‘Due to retrenchment and closure of businesses, some single fathers have lost jobs’
MEN, especially fathers, are an integral part of the human family.
The absence of a biological father does not mean that one’s life will remain incomplete and unfinished.
Undoubtedly, the father figure is crucial in ensuring harmonious growth and an easy path in life. This father figure can be a brother, teacher, grandfather, uncle, stepfather, cousin or neighbour.
Fatherhood is a lifetime experience that often goes unrewarded. You will not win any trophy, medal or title for being a caring and responsible father, brother or uncle. Indeed, it is a thankless job that continues long after your child or children enter adulthood.
‘There are a few instances, where the girlfriend or wife was abusive or did not want to commit to a monogamous relationship’
Incomplete fathering results in a generation of inadequate boys who cannot fully mature into stable fathers, brothers, uncles and later grandfathers. It’s a vicious cycle that has devastating results. Other factors such as sibling violence have impacted on the development of masculinity. What could be a possible solution? Alliances among NGOs, community groups and government agencies are critical in defeating the distortions of manhood.
Across the Caribbean, there are thousands of fathers who are struggling to survive. Many single fathers in T&T are suffering in 2022 due to the socio-economic conditions. Due to retrenchment and closure of businesses, some single fathers have lost jobs. The high cost of living including rising food prices and high utility bills have been burdensome for many single dads in T&T.
‘Caribbean citizens should never forget that responsible and caring single fathers comprise the fabric of our society’
There is a stigma attached to single fathers. Some in the public wrongly believe that fathers are single because it is their fault and that their behaviour resulted in a divorce or separation. There are different reasons for this misunderstood status of “single father”. For instance, some become single fathers because their wives or girlfriends are incarcerated and a small percentage of single dads are widowers. There are a few instances, where the girlfriend or wife was abusive or did not want to commit to a monogamous relationship.
It is sad that single dads are undervalued and often marginalised as they face humiliation and rejection from a seemingly, cold and uncaring society. The coping mechanism of a growing number of single dads is to seek online support groups. This online “man space” has saved many men from nervous breakdowns, depression and suicide. I have met single dads who were hospitalised and cannot properly care for their children.
There are single fathers who experience parental alienation whilst others have lost custody of their child or children due to a biased and archaic court system that wrongly believes all females are naturally better caregivers for the children.
A significant percentage of vagrants (street dwellers) or homeless men were once single fathers but were unable to cope with pressures of caring for their children. As a result, the children have either been living with relatives or placed under the protective care of the children’s homes. Unfortunately, some of these innocent children have been verbally, physically and sexually abused by relatives and at these homes.
Caribbean citizens should never forget that responsible and caring single fathers comprise the fabric of our society. Their masculinity is intact and they should not be stereotyped. Let us be grateful to those resilient single fathers who make silent sacrifices and are often ignored. They are emotionally and psychologically scarred soldiers in the trenches who quietly work to salvage and protect the remnants of the family unit.
Many of us fail to realise that there are mentally and physically challenged single fathers who feel emasculated. Governments and the relevant NGOs, need to provide adequate support services and resources for these 21st-Century single fathers who are on the verge of losing a battle.
As a result of uncontrolled emotions, changing morals and questionable values the family unit has been badly wounded. And the result is that many fathers are scarred victims. More legislation will only be another political plaster on a festering sore.
International Men’s Day is not merely about making decisions for the greater good, it is a decision for the good of all. Some have asked if there is a complete or perfect man or boy. We all have our imperfections but need to have ideals or aspirations. We need to be on that road of improvement. And, on that road we need to have positive role models to guide us.
Dr Jereome Teelucksingh is
attached to the Department of History at the University of the West Ind ies at St Augustine. He has published books, chapters and journal articles on the Caribbean diaspora, masculinity, culture, politics, ethnicity and religion. Also, he has produced a documentary – Brown Lives Matter and presented papers at academic conferences.
Click to read other articles by Dr Jerome Tellucksingh below: