Reforming the idea of fatherhood

General , Being a father

“The mother of my child is spending too much money on kimbies [disposable diapers]. She can buy cloth nappies and wash them…that’s much cheaper,” said David. “Who said it’s her job to wash them?” asked Gershwin.

The 27 men – most of them fathers – were in earnest discussion about the cost of raising a child. “Don’t have one if you’re unemployed,” said Sibusiso, when asked what advice he has for men.

The group, currently spending time at the Allandale Correctional Facility in Paarl in the Western Cape, was attending a Fathers Matter workshop presented by Heartlines facilitator Ulrich Lottering.

“When you were young, your father might’ve told you you’re a domkop, a rubbish – or he might not have been around. You might’ve been influenced and mentored by others like gangs or bad friends. And this may have led you to make bad choices,” said Ulrich, introducing the topic. “But you don’t have to be a father like that. It is possible to learn to be a good father.”

“Knowing that my child is calling some other man ‘daddy’ while I’m in prison, that upsets me,” said Lucas. “As soon as I’m out, I want to spend time with her [his daughter]”, added Mohammed, recognising the importance of being present in his child’s life.

One of the themes covered in the workshop is the fact that fathers have a much broader role to play than being just financial providers, and in some cases, financial hardship results in men being unable to provide, so it is crucial to know that their involvement doesn’t stop there. The role of social fathers and the importance of supporting the mother of your children and co-parenting well, whether you’re together or not, is another theme that was covered.

“My wife was working late, and I was on leave, so I cooked for our family. After two nights of me cooking, my son wanted to know when I was going back to work as he wanted takeaways instead,” said Mr. Ngontsi, the Spiritual Coordinator at the Allandale Correctional Facility, explaining to the group how he is equally involved in household tasks. “We learn to wash our own clothes in here, that shouldn’t stop when we go back home,” agreed Enrico.

“Too many fathers in South Africa are in prison,” responded Jaden, when the group was asked what it’s like being a father, and Keegan added “I’m young, so I feel like I first need to learn to be a good son, then a good father.”

“Many men haven’t had examples of how to be good fathers, so this workshop is the first step towards encouraging them to be a different father to the one they had,” said Ulrich. The workshop, which is held over two sessions, gives an overview on the topic of being a positively present father, and participants can choose to continue with the Fathers Matter Connect Group material after that.

The Fathers Matter workshop is suitable for a wide range of contexts. Please get in touch with us at fathersmatter@heartlines.org.za if you would like to know more about hosting something similar for the men at your workplace, organisation or facility.

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the workshop participants.

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