Neglected fathers or reaping fruits of their negligence?
Stories are rife of children who dote and extremely spoil their aging mothers, while ignoring their dads offering them little or no help. Where did the rain started beating these men?
Manuel Ntoyai @Manuel_Ntoyai
“Two of my neighbour’s children live abroad with their spouses and only visit during December holidays.
Although the family is well off, you can always tell that there is something wrong because the father is always hanging around the local pub enjoying his drink or washing down his frustrations.
And when asked about the welfare of his children, he always says, wako sawa na mama yao,” says John Mosian, a Kitengela resident.
According to John, the father blames his wife for poisoning their children’s minds, despite him working hard to educate them and even paid for their upkeep while they were studying abroad.
“Last month, they bought their mother a new car. The dad still uses his old jalopy and wears old suits,” he adds.
This is not an isolated case. Popular musician and Tanzania’s Wasafi Records CEO, Diamond Platinumz has been accused of neglecting his father while his mother swims in luxury and enjoys the pleasures of being in the limelight with her son.
It is said that Diamond holds a grudge against his dad, Abdul Juma for neglecting their young family when they were young. And even if they patched things up in 2019, nothing much changed.
Last year as Covid-19 hit, Diamond promised to pay three months rent to 500 Tanzanians.
In an interview with a Tanzaniab blog, Mzee Abdul said, “It will be well if he remembers me too.
We don’t talk, but sometimes I speak to Babu Tale (Diamond’s manager). You cannot force someone into doing something.
He shouldn’t stay too long to a point that he forgets me, God forgives, he should also forgive.”
And over the weekend, Diamond’s mother dropped the bombshell that Abdul is not the singer’s biological father.
“I have on many occasions told him that if he had accepted the pregnancy, the child would have been his. He has done nothing,” she said.
Lack of connection
Social media has been awash with stories of fathers neglected by their children in their old age, while mothers are literally spoilt to death.
When the children visit their folks in the village, they give their dad Sh200 in front of the mother while the mother is pulled to the kitchen and left with a bundle of notes.
The mothers visit these children who stay in big cities or abroad for months and even years, while poor mzee is left in the village to look after their few livestock and take care of the shamba. Why is this so? You may ask.
Psychologist Laureate Rota opines that when growing up, some children feared their fathers.
They ran to their mothers for positive affirmations while dads executed punishments.
So, most children still thought their mum was the angel and the ‘good’ parent.
“We cannot entirely blame the men as we all know our society does not allow men to open up or be emotional.
So, our fathers were not socialised to build strong emotional bonds with their children.
As long as a man provided financially, the rest of the holistic wellbeing of the children was left to the mother,” she says.
Seventy-year-old Mzee Ole Pakuo, a Kiserian resident agrees. He says the situation is mostly fuelled by lack of connections as most fathers are always occupied fending for their children, hence do not have enough time to bond with their children.
However, he says some men neglect their families, leaving the mothers to struggle to raise the children alone. These children see all this while growing up.
“You find a man is financially able to provide for his family, but openly neglects them and or physically and emotionally abuse them or the mother.
This often brews contempt as they grow up, loathing everything to do with their father,” he says.
Can children be swayed?
Laureate agrees that most of the time, children cannot be swayed to lean towards one parent, though there are mothers who sow seeds of hatred.
Still, she says there’s sometimes the one side of the story, which is never told, since the African society does not give men space to open up.
The children never get to know what the main issue for the drift is, especially when parents divorce because they also do not talk to their father, and when they do, it is through the mother.
“Just like the way mothers conveyed information to us from our fathers, that is how when the children grow up, mothers pass information to fathers and the problem continues.
For example, you may think the money you send your mother helps your father, which might not be the case.
And since you don’t talk to your father directly, you will never know what’s going on,” she states.
Children who were raised by abusive, addicted, neglectful and/or narcissistic fathers find themselves in a quandary, because they know that society expects them to care for their parents.
Some of them have strong religious beliefs about “honouring their fathers.”
However, many feel that they just cannot provide the care their aging fathers need without incurring additional trauma themselves.
What is the way forward?
“Your parents are human and have likely incurred some trauma of their own, but you must remember that you alone are not responsible for their happiness.
They have made countless decisions throughout their lives that have influenced their health, finances and relationships.
Offering assistance is a kind gesture, but it is not compulsory,” says sociologist Beatrice Nderitu.
“Prioritise your own mental and physical health, ditch the guilt, ignore society’s judgements and expectations, and do some soul searching to find the answer that is right for you,” she advises.
To young fathers, Nderitu has a word of advice. “Treat your wife and children well. Bond with your children. Don’t spend all your time out with the boys.
Let your children see you providing for the family—don’t just give your wife money in the bedroom and tell her to sort out the bills.
Even if it’s your money, you never know, your children just see their mother sorting out the bills and imagine it’s her money.”