A better man

2010-05-03 00:00

THE issue of irresponsible and absentee fathers is an issue that always hits home with me as I experienced it with my own father, and now my son is going through the same thing.

Sihle Mlotshwa’s article (The Witness, April 29) made me very sad, to say the least, and made me question my place in society and the sort of influence that I have on my son. I often wonder how my life would have turned out had my father­ been a part of my life and taken part in my upbringing.

A few weeks back I had a conversation with a colleague that turned out to be very interesting as it taught me that love goes a long way in one’s life. I found myself tearing up (which is a rare sight) as he told me how much his father had loved him. It became clear to me that his father’s love had made him a better man and had taught him how best to raise and love his wife and children.

Even though his father did not have a lot of money and at times would go to town and not bring him anything, he was always sure of the love that his father felt for him. His father did not need to tell him — he could tell by the way that his father interacted with him, the way he spoke to him and how he made sure that he never wanted for anything.

His perception of life in general was shaped by his father being there, and even though his father died this man feels his father’s presence each time he has to make a difficult decision. How many of us can speak so fondly of our fathers?

We often think that money is the answer to everything and, if as a parent you are unemployed, you think that you have nothing to offer­ your child, which, of course, is not true. Nothing is better than love. It has become the norm for women to be the heads of households as more men are refusing to take their place in society and be part of their family.

As Mothers’ Day approaches I cannot help but be proud of my mother for what she is in my life. As a single mother who is raising­ a young man on my own I often have sleepless nights as I wonder if I’m doing right by him. Am I influencing him to follow the right path and why do I have to shoulder all this by myself while his father is alive and well? Should he not be taking his place as a father and teaching our son how to be a man?

I recently had the bitter-sweet experience of going to the maintenance court, and the stories I heard left a bad taste in my mouth. I could not comprehend how so many men who are able to are refusing to support their children financially­. A story that stands out in my mind is about the married woman­ who was­ seated next to me whose husband is refusing to support­ his children financially.

I thought, how do you deal with a situation like this as these people­ continue to live as a couple. But what about the damage that this process will have on their relationship?

Of course the children will be caught in the middle, as maintenance is not about the woman hating­ the man, but about him taking responsibility for his child. The question remains: is it fair, with our already overstretched government having to deal with HIV/Aids and poverty, to have to force men to be responsible for their children. It really­ is a sad state of affairs.

I will never apologise for raising my son on my own as I have no choice. His father refuses to be part of his life and now the courts have to force him to take financial care of him. It is a pity that the courts cannot teach him to be a father­.

How do people look at themselves in the mirror knowing that they have failed the one person who loves them unconditionally? How do people walk down the street with pride knowing that a piece of paper is forcing them to be responsible for their own flesh and blood?

I have four brothers, none of whom has children. I always look at my younger brother with love and pride as he tries to spend as much time as possible with my son so that he can “man up” as he puts it.

He has made me realise that it is the little things that later on in life make him a better man. I hope that my brothers grow up to become parents whom I can be proud of and whom my son can look up to, because they are the only father figures he has.

I’m not perfect, but I hope that my son grows up to take his rightful place in society by becoming a father, lover and man who his children­ can emulate.

Men all over the world will continue to sing the praises of their mothers and other women if fathers­ refuse to stand up and be counted.

• Nandipha Ngomane works for the Department of Land Affairs and writes in her personal capacity.

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