The streets of social media are dotted with ugly comments about single mothers. Most people have a generalized idea of what happened in these women’s life. Their perception, which is usually blurred, puts single mothers in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
While single mothers include women who are widowed, divorced, separated or single mothers by choice, Kenyans have reduced this term to imply women who are not wifely enough to “keep” their husbands or those who got pregnant because of promiscuity.
We can’t deny that these could be some of the reasons for single motherhood. But, we can’t also put a whole demography in one bucket. More importantly, it takes two to conceive a child. Why do we insist on bashing those who took the responsibility of raising their kids single-handedly while absolving the absentee parent of any wrongdoing?
And yes! We are a “liberal society” where conceiving a child with someone doesn’t translate to marriage. But still, actions come with consequences. So, why are the babys’ fathers not taking responsibility for this enormous task?
I’ll tell you why.
Not long ago, a mother vented to me about her son who 'accidentally' impregnated a woman (keyword: accidentally). The mother narrated how the impregnated woman was forcing herself on the son when it was clear that he was not ready to raise a family. She was wondering how to convince the woman to leave and give her son the peace he needed. Bottom line? The lady was at fault for getting pregnant when she wasn’t married to the young man.
In a similar fashion, a married man takes the commonly travelled path of mpango wa kando, impregnates a woman and refuses to take responsibility because he has a family he loves dearly. The irony!
Similarly, a young man and woman date for months on end, the woman gets pregnant, and at that very moment, the gentleman realizes that their love has been a sham all along. He hops out.
As a society, we watch these patterns with bated breaths, keenly waiting to name and shame these women for their lack of morals. Yet, we know full well that we are equally guilty for reinforcing a skewed belief system. This belief rebukes single motherhood but keeps mum about the men who bluntly neglect their parental responsibility. It is a belief that finds it okay to degrade women for getting pregnant before marriage but fails to hold men accountable for impregnating the same women before marriage.
Just like it’s proper for women to get children in marriage, so is it for men. As it is, a good number of us believe the standards are different.
I can almost hear you thinking, “She’s exempting single mothers of any wrongdoing, yet they play a role in this”. And so to clarify, I’m not. Yes, they have a role to play. My point is we can’t fix a problem by focusing on one part of the equation.
We have to change the narrative and hold our sons, brothers, and husbands responsible for the kids they sired and abandoned.
The challenges that come with single parenting are many So instead of pointing fingers, ask yourself, what can you do to be the change you want to see? It could be taking responsibility for that child you’ve ignored for years or being kinder to single mothers who have struggled and are doing everything possible to give their kids a better tomorrow.
Perhaps it’s time to teach our boys and girls, women and men, about self-awareness, responsibility, commitment, respect, family, and marriage. It’s time to be the solution.