HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsAre you a dad or mum, father or mother?

Are you a dad or mum, father or mother?


Some guests were nearly in tears. The bride’s biological father couldn’t explain why he missed out on being part of her life.


But he was grateful to her maternal relatives for raising such a brilliant and focused young woman who, despite having not been around for her, invited him from some African country to attend her wedding. It was a new beginning for the two people and everyone who was in attendance appreciated this gesture.

It was not too late to patch up relations. And it was so nice to see the two dancing away as the mother watched in amazement.

But why do some parents back out on their obligations to raise children they sire? This is the question that everyone kept asking.

I was personally touched by this man’s apologetic behaviour. Apparently, the mother of this man did not like the mother of the bride and left this man’s home three weeks after eloping.

The mother-in-law said her son was too young to marry such a woman. That is how the ties were severed and because every child wants both parents to grace such occasions, such situations trigger such hurtful memories. The elderly woman who did this sat quietly at a table at a wedding reception somewhere in Harare.

Raising a child as a single parent is not easy. Unfortunately, it is us women that sometimes create such situations because mothers are very powerful and can influence their sons whom to or whom not to marry.

I kept watching the reaction from the mother of the bride and I could tell that there was a combination of joy and pain in her eyes. It was difficult to tell whether or not she was happy. But because she is now a very prayerful woman, she acknowledged this man and his family at the wedding.

The speeches that were made never made reference as to how this young woman was left in her mother’s custody for her entire life.

This is not an unusual matter in Zimbabwe. There are so many people that were raised by their grandparents after their parents, either mother or father, left them following a divorce or remarriage.

That missing link can have devastating consequences on a child who can either become delinquent or excel in every aspect of his or her life.
Reaction from such children in such situations can be very hostile.

I remember a colleague who once described her biological mother as a baby dumper because she left her with her paternal grandmother when she was three years old, only to resurface after she had started working.

Their interaction was always confrontational and this was worsened by the fact that this woman kept reminding her that she was her mother and that nothing would change that.

When the grandmother who raised her passed on in 1986, the young woman was so heartbroken. To her, this was the mother that raised her in Mhondoro-Ngezi when her father had gone to war to fight for the liberation of this country.

The question I want to pose is: Are you a dad or a father? Or are you a mum or a mother?

A dad/mum is someone who, not only physically helped to create the life of a child, but also supports that child with the basic necessities (food, clothing and shelter) and provides guidance and advice to see his/her child through life.

A dad/mum demonstrates that he/she loves their children by interacting with them daily, letting them know that they’re a priority and that they give purpose to his life. Yes, it’s far easier to be a father/mother than a dad/mum.

The level of personal commitment that our kids require is challenging, sometimes even overwhelming.

That dad/mum can be an uncle/aunt, grandfather/grandmother or another man who steps into the shoes of the absent father/mother . . . a stepfather/stepmother.

I do applaud the courage that the man I mentioned earlier on for attending this wedding because I have heard of some men who are too embarrassed to appear at such public moments.

The idea that father-daughter relationship is as less important, if not more so than mother-daughter relationship, is something that was never spoken about in our parents’ generation.

This is because of the traditional roles mother’s played in the past and that is of just raising children.

Men of that time didn’t know what they were expected of as parents and hence the reason why perhaps men can just go off and never looking back.

What would you suggest a mom do if the father of her children has been absent, but now wants to be part of their lives? This is a question I found on a website titled Circle of Mums. The following were some of the responses.

“In my opinion I grew up without a dad and it sucks and all these people are wrong it’s not about what YOU want, it’s about what your children need and children need their father. He made a very stupid mistake in leaving you guys and you should tell him he needs to help out with money for the children before he comes back and start out slow like letting him see them once every two weeks, but take it from me, I always wanted to know my dad no matter what.
As long as he is not into illegal things, it is best for your babies to get to know their dad.”

Another one said: “My daughter, who is now 25, the father bailed out when I was almost three months pregnant.

I let his family know the baby was on its way and I continued on with my life. His brothers were given pictures and often visited their niece, but the dad was a no show.

He had another child a year after my daughter was born and he was an active participant in his life. He never told his MOTHER he had another child (my daughter was about to turn five) even though I told her in person and the information came out over Thanksgiving dinner when everyone was assembled. I know this information because I was still friends with the brothers.

“After five years, he shows up [he has NEVER seen or supported her], stating he wants to see his daughter. I laughed so hard I almost cried . . . was he serious? It was three months before I agreed to let him meet her. My daughter took to him and he was great with her. She met her half-brother, grand-mom and cousins for the first time.

She was excited to have an extended family (my family was very small) and they were excited to meet her.”
What have you to say about these conversations?

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