Features — 06 July 2007 — by Stephen Okeke
There comes a time of the year that is called “Mothers’ Day.” It is a time of celebration and sharing gifts. It is a time of telling about the goodness and greatness of motherhood. In fact, it is a celebration of “parenthood”, as single mothers are often referred to as parents too. It is a great time indeed. You couldn’t miss the festivities. Everybody is involved: men, women, and children. Ordinarily, men feel very comfortable to see their children celebrating motherhood. If children are at peace with their mothers, it is thought to be a good thing in a traditional society, since the children spend most of their time with their mothers. Thus, it is assumed to reduce schism, the cost of discipline, and other requirements for effective home management. But in the modern society, the rules of engagement have extensively changed, though many people continue to fight the new battle the old way with the same old expectations. Things have changed, and it is expedient we now work to understand the difference.
THEN COMES FATHERS’ DAY
Then comes that point in the year that is called “Fathers’ Day.” It is quite a contrast to Mothers’ Day. As the day approaches, it is mothers, and nominally women activists, or worse, feminists, who are called in to outline the evils fathers commit. Fathers are berated. Men are decimated. Manhood is dissolved in humiliation, as a number of handpicked men are invited to television and radio shows to validate the dissolution. The men who are called in seem to sing the same tune year after year. This sometimes makes one wonder if they do that to be welcomed at the women’s round table, or to maintain their seats, if they had secured one at such social tables. Or have these men and the women they so seem to be driving to please, not taken time to understand the disservice they are doing against the society and their own children, especially their sons? On each Fathers’ Day, a certain string of messages seem to stand out: “Men are macho;” “Men think it is bad to cry;” “Men are not men at home; they should stand up and be men;” “Women are now better than men;” “Men are runaway fathers;” “Men don’t support their children; they don’t pay child support,” “… think about it; they father children everywhere;” “… some of these women have up to twelve children, and the men do not even pay child support.. and these women are punishing because of these men…these men should stop impregnating the women .. it is simply wrong.”
THE BUSINESS OF CHILD BEARING
This should in no way suggest the slightest imagination against the children of single parents or particularly single mothers. It is unfortunate that some children find, and many more will still find themselves in family arrangements they would wish were different. Fortunately, some break away from the norm and excel in life. However, many of these children, as a result of their predisposition, remain in the locks of broken dreams, truncated aspirations, and the endless search for the love of a father for a long time. Everyone born into such heartbreak should aspire to be different – to give to their own children what they never had. But, when a single woman has children from five, six, ten or twelve different men, who really is to blame? Naturally, the modern society, and the present Belizean reality seem to have one latch – the man. A man is blamed for having a child with a woman that has had children for other men, even though the woman was aware that the man has children by other women he may not be really handling soundly. A Casanoving bee-man is even blamed for fathering a child by a woman and not being able to support her. Yes, the bee-man is blamed for perching on an inviting flower that was there baring its color, and calling for whoever will to come in and take some nectar. Will the bee not rather be thanked for doing the flower a favor?
It is disrespectful of womanhood to lay blame solely at the feet of the men who are in this business of making babies. It seems to suggest that the woman involved is so clueless and unintelligent that decisions about her femininity and procreative life have to be made for her by others. There are usually no issues of force involved in all such cases brought up as models. And they are not termed cases of rape. Thus, it could be assumed that the woman involved consented after some form of negotiation that must have taken place. She obviously decided not to employ all the resources of contraception at her disposal. How can we come to this conclusion? It is because, if the first and second times were a mistake, what will the fourth and fifth times be? Or does she forget her head in a closet once touched around sweet areas? If she deliberately keeps away all the contraceptive resources available, including the popularly advertised “raincoat,” knowing all the risks of disease involved, and the chances of conception, what else could be her motive? Could making babies for child support money be an issue?
CHILDREN ARE A SURE SOURCE OF INCOME
While there are other emotional reasons why some women may like to look “big” year after year, we could afford to pick up first the economic aspects of those decisions. Notably, the single mothers who are often seen with those packs of children from different men can be found to fall into a certain rung of the society. It is therefore not distant to suggest that their main consideration in child “production” may have more of an economic feel to it than otherwise. It is uncommon, but quite notable to have heard full fledged women in Belize asking stark strangers to let them have a baby for them. On examining such occasions closer, the reasons those women have given consistently has been that “at least you cud’a take care of me and mi pikni dem.” It is not often a love thing: it is driven by the “numbers.”
One more child is produced with the next best and promising man in order to maintain the children of the previous man, if he has stopped “behaving” himself. With the lucky ones who were lucky to latch unto responsible roving-bees, an additional man, at least, ensures a lifestyle closer to the “dream.” After collecting from each man at the end of the week or month, there will be enough to try out a Boledo shot, or a swipe at the slot machines. Unfortunately, the good intended provisions of the Family Court become abused also, as it is casually employed by such persons solely as a collection agent to hunt down men who were intentionally entrapped into fatherhood solely for the economic benefits of the mother. At the end of all the scheming and moves, the innocent children are trapped in the conflict and grow up with such sense of loss that is complicated by the constant blame of the chorusing voices that blame his father for running away.
If the judgment against fathers as runaways is not tempered in Belize, the trend will only continue and even get worse, filling the streets in the process with angry young people who feel lost and bitter against everyone. And this trend can be, at least, slowed down by holding the mothers even more responsible for these children who are brought into the world, in many instances, to suffer. No man can “go in” except she “opens up.” If she decides to ignore all the resources available to her to avoid so much conception, the society should not be called into the yoke, thereby clouding the efforts to help those women who have legitimate needs with child support. It is time for us as Belizeans to look these issues in the face and confront them. And those men who at the first prompt, for fear of being disapproved by women, strangely attack manhood, should now know that they are doing women a big disservice, and contributing to the confusion of their children as to the essence of manhood.
ABSENT FATHERS? WHO ARE THEY, AND WHY ARE THEY?
Acceptably, in a number of legitimate cases, there are absent fathers. Or, are they? In some cases, will it be more appropriate to call them “driven away” fathers? But why do men walk away from home (do women walk away too)? Why would a man walk away from his children? Why do black men walk away from their children (“white men” walk away too)? Have we found answers to these salient questions, or do we cow along with the descriptions given to us by feminists who clearly have agendas that differ from even the desires that drive us to tow along the solutions they offer? As a point on mark, a feminist will not be satisfied even if a man becomes the best there could ever be. The desires, aspirations, fears, prejudices and objectives of a feminist are different from those of an ordinary woman.
NEXT: Why do men walk away?