Fathers ought to be given the opportunity to play their part
Father’s Day was celebrated on Sunday, June 19.

Dear Editor,

Sunday, June 19, 2022 was celebrated as Father’s Day. Historically there is not much fanfare on that day.

Unlike Mother’s Day, there are not many advertisements, concerts, special treats, or great excitement leading up to and on Father’s Day.

The common argument I hear for the apathy towards Father’s Day is that our Jamaican fathers are mostly deadbeat, delinquent, and ‘wutliss’.

I can relate to the delinquent father and single mother phenomenon because I was raised by a single mother.

My father’s absence from my life for the better part of my first 30 years and my constant rereading of Edith Clarke’s seminal work My Mother Who Fathered Me forced me to take an objective look at fatherlessness in the Jamaican society.

As a father myself, I am convinced beyond the possibility of being persuaded otherwise that mothers should allow the fathers to have a relationship with their children, even if they are not supporting them financially.

Now let me be clear, I am not in the least encouraging fathers not to financially provide for their children. The Jamaican law on the maintenance of children is clear (The Maintenance Act). Fathers have a legal and moral responsibility to financially provide for their children equally as their mothers, and fathers have equal rights to the love and affection of their children, to the extent that the law can facilitate and engender. Therefore, even when the relationship between mother and father has broken down the father still has a right to see his children and enjoy their company.

It can’t be right that the only time some fathers are allowed to see their children by mothers who have custody is if the father has an envelope with some money or a cheque. It is wrong in law, principle, and good conscience.

I know some fathers drink off their children’s lunch money at the bar or nightclub and leave the burden on the mothers. However, too many mothers subscribe to the view that if the father is not pulling his weight financially it does not make sense for him to have a relationship with the child instead of taking the father to court for maintenance of the child, but still allowing him to bond with his child.

Raising a child or children is never easy for two parents, let alone one. Regrettably, some complex social issues have resulted in the mothers normally being the only parent. However, we should not be too quick to judge and condemn our fathers.

It is true that gender, through the process of socialisation, plays a critical role in the way men and women express their parental rights and responsibilities. Dr Herbert Gayle has some very sobering research findings on deadbeat and delinquent fathers. Dr Gayle’s research reveals that most of these fathers confessed to wanting a relationship with their children but, in many cases, cannot navigate the way they are demonised and discredited by the mother of their children.

I am not making excuses for any deadbeat father, all I am trying to say is that we need to fix the problem of fatherlessness in Jamaica, and if we are going to succeed we need the help and cooperation of our mothers and women.

We need to change the narrative about the Jamaica man. We are more than “bedroom bullies” and “ long-distance stullas”. We ought not to be defined by our sexual prowess and fertility competence.

There are many good men who are good fathers in Jamaica. We don’t have to be a biological father to be a father to a child. Many of us men take other people’s children and accept and treat them as our own. In many cases we are never regarded or recognised, but the man in us causes us not to emote.

I have unqualified respect and appreciation for all mothers and women. I also believe that, for reasons of genetics and socialisation, men will never be as good as women in caring and nurturing children, but our positive input in the lives of our children, especially our boys, is critical for their psychological development. If we fail to accept this reality, the marginalisation of men and the feminisation of the male temperament will reach crisis proportions and soon there will be no Mr, only Miss and Mrs.

As a proud Jamaican I would hate to see us descend toward a total erosion of our family values.

If our society is to be great again, we have to reproduce great men — men of honour, integrity, decency, and human goodness.

Let us answer the call of our children and become the examples they need in their lives. Let us partner with the mothers of the land and fight for paternity leave for our fathers and the right of all children to have the names of both parents affixed to their birth certificates at birth. These are small steps, but giant leaps toward the building of a quality and just society.

If we commit ourselves to building a good family life, we can rescue our children and save our society. Good fathers produce great children and great children create a better society.

Andre’ A O Wellington

President

Spalding Citizen’s Association

andrewellington344@yahoo.com

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