I BELIEVE that single parenting should be celebrated or included and highlighted when we observe Women’s Month.
Since women are in the majority of those who parent children single-handedly, it would be appropriate to find sub-themes that reflect on this.
Women are nowadays certainly not the only ones with the noble task of raising children alone.
There are single fathers too - whether divorced, separated or widowed - it is immaterial.
Women, as single parents, are obviously more competent and dependable.
I remember how I went into depression when my first relationship, after the death of my wife and mother of my daughter, did not work out.
When I took a drive to Howick Falls to commit suicide or kill myself, I knew I was lying. There was no way I was going to leave my 11-year-old daughter.
As I drove to the falls I called my friends, colleagues and relatives to tell them that I was giving up on life because I needed help, not to end my life.
When I got there, I walked to the edge of the falls and looked down where I was supposed to throw myself and came to terms with the fact that jumping was not for the faint-hearted like me.
Thanks to the SAPS in Howick, who swiftly came to remove me from the place where many had succeeded to kill themselves. My relatives and friends took me from the police station after a spending less than an hour in the SAPS’s comfortable lounge for people in distress.
Why was I losing it, was it because I was beginning to be dependent on the new girlfriend who was leaving me because our relationship did not work out. The fact that I drove to the Howick Falls speaks volumes about my incompetence in home economics.
I was giving up because I hate cooking. I was giving up because taking care of my daughter also means doing laundry and this too I do not like doing. I was giving up because I was losing yet another lover and support mate.
Thank God for the boarding house I eventually found for my daughter, with the help of my ex-girlfriend, the ordeal of care-giving was making me give up my right to life because of the sheer incompetence and reluctance to try to get down to the nitty-gritty of parenthood.
But, unlike women, it is often not honest to refer to a man as a “single parent”. It had been hardly two years since my wife had died, but I had already had several girlfriends and the one I have now proves to be competent in home economics.
I am grateful and indebted to her because this is an area I detest or resist to embrace.
Thank God I can do some of the household chores like cleaning the house and washing the dishes with ease, but cooking and laundry are just not my thing, and I have great respect for women who shoulder these household tasks as though it was their second nature. I know of guys who are adept at home economics and I salute each one of them.
One female colleague told me how she came into the life of a former widower who was falling apart as he failed to take care of himself and his house. She told me the guy would break down and cry, missing his late wife.
I have done it all too. I have wept. I have regretted the day I became a parent. I have cursed the day I allowed myself to be a husband to someone.
But there is nothing as wonderful as the knowledge that God has a way of healing us and comforting us when we grieve as a result of the loss of a valued loved one like a mother figure.
I feel there is a God and that He knows us by name and that He cares for us individually and collectively as families, tribes, races, and as a nation.
I know that my struggle is not over until I marry someone again or embrace home economics.
But how do you get married without the constant fear of losing your property and money to a divorce in the not-so-predictable future when there are children from your first marriage whose interest you must take care of?
As a Christian, marriage is priority, but is it safe or worth it? What about the children? What about their inheritance or security?
It is a grave situation to be a single parent. You must have real skills, especially in home economics - cooking, cleaning the house, doing laundry, etc. I would love to employ someone to do these things, but it has taken me a long time to come to terms with the reality that I must be prepared to pay for it given the many expenses I am having to pay for single-handedly.
Many of my single-parent friends, the majority of whom are widowed, belong to women’s support groups. It is important for the plight of single male parents to be considered when celebrating Women’s Month.
Being a single male parent is one of the biggest challenges of the modern era. How will my conservative daughter tell me when she starts to menstruate? As single male parents, we suffer in silence.
Without relatives and girlfriends, and my daughter’s boarding house, I would be better off dead.
• Simphiwe Mkhize writes in his personal capacity. Single parents who wish to talk about their plight can reach him at email@example.com
parent is one of the biggest
challenges of the modern era