I was listening to a sermon some years back from a well known preacher in Ghana – this man was preaching about the blessings of a father and he was of the stance that even if fathers abandoned their children, these neglected children should look for their fathers so they can do well in life. To be honest, as I listened to this man of the cloth, I was saddened and annoyed that he, who from all indications had very close relationships with his children, refused to look at the abuse these abandoned individuals had faced and chose to tell these victims to seek out the favour of such irresponsible men. I came to the sad conclusion that when it came to men, there was more leniency towards them by society than women. I listened to this preacher give various examples of how certain individuals he knew and had heard of had gone through so much hardships because they had chosen to not include their fathers in their lives after they were abandoned by these men. As I continues listening, I remembered telling myself that this man was not telling the truth but rather pandering to the men in his congregation.
I remembered this sermon because I saw an advert for a Ghanaian talk show on a popular tv channel and the topic for discussion was ‘should fathers be neglected for abandoning their children’. When I saw this advert on social media, many people in the comments were asking why the TV station would even decide to discuss this topic – to some extent I agreed with the people who were not happy with the TV station but on the other hand, I wanted to hear what these fathers had to say for themselves. Coming from Ghana, I know all too well how a certain generation of men were happy to have children and have nothing to do with these children as soon as their relationships with their mothers ended. There are several adults who want nothing to do with their fathers because they had no relationship with their fathers. In some years past, in certain tribes in Ghana, children were raised mainly by their mothers and their mother’s brothers were the ones that paid for their upkeep – some how, I think this affected fatherhood to some extent where I come from and the effects are still visible in our society.
A few years ago, there was a popular footballer whose father publicly asked for the forgiveness of this very successful football player and to also help pay for his medical bills. The mother of this footballer was incensed because this father abandoned her and their child and she had to raise him all by herself. To her, this father was showing up because he wanted money from his son and not necessarily a relationship. There were several opinions form the public – majority of women thought the mother was right for being angry but most men were of the mind that the mother had poisoned the mind of this footballer against his father. I can understand that perhaps, the mother out of her bitterness towards the father may have talked negatively about the father to her son – but my question was, why did this man not assert his presence in his son’s life? Why did he go off and start life with another family somewhere without though for his child? These stories are common and I have heard many people talk about how their father’s left home never to return – only looking for their children when they were in need. I once heard a man tell his ex wife, when she approached him for money to pay the fees of their children, that he would not pay the fees and that these children would definitely come looking or him some day whether he took care of their needs or not.
In certain cultures, a large number of men are just sperm donors who have no interest in the upbringing of their children. This trend of absentee fathers has been so common that when a man steps up to raise children singlehandedly, it becomes an extraordinary story and attracts a lot of admiration and publicity – but women do it all the time without a mention. I understand that there have been instances where some men had no idea they had fathered children – the relationship ended and their partner refused to tell them that she was pregnant. But if men are aware that children exist that belong to them, and choose to abandon them, I think they deserve to be neglected by these children in future. The father had a choice to be a part of their child’s life and the child also has a choice to neglect the father. In a certain culture where absentee fathers is so common, we have all seen the negative effect in the number of children of these absent men incarcerated and sink into a life of crime because they had no positive male example. We have also seen the cycle of young women becoming single mothers to children with no father around in this same culture and the cycle of poverty and crime continue in this culture.
There are great fathers all around who expect no praises for raising their children – they are content with the ‘great dad’ socks, mugs, ties and cufflinks they receive every year. The point is, the impact and legacy of fathers in the lives of their children is beyond the celebration of fathers day. As I read the comments on the advertisement for the talk show on whether fathers who abandoned their children should be neglected, there were several narratives on how many missed having a father In their lives. Form the comments, these fathers knew they existed but chose to abandon them and these children have grown up to neglect their fathers. They were not seeking out these fathers for their blessings and they were doing very well from all accounts – but as I read their comments, I could feel their pain of never experiencing their fathers love. Children do not ask to be born and raising children is not the responsibility of mothers only – it is the responsibility of both parents whether they are together or not.
To the great dads out there, happy fathers day – to the single mothers raising children on your own playing both mum and dad, happy fathers day to you too. Thank you for always getting in touch and sharing your experiences – please continue to share your experiences so we can effect the change we need.