege of being in the midst of a group of women who came together to find communal succour, even if fleeting, from the strains of their circumstance- single motherhood.

The stories of these ladies were as diverse as their shapes and sizes. Some, but a far fewer number, lost their spouses to the cold hands of death, untimely; some left their homes after existing through it without fulfilment for years while others woke up or returned home one day to find out that their husbands had walked out on them, never to return.

All the ladies at the meeting, convened by Deola Erogunaiye-Olulana’s Precious and Pretty Moms at the Energy Academy, GRA, Ikeja were left with children of different age groups and number. It was a touching event.

A particular lady told, amidst sobs, of how, after she had suffered from physical and emotional abuse for about 12 years, she decided to leave her matrimonial home because she would: “rather be alive as a single mother and take care of her children alone than be dead.”

Another lady, slim, gorgeous in her ebony skin until her lachrymal gland succumbed to emotions, dropping a few tears and peeling off her erstwhile confident pose to reveal layers of vulnerability, told of how she had been “beaten and battered for five years without anyone, not even my parents knowing. Until he left me and our two girls two years ago. I am happy taking care of my two beautiful girls”

The other painful part of their situation is the stigma attached to being a single mother even when it is not by choice. There was a consensus that some women choose this status, but such women are mostly well-heeled, without any care about what society feels. It is those who have single motherhood foisted on them, who ironically, do not get our sympathy.

With the likely exception of widows, whose challenges are even more enormous albeit of different dimension, women who become single mothers either as a result of unplanned pregnancies or the exit of a man from their lives said they are treated like pariahs.

One common example to most of the ladies is the discrimination they claim to get from landlords who would not just insist on having their husbands with them before giving out their estates but make snide comments linking their status with prostitution or promiscuity at the best. Single mothers are victims of the lack of compassion that lives with us as a people.

After all the stories had been told by the ladies on the other side of the table, one was forced wonder what was eating up today’s man and depriving him of the fortitude and sense of responsibility that should attend manhood.

Then the guest speaker for the evening relives her own compelling, almost 50-year-old story. Before she delved into it, Mrs. Betty Irabor, Editor-in-Chief and Chief Executive Officer of Genevieve, who was invited to address the ladies, had betrayed emotions on one or two occasions in the course of listening to the stories of the single mothers.

When she eventually stood up to speak, she started with something like: “I thought I was coming to speak to you about how to find strength but listening to many of you speak, I am the one that has drawn strength from you.”

Irabor, then told the story of how she was brought up, alongside her siblings by her mum. She explained that she did not know the reason why her mum severed her matrimonial cord but she did at some point leaving the children with their policeman father.

“I remember my dad doted on us, at least for a while. And then, one day, I went to school with my younger brother, I was about eight or so. As we were coming in, I noticed that a truck was parked in from of our home at the barracks and I recognised some of the things in the police truck. I was wondering who was packing our things. Then, my father came out with two papers bags. He walked to us and handed over each of those bags to us. I discovered that one had my things and the other had my brother’s things. That was the last I would see of my father for over 20 years.” Irabor said to an attentive audience wrapped in the stun of an incredible story.

The eight-year-old had no idea where her mother stayed and had to depend on compassionate neighbours who traced their mum and handed them over to after explaining the shocking departure of their father from home.  Irabor related with the challenges of single mothers, still living in the freshness of her own deprivations which hurt so much that she refused to see her dad when he appeared at her door steps over 20 years later!

Although it was a gathering to encourage single mothers to pick up the pieces of lives and be strong for their children, I left with a strong sense that unless something is done about the upbringing of men, we will continue to have stories like these ladies told last Saturday.

As Deji Irawo, one of the resource persons at the event pointed out, when boys grow up without the mentorship of a man, they are at sea about what it means to be an effective man. It can then safely be said that the failure at building the capacity of boys to becoming responsible men either because their fathers are not there to mentor them or that their fathers were themselves not properly taught, accounts for the increasing number of  men who are unable to cope with the complexities of modern day relationships.

In addition to so many others, there are three specific roles that fathers plays in the lives of their children. The first is that a father confers identity on his children.

He also confers the sense of self-worth on his children, giving them a sense of belonging and history, which every child needs.

Lastly, the father is the one who gives children a sense of validation. He is the first coach and mentor of the child, the child’s biggest fan and encourager. It does not matter whether the child is male or female, the father is the one who builds confidence in a child from a position of acceptance and love in a non-judgmental environment  which help the child interface with life.

Children who do not find this level of devotion from a father will most certainly find seek their identities, validation and sense of worth from elsewhere and this is at the root of a lot of antisocial behaviour that plague societies.

It is the absence of anyone to impart such a capacity in a lot of boys that makes them develop physiologically without the mental capacity to deal with the current realities of man-woman relationship.

For instance, the basic instinct of the average male child in this part of the world is to see himself as superior to the woman. He takes this sentiment to his relationship with the opposite sex and gets married without the mental capacity to cope with a woman who can hold her own; he becomes defensive and gets violent.

One of the services Precious and Pretty Moms hopes to offer its members is the opportunity for the mentorship of children by a number of men who have offered to work with the group. The idea is that to stop the vicious circle of male abandonment and irresponsibility, children with single mothers should get occasional father figures who will prepare them for the emotional and psychological demands of manhood and save our country from men who bring violence home and eventually abandon it.

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