Fathers should play more active roles in parenting. “It takes two people to bring a child into the world – and those two people should be responsible for the child’s growth and development. Yet far too many children are being cared for by a single parent and thus denied the additional financial and emotional support they deserve” (“It takes Two”, UNICEF).

A lot of things have changed and our cultural patterns have been greatly dislocated. Many marriages have dissolved under the old patterns and new ones are fast emerging. “Divorce, abandonment, widowhood and lengthy separations necessitated by economic and social circumstances” have forced many women to take on “responsibilities for which they are ill prepared and which are not supported by legal and social structures”.

It is important to observe that the above scenario is further sustained by old cultural patterns that lead women to believe they will spend most of their reproductive years living in a stable partnership with their men. But one can rightly argue that “modern women” have a different mindset. The “for better, for worse” mentality is gradually dying in the mind of today’s educated women. These days, many women decide by themselves to be single parents and shoulder the responsibilities of bringing up their children alone. In some cases the paternity of the child is left in secrecy as the woman takes absolute ownership of the child. The child bears her name. Not many families frown at this these days!

In this discuss, our attention is on upbringing of children that were born within the collaborative consent of man and woman. The point is that whether the union (marriage or otherwise) that brought the child into this world holds or dissolves, both parents should be involved in the child’s upbringing. It remains a fact that when partnerships and marriages dissolve, “the economic responsibilities for raising children are increasingly falling on the shoulders of mothers”. It is only in very rare circumstances that the man takes more responsibilities.

The worse part of this is that majority of these mothers are adolescents who have no business being mothers. These children, kid-mothers are made mothers and abandoned (with their children) by the same men who made them mothers. UNICEF records that “in Chile 42% of fathers of babies born to adolescents are no longer providing child-support of any kind six years after the child’s birth. A survey in Barbados found that 77% of adolescent mothers were not living with the child’s father eight years after the birth and half of the fathers were no longer contributing to the child’s support”. These records also show that half of divorced fathers in Malaysia and three quarters of divorced Japanese fathers do not make support payments. Even in households where fathers are present, male unemployment has contributed to making mothers the primary or sole source of income”. A recent survey shows that in Nigeria more women find good-paying jobs after graduation than their male counterpart, hence they settle down in life earlier than the men. “The women are getting more empowered than the men”, some men would say but that does not justify men abandoning their responsibilities to women. Both should contribute!

The cost of single parenting is very high. This is not only in poor households as many may think. A single income is seldom sufficient to support the rising cost of housing, food, healthcare and education. Poverty thrives more in homes where only one parent (especially the mother) provides for the children. “Poverty stacks the odds against children before birth. It also decreases their chances of being born healthy and even surviving. Poverty stunts their physical growth and slows their educational development; increases their chances of neglect or abuse and frays family bonds”.

In Nigeria, we are all used to gender roles! “This is a woman’s work; this is a man’s job…. Girls should cook and do domestic chores; boys can play while the girls are working (learning to be mothers”! Adherence to these age-old gender roles perpetuates inequality. “Throughout the world, men have long been expected to be providers and women the nurturers (home keepers). These gender roles are assigned at birth, assumed throughout childhood and continue relentlessly into adulthood. While both men and women are affected, girls and women disadvantaged”.

There should be increased partnership in parenting. Men should get involved in upbringing of their children to the benefit of all. Everyone benefits when men participate.  Apart from economic advantages of this participation, emotional and social well-being of the children is improved upon; the quality of life of the children takes a good turn.