Gender Focus with EMELDA MWITWA
HAVING children is a joyful experience which some people yearn for all their lifetime but never get to have that opportunity.
But some people who have the privilege of producing children wish they didn’t have them because they consider them an inconvenience of some sort.
These are people who are ashamed to tell the world that they have children, or let alone to associate with their own flesh and blood for purely selfish reasons.
On the other side of life are childless people who are praying day and night to God to bless them with children.
Such is the dramatic irony of life.
What do you make of a situation where a man or woman has a child or children they refuse to acknowledge because they feel this will jeopardise their opportunity to find a life partner?
It’s strange, isn’t it?
But it’s a common thing for parents to disown their children because they do not want friends and potential intimate partners to know that they have got children.
Both men and woman are culpable where such lies are concerned, but women are the worst culprits when it comes to lying about not having children to their partners.
Most parents who deny the existence of their children do so to make themselves marketable to the potential suitor or wife-to-be.
It seems that there is a common belief that women who have children are less likely to get married, hence our sisters and mothers lying to Mr Right and, at worst, deserting their children for the sake of staying in marriage.
The other reason why women keep such dark secrets is that our society uses a harsh morality gauge, not applicable to men, on single and divorced women with children.
In a typical African setting, it’s acceptable for a man to have children out of wedlock or from extramarital affairs, but women in similar situations are subjected to unfair criticism.
Good women with failed past relationships are wrongly judged by people who have no slight idea what they’ve been through.
So, lying about not having children may come about to please morality police.
Unfortunately, children that are caught up in situations where a parent has to shun them to please their partner, go through untold misery ranging from rejection, deprivation, childhood abuse and parental negligence during their formative phase of life.
A sad story was told in the Mansa local court last week of a mother who concealed the real identity of her three children to her husband of 18 years.
When this woman got married, she introduced her children as nieces and nephew.
Luckily, the stepfather has been keeping and sponsoring the three children in school.
The couple also went on to have two children between them, who obviously were given preferential treatment in the home compared to the three ‘dependants’.
The man had no slight idea that his wife had three children before they got married until their real father showed up one day and spilled the beans.
Can you imagine the torture that the children went through during the 18 years that they had to call their mother aunt to protect her marriage to their stepfather?
Such incidences are common, and in worst scenarios the children are neglected and kept far from their real parent to avoid raising the suspicion of an uninformed spouse.
During the time of separation from their parents, the children may be poorly nourished, suffer poor health, while some can’t go to school and if they do, their school needs may not be adequately met by their guardians.
In certain instances, neglected children become vulnerable to physical and emotional abuse, sexual violence and some fall prey to alcohol and drug abuse due to lack of proper parental guidance.
Research also indicates that child neglect has long-term emotional and psychological effects, which could manifest through depression, low self-esteem, hostility towards other people and poor performance in school.
Some of the children who could have potentially had a bright future if they had a proper childhood, end up in criminal gangs, or as street hawkers, wanderers, school drop-outs, and immature wives and husbands.
To become responsible citizens, children need to grow up in a family where they are accepted unconditionally, loved and properly guided during their journey to adulthood.
Obviously, parents who relegate their children’s happiness in a quest to find love and acceptance in society don’t know the negative impact of their actions.
What may innocently start as an attempt to find love has far-reaching consequences on the well-being of children and society at large.
And in any case, who says that a woman can’t find love if she has got children?
This is just a myth that people have, given the discrimination and unfair criticism that women have to endure in a patriarchal society like ours
Sadly, some women and men fall prey to such unfounded myths to the point of sacrificing their children’s happiness.
Obviously, you and I have seen lots of women and men with children getting married, and in some cases, to people who have no children.
What matters is for one to declare one’s child/children to their partner right from the beginning of the relationship.
A person who refuses to marry you because you have children is not worth your love, period. Children from a previous relationship shouldn’t prevent people who are genuinely in love from tying the knot.
In any case, I think it’s better for a woman to stay single than marry a man who isn’t ready to accept her children.
There is no need to sacrifice your children’s happiness and get married for the wrong reasons such as economic security and gaining the acceptance of society.
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Gender Focus with EMELDA MWITWA