Men, pause for a minute and think of Mother's Day

Friday May 12 2017

By LUIS FRANCESCHI
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Mothers are living saints, exceptional women, irreplaceable and unique. At least mine is.

There is something angelic about her, about mothers, which leads us to celebrate them this Sunday as Mother’s Day, even though Mother’s Day may have been reduced to a shopping day for most urban people.

Sadly, this is normal. Our modern world tends to banalise the most sacred things of life: this is how Christmas, Easter, Mashujaa and even mourning national days have turned into mere shopping holidays.

The African woman is an amazing creature. She is resilient and tough. She can bear it all, even a broken, irresponsible or drunkard father and husband.

It is as if women were created for suffering, and we men? To take them for granted.

The family in Africa has traditionally been a strong institution, the pillar and foundation of our society. This pillar has endured the test of trials and times thanks to the amazing strength and resilience of the African woman.

They withstand strong winds and storms, robust, unbreakable and unshaken, even by the cruellest happenings around them.

Mothers are amazing creatures, indescribable in beauty, strength and character. Nature formed them so that humanity should not lose its humanity.

The African family has historically been under siege, first by the compulsory separation of husbands and wives during colonial times. Women were left alone and too many children grew up in houses where fathers were largely absent.

Some fathers were fighting for independence, while others were in the cities, far from their families, working to provide and put food on the table.

This historical disconnection between fathers and boys, fathers and daughters is making a deep impact on our new generations.

When the father is not home, for better or for worse, whether he is dead or divorced, in the office or in the bar, at work or in the streets, that pushes too many mothers to be heroic sole providers of affection, humanity, security and character.

POLITICS AT THE BAR

Mothers come back home, cook, do house chores, homework, discipline children, clean them and scold them.

Fathers, instead, are largely absent, often too busy at work making ends meet, sometimes spending the family savings at the bar, until the wee hours of the morning.

Most of my friends in Nairobi grew up without a father’s example at home, and they feel uncomfortable at home; they do not know what to do, what to say, what not to say.

This is when talking politics at the bar appears to be more productive, a fact that has real consequences on children’s growth.

Lisa Mancini of Western Connecticut State University authored a scientific research paper on father absence and its effects on daughters.

Research shows that girls and young women who have an unstable father figure are more liable to teen pregnancy, low-self-esteem, high school and college drop-out, poverty, divorce and sexually promiscuous behaviour.

Another study conducted by Bruce Ellis of the University of Arizona and Jacqueline M. Tither of the University of Canterbury observed that “the longer the child was without a father figure the earlier she began menstruating. According to this study, the shifting identity of the girls sparks a bodily change that results in early puberty and it actually alters the reproductive axis and timing of puberty.”

SHORTENED LIFE EXPECTANCY

Rob Brooks is a professor of Evolutionary Ecology at the University of New South Wales. In an article published by The Conversation, he argues that “Daughters in the industrialised world whose fathers are absent do worse in school, start menstruating earlier and become mothers at younger ages than similar girls from two-parent families.”

Brooks, interestingly pegs these results to evolutionary biology. He explains these as effects of a shortened life expectancy.

“Instead of taking their time to mature, learn and wait for the right mate and conditions to become mothers, they get started earlier because the future doesn’t look so bright. The response to important environmental cues, such as (father absence) is an evolved adaptation to the changed conditions in which she is growing up.”

In the case of boys, the results are confusing and more disproportionate. The study suggests that boys are more complex. They break their voices later and mature as persons later, but nature compels them to take on certain responsibilities earlier, as if they were taking shortcuts.

Sometimes this has meant criminal behaviour and siring children, in highest proportions by the age of 23.

DEEP PARENTING CRISIS

Dr Edward Kruk, of Psychology Today, supports these claims. Kruk says that, “71 per cent of high school dropouts are fatherless; fatherless children have more trouble academically, they become truants, scoring poorly on tests of reading, mathematics, and thinking skills.”

It is even more distressing to hear that “85 per cent of youth in prison have an absent father; fatherless children are more likely to offend and go to jail as adults.”

This is why pedestrian, improvised and easy solutions, even when politically motivated, will not help. The deepest problem of our youth is a deep parenting crisis, a family challenge.

It is also why any policy, law or decision that ignores the importance of defending the welfare and unity of the family will undermine our growth, socially and economically.

Happy Day, Mother! Keep doing it so well. The rest of us, we men, should man up and support you more!

Dr Franceschi is the dean of Strathmore Law School. [email protected]; Twitter: @lgfranceschi