Many of us grew up thinking and believing that men must be the ones to provide financially for their families. But with South Africa’s high unemployment rate and most jobs being precarious/seasonal in nature, many men don’t always have income, and then they find themselves out in the cold when they are unable to provide financially for their children.
According to the “Children’s Education and Well-being in South Africa” report by Stats SA, which was concluded in 2018, only 31.7% of black children live with their biological fathers, 51.3% of coloured children, 86.1% of Indian/Asian children and 80.2% of white children.
There are multiple reasons why fathers are absent, including, but not limited to, the fact that:
- Some children know who their fathers are but have no connection with them.
- In other instances, paternity was denied when the mother was pregnant.
- In some cases, it boils down to the father’s inability to provide financially.
Many of us were raised by single mothers and the impact of women raising children with little to no financial support has far-reaching psycho-social, economic and financial consequences that have a snowballing effect on the child and the mother, her family, the community and the country. While provision is important, a father's inability to provide shouldn’t be the primary barrier to him not having access to his child.
There are many ways that a father can be there for his child even if he temporarily cannot afford to put money towards their care.
Here are a few tips:
1. Share the care work
Globally, women spend two to 10 times more of their average day on unpaid care work than men do. The fact that women do most of the care work is one of the key reasons that women’s wages are lower than men's – even when they work in the same kinds of jobs. When men share the care work at home, they set the stage to benefit their children, and their partners, and to create closer connections and positive health benefits for everyone involved. Care work can include doing laundry and preparing meals, changing your baby’s nappies, helping your child with their homework or spending time with them doing beneficial activities, and walking or accompanying your child to and from school.
2. Men are more than providers
Too often the only role society recognises or expects of men is that they be providers. But societies and families also want and respect men who are caring and involved fathers. When a father is involved, their child benefits tremendously from that connection:
- It influences how a child connects to others.
- It helps to reduce stress related to family conflict and separation.
- In violent settings, it can decrease a child’s involvement in gangs and interest in criminal activities.
3. Provide healthcare
Men play a major role in whether their children have access to critical health services. Men can support their children’s health by taking them to check-ups. Throughout a child’s life, their health needs will change, so their father’s level of involvement will change over time.
Your role as a father in the family has profound implications on your child’s development, and so can your absence, both in the short term and long term. As a dad, there are many ways that you can be there for your child that don’t always involve money.
Bonolo is a multimedia journalist and content creator at Heartlines. She has experience in online and radio media production and helps spread the Heartlines message on multiple platforms.
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