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Fatherhood is beyond paying bills

By Agnes Kyotalengerire

Added 13th June 2017 05:04 PM

She advises men to get out of their comfort zones and learn how to be fathers.

Fatherhood is beyond paying bills

A father’s presence in the life of children has a positive effect on their upbringing

She advises men to get out of their comfort zones and learn how to be fathers.

Father's Day is June 18. New Vision will have a series on making men better fathers. Today we shows what a good father should be

He pays school fees and bills in time. He takes the children and their mom out. He is everything but a good father.

However, his children and wife feel they miss him. "My husband stops at paying school fees. Visiting the children at school and following up on academics with teachers are none of his business," Bonita Akello, a mother a four, says.

The story is not different for Ruth Nakito, a mother of one.

"I always thought he would accompany me during antenatal care visits to hospital or when taking the baby for routine immunisation/ treatment but things did not go as expected," Nakito says, adding that she is the only one involved in their daughter's education and other activities such as birthday celebrations.

Akello and Nakito's dilemma is a tip of the iceberg of what is happening in many homes.  It is common for fathers not to be involved in their children's lives.

According to Stephen Langa, the executive director of Family Network, being a good father is more than just paying school fees. There is need to create time for the children, rather than doing things for them, Langa suggests, adding that fathers need to do things with their children.

"This creates a functional relationship where fathers emotionally connect with the children," Langa explains, adding that if they do not do that, then they are as good as absentee fathers.

For instance, if you go shopping, wash a car or play with them, they get lasting memories, which strengthens the bond between the two. Prof. Peter Matovu, a counsellor at Nkumba University, says in addition to creating enough time for his family, a good father should be God-fearing; love his wife and children.

Ruth Matoya, a child counsellor, agrees: "Participate in every aspect of your children's lives; be there to encourage them. Be a role model, provider, lover, mentor and comforter through interacting and knowing what they go through."

Gone are the days when there were father figures like uncles who sometimes groomed children.

Stories have been told where fathers drive their wives and children to the beach or recreation centres, pay for drinks and snacks before leaving to spend time with their male friends and only to return to pick them at departure time.

Matoya, however, says some fathers are not involved in their children's life because they were also raised without their father's involvement.

"Probably their fathers only stopped at paying school fees and disciplining them. So, in such circumstances, the issue of fathers spending quality time with their children becomes alien. You cannot give what you did not get or what you do not have," Matoya explains.

She advises men to get out of their comfort zones and learn how to be fathers.

On the other hand, Joseph Musaalo, a counselling psychologist, thinks men have a general thinking of "I am too busy working to foot bills", forgetting that parenting involves more than providing needs.

Musaalo says because of this mentality, most parents have pushed their children to boarding schools yet spending time with them helps in bonding.

Musaalo advises busy fathers to balance between family and work.

WHY CARE

According to Balitenda, when you have a child without a father figure, there is always a gap. She explains that the issue of less father involvement in children's lives stems from the African culture whereby men only play the role of providers. Balitende says children need more than a father paying school fees or dropping them at school because even good Samaritans can do that.

Langa says most African cultures regard parenting as the preserve of women.

"That is wrong. Children need real men. It gives them self-esteem, a sense of security," he emphasises.

A 2008 World Bank report titled "Africa's future; Africa's challenge; early childhood care and development in Sub-Saharan Africa" households with men also have more resources available for potential allocation to benefit the children.

It is almost universally true that two-parent households, where fathers are present, are better off than single mother households. Not only do men generally earn more than women, and therefore, bring more income into the household if they are employed, but they may also be able to access more resources for children in the community because of their status as men. Men may also be able to avert harm to children.

The report suggests that children in households where men are present are less likely to be abused or exploited by other men in the community than are children who live only with women.

Several studies have also shown that the availability of the father tends to have a modulating effect on boys' hostile tendencies. Boys who grow up with a father tend to be less violent than boys without this male guidance.

According to the 2013 Uganda Household Survey, about three in 10 households (31%) are headed by females, which means more households are headed by men, who just need to be more involved in their children's lives. Here are a few ways to get involved in your children's life: Spend time with your children. Take turns in cooking. It would be good if you wake up your family to a nice breakfast prepared by you. And if cooking is not one of your favourite chores, then taken them out for a meal once in a while. A family that dines together stays together.

Babysitting, feeding, bathing, and dressing up a baby can be fun. Balitenda says you can visit the children at school, shop and play with them.

"All activities aim at creating a positive relationship with the children which is a basis for parenting," she explains

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