Co-parents are not single parents.

I had an interesting conversation (read: argument) the other day with a friend about her use of the term “single mum”. Single parents are not a new phenomenon but they are on the increase globally. I saw a statistic the other day that said “15% of children around the world live in single parent households”. Here in South Africa (SA), only about 30% of children live with both their parents. Of the over 1.1 million births registered by the SA government in 2014, 64% of said registrations had no information regarding the fathers.

There are numerous reasons why single parent households are on the increase but that’s a conversation for another time. Today I just want to scribble about the term “single mother”. I can’t help but think some mothers are misappropriating (for lack of a better word) the term. Now, I agree you don’t live with the father of your child, but is that enough to be categorised as a “single mother?” What if the child’s father is present and active in the child’s life? Are you still a single mother then? My sister and cousin are fitting examples of this:

My sister is a single mother. She takes care of her daughter’s every need. We last saw my niece’s father about 8 years ago. He doesn’t contribute anything to his daughter’s wellbeing. He doesn’t call her, doesn’t send Christmas cards, hell, he doesn’t even know what school she goes to. In fact, he’s pretty much dead to us…till he decides to pop up out of nowhere when his daughter’s all grown up and employed…the absent father’s ultimate party trick.

On the other hand, my cousin’s baby daddy is present in their son’s life. He pays the boy’s school fees, buys him clothes, takes him on holiday with his other kids, and takes him on alternating weekends. He attends most of the boy’s school events and has been there for all his birthdays to date. The only difference between their setup and a “traditional household” is they do not live together. They are married to and live with other people. So can my cousin call herself a single mother? Personally, I don’t think so. Co-parent? Yes! Single mother? No!

And yet, so many women in my cousin’s situation still throw around the term “single mother”. Question is: is that fair to an active father? I play my part in the welfare of our child and you, his mother, continue to label yourself a single mother? Seems a tad unfair don’t you think? More than taking away from an active father, I think it takes away from actual single mothers because, God knows, “real” single mothers have their work cut out for them. It’s even worse when they don’t have a supportive family or adequate finances to get help.

Ultimately, whether you’re a single parent, co-parent, or parent in a “traditional household”, you hold a precious life/lives in your hands as parents. So do everything you possibly can (and more) to ensure your child becomes everything they can be. And remember, unless one parent has died, there really shouldn’t be any single parents out there. If you played your part in creating a life, play your part in raising that life.

**** Just scribbling my parental thoughts ****

Ps: Shout out to the single fathers out there. Rare as they may be, they are there; single handedly raising their kids. We see you too.



Where’s Your Baby Mama?!

Feels like forever since I scribbled anything on Tawanda’s Notepad. Blame that on the massive restructuring that my life is currently undergoing. Yep, new house, city, occupation, everything really. But forget all that. What I really want to talk (moan) about is this thing called fatherhood.

You see, for the past two weeks, I have had my 8 month old son with me. I’ve sort of been playing single dad, if you will. It’s been great really; very eye opening. I mean, I used to think the parent who stayed home with the kids had it easy. WRONG! Going to the office is way easier. In fact, I think a stint at Guantanamo Bay is easier than being a stay-at-home parent. Needless to say, I can’t wait to go back to the safety of my office chair and desk.

But like I said, overall, Little Tee and I have had a ball of a time. The problem is society’s unpreparedness for single dads. I’ll give you an example. Little Tee and I were at the mall the other day. The time comes when I need to change his nappy (that’s a diaper, for my American friends) and, lo and behold, there are no nappy changing facilities in the men’s bathrooms. So I go into the women’s bathrooms. Some women are coming in all perplexed like “what are you doing in here?” “Building a space shuttle” I retort …I mean, what the hell kind of question is that? I’m holding a poop filled nappy in my hand, staring at a baby’s butt….what does it look like I’m doing?

This is just one of many such incidents. The other day Little Tee and I are out having lunch. I ask for some boiling water from the waiter so I can make his milk. Whilst we wait, a hungry Tee starts crying. Some smart ass asks “where’s his mum?”…“she’s dead” I respond. Again, what the hell kind of question is that? What business is it of yours where his mum is? Idiot!

Later in the week, Little Tee and I are checking in for our flight to Jo’burg. I hand the guy at the flight desk our ID documents. He asks “will his mum be joining us?” …WHAT.THE.HELL.KIND.OF.QUESTION.IS.THAT? I look at him somewhat baffled and ask him politely (and, to some extent, condescendingly) “will your mum be joining us?”

My family is no exception. When I told my aunt I’d be playing single dad for a couple of weeks, she was shocked and all she could ask was “what about breast milk? What will Tee do without the breast? He needs the breast!” …“Well, wise Aunt Ruth, I was thinking of either getting a boob job or getting Tee some baby formula…whichever fits my budget (and sanity levels) I guess” …Oh and while I’m at it…what the hell kind of question is that?

I guess what I’m trying to say is Dads are parents too. Just ‘cause you see us with our kids in the absence of their mums, doesn’t mean we are going to capitulate or that our babies are going to end up sharing a box with a vagabond somewhere. So please, STOP ASKING ME WHERE MY BABY’S MAMA IS.

*just scribbling my daddy thoughts*

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