Deadbeat parent is a pejorative term used to describe parents of either gender who have freely chosen not to fulfill their parental obligations.
Dear Deadbeat African Moms & Dads,
This is not a regular letter. This is a letter to inform you that your actions and inactions definitely have consequences, which you might already be facing.
Don’t expect to return after years of abandonment into wide waiting open arms. You do not choose to dodge your responsibilities and expect love, care and attention showered upon you by the very ones you abandoned. No, those are earned. Be ready to face the consequences and stop trying to impose yourself on the child/family you left behind to enjoy the world like a prodigal son.
It is up to the left-behinds to decide if they want you back, to share the life they’ve learnt the hard way to live without you, and to forgive you.
You have NO RIGHT to make such demands just because you are their biological mother or father.
A pissed-off African child.
It was Fathers’ Day on Sunday, and amid all the celebrations and appreciations of fathers, I (and many others) could not help but notice how some women thought it the perfect time to shade the men in their lives. One person in Nigeria who has never missed using Fathers’ Day to throw a jab at her child’s father is Nollywood actress, Tonto Dike, the “I said what I said” King. Her colleague, Mercy Aigbe, also made a debut this year, joining the single mothers who wished themselves a Happy Fathers’ Day because their children’s fathers are allegedly deadbeat, leaving them to take up the dual parenthood roles.
This drama reminded me of an incident that happened months ago.
I was listening to the radio on my way to work, as per usual. The hosts, a guy and a lady, brought up a story that trended on social media over the weekend and it was about a man who called out his ex-wife on social media for marrying their daughter off, traditionally, in his absence. Miss Host felt there must have been something terrible the father did to have warranted being exempted from his daughter’s wedding and that the child in question was a grown woman who was old enough to decide if she wanted her father present at her wedding. Mr Host, on the other hand, believed that no matter what the man may have done, it was wrong that he was not invited to his daughter’s wedding.
The discussion went on through the thirty minutes of the show with callers calling in to give their takes on the matter. However, where this got more attention-grabbing for me was when Mr Host and many of the male callers based their opinions on culture and tradition. Their stand was that it was culturally wrong for a father not to be present at his child’s wedding unless, of course, he was dead.
Miss Host then asked her co-host, “What if the man had been a deadbeat father that never cared or catered for his child/family, does he still get to claim his rights at such a child’s wedding?”
To my utmost dismay, the male presenter and his goons still thought the deadbeat father SHOULD be there to CLAIM HIS RIGHT because that is what Nigerian/African culture demands. And not doing so is an abomination. They insisted that “Your father is your father, no matter what he has done, and you can’t replace your sperm donor with someone else even if he CHOSE not to be involved in your life.”
Like, what the flipping heck? What frigging right is there to claim?
That was not all; Mr Host insisted we were losing our identity to the Western world by adopting most of their cultures.
QUICK ONE: Please, is there anyone reading this post stark naked outside their house? Do you not have a bed or a mattress in your room? Tell me, are you reading this post through an electronic gadget or not? Oh wait, I forgot, your phone/laptop must be carved out of the iroko tree in my late grandfather’s compound. (My grandfather never had an iroko tree in his compound, anyway)
Pray tell, who decides which of the foreign cultures we adopt is RIGHT and which is WRONG? Is right and wrong not based on what best suits each one of us?
To say I was livid would be an understatement. I was visibly shaking on the bike so much so the person riding the bike with me had to ask if I was okay. No jokes, guys, it was that bad. By the time I got to the office, I wasn’t anywhere near calm. I couldn’t contain my anger, so I went on twitter to call out Mr Host’s BS.
The female host even gave an example of how in this same Nigeria, it was once an abomination to have twins. Yes, we once upon a time, killed all twins born until Mary Slessor came to the rescue. If not for her, I may never have met my wonderful barefooted poet, Joy, my sweet Precious and my office boss lady, Augustina, who are all twins. Why didn’t we insist on culture and tradition then, huh?
Okay, maybe that is a bit far-fetched because there was killing involved. What about the foreign religion we now so sanctimoniously practice? Why did we accept that culture? The white wedding ceremony we almost can’t do without, was it ever part of African culture? The pair of trousers you wear, the skirts, shirts, gowns, panties, bras and underwear you and I don, were they originally part of your African culture?
Why then should anyone insist that because it is a culture or tradition, a parent who has intentionally refused to live up to his/her responsibilities to their child and family can return after donkey years to claim some frigging rights, because it is the culture? When will some persons drop their wilful archaic mentality for light?
Why are we so hypocritical tho?
Ewo, ema ti e stress me, abeg. (Please, don’t stress me)
I ask again, who decides which of the foreign cultures we adopt is right or wrong?
I believe it is statements like that of Mr Host and the hypocrisy that surrounds our refusal to drop certain traditions because they don’t suit our agenda that encourage deadbeatness (if there’s anything like that) in parenting. I mean, these people know they can choose to neglect their responsibility and come back much later to ask for forgiveness or claim rights.
Phew! I need me a glass of water.
Dear Africans, we MUST do more. I know it’s not just an African thing but I choose to address us because, charity begins at home.