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.

 

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One of my greatest fears

I have to admit, I have one too many fears. Right off the top of my head…I have such a ridiculous fear of snakes. Ophidiophobia it’s called…the abnormal fear of snakes. Just thinking about them scares the bejabers out of me. In primary school some kids (Nazis, if you ask me) put a rubber snake in my blankets. As I was about to get into bed, I spotted just a wee piece of the “snake” and RAN for my life. I not only ran out the dormitory, but out the school yard… in pyjamas. And yes, I cried. But I was only 10…not to say I wouldn’t react the same way today. 🙂

You know what else I have a fear of? Whenever an insect flies into the room, I always have this (irrational?) fear that it will fly into my ears or nose, even if it’s too large to fit into either orifice. The fear of that happening totally throws me off whatever I was doing before it flew in.

I also have a fear of clowns. Maybe it all stemmed from watching Stephen King’s IT as a kid. Or maybe there really is something scary about a grown man in make up, especially one who’s been in the game too long and still gets fewer laughs than a nuclear disaster. Hey, here’s a clown joke for you: Two cannibals are eating a clown. One says to the other “tastes a bit funny”. 😂

Jada Pinkett Smith. I have had a crush on Mrs Smith since her Jason’s Lyric days. But I have such a fear of meeting her (not like that would ever happen). I fear if I ever met her and was left in a room alone with her, I wouldn’t even know what to say. I’d probably just end up playing dead…works in most awkward situations. Just ask my 5th grade science teacher.

Oh, and then there’s jail. I have a morbid fear of incarceration. Just the thought of time passing me by whilst in confinement, the assaults, the physical and mental abuse. It all scares me. But maybe I’m just scared ’cause I’m looking at it all wrong. Maybe I need to look at jail as a gathering of like minded people; a place where lifelong sentences…oops, I mean friendships…a place where lifelong friendships are formed.

I used to be afraid of my bank account a few years ago when I was drowning in debt. Those days were funny though. Swiping my card for a purchase was an extreme sport.

But, jokes aside, what’s my greatest fear? I think my greatest fear is death. I have always feared death in all its inevitability. A little over 18 months ago, I became a father and since then, there is nothing I fear more than the death of my child (children when I have more).

One of my best friends passed away some two years ago now. She was 28 but still, the pain in her mother’s eyes was the most heartbreaking and inconsolable pain I have ever witnessed. Losing a child is absolutely agonising. There really is no greater tragedy and my heart bleeds for anyone who has had to bury their child. I hope to God that I never have to face my greatest fear; that I never have to bury my child(ren). They say one must face their fears…this is one fear I never want to face, ever.

* Just scribbling my fears *

Written for @Writersbootcmp

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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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If I was a woman…

Women supporting women

Today is National Women’s Day here in South Africa; a day through which we honour the women who, in 1956, marched to petition against discriminatory apartheid legislation regarding the movement of Black people. On this day, we celebrate women.

As I woke up today, I, for the first time, really thought about what it would be like to be a woman…from birth, through life, and to death:

If I was a woman….

If I was born a woman, I may not have gone to the schools I went to. In fact, I may not have gone to school at all. Many families still raise their daughters differently from the way they raise their sons. In those families, my brothers would have had way better lives and opportunities than me.

If I was a woman, harassment in the streets by men is something I would have to suffer almost daily. From wolf-whistles and slaps on my backside, to pulling up my skirt, insults or even beatings for my choice of clothing.

If I was a woman, I would be more likely to be raped than learn how to read. After all, in South Africa, a woman is raped every four minutes.

If I was a woman, I may be dishonoured by my family for getting pregnant out of wedlock. Oh and whilst on the subject of marriage, I would probably be labelled a whore, bitter bitch, or directionless loser for not wanting to get married.

Still on marriage, in some countries I would have acid thrown in my face or have my genitals mutilated because I didn’t accept a marriage proposal arranged by my family to some man I have never met; a man probably older than my father.

And if I was married, there would a 33% chance (higher in other countries) that I would be a victim of domestic violence at the hands of my spouse.

Forget marriage, in some parts of the world, I would just be sold for money. After all, women and girls make up 80% of those trafficked for sex and slave labour.

If I was ever pregnant, in some families, I would be killed for not giving birth to a boy. If I’m one of those fortunate enough to be allowed to give birth and keep my child, there is a high chance I would be a single mum, what with so many men abandoning their children.

If I was a woman, I may be passed up for promotions at work simply because I’m a woman. I’d realise the glass ceiling was actually a solid lead opaque ceiling.

If I was a woman, political participation and economic empowerment would always be conveniently (for men) out of my reach. Sexist jokes, chauvinistic comments, gender based salary gaps; all of these would be daily obstacles for me.

If I was a woman, the so called “economy of care” would expect me to look after the children, the elderly, the husband, the home. When men are dedicated to their jobs, they are respected, but if I, as a woman, did the same thing, I’m a bad mother and/or selfish wife.

If I was a woman, in some parts of the world, I wouldn’t be allowed to drive a car, wear a pair of trousers, or even leave the house without a male companion.

If I was a woman, in some parts of the world, at the funeral of my spouse, I would be forced to drink water which has been used to wash his dead body. Others would jeer me, push me around, or even beat me if I failed to cry for him loud enough or for long enough.

If I was a woman, in some parts of the world, you wouldn’t be allowed to cry for me when I die. After all, I’m just a woman right?

*just scribbling my thoughts*

ps: We all have a duty to protect women. Especially us men; we need to protect women from us. Because everything I’ve written in this post is all a result of ancient patriarchal establishments that continue to destroy our societies today. It must stop now.

Happy birthday to me

So, yesterday was my birthday…again. There seems to be no reprieve to this ageing process. One minute I’m a kid driving a bus (one that looks, feels, and IS a brick), next minute I’m submitting my tax returns. What happened in between?

That first kiss seems like an eternity ago. Charlotte, oh I remember her well. Although I don’t know if that was so much a kiss as a slurp. Poor girl. That said, I did set the bar so low that her next kiss must have felt like an orgasm from an angel. So kudos to me for that.

Losing my virginity! Again, feels like forever ago. Birthdays and birthdays have passed since that “special” night with *****. I lost mine that night but I can’t be certain she lost hers. I mean, that first time sex feels like a contortionist double act on a unicycle. I couldn’t tell whose arms or legs belonged to who. Wow, time sure does heal all wounds…and circus accidents.

My first job was like 10 birthdays ago now. Who’d have imagined I’d still be working today? I always thought I’d have made enough to retire by now. But then again, I hadn’t been acquainted with Credit. Who’d have known bank balances can get below zero? …and stay there for numerous birthdays? Satan exists folks…and I’m sure he’s in finance.

Anyway, I had a brilliant birthday weekend all in all & I hope to see many more. Don’t have much to scribble, just wanted to say thanks for all who made it special. From my family, to colleagues, to friends in the real world & in the virtual one. *just scribbling my birthday thoughts*

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Help your helper. Pay her what she’s worth!

Twice every week I come home to a beautifully cleaned house. Sometimes I don’t even see the person responsible for this state of cleanliness that makes it so nice for me to fall onto the couch, put my feet up, and end the day on a cosy…and rather hygienic note. But the person responsible for all this is Thandi, a 29 year old mother of two from a township not too far from here. She’s “my helper”.

For my British friends, I should probably let you know; in Africa, we have maids. Yes, it’s very common for the bustling middle class that’s growing daily in this part of the world. In fact, we have people filling our cars at the fuel stations too. No need to leave your car in the cold and rain, put on those plastic gloves, and refuel yourself. In fact, we have no cold either. Who’s royalty now? 😉

But lavish as this all sounds, it’s actually rather deplorable. Such menial jobs exist because of the broad gap between the haves and the have-nots of this continent. The gap is very wide and continues to widen rapidly. This brings us to the issue I wish to scribble about today i.e. the labour abuses taking place in our very homes.

The other day as I was paying Thandi, I asked myself: how does she survive on this money? I pay her R100 for each day she works. That’s £7.01 (US$11.18) for each day she works. To put this in perspective, the UK National Minimum Wage rate for someone of Thandi’s age is £6.19 (US$9.87) per hour. That’s R88.31 PER HOUR. So essentially, I pay Thandi per day what she’d earn per hour in the UK. No wonder Brits don’t widely have maids. Who’d be able to afford £50 a day for a house help.

I have since increased Thandi’s wage but it’s still a pittance, one that should be reviewed on a global scale I’m sure. Being a house help is an incredibly difficult job and I’m ashamed to say we are taking advantage of these women. And what’s worse, many of them are single mothers. How are their children supposed to have the same chances in life as our children on R100 a day? Add to that the fact it’s difficult to obtain daily work.

There’s no doubt that, if we paid our domestic workers what they are really worth, most of us would either be cleaning up after ourselves or living in filth. *Just scribbling my thoughts*

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