- Category: Commentaries
- Written by Jane Musoke-Nteyafas
In Canada, it used to be seen only in predominantly black areas but it is slowly growing into other areas. Fantasia and Wyclef Jean sang about it. Pretty young Black teenage girls pushing baby strollers on their own with no man in sight to support them. The baby mama/baby father drama. But now the black teenagers are being replaced, not only by older black women in their 20’s and 30’s, but also by white females as well. The absence of Black fathers is a colossal endemic problem in North America.
It is becoming the norm to see more Black children without fathers than those whose parents are married to each other or involved in a common law relationship. Unfortunately we live in a time when sexuality without responsibility is glorified. There are scores of unbecoming “baby mama” and “baby daddy” songs, movies, television series which glorify and accept the false dogma that being a man means impregnating and abandoning as many women as they can. In fact today more than ever promiscuousness is being promoted as a more widespread and everyday reality. It is the norm for men to have scores of women they sleep with and vice versa. “Baby mama’s” with four different baby daddies are becoming commonplace as well. Unfortunately, what gets forgotten in all this insidiousness is the welfare of the children who are born from these relationships. What about them?
The Deadbeat Baby Father Syndrome
In many parts of Africa, even in the most polygamous societies, children are seen as a source of pride and a source of wealth. In general, many African fathers are proud of their children and are quick to claim ownership of their children. In North America it seems to be the opposite, where many Black men take off the moment they hear that the woman/women they have been sleeping with is/are pregnant. There are many excellent Black fathers, but what cannot be denied is the high incidence of absent deadbeat Black “baby daddies.” It used to be a Black woman’s problem alone, but women from other races are getting burnt too, if the increasing number of fatherless biracial children (from Black men) on the streets is an indicator. Unfortunately, in North America, the number of deadbeat baby daddies and single parent fatherless homes is scandalously high.
There are many arguments leading to this issue. The “legacy of slavery” argument, which states that because some slave masters broke families apart, succeeding generations of Blacks copied the pattern by having babies without the father being around is one of them. Another argument is “the ancestors came from a matrilineal society” argument. Others are economic and socio-political arguments. Whatever the arguments are, these not fireproof ones as there are tones of Blacks in the past who were not and are not currently in that position.
For example in 1890, 80 percent of African-American families were headed by two parents, even though many had commenced life in forced family separation under slavery. In the 1960s, 23 percent of black babies were born out of wedlock, a conservative figure compared with 70 percent today. 70 percent means 7 out of 10 Blacks in America grow up without fathers in the home! Black Canada is not too far behind. What is going on and where are the fathers?
What is a Baby Daddy Anyway?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines “baby-daddy” as “the father of a woman's child, who is not her husband or (in most cases) her current or exclusive partner.” The “ baby-mama” entry follows the same template with the genders reversed. The slang term “baby daddy” was popularized in rap and reggae songs. There are many other non complimentary expressions for deadbeat “baby daddies” like sperm donors and semen droppers. The Online Urban Dictionary has a lot of hilarious definitions for it including “sperm donor who is willing conceive the baby and is nowhere to be found when it’s time for parenting. Part-time parent,” but for those on the receiving end of the “baby daddy” drama, it’s no joke.
According to the article ‘No more baby-daddy drama’ In Ebony/ June, 2005 by Lynn Norment, ‘the absent, financially irresponsible father is a source of frustration for many Black women who are single mothers…Too many fathers pay little, if any, child support and spend little, if any, time with their own children. Some even quit good jobs to avoid having a traceable income through which they might be tracked and forced to do the right thing. Consequently, we have thousands of Black children growing up without the benefit of a father''s love and care and direction.’
Are Female-Headed Households Better for Children?
It is detrimental to argue that female-headed families are better for children. All children, whether they are male or female need their fathers in their lives. For the male child, the father figure teaches him how to be a man. Boys turn to their fathers for their sense of masculinity and manhood. Through their fathers, boys are taught how to interact with women, how to be fathers, how to take care of their financial responsibility and how to take care of a home. If their father is absent, many will turn to their peers, the streets and group aggression with injurious results. Being that the fathers and sons are of the same gender, it is logical that fathers have greater influence on their boys. So Black men who grow up lacking fathers do not know how to be fathers or responsible caring partners. They end up repeating the cycle and doing exactly what their fathers did, which was being absent.
The Fathers Influence on His Baby Girl
The influence of the father is also important to the female child. It is through their fathers that little black girls learn the art of relating to men. This is cliché, but the relationship they have with their father will most likely be mirrored in their lives later on. Those females who grew up with their loving, caring fathers in their lives are more likely to find a man who is just like their father, and those who grew up under a mother who was angry that she was abandoned by the father are more likely to have poisonous, hateful, and self-destructive views towards men.
American teenage girls, especially Black girls are more likely to engage in early sex and get pregnant, if they grew up from infancy without a father present, according to a long-term study detailed in scientific journal Child Development Magazine. The stats are not too far behind for Canada. According to the journal, studies have found that girls who were raised without a father not only experienced promiscuous sexuality and pregnancy, but also were more likely to suffer from poverty and a lack of parental guidance from their mothers. Fatherless girls were also more likely to show tendencies of other behavioural, psychological, emotional, and academic problems, including anger issues, school fights and high delinquency rates. Teen pregnancy was alarmingly highest among girls who lived without a father the longest. They were not only primed for premature sexual exploration and reproduction, but they showed an incapacity to have long-term relationships, preferring multiple, brief sexual relationships.
The Role of the Mother and Father
The mother usually takes on the role of the nurturer while the father usually takes on the role of the discipliner due to his nature as the less emotional one. For a child to be balanced, they need both of these roles in their lives. They tend to follow the example of their parents. There are numerous single mothers (and single fathers) who have managed to raise good children on their own, but for most, the burden of being the moneymaker, homemaker, nurturer and discipliner is just too overwhelming, unrealistic and near impossible. As a result, many end up with delinquent, unmanageable children. Children raised in fatherless homes are more likely to be delinquent, do poorly in school, have lower self-esteem, become drug abusers, and reproduce the same family pattern in their own lives. In general, strong families create strong societies. Children raised in such homes are much better off than children who aren’t.
Women Are Responsible Too
It is true that some women do make mistakes and get pregnant by men who are far from great husband and father material. But the baby mama and baby daddy syndrome issue rests with men and women, not just the men. The baby mama/baby daddy drama is a very complicated issue, as there are so many sides that lead to it. It ranges from some baby daddies being rogues in their 20’s or 30’s who are seeking legend status in their neighbourhoods and impregnating and abandoning as many teenagers/women as they can, to women who deliberately get pregnant to get welfare cheques from the government in order not to work, to teenagers who mistakenly think that having a baby will fill the emptiness in their lives, to women who think getting pregnant will make the man stay, to one night stands, to accidental pregnancies (condom broke), to women who are in what they consider stable relationships and end up being abandoned anyway, the moment they become pregnant.
Despite all those factors, women also have their share of responsibilities in this matter. The first responsibility is to protect themselves and make sure that they themselves do not have irresponsible sex. In the end, except in cases of rape, abuse or violence, it is really the woman who has control over whether she gets pregnant or not. Having a baby is a huge responsibility and is a job that requires both the father and mother to not only be present but to have stable, financially prepared homes to raise the children in. Keeping a child alive is not the same as raising them properly with the intellectual enrichment, cultural nurturing and unconditional love that all children need. Taking care of children is more than the man just bringing diapers once a week. There are so many ways not to get pregnant, and quite frankly not getting pregnant should not be the only focus. How about not getting STDs especially AIDS?
For those many women who do get pregnant and get abandoned it is important not to carry their anger, frustration, and disappointments to the next generation. Comments like “Men can not be trusted,” “I don’t know a man I would want around,” “I can support myself without a man,” “Don’t marry a Black woman – they are all evil,” “Black men are lazy good for nothings,” “Don’t bring me no nappy-headed, dark skinned person as your wife/husband” do not do children any good. They only carry the vicious circle on further and create circles of hatred, insecurity and discord. There is no excuse for absentee baby daddy’s but a cruel, angry, vindictive, spiteful attitude is a sure way to keep him as far away as possible if he changes his mind. Some women do keep men away from their own children deliberately, even when the father expresses an interest in being in their lives and that is wrong.
For women who fall in love with men who are already fathers, they must be accepting of the complexities and responsibilities that come with that relationship, and that includes children and other babies'' mothers. There are many women who get involved with men they know have children, and yet they get in the way, causing the men to neglect and sometimes desert their children. That is wrong. Children do not choose to come to this world of their own accord. They are brought to life based on the decisions of their parents. They should not suffer because of the bad decisions of their parents. It is their right to be safe and feel loved and protected. So instead of all the finger pointing and blaming, how about putting the children first? Will the baby daddies please step up and take ownership of their children?
Point of discussion: Let’s hear from the baby daddies. Why aren’t you there? What’s your story?