Posted: June 2, 2014 in Articles
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by Tim Nwaobilo

Hatched by one
Scratched by two
Beak to beak, off food came
To chick, one was good, two was same

Mother taught to scratch
From father learned to cuckoo!
What chick could see was love he felt
Whether from mom and dad, one or two.

Back in primary school, I was taught, just as many others that the smallest unit of the society was the family. And that a family was of two types: nuclear and extended; where the extended was a combination of the nuclear family and outside relatives. It was pounded in that a father, mother and children made up the nuclear family, and that this simplest form of society was the general framework and basis of society at large. This has been the norm for a long period of time until most recently an unusual trend is fast setting as the new reality. And this is single parenting.
Single parenting is a fact of present day Nigeria and the world at large that needs no presentation. Single parents could be either a mother or a father, but it’s generally a case where one of the two has the sole responsibility of catering for, loving, and being the ‘parent’ of the child.
One day I boarded a cab in the metropolitan city of Port Harcourt and this young woman, who by my estimation couldn’t be more than 24 had a child (hers, I suppose) on her laps. She also had someone whom I suspected to be her younger sister, from their conversation with her, maybe as a help. She wore no wedding band, and quickly my initial prejudices kicked into auto-drive. Why was this young lady with a child already? Wasn’t she among the waywards of society? She probably had this child out of wedlock and now has to probably cater for him alone. Who was the baby’s father? Did he accept responsibility for this child? You see, I hardly knew this woman but I had run tests on her already and placed her in the category of people were I chose. Prior to that I attended an occasion where I met a woman, looked like she was in her mid-30s, and she was a single mother. And more cases abound were single parenting was clear. It became obvious to me that single parenting is a reality that pervades the general age and cultural spectrum of society. This phenomenon is however not limited to mothers alone.
Single parenting most times is not a life of preferred choice as the following causes will indicate. Death of one parent is a leading cause of single parenting, as the living parent cannot abandon his/her child because of the absence of the other parent. With adults dying in their numbers on a daily basis, it has become inclusive that parental mortality rate is ever on the increase.
Another cause that stands out is divorce. Though divorce is generally rare historically in Nigeria, it has continued to create issues of single parenting and this is having its toll on the standard family system. Unintended pregnancies either from rape or out-of-wedlock relationships breeds single parenting, especially with the mothers. More often than not, the father is unknown, in cases of rape, and usually absconds and absolves himself of responsibility in out-of-wedlock relationships.
Hollywood has opened up the American society to scrutiny from outside where we discover that single parenting is a resounding theme in most black American films. A 2010 US census shows that 27% of American children are of single parenthoods. This figure is not too distant from the 16% population of world children currently living under single parenthood, where in the UK alone, 25% of parents are single.
Single parenting has not strictly had effects on society specially, but also on the single parents and their children. The management of the resultant toll is what may classify single parenting as being a negative or positive trend. Parents under this parenting system tend to have more stress placed on them. Physical stress resulting from the fact that they turn out to be the bread winner of the family mostly, as is the case with single mothers especially. They have a task overload as most have to keep 2 or even 3 jobs because of the extra sole responsibility of providing not just for herself (specifically, single mothers) but for children too. Some have to work full time, too. Not because they prefer to, but their circumstance gives them little or no other option. Emotional stress affects most single parents as the absence of the significant other creates a vacuum of relationship. A vacuum of someone with whom they could share their emotional incapacities with and get soothed. Children, try as they may, have not been totally successful in bridging this lacuna. Depression and a feeling of hopelessness is also a characteristic of single parenting.
Single parents also generally tend to spend less time with their children. This is clear from the fact that they have to take on extra responsibility in terms of finance and provision and this eats away the time needed to be spent with their kids. Some parents resolve to relying on child care facilities while they are at duty and do not have the luxury of time to supplement the emotional and parental nurturing needed by the tender and growing ones. Those who have taken the sacrifice of being available for their children may have had to do so at the expense of their personal pursuits, thus making loss, one way or the other, inevitable.
If single parents have been so affected by their realities, how much more their children. Juvenile delinquency is a norm commonly found in kids of single parents, especially single mothers. The absence of a father figure means that the growing girl, or boy specifically, lacks a necessary role model. Very few people can replace the importance of a father in a child’s life, especially the growing child. Most times the academics of such kids in single parenting suffer, probably due to emotional troubles from the absence of a parent, lack of supervision from the single parent or just generally from the fact that they may not receive as much love and attention from a single parent as they would from both parents together.
In single parent homes where a child has near-equal say in matters, the child may clash with teachers or outsiders who do not accord him such privilege. Aggression is also rampant among kids from single parent homes. In cases of divorce, the civil behavior among separated parents has a direct effect on how a child copes with the situation. This is especially true in younger children who do not fully understand family and what it takes to build a family culture. This can affect the way they view the world. Social isolation could be transmitted to children from parents who tend to withdraw once the period of single parenting starts. The children may not be friendly and social.
Inasmuch as the negatives of single parenting seem enormous, it is not all gloom, fortunately. Children of such have tended to mature quickly and learn responsibility earlier than kids raised by both parents; emotional and even financial responsibility. They may be more real with the life issues and generally more absorbent to shocks and disappointments. Single parents who devote time to their children may also become closer to them than they might have with their partner involved.
Single parenting is not necessarily a scourge or evil. Parents need to encourage their daughters who give birth out-of-wedlock. They could jointly cater for the child instead of allowing the single mother shoulder child-raising alone. Single fathers also have the need to be more responsible. Single parenting is preferred to divorcees jointly catering for the children because the child may feel he has to pick from either parents. This will create unnecessary emotional palaver for the child who will be torn between two opposing parents. The constant strife and contention in such relationships could even mean both parents lose the child’s attention ultimately. However full parenting still proves to be a better option to these two where all factors are favourable.
Unfortunately single parenting may have a direct relationship with poverty. For example, in the UK, 52% of single parents live below the defined poverty line and governments remain uncertain as to whether to aid single parents to reduce poverty or focus in wider issues like protecting employment. These are issues we face today.
I am of the view that single parenting is not a real family, as echoed by Snowdon Stacey in Divorce and the effect on children. But all a child needs is love and affection. A child with love, affection and guidance will have no more or less problems than a child raised by 2 parents.

Tim Nwaobilo is a young mechanical engineer with a flair for literature. He writes poems, short stories, plays, critiques and articles quite frequently. He has had his short stories and several poems aired on some local radio stations, and is a blog columnist.

Lyriversity — Liberty of Creativity

  1. LegendaryCJN says:

    Tim, nice one. Apart from the aforementioned instances of death of spouse,and out-of-wedlock single parenting, I think that one of the root causes of this phenomenon is the fact that everybody wants to be free; ties, especially that of family is so weak. The yoke of marriage now seems so heavy that people no longer wants to even lift it with a finger. I also think that the orientation of marriage as a rubicon-like-institution has changed lately from what it used to be. People now feel it’s the same thing with friendship where one can opt out at any point in time. Haven said the above, other factors remain a mystery to me.

    • timnwaobilo says:

      Legendary One
      Yes, please, marriage as an institution is being bastardized frequently the world over. Couples have kept on viewing this solemn capacity as sheer ephemeral union which can be proscribed once any condition seems unfavorable. It’s unbecoming of society and my greatest worry is that where FREEDOM is the reason for marital separation, it tells largely on the kids produced from such a relationship. Those children turn out to be worse off.

      Furthermore, single parenting is not a curse in itself and therefore may prove the better option where full parenting offers more problems than solutions.

  2. Ezeamalukwuo says:

    Single parenting is on the rise in Nigeria, I must agree with you there. Especially in our cities. The number course of single parenting is pre-marital child birth..followed closely by death of one parent…Divorce is not common in Nigeria, though it’s rising now. I have no issue at all with single parenting…though I will take both parent anytime anyday. Infact I feel that unmarried women over 40years of age sgould look for a guy to get them pregnant. That least they would find something to look forward to…especially when they are 60-70.
    With that said…Nice work Tim…keep it coming.

    • timnwaobilo says:

      Mr Charles you’re quite a funny man, though I get a sense of your message. However, there may yet lie a problem with irresponsible Foster -fathering. Such a relationship will at best be a shame and a source of concern to family and society. This may prove that family is failing in it’s duties both to parents and children, because where such a woman gets her children fathered by any man just because she’s 40+ ,she may never be able to call him “her husband “.

      also those born children will surely be termed bastards, or won’t they?

      Thanks for commenting. Every new twist always proves informative.

      • Ezeamalukwuo says:

        I was not refering to a husband. I mean those women who have given up hope of ever getting married. I feel for the sake of Posterity, they should get them a child, there is a sense of purpose, a sense of direction which Children bring to parent…and a child to an old woman would give her something to live on for…provided she can take care of it…It may not be orthodox but I know the psychologically advantage of it. Genevieve Nnaji is unmarried but no one cares because she already got a Daughter but someone like Tiwaye Savage had good reason to worry in this society of ours. But if she had a child, marriage or no marriage won’t move her at all, because she has something else, someone else to worry for.

  3. timnwaobilo says:

    Legendary One
    Yes, please, marriage as an institution is being bastardized frequently the world over. Couples have kept on viewing this solemn capacity as sheer ephemeral union which can be proscribed once any condition seems unfavorable. It’s unbecoming of society and my greatest worry is that where FREEDOM is the reason for marital separation, it tells largely on the kids produced from such a relationship. Those children turn out to be worse off.

    Furthermore, single parenting is not a curse in itself and therefore may prove the better option where full parenting offers more problems than solutions.

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