There’s been an ongoing debate in the weeks leading up to Father’s Day – today – about the rightness or wrongness of giving unmarried female parents Father’s Day cards. One woman, Cherise Jackson, writing for the Liberty Voice in an article titled, ‘Father’s Day is Not for Single Mothers’ had this to say:
“The concept of Father’s Day was inspired by a single dad who embraced the challenge of raising his six children alone after his wife died. By including mothers who are single on a day designed for fathers helps the male role in the child’s life become further devalued. Men who are involved in the upbringing of their children should be honoured, celebrated and appreciated; not undervalued. Mother’s Day is always in May and, for those that do not know, Single Parents’ Day is in March.”
I must admit that even as an unmarried parent myself, I did not know that there was a Single Parents’ Day. In this journey of motherhood, you learn something new every day.
That said, Ms Jackson has a point. Men who are involved in the upbringing of their children should be acknowledged for assuming their natural position, because very many men do not. By wishing women a Happy Father’s Day, you are indeed undervaluing the role that men play in the family as a microcosm and society as a whole.
Leave aside for one moment the violence that the women of Nyeri are meting out on their spouses: By stripping men of their parental robe, you are uncovering their nakedness and doing a real number on their ‘transformers’ – symbolically speaking. In denying that men have any real role to play in the lives of their children, you reduce their contribution to the human collective to the mere donation of sperm.
And we cannot have a state of affairs where our children are without their fathers. Therefore, men – especially those in the unmarried parent category – must be encouraged to actively engage their offspring to become and remain key pillars in their lives. They must be called upon to go beyond the writing of child support cheques to the writing of their children’s life stories.
It must be said that women – and men – are unmarried while parenting for a variety of reasons. Some are widowers, others are divorced. Some were left carrying both the baby and the bathwater, while others still choose to parent without being wed. Single parenthood is much more complex than many in society would like to imagine. It is not possible to paint every unmarried parent with the same brush because while the circumstances might be similar, every situation is unique.
Regardless, children need their daddies, and in the absence of those, they need a father figure to prep their young minds for future interactions with the male of the species. To offer guidance. To offer love. To provide stability and security. Most of these things a mother can do, but there are some things that a father will do different. The kind of different that is essential for a child.
My father was married to my mother for 40-plus years before she died in 2008. He was very much a married parent, who did his best to raise his five girls in a manner worthy of the title ‘Father’. At the ripe old age of 75, he hasn’t stopped fathering. When I was on maternity leave, still struggling with milk production, he bought me a jiko, the charcoal to light it and what seemed like the tails of several oxen, because he knew I needed to drink soup. He’s the kind of man who rarely takes off his ‘father hat’. Little things like those, remind a child that a good man out there has her back.
Even as we co-parent while unmarried, I know for sure that Adoti’s Daddy has her back. He may not be as hands-on as my own father remains to this day, but he wants the best for his daughter and works hard to ensure that her future is secure. She’s his motivation to succeed. To excel. To make this world just a little bit better because she’s in it.
So on this Father’s Day, I honour, celebrate and appreciate the two Dads in my life and all the other fathers who are involved in the upbringing of their children.