This morning, I had the opportunity to chat to Thabo Shole-Mashao regarding the concept of “dead beat dads” on the radio show Power up on Power FM. The concept encompasses the notion of a man that fails to fulfill his parental responsibility. Often, men leave at the knowledge that they are expecting. Some are still present but parent periodically. Our conversation centered on understanding why we still have a generation of men that make a child but run away from their responsibility.

This is the generation of dads that were raised by single moms who are parenting the best way they know how. I have so many people in my close circle that have absent dads. They either don’t know their fathers, their father raised them until they were two and then he left, or their fathers are in and out of their lives.

It’s a vicious cycle of men that never had present fathers and do not know how it is to take responsibility. One of the callers- Themba, called in to explain how scared he is of procreating because he was raised by a woman and he would not know where to start should he have a child. For a man to admit this openly (or even to himself) is a rare experience.

We have also seen a wave of fathers in our generation that have sworn to take care of their children because they do not want their kids to have the same fate as them. They want to raise their kids differently by playing an active role in raising their children.

There are single fathers out there who are doing a wonderful job at parenting. Our first caller, Jacob, is a single father of two children and he is in a circle with men that understand what it truly means to be a man and a father.

The statistics are shocking people. Over 60% of South African kids are in homes without fathers. Ten percent of these households have lost the father due to death, and 50% of the fathers are alive but are not present in the lives of their kids. These stats were acquired from the Stats SA General Household Survey 2016/2017

Do we understand the extent of the psychological effects “dead beat dads” have on their children? The resentment and loneliness children feel due to having an absent father and a mother who is busy working twice as hard to make sure the child is taken care of. Could this be why statistics show that 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (US Dept. Of Health/Census)? Kids grow up with misplaced anger which statistically shows that they will be more prone to violence. Girls grow up with “daddy issues” and live the rest of their lives trying to find a father figure. They end up committing themselves to men with displaced anger that use and abuse them, impregnate them, and leave. Do you see the cycle?

I am no expert; I am just a young black woman who spent days waiting for a visit from a father that failed to see his promises through numerous times. I understand fully how angry this makes you, how you constantly question his love for you- his own child. I watched my aunt make excuses for my father and trying not to bad mouth him. Where do women draw the line? To what extent do we protect a man that has failed at his role as a father? Are we enabling him with the excuses?

On the flip side of the coin, you find women that deliberately keep their kids from their fathers due to failed relationships. Our one caller has taken his ex-wife to court for contempt because she has kept their child away from him for 7 years, and he has been paying maintenance. It takes a certain level of maturity to master the art of co-parenting because our failed relationships have nothing to do with our children. They still need both parents fully present in their lives and deserve to be loved and cared for.

We do not congratulate fish for swimming, but I take my hat off to men that have sworn not to repeat the same mistakes their fathers made. We need to be the generation of parents that break the cycle and the curse of fatherless homes.

Thanks for sharing this journey with me 🙂

Written by: Karabo Motsiri

Edited by: Thando Bella Khoza