Welcome to Advice Bench!
I have opted to blog about having children, their gender, childlessness and single motherhood. I have lived in the UK for almost six years and my mind willingly draw comparisons on a few touchy issues.
WHEN TO HAVE KIDS?
In Africa, having children immediately after wedlock is not only expected, butextensively celebrated.
Having children is the next step after tying the knot.
Having just one child is frowned upon because every child needs a playmate. One child family ranks only slightly higher than childlessness.
In many cases, to be in the good book of your in-law, your family and well wishers, you should aim to have three kids within the first six years of your marriage.
Here in the UK, the story is different. Couples have a wide range of options - not to have kids, to have only one child or to wait for several years before deciding to have kids. There's no societal or family pressure to have kids. Or is there?
1. NUMBER OF CHILDREN
In Africa, ideally, after having three kids, you can take a deep breath. You're let off the hook from family & societal pressure. You're respected and honoured as a deserving wife.
The number of children to have in the UK is not up for discussion. It is the prerogative of the couple.
However, the media and public get involved when couples with large families (e.g. seven children) 'harass' the Council to give them a bigger house at the expense of the tax payer.
2. GENDER OF CHILDREN
In Africa, you're also let off the pressure pot if you have three boys or two girls and one boy, or two boys and a girl!
If you have three girls, you will need to go back to the birthing table in no time at all.
Except of course you want to hear the usual rhetoric about girls being unable to perpetuate the family name. You'll be told that boys carry on the family name.
In other words, if you don't have a male child, you're treading on shaky marital ground.
A family member had two girls. She toyed with the idea of not having any more kids. She was called aside and advised by a 'concerned' in-law to try again. She was told in clear terms, 'if you don't
have a son, you have no hold on your husband'. And so, she tried and had a son. The relief was palpable.
While in the UK, gender is not even a talking point. Male or female children are entitled to the same rights and consideration. The Queen recently made a proclamation. If Prince William had given birth to a daughter, she would have been third in line to the throne.
Oh, how the woman without child suffers emotional trauma in Africa! My late mother-in-law was childless for ten years! I have heard about her many unbearable sufferings at the hands of many who insulted, mistreated and cursed her. God blessed her with two kids eventually.
Childlessness is almost intolerable in Africa. Other options such as adoption and surrogacy is still fairly unpopular because of cultural & other issues.
No matter how poor a family is in Africa, they will not deliberately decide to remain childless. Never! We learn that children make the family complete.
In the UK, couples can decide not to have a child. It could be for health or selfish reasons, or the high cost of child care. How can that be? What if their parents had decided not to have kids?
Adoption, Surrogacy and IVF are normal options to explore for childless couples without facing stigmatization. Mothers who adopt babies are entitled to maternity leave. That's commendable.
4. CHILDREN DISCIPLINE
In Africa, children are scolded and flogged when they act foolishly. Children are routinely rebuked by any adult, teacher, neighbour or relative. Children can be whipped into line in public places without fear of being cautioned or thrown into jail for assault.
Teachers in Africa have the power and authority to discipline children. They just need to be better remunerated for their good work.
In the UK, the story is the exact opposite. A child being rude to elders in a London bus is overlooked by all. How can this be?
In schools, children have more rights than the teachers employed to teach and discipline them. Teachers are stressed and their hands are tied when students continually offend. Thankfully, in my children's school, letters of good or bad behaviour are sent home. For that, my husband and I are grateful. This helps us keep a tight rein on their behaviour.
We need to make teaching honourable by giving teachers more power to discipline students.
At home, neighbours are silent when kids exhibit anti-social behaviour. Children freely ring the Police for help when they are spanked by their parents.
How can the society rely on the Police to discipline all the children who misbehave? Is this a sustainable model for children discipline?
Parents need to have freedom to discipline their children for the good of the society.
I know from media reports that children abuse exist, but this is an exception rather than the rule. Is this enough reason to bar parents from executing their given role to discipline their children?
We need an academy to train parents on how to raise children successfully. Without previous experience to rely on, parents do the best they can.
5. SINGLE MOTHERHOOD
The question then arises of why are many men refusing to take responsibility for their kids in the UK? Were they unaware of the pregnancies ? Or do the mothersrefuse to allow their involvement? Or are they simply running away from their responsibilities?
The group of people confidently having kids in the UK are the young girls.
There's no stigma associated with single motherhood. Many celebrities are children of single mothers. Thankfully, single mothers get financial help from the State.
In Africa, many married couples stay together for the sake of their children. There's stigma associated with single motherhood. African culture takes pride in families holding together in the face of infidelity, polygamy & other difficulties.
Young girls who fall pregnant instead of completing their academics are aware of the heavy price to pay. They risk being disowned by their parents, face societal rejection and ridicule. There's no welfare from government to help them out.
Fathers must try harder to be part of their children's lives. If they made out with their kids mums, they should put in a lot more effort to shape their children's future.
African countries should make provision for the many mothers (especially widows) toiling to raise their children.
In my fourth novel - THE GARDENER'S ICE MAIDEN, single mum, Olivia Gleaves had been initially forced by her mother to abandon the care of her baby to her aunt so
she could continue her education.
When she eventually took responsibility for her nine year old son, she faced the uphill task of trying to understand him, establishing a relationship and setting boundaries.
Adding the distracting and unwanted attention from her Gardener to the mix presents tingling challenges. Who says parenting is an easy task?
Find out how Olivia copes...in THE GARDENER's ICE MAIDEN.
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