Africa

The bane of lone Nigerian mothers

The diversity of the Nigerian society is not only to be seen in terms of cultural or ethnic diversity or but also in family units.

  Millions of families around the world have one similar challenge – and that is that they don’t quite fit into the traditionally accepted family model, which consists of father, mother and children or husband, wife and children. 

While the value of a traditional family as a social unit cannot be overemphasized, it is also vital that its predominance in the public arena and official policy is not at the expense of the individuals who inhabit it.  

The concept of diversity of families could mean different things to different people, which can range from positive perception to discomfort.  The concept of one parent family is very irritating to die hard traditionalists but this is the reality for many Nigerian women.  As a Christian myself, I believe in families made up of husband, wife and children however, the reality of our time proves that situations may change.  Traditional family set-ups can become single parent ones due to unforeseen circumstances like divorce, death of a husband or wife or even the geographical separation of spouses.  Because of the constant changes in society and their effects on its members, the definition of a family must be flexible in line with the remits of the family and not its constitution.    

For children, what is important is stability, security and stress free relationships.  People especially children living within one parent families must be treated with recognition and respect.  Nobody decides where he/she is born or to whom he/she is born.  If we could choose our parents and places of our birth, who would not opt for the best?  This is precisely why Jumi’s friend in a previous article in this square did everything to get married only to discover that her hubby could be someone else’s hubby as well.  What is wrong with us as a society?  Please spare me the preaching about morals and values.  Why should any woman endure a bad marriage because of what society would say?  A friend told me recently that a Nigerian woman was murdered recently in Minnesota, USA by her Nigerian husband and as at last week, they were still making arrangements to fly the corpse back home to Nigeria.  The couple had 2 children aged 2 and 4.

James Connolly, an Irish leader once described the family as a place where the strongest and most able look after the needs of the weakest and most vulnerable members as if those were the stronger person’s own”.  The child and his/her rights should be the first priority in any family, be it traditional or one parent.  Family is about commitment, sacrifice, caring for others without financial reward, putting other’s needs above our own and supporting each other through difficult times.  These are values, which must be cherished wherever they find expression.  

He went further to say “We should thus enthusiastically recognise family-based commitment and the support that family members give each other wherever it is encountered.  We ought, in particular, applaud rather than denigrate those who make personal sacrifices to rear their children, especially where they do so as lone parents.  We ought to encourage and facilitate non-custodial parents who take an active part in the rearing of their children”.  

In the past, the Nigerian society was very harsh to mothers whenever marriages broke down.  Fathers could send mothers packing and seize the children from the relationship.  In societies that are very patriarchal, this is what happens – women have no rights even to their children.  I want to believe that this situation has now improved in Nigeria.

A constitution that recognises only the family based on marriage, consigns the growing number of alternative family forms to a legal no-man’s land.  In legislation too, the rights and obligations conferred on married persons are largely unavailable to families not based on marriage.   

In Ireland the law recognises cohabiting families for tax purposes, etc.  While I am not sure what the Nigerian law says in this regard, I think it will be important for us as a society to recognise family diversity and accord single mothers the respect they deserve.  Before some people crucify me, I am aware that we have single fathers as well but our society does not frown at this as such.  The single mum is always the wayward one.  

Let us remember that the best interests of the child should be our primary consideration in all of our actions and decisions affecting children.  

The responsibility for gaining societal respect and recognition for family diversity and those who inhabit them rests with all of us, society.

CSN: 62623-2008-15-52

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