Imagine a couple of guys sitting at a bar on a boys’ night out. They are crouched around the table mulling over what seems to be a serious issue. Never mind the diski action on the screen. “You’re brave, man!” they say, “Uzoba strong” they mock pitifully. Jabu has met a woman…and she comes with “baggage”, an infant boy. His pals give him a big pat on the back while he anxiously gulps down his beer…
Nobody knows how tricky relationships can get post baby more than the single mother. While even those in relationships where both are the parents of a child hit some sort of slump once babies come into the picture, the common bond created by the child can provide a safety net. Admittedly, I navigated the whole relationship terrain with some difficulty during my late teens and early twenties; however, it wasn’t all that bad. That age provided room for some carefree living. Well, that’s how you be ending up with babies, ain’t it?
Getting back on the dating scene came about after some serious contemplation on my part; naturally after assuming the serious role of being Supergirl’s mother, my options of a man were narrowed down to “focused, family oriented, ambitious, generous man”. That is exactly what I wanted. Self-help books (that I don’t read) advocated that one must be clear from the onset what she seeks from a relationship, you know? I obliged. It made tons of sense. Who needs endless buggers hanging around, meeting your family while they have no intention of making a “good” woman out of you!
A frank conversation with a male friend brought home the realisation that when it comes to single parenting, the odds are stacked against single moms. He did not mince words when he said, “men are discouraged from getting into relationships with women who have children”. The situation is completely different for men, who enjoy the unequivocal adoration of women whether they have children or not. An aunt told of her nephew who at middle age, with ten plus children (all from different women), married a young lass from neighbouring Botswana. She had no kids of her own prior to that. We love them, warts and all!
Well, my friend was right. It is not easy to love a child that is not your own and perhaps it is better not to have people who will not make that effort. So, why does the single mother evoke such anxiety from men? When my motherly instincts kicked in, the first thing that also came to mind was my desire and need for stability. As I began dating again, I soon became faced with the subtle tug of war between my role as a mom and as a woman; a lover. I guess the problem that men have is that with single moms, there is no spontaneity unless of course granny will do the sitting forever.
What kind of mother relishes in relinquishing her duty to her kids to someone else? What kind of a man expects this huge sacrifice when he knows what he has signed up for? Another thing that I struggled with was (is) the fact that men (even those who have never married, in their 30s onwards) on my dating radar still wanted to get their groove on and play the field or “have fun”…whatever that means! Of course when that happened, I would direct my energies elsewhere.
Mybrotha.com sums it nicely, “Most single mothers are not looking for a casual or open ended relationships.” It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out where the mention of commitment can drive a man to. Hence single moms are also encouraged not to become exclusive too soon.
Single motherhood, although increasing in numbers in our era, is by no means a new thing. A lot of children have been raised by men that did not father them. There are many who can say, “I turned out well”. There are those who are permanently scarred from being raised by individuals who dished out doses of conditional love, unfortunately. “It takes a certain kind of man to mentor and care for another man’s children”-Mybrotha.com
While some of us still feel a sting of sensitivity when confronted with the reality that it is a patriarchal world we live in. Love in the time of single motherhood is not entirely elusive. A lot of my hopes were dashed because of expectations. Perhaps when these are totally removed and the focus put more on living then, then life (and love) will be more blissful.