Once upon a time, in the bustling city of Lagos, there lived a young boy named Tunde. Tunde was a bright and energetic child, but his days were overshadowed by a deep void in his heart—a void left by the absence of his father.
Tunde’s father, Adeolu, had vanished from his life when he was just a toddler, leaving his mother, Amara, to shoulder the weight of parenting alone. As Tunde grew older, the questions about his father’s whereabouts and the ache for a father’s love became constant companions.
Tunde’s story is not unique in Nigeria, where countless children find themselves navigating the intricate complexities of growing up without the guiding presence of a father.
It is not uncommon for fathers to abandon their responsibilities, leaving a trail of broken promises and shattered dreams.
These “deadbeat dads” choose to detach themselves from their children’s lives, often without reasonable justification. The reasons vary, from personal struggles and financial hardships to societal pressures and skewed perceptions of masculinity. But regardless of the motives, the consequences are far-reaching and devastating.
For Tunde, the absence of his father cast a long shadow over his formative years. He yearned for the experiences he had missed out on—the moments of fatherly guidance, the shared laughter, and the pride in knowing that his father was there to witness his milestones. His school performances, football matches, and birthdays all passed without the comforting presence of a father’s embrace.
But what happens when these absent fathers suddenly reappear, years after abandoning their children? In Nigerian society, the expectation often falls upon the child to embrace their long-lost father, irrespective of the pain inflicted by his absence.
The phrase “He is still your father” echoes through the halls of many households, attempting to rationalize the abandonment and diminish the weight of the emotional wounds left behind.
Amara, like so many other resilient single mothers, stepped up to fill the void left by Tunde’s absent father. She became both the nurturing mother and the stern father figure, tirelessly providing for her son’s needs and molding him into the remarkable young man he was becoming.
Yet, despite her remarkable strength and unwavering love, she faced societal stigma. Single mothers in Nigeria often bear the brunt of judgment and prejudice, as their efforts to raise children single-handedly are overshadowed by the stigma associated with their marital status.
Practical challenges also arise in the absence of a father’s involvement. Official documents, applications, and paperwork often require a father’s signature, leaving single mothers to navigate bureaucratic mazes. The absence of this signature becomes a constant reminder of the abandonment, further complicating the lives of both mother and child.
The toll of abandonment extends far beyond the realm of paperwork and societal scrutiny. Tunde, like many children in similar circumstances, bore the invisible scars of his father’s absence. The longing for paternal love, the unanswered questions, and the struggle to reconcile his own worth in the absence of a father’s affirmation took a toll on his emotional well-being. The psychological impact of such abandonment can ripple through a child’s life, affecting their self-esteem, their ability to form healthy relationships, and their overall sense of belonging.
Yet, beneath the surface, a storm of emotions often brews within the abandoned child. Hate and disdain can grow, fueled by the realization that these deadbeat dads go on to marry other women and suddenly become devoted fathers to their new families. This stark contrast can breed resentment and deepen the wounds inflicted on the child.
Meanwhile, the toll it takes on the mother is immense. She questions her worth, feeling as though she was not good enough for her partner to settle down with and build a stable family.
Society must demand more from men.
Far too often, men are excused for their abandonment, and a culture of leniency prevails. Men themselves, especially, tend to defend one another when it comes to this issue, always finding an excuse to justify their actions.
It is time to challenge this narrative and hold men accountable for their responsibilities as fathers. Every child deserves a stable and nurturing home environment. It is perfectly acceptable if a man decides he does not want to be with a woman anymore, but he cannot abandon both the woman and the child. He has an obligation to be present in his child’s life and contribute to their well-being.
Let us strive for a society that not only supports single mothers but also demands that men step up and take responsibility for their actions. By doing so, we create an environment where every child can thrive, where absent fathers face consequences, and where the scars of abandonment begin to heal. It is a collective effort that requires us to challenge societal norms, redefine fatherhood, and build a future where children are not left to navigate the complexities of life without the love and support they deserve.