Andile Mbobi is a single father who’s currently raising his son in Tokai, Cape Town.
The 35-year-old says he became his child’s primary guardian when his son was about two years old. This was by mutual agreement as the child’s mother had difficulty being a parent.
A 2016 General Household Survey found that 64,1% of children in South Africa have absent fathers, this makes Andile an anomaly. But he says he wants to be a present parent because he doesn’t want his son to go through the same things he did as a child.
“I took a gamble because of the difficulties faced by my son’s mother back then; he was still in nappies. The whole ordeal was a challenge to me but as time went by, I started enjoying it. I would wake up in the middle of the night as he would be restless, he would cry and because I was new to all of this, I didn’t know what to do.”
“Sometimes I would phone my sister and she would advise me. I enjoyed my son’s nappy stage, it kept me grounded because we created a special bond, we are so close that he feels comfortable with me more than his mother now,” he adds.
Andile says both parents agreed he be their son’s main guardian.
“I take him to see his mother every now and then because there was a mutual agreement and it was our decision that I take care of my son and for him to stay with me. At first my sister didn’t accept the decision as the child was still young and she expected the mother to bond with the baby, but she eventually warmed up to the fact that I’m caring for him, and she offered to assist me when needed.”
Andile’s son is now five years old and he lives with him while the mother visits.
“I was raised by a single mother and being present in my son’s life was a challenge at first, in our generation we need to raise boys who become respectable men. As fathers we need to teach our sons how to be respectful young boys.”
“I grew up without my father and by raising my son it feels like I’m correcting my father’s wrongs by being present and raising my son by myself. Parenting is a cruise, there are highs and there are lows,” he adds.
“I want to do for my son what my dad didn’t do for me,” he explains.
When Andile first took on the role as single parent his daily routine and priorities had to change because his son had to take centre stage.
“I wake up early in the morning to prepare my son for crèche before I prepare for work, I take out the clothes he’ll wear the night before and I check the weather to make sure he’s dressed accordingly. I worry about his safety while I’m at work. At the end of the day I pick him up from crèche to be with him at home.”
Andile says the routine of taking his son to crèche is challenging but he had to adapt to it, he also had to learn what it means to be a father by doing all the little things for his son.
“Sometimes my son and I would walk in the rain and the morning coldness would be too much for him and as a father I would feel for him. Although it was challenging, I eventually learnt to enjoy being such a huge part of my son’s life.”
Being a single father hasn’t stopped Andile from being social and spending time with his friends. He works for correctional services and the environment he works in can be stressful.
“On some weekends I take him to his mother just so I can have time for myself.”
“It has been a learning curve and a very fruitful journey; I am enjoying it and I am looking forward to the challenges to come. As my son gets older, he behaves differently. I thought I was strict with him but I’m realising I’m soft because I also understand he’s still a child and when he throws tantrums, I collect myself so that I don’t react harshly towards him.”
Andile says fatherhood is a journey he’s enjoying and that he learns each day what it means to build a strong bond with his son. “I wish fathers could be granted equal rights with mothers legally, and this is a step in the right direction.”