Photo: NTV news anchor Dennis Okari (right) and his ex Betty Kyalo a former TV star, popular for their shortest celebrity marriage in Kenya.
By Silas Nyanchwani
Friday Morning Thoughts
When two adults who have a child or children decide to call it quits, and go separate ways, the fate of the children is irrevocably changed, for better or for worse.
Kitambo, when people separated men commonly disappeared or rarely showed up in the lives of children. Men were less empathetic. Or pragmatic. Most children born in the 1980s and early 1990s and raised by single moms don’t know their fathers. And the few who know their fathers , the relationship between them and their fathers is rarely the best. There are a few luck ones who forge a good relationship with their dads. Luck them.
Lately, borrowing from the diseased American approach, it has become fashionable to expect men who have been divorced to have a relationship with their children, no matter how such men relate with the mother of their children.
I have listened to single mothers argue about their expectations from baby daddies and their naivete always astonishes me.
Liberal education, TV shows, and modern living can glamorise certain things but in reality life is a bit ugly, illogical and things never go as planned for most single mothers and that is why they cut their father of their children off completely.
Modern education assumes life is black and white, that adults can be rational and mature about stuff and at the very the very least, they should not take out their issues on the children. We often reduce men to child upkeep and material possessions but don’t ever give a damn about their emotional connection with kids.
However, adults are not mature. If anything, we are far too childish, egoistic and pretty dumb in almost everything. And that is something no law, no constitution, no education can fix.
We never talk about what being away from children does to men. Granted some adults can overcome their differences and raise children separately, but it is an experiment that is not easy to execute.
Because there is one party that that is too petty, such that the other party can only back off. Often for good.
There are factors that determine how men and women deal with kids when separated. Largely, the woman keeps custody and that is an advantage to women, that is rational and reasonable from whichever angle you look at it. Now, children are a divine gift and men do love their children, make no mistake. Especially if the children were born within a matrimonial set up or if at the time of birth the man loved the mother.
And most men, they either love the child or become indifferent. Loving a child when you have limited access proves a challenge and typically men numb the feeling to death.
Most modern single mothers when they hope that the fathers will show up from time to time, assume that factors will remain constant.
For one, economic factors may hold the man back. Because visiting a child means you will have to find a neutral place, usually a park, or somewhere but bottom line, it involves money. Most men are often dumped for economic reasons and it takes a while to be back on their feet. By then, the toxic fumes sent their way by their baby mamas may have created a very cancerous buffer zone, they stop to be interested.
Secondly, it is how the parties move on after the separation. One will marry and settle down. The other will not be as luck. Often. And here comes the tricky bit. Once one party is married, their new spouse, in almost 80 percent of the time will never warm up to the kid from another relationship or the other man or woman. Evolution, capitalism, biology explains this.
Personally, if I marry a single mother, the gentleman in me, will not mind the other guy seeing their child. But human being in me, will never be comfortable with the existence of another ninja. It is not insecurity. I have lived in Nairobi long enough to know that baby daddies have a huge access to the servers than we acknowledge. People never break up actually. In fact married baby daddies usually have their exes as side dishes. Crazy world.
Women too are never comfortable with the man talking to his baby mama. She was there before. Because they know. And the presence of the other kid means that the share of inheritance for her kids is limited and they will be hostile to the kid.
That means, if one or both parties settle in a new relationship their kid, will exist in a no man’s land.
Let us assume that you overcome the bitterness and can still raise the child but you can’t be friends or even have a thing, you will be meeting in parking lots to exchange kids as if it were a drug to steal from a meme I saw recently.
Studies have shown that it is better for children to grow with separated parents they have access to and spend time with than to live with both parents who are toxic to each other. But studies don’t factor in other post-divorce or separation variables. And especially the feelings of men.
What I have learnt and the world needs to know is that men are human. They are not some automatons to be switched on and off accordingly to the whims of the baby mamas.
Men have three options. To fight until granted regular visitations rights. And this may stunt the emotional growth of their baby mama, especially if she wants to move on. Second option is play cool and go with what the mother wants. Most men don’t know how to handle petty baby mamas hence they distance themselves. The third option that is equally favoured by most men is to ignore the child in the hope, they will meet the child later in life and forge a relationship. Not likely to happen because the environment children grow under will determine how they will turn up. From past experience, children will internalise their mother’s trauma, real or imagined and learn to hate you for your absence.
No matter the choice adults make, it will never be easy. That one sin in your 20s often haunts you for life. And from the time you separate, it will be navigating turbulent emotions. Your baby mama will make you angry. Your baby daddy will drive you nuts. A new relationship will be hampered by these things.
But what remains is the world acknowledging that men do have feelings and their response to the consequences of separation are not academic or scientific. They derive from emotions. And being a way from your child, kills you in the inside a lot.
Whether baby mamas think it should be easy or automatic is a story for another day. Whether modernity or religion, says that it shouldn’t be like that doesn’t matter. Our spirituality is constant work in progress.
So, as we enter a period of normalised divorce in the middle-class, let us examine all these factors, and maybe they should be part of premarital counseling.
As adults the best insurance for kids is to understand that the person you are fornicating with today may turn out to be your worst enemy and nightmare in five years time, so know in advance what best thing to do when such things come.
Also, educated women like to throw fancy words like co-parenting around, thinking that because it worked for Jane and John, it can work for Mark and Mary. Each separation and divorce is markedly different from each other.
I know guys who are cool with their exes and life goes on. I know baby mamas who have traumatized the baby daddies to death. Or dramatic men who can drive their baby mamas to an early grave.
Have a reflective Friday.