We live in an age where single motherhood has become the norm, where “sisters are doing it for themselves”. It is touted as the ultimate liberation ÔÇô the words ‘I don’t need a man to help me raise my kids’ are heard all too often. In days gone by, it was considered taboo to have a child out of wedlock.
While I may not agree with the ensuing discrimination of single mothers that came with the stigma, there was certainly some merit to the promotion of double parenthood. Bringing a child into the world should be a decision made by two people willing to stick together to raise the child together. Now, some of you may argue that some children are better off without their fathers, and that there is no guarantee that parents will stick together after vowing to do so in front of God, family and friends. I acknowledge that there are no guarantees, but I am compelled to stress that what is most important for any child is for parents to provide the child with an environment that will provide optimum social and psychological development. The home environment should be one in which the child is shown unconditional love and NEVER has to question the love of either parent, and can therefore develop to their full potential. A two-parent home is the best place to provide just such an environment.
The decision to have a child is primarily a selfish one, based on one’s own need to feel we have contributed to society in some way and one’s desire to leave behind a legacy of sorts. Oh yes, and the good old ‘my biological clock is ticking’. Let me pause on that one a second, because that’s the reason that many single mothers give for not waiting for a lifelong partner to have a child. With this type of ideology, we bring into the world a generation of children conceived out of a wish to beat the biological clock, with no regard for the role that fathers play in the development of their children. Most people would vehemently chastise a pregnant woman depriving herself of food, or one who dismissively continues binge-drinking sessions with the girls. One would not sit back and watch as a friend starves herself during pregnancy, but would cheer on a friend who announces that she is deliberately going to fall pregnant and have her child fathered by a casual sex partner or somebody else’s husband. After all, it’s her body and she has the right to reproduce when she wants to and with whom she wants. Starving a fetus of food is abhorrent but starving a child of paternal love is condoned.
Now men, don’t think you’re off the hook on this one. Most women become single parents because men in our society tend to shy away from their parental responsibilities. And sometimes they are encouraged to do so by another woman, a single parent herself. One might even wonder whether there is a national child-phobia epidemic amongst our men. Few children born to unmarried parents ever have much of an emotional bond with their fathers (though we could argue the same holds true for some children brought up in a two-parent home). However, many of them are themselves the progeny of ‘refugee’ fathers (light bulb flash yet?). It is a never-ending cycle that requires a conscious decision to break out of.
Numerous psychological studies have repeatedly proven some of the detrimental effects of single parenthood ÔÇô academic problems, behavioral and conduct problems, multiple sex partners to name just a few. Children born to single mothers are three times more likely to themselves become single parents. Is that the life we really want for our children? Parenting was ideally meant to be shared by two people ÔÇô one male and one female. It may sound antiquated to some, but the reality is that each parent plays a significant role in the development of a child. Together, both parents are responsible for the emotional, social and moral development of a child. For one parent to shoulder the gargantuan task of parenting meant for two, there is bound to be a resulting shortfall somewhere along the line.
The importance of the parent-child relationship and its influence in the child’s life is often undermined, yet it is this relationship that forms the basis of the child’s subsequent relationships with peers and eventually with sexual partners. Girls who come from homes without a father tend to have dysfunctional relationships with their significant other, because these girls never had a template for relationships with the opposite sex typically provided by the father-daughter relationship. Boys who grow up without a father do not have a model for how to behave as a man or how to treat a woman. Subsequently they learn about masculinity and intimate relationships from the streets. Knowledge from the streets produces men whose notion of masculinity is fictitious and therefore unattainable ÔÇô and it is the frustration borne out of an inability to live up their distorted concept of masculinity that leads to some of our societal ills.
As the child’s primary socializing agent, parents are ultimately responsible for modeling socially responsible self-regulation. Modeling is also an important process in learning social roles and the acquisition of skills. A single mother, despite her best efforts, cannot teach her son how to be a man. She may tell him what is expected of him as a man but without someone to model that behavior, he is disadvantaged in his learning of his social roles. With our nation of single mothers, is it any wonder that we have so many young men who don’t know how to appropriately handle the disappointment of the ending of a relationship? Or that we have so many young boys and even men who have no reverence for women? Where would such a young man learn how to respect women if his father left his mother, and he was raised with a string of men coming in and out of her life? How would a girl learn to hold herself in high esteem when she has watched her mother being treated with insolence by the men in her life?
We complain about today’s social ills yet do not introspect to see how as a society and as individual parents we have contributed to them. As long as it remains en-vogue to prove that a woman does not need a man to help her raise her child, or for a man to shelve his parental responsibility, we will continue to produce a nation of children hungry for fathers. The child may not verbalize this need because they hardly recognize it, but you can be sure it will come out in the behavior ÔÇô lack of love and respect for self and others. Let us start acting as responsible adults and stop starving our children of paternal love.