THE REALITIES OF AN ABSENT FATHER
Written by: Zama Ngcoya
The month of June in South Africa is a very significant one. It is known to many as the Youth Month. This is in memory of the events of the 1976 Soweto Students Uprising where over 500 youths were killed by the apartheid regime police in a protest against being taught in Afrikaans.
Although the 16th is a public holiday celebrated annually, it is not the only day in the month of June which is of importance to many. Every year, Father’s Day is celebrated in South Africa, and in other countries on the third Sunday of the month. This is to honour fathers and father figures for the contribution which they make in the lives of the children, the parental bonds shared between them, and the influence which they have in society.
However, for others, such as Noluthando Miya, Father’s Day was of no significance.
“For me there is no such thing as Father’s Day.” It is just a day like any other. I do not have anything against it though, but it is useless to celebrate a day when I just have a vivid memory of times spent with my father,” said Miya, as she shared her sentiments on this particular day.
Although Miya’s father is alive and well, a relationship between the two of them is one only lived in her dreams.
“I do not have a relationship with my father. I cannot even remember the last time we even bonded. He is always occupied with something,” added Miya.
According to the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR), in 2013 alone, only 33 percent of children lived with both parents. From the remaining 67 percent of children, 39 percent lived with their mothers, only 4 percent with their fathers, 8 percent with other family members, 0.5 percent in child-headed households and the remaining 15.5 percent lived in care homes or with non-biological parents.
This served as an indication of the growing trend in the number of individuals who grew up in the absence of their fathers.
According to website, 2 KNOW MYSELF, the father is usually the one responsible for helping the child in developing his life skills. They further listed some of the complications that might happen to a child with an absent father. These included financial insecurity, lack of life skills, inability to comply to laws or authorities, the feeling of being deprived of love, and inferiority.
Although 2 KNOW MYSELF highlighted some of the complications one who is without a father might face, they went on to advise how one could go about leading a healthy normal life, in the absence of their fathers.
“Doing the right thing” is explained as a manner in which you can avoid suffering from developmental problems. Basically, they elaborate that if you are able to develop an unwanted personality disorder, you can also unlearn it by taking the right steps. In other words, the development problems that might have happened to you aren’t permanent and you can still get rid of them if you wanted.
For many, the concept of “father” is one with which they do not relate. For Maxine Kok, although she is female, her mother plays the role of both a father and mother in her life.
“For me, a father is someone who provides for you, both emotionally and financially. It is someone who gives you that sense of protection and comfort, and in my life, it is my mother who does all of that. So to me- that qualifies her for the title of father,” said Kok.
Kok added that although she had not met her father, his void could be felt when she was much younger.
“Growing up, it was difficult not having a father. The stories shared by my friends about having both parents who provided and cared for them really hurt me, but as I got older, I learnt that he was not a part of my life by his choices, so I had to suck it up, and focus on my life with the father I knew- and that was my mother,” said Kok.
For Luyanda Mthembu on the other hand, not having a father impacted negatively on him.
“I had a very difficult upbringing without my father. I was bullied by my peers, and since I lived with just my mom and four other female siblings, it was very difficult because there was no male figure that I could confide in about manly stuff,” said Mthembu.
Mthembu concluded that the absence of a father served as a valuable lesson for him.
“I know what it is like to grow up without both parents. I ended up abusing drugs to numb myself, and I committed theft to get what my mother could not afford for me. But that whole experience taught me a valuable lesson- and when I am much older, I will definitely be a better parent to my children,” said Mthembu.
*Caption: A father playing with his daughter