Wishing?my mum a happy Father’s Day

2013-06-16 14:00

Isn’t it ironic that on Father’s Day I write about Lathiwe, my mum? She was a formidable woman who raised seven of us without any formal education.

I have never met my father in my 50-plus years of life.

Lathiwe was a father who provided for us in all respects, be it emotional or material.

But above all, she provided warmth.

We grew up never knowing that we were poor, but when I look back, I realise that we were indeed poor.

Here is this single woman who made sure that she instilled hope and optimism in my life and the lives of my siblings.

It’s been almost 15 years since her passing, but her footprints, teachings and the values that she instilled in me remain part and parcel of my life.

My mum was in and out of jail for selling the so-called illicit “mbamba” beer. This to ensure we would never

go to bed hungry or go to school barefoot on any winter’s day.

She faced humiliating experiences in the name of raising her kids.

It is these heroic deeds that will remain with me forever.

My mum exemplified what all African languages say about mothers: “Mma ngwana o tswara thipa ka bohaleng” (loosely translated as “a mother will always be at the forefront to ensure she is the one to deal with any danger to her kids”).

I am sure the majority of men can relate to their own experience of their mothers who single-handedly raised them when their fathers were never in their lives.

I will not deny the fact that I do miss the presence of a father in my life for various reasons.

I am convinced that there were situations that would have been handled by him had he been around, such as my coming of age, what it means to be a man, and so on.

One cannot overemphasise the importance of fathers being in their children’s lives.

Data from 2009, as reported by the South African Institute of Race Relations, indicates that 48% of children in South Africa have fathers who are alive but absent.

Given this, we should also caution ourselves when exaggerating that a father’s mere presence in children’s lives will make them better human beings, as this may not always be the case.

What fathers will contribute positively to humanity is emotional, intellectual, spiritual, physical, and even financial support and presence.

I would therefore argue that fathers play an important and critical role in the total upbringing of our children, and their absence therefore could have debilitating effects.

This includes confusion around what it means to be a man, dealing with anger, alcohol abuse, taking unnecessary risks or yielding to peer pressure.

Despite my father’s absence, my mother was able to guide me in all these ways and remains my hero.

Lathiwe, wherever you are, you remain that figure who is solid, who gave me the fatherly love

I needed. I thank you for that.

I would also like to salute all those mothers who continue to play what is ordinarily supposed to be a father’s role and tell them that it is not in vain.

Happy Father’s Day to all those single mothers.

I would also like to laud those fathers who are already in the lives of their children.

I would like to urge them to continue their emotional investment because fatherhood is not only about religiously paying maintenance or pushing and filling the grocery trolley.

Even though these things are important, fatherhood is also about spending quality time listening, playing, loving and caring for your children without expecting anything in return.

It is this investment that all fathers should be dedicating themselves to.

I challenge these amazing men to become examples in their own families and communities.

Doing so will not only be good for your children, but will also indicate your own gender activism.

Doing gender equality work for men is, in some instances, a lonely road in that one may be accused of “selling out” what it means to be a real man.

But the rewards are overwhelming.

To me, doing this work is in some way payback to my mother for the sterling work she did in my own life.

»?Botha is the government and media relations officer at the Sonke Gender Justice Network

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