Why are we mean to other people’s children?

A common saying in my language roughly translates – ‘to be a mother, one must carry a baby to truly qualify’. This week, the world witnessed the tragedy of Chrissy Teigen losing a pregnancy and I could not help but think of the heartbreak of losing a child and in her case candidly inviting in the world to share in her grief. I know there are many who have been through this painful and heartbreaking experience who have not been able to share with anyone but grieve in private and sometimes alone.

This same week, there was also a story that broke out in Ghana west Africa where a child had her hands burned by her aunt for not completing her chores to the satisfaction of the aunt. While I thought of the heartache of losing a child, I could not help but think of children who have lost their parents for whatever reason and have ended up with other people to care for them. I saw the images of the disfigured hands of the young girl, who at the age of ten was expected to finish her chores to a certain standard without any room for mistakes – it dawned on me that most people do not like to raise other people’s children.

Where I come from, to be childless is a state most women avoid at all cost and many have lost their lives in a quest to avoid the reproach of being childless. While such importance is placed on being a mother and having a child, one would think children, regardless if they are yours or not, would be treated with kindness. Unfortunately, this is not the case and when children are left in the care of other people that are not their biological parents, the results are sometimes fatal. This realisation also made me question why some people had children at all – and the most glaring answer to this question was this need for one to be taken care of in their old age by their children; I will explore this subject in the future.

For several reasons, children are left in the care of relatives/friends and the stories that come from these situations are sometimes horrific to say the least. There are several people who when children are left in their care see this as an opportunity to explore children to pick up chores in their homes they would have otherwise paid someone to do. I watched a documentary recently, where children from poor homes in Uganda travelled across the border to Kenya to work as domestic help – and while these poor children set out to work for a better future, the treatment they received at the hands of their employers, mostly women was appalling. These women were themselves mothers and to think that they would be comfortable to hire and then treat other peoples children to the point of sometimes physically assaulting them left so many questions unanswered for me.

A few years ago, a controversial Ghanaian media personality took to social media to expose her domestic worker as a thief. She had posted an image of the poor girl, whom if I may add, had blood shot eyes from crying. This person went on to post that they had reported the case to the police and the case was being investigated – so the question then was, why would she take to social media to shame a girl who may or may not have taken the things she accused her of? And if the case was with the police, why would this person then feel the need to post such chatracter damaging posts of the young girl? I remember speaking to my friend about this and she agreed with me that when it comes to children without parents or with poor parents, society in most instances treat them anyway with no consequences. I feel it is time we addressed these issues of child abuse and neglect especially when left in the care of other people. 

If you have ever watched any African movies, to be specific, Nigerian or Ghanian, you will always notice the norm in which domestic help, who are normally younger or poorer relatives that live with more wealthier relatives, are treated so poorly and with disdain. It then seems like this has become the norm when treating other people’s children and there is no regard for their well being when they are being dealt with. I know several people who grew up with relatives and eight out of ten of these cases ended with them being abused. A lady I know spoke of how every time her aunt spoke to her, while she lived with her as a young girl, she would carry out the conversation in fear of being physically assaulted. This lady lived with her aunt for almost ten years and her parents who were living in other countries sent large sums of money for her upkeep – but this did not curb her aunt from abusing her daily. She shared how this experience had made her timid in her adult life and afraid to carry out certain conversations.

When I read the story of the poor ten year old who had had her hand disfigured by her aunt – I noticed the uproar of several social commentators on how cruel the aunt was. But this is not a new thing, as a matter of fact it is a common daily occurance. Why then did we all seem so shocked when this incident hit the news? With Ghana being a predominant Christian nation, I would be surprised if this aunt was not a frequest church attender – but where is the practice of true religion translating into the act of taking care of the unfortunate in our societies? We turn a blind eye to the plight of the needy and vulnerable in our neighbourhood but show extreme disgust at stories that happen far from us – why is this so? And should children be employed as domestic help?

Constantly subjecting other peoples children to cruelty is a practice that needs to stop – and I am glad that the aunt of the poor girl was arrested to face the law. Do not accept to live with someone’s child if you are incapable of showing them simple human decency. It is okay to decline to care for a child if you are unale to for whatever reason – and for parents leaving children for economic reasons, please do your homework before leaving your child in the care of a relative or friend. In the cases of death and illness of parents, one does not have much choice but to accept what is available, in these cases, let’s show kindness to these poor children. The media and social commentators have their part to play – there is a need to change the narratives when it comes to children living with relatives or serving as domestic help. Poverty should not be a reason to abuse other human beings, especially children.

Poverty should not be a reason to abuse other human beings, especially children.

I know there are many out there who have been subjected to these bad treatments whiles living with people that were not their parents. This realisation became clear by the comments I recieved when I commented on a YouTube post about this issue. I would love to hear from you and perhaps share your experience to help us change the narrative.

Poverty should not be a reason to abuse other human beings, especially children.

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