I often find myself wondering how many men with children are truly fathers. Let me be clear, merely making a woman pregnant does not make you a father; it merely makes you a man with a child.
A father is a man who is present, loving, patient and kind. He supports his children not only financially but emotionally and physically as well. If you deliberately miss out on your child’s life, if you choose not to be there to pick your child up when they fall, if you deliberately miss out on birthdays, graduations and even heartbreaks, are you really a father? Or are you, perhaps just a man with a child?
We often refer to “female headed households” to denote households where there is no adult male or at least no male who is economically active. With that said, data from the World Bank indicates that in 2007, 44% of households in Namibia were headed by women. This means a staggering percentage of boys in Namibia grow up without a male role model. This doesn’t consider the number of male-headed households in which the man is abusive to the woman and/or the children. The role model is there, he’s just a terrible one.
The first example a child will have of a romantic relationship is that of the relationship between his/her parents. Therefore, if this relationship is violent or dysfunctional in any manner, this is what children absorb as the norm. Girls come to expect and accept abuse and unfaithfulness and boys learn that being abusive and unfaithful is what is expected of them and thus, the cycle is perpetuated.
Namibian men, are you a father or are you a man with a child? If you have not been present in your child’s life to date, make a change. Treat your child’s mother with respect and as a result, teach your daughter her worth. Teach your son how to be a man of integrity, the value of a woman and how to be gentle with a woman. Fathers, teach your children how to love and how to be loved. Be a father, not just a man with a child.
-Ndapewoshali Ndahafa Ashipala