Unrivalled dads. The statistics of single parenting are seemingly alarming. Divorce and unresolved relationship conflicts have left many children in the hands of single parents. This father’s day, we highlight men who are their children’s primary caregivers and share their experiences of single parenting, writes Christine Katende and Nicolas Akasula
Daniel Kanyerezi, Media programmer
“I started on the journey when I parted ways with the mother of my son. She left for Europe and before I knew it, I was solely raising the now nine year-old son. But she comes once in a while to check on us. My case is slightly different because she speaks to her son, most of the times. She had initially wanted to take him with her, but I objected. I could not allow my son to be raised in obscure environments. I didn’t want my son to grow up in a foreign land, and lose touch with his heritage. I now juggle single parenthood alongside the radio job, with the help of a house-help. She came in handy, although I labour to be hands-on. A school shuttle picks and drops him to and from school and I help him with his homework. Even though we are fond of each other and we joke about everything, I strongly emphasise discipline and honesty. I tell him that when I find out that he is telling me a lie, my friendship with him will be no more, a thing he detests.
Kizza Katongole, Farmer
After we lost our two daughters to sickle cells, my wife filed for divorce. That is the time I started to look after my children singlehandedly. My mornings were busy, since I had to prepare children for school. From our home in Kamwokya, I would leave my elder child at Wandegeya stage. I would then rush to Kololo to drop the young one and return to Wandegeya to take the other child to school, before proceeding to work. My lunch hours were occupied too, since I had to pick children from school, drop them at home, prepare lunch and leave them in my neighbour’s custody till evening. This was the routine until the war broke out in the 1970s and we relocated to Makindye. I enrolled them in a new school in Nsambya but continued with my routine as I struggled to make ends meet. When I got a new job in Kawolo, they joined a new school where they successfully completed Primary Seven. Unfortunately, one of the boys died. When the company I was working for collapsed, I resorted to farming. Amidst these life challenges, I stayed strong for my son. He graduated, got a job and he is doing well. My son and I are like brothers. We are very close. I believe God has given me the strength to walk this journey.
Bryan McKenzie, Events manager
Eight years ago, I became a single parent. As breadwinner, I hustle day and night to fend for my child. I hire house-helps to help me out. I admit that there is always a gap that remains unfilled, considering that his mother is away, but I try my best to be a good father.
Frobisher Kiyizi, Builder
I separated from my wife when my last born was just three years old. He is now 18 years old. At first it was tough, but the fact that I was self-employed, I somehow managed. I am grateful to my step mother who taught me how to do house chores. Since I could not trust any woman with my children, I chose to take care of them. I would wake up early in the morning, prepare breakfast, while the elder brother helped me dress his siblings. I washed clothes, ironed and cooked for them. When I got so busy, I would prepare supper before leaving home. I announced busy days in the morning, as I took them to school. The training and nurturing that I got from my mother is what I have passed onto my children. My first and second born are out of school now and are independent adults. The girl is into hair dressing and the boy specialised in art and graphics. My last born is sitting for Senior Six examinations this year. I taught them to do housework and this has made life easy. On Sundays, I would go to church with them, talk to them and check their books. I have never missed any visitation and parents’ meetings. The girl would once in a while visit her auntie who helped me tackle the issues I would not handle. My children are obedient, hardworking and God fearing. It is easy to raise God fearing children. I am still in touch with my children and we meet and dine together, most of the times. God has protected my children from serious illness. Apart from flu and cough, I don’t remember a time when they were admitted to hospital.
Hakeem Saga aka Hakeem the the Dream, Radio host
I called it quits with baby mama, a crossbreed of Dutch and Arabic descent. I am now looking after two handsome boys, aged six and eight. Peer bandwagon espoused her, resulting into neglect of marital roles. I cannot even remember the number of times I sat her down to talk. Eventually, I realised the total absence of a person my children called mother. I laboured to work out our differences in vain. I even sought out her family to reign in, to no avail. I am happy with the children and we share great memories every day. We are like brothers. They are under the custodianship of two househelps, who assist, as I embark on the hustle. I hate to see parents denying that they have children. Some have a tendency of hiding their identity as parents, and pretend to be childless in the eyes of new lovers, for fear of losing them. It is only right, that you say the truth. Some people have no problem raising their partner’s children, from another relationship. Take full charge once they come into the world. The major challenge has been lack of a motherly figure for so many years. Despite the fact that I am seeing someone now, their mother left them at a tender age.
Isaac Rucci, President, Federation of Gospel Artistes of Uganda
We had lived in diaspora for a long time but 13 years ago, I decided to relocate to Uganda with my family. We had just gotten married and we had two young girls. In 2006, I came back home with my daughters. One was one-and-half years old and the other was four-and-half years. I expected my wife to join us but things did not work out as I had planned. That is when I started the journey of raising my girls, singlehandedly. One thing that helped me from the onset, was intentionality. I purposed to raise my children, no matter the circumstances. This meant that my schedule had to change. I drafted a routine that my children and I would work with. I remember, I never took any meetings after 4pm and my friends and colleagues understood that. For about four years, I would not do anything after that time. That was time for my children. I had to pick the girls from school, we would play together, shower, have dinner, read for them or sing lullabies as they went to bed. This routine gave us sanity and balance. I had to compensate for their absentee mother. Of course, I have met challenges along the way as they grew up. When they fall sick or being in and out of hospitals are moments that make me feel their mother would have handled. As my girls began to experience body changes, I sought the help of my sisters and female friends. But I am stronger now and I believe I have pulled through. The priceless reward I have got from single fatherhood is the love and trust from my lovely girls. This role has earned me ‘super daddy’ title. The bond we share is so strong that they freely discuss anything with me. My first born is now 17 years and the other one is 14 years. They are soon joining college after a long time with their father. To all single fathers out there, be willing to take it on, be a good listener, be available and understand your children. Be approachable, get involved in their lives, give them that sense of security, encourage them, be honest with them, get to know their friends, what they like, shape them and give them the confidence they need to soar. Doing all this on your own may be hard sometimes. You must have a strong support system. If you are raising girls, let their aunties or your trusted female friends help out in matters you cannot. As fathers, we tend to become so protective of our daughters but you have to learn to let go, sometimes. It is healthy.
What experts say about single parenthood
Single parenthood may seem easy, especially for those who are financially stable since they can afford all children’s needs but everything is not about money.
Presence is key
Agatha Kisakye, a child psychologist, advises single parents to spend time with their children. “I know some parents decide to take their children to boarding school at a very young age so they can concentrate on work. However, parenting cannot be delegated neither can it be postponed. Children require your daily presence, conversation, instruction and correction. In there, are virtues and great lessons they will pick. If you are apart, how will you instil these? The parent is in the best position to offer a child individual attention. No one can parent like you,” she says.
Do not parent alone
Allow your children to interact with relatives and peers. Have a circle of relatives and parents in your life who you trust to pass on values to your children.
Have a strong family culture
Emphasise your do’s and don’ts. Children have a way of bending rules, but be firm and stick to them If they make up faces and swell up with anger, do not back down, it is a tool they use to get what they want.
Partner with God
Be intentional about prayer. Pray for your children, unceasingly. Our children are preserved by the prayers we make for them. Godfearing children make parenting journey easier.
Avoid making decisions that will compromise the life of your children. A bad relationship or work frustration should not make you forget about caring for your children.
Use affirming language
This will build your children’s confidence. Jonathan Okiru, a family counsellor says that despite how one ended up as a single parent, if they purpose to raise a responsible child, they will succeed at it.
Children are unique
Understanding that children are unique even if they are twins is key. This will help to avoid the mistake of generalising children.
If you are raising a girl child, you will need a mother figure. If it is a boy child, you will need a father figure. Girls need a mother figure to learn motherly instincts and boys need a father figure for affirmation.
Look out for people in your family who will play key roles to assist in child upbringing.
Sign up for a parenting course. There is so much to learn about parenting. Most people use the parenting tips their parents used, yet they could have made grave mistakes. You don’t want to pass on the same mistakes to you own children. Seek knowledge.
Attend parenting sessions
Be part of parenting sessions whether at your children’s school or at the place of worship. Parenting is so dynamic and requires a wholesome approach. Go out of your comfort zones and learn from others.
It takes a village to raise a child
African common adage says, “it takes the whole village to raise up a child”. Be involved in the day-to-day life of your child. Most parents think that providing for the child is parenting. If the child eat gets what they want, the rest does not matter.
Children need parents to be available. Play with the child, feed the child, dress the child, take the child to school, do homework with the child among other things. Ask God for wisdom in parenting.