Whether you lose your partner or the mother of your kids to death or because of a divorce or abandonment, adjusting to the transition of becoming a single father and juggling multiple responsibilities can be very challenging and life-changing.
According to Statistics South Africa, only 4% of children live only with their fathers.
After the tragedy of losing his wife after she gave birth to twins in 2020, Samuel Nonyane from Johannesburg has been a single father to two boys and two girls ever since.
A huge void to fill
He explains that the doctors told him that they were not aware that his wife was carrying twins and performed two separate operations on her, which caused severe internal bleeding and led to her passing. This came as an unexpected shock to him because his wife played an important role in their family.
The names Nonyane gave to his twin babies evoke deep meaning: Madi means blood, and Kgopotso relates to remembering.
“I enjoy being a father, but I’m still hurt because of what led me to become a single parent. It was unexpected. All I knew was that I would go home with my wife, and we would raise our children together. I wish my wife was still alive because she did everything for my kids. It was hard because I had to start over and learn every detail about raising babies,” he says.
“The boys experienced the whole situation of losing their mother, but as for the girls, they are still young, but I always show them their mother’s photos, and I believe they will understand as they grow.”
Creating a lasting bond
Raising newborn twins as a father has been a tough adjustment, but through advice from others and prayers, Nonyane says he is handling the journey quite well. He has further managed to create a strong bond with his children and has learned to understand them.
Maintaining four children is not always easy, as Nonyane mentions that he does not earn enough and also relies on Sassa. However, Alett van Zyl from Johannesburg has taken it to social media and tried all she could to assist grieving Nonyane after seeing him shopping with his twin daughters shortly after his wife died and having the courage to ask what was going on.
“I accidentally bumped into him at Cradlestone Mall and saw he was carrying the two baby girls in his arms. I couldn’t resist asking him why he was carrying the two babies in his arms and where his wife was. His reply was that she had unfortunately passed away during the birth of their two baby girls. I was really deeply touched by this and decided to try to do something to assist this single father of four siblings.”
Fulfilling both parental roles
“Not only was he grieving and mourning the loss of his wife, but he had to try and fulfil both mother and father’s responsibilities by raising the two baby girls all by himself, bearing in mind they were only three weeks old, on top of additional financial constraints on his side,” reflects Van Zyl.
Van Zyl says she was shattered and asked to take pictures of him and the children to post on a local community group to get him assistance. Later on, even though she posted on Facebook where it went viral, she still felt she could do more for the family.
“If it wasn’t for Mam’ Alett, I don’t know where I would be or what my children would’ve had. I am also thankful to everyone for their kindness and assistance.”
“My girls are still young, only two years old, but I’m willing to advise them always and be there for them,” he says. Nonyane also mentions that raising girls as a father is not difficult yet, as they are still only two years old. However, he claims that as time goes by, it’s going to be challenging as they grow because there will be some things that won’t be easy to discuss during their puberty stage.
“There is a belief that we as single fathers cannot raise our kids well, which is wrong. According to me, parents’ unconditional love will make all things possible. As single fathers, we should be strong and always be there for our kids; most importantly, we should support and love them.”
Lack of support for single fathers
Corne Kruger from Cape Town, who is a single father to a 10-year-old son and the founder of the Facebook group Single Fathers South Africa, says he started the group due to how fathers are usually sidelined in everyday activities. Furthermore, the lack of support for single fathers has also pushed him to bring single fathers together to share their experiences, offer advice, and provide solutions.
“What we generally don’t realise is the amount of work that goes into being a parent. Generally, when there are two parents in the house, you don’t necessarily feel the brunt of it; you get to consult with another parent and make the best decisions.
Kruger explains some challenges that he has undergone and that other single fathers may also face:
- I had to apply for maintenance only for the court to communicate with my ex, asking her how much money she wants from me, the primary parent. I actually had to interrupt court proceedings to get them to double-check that I was the applicant and not the respondent.
- Schools are seldom father-friendly. My experience with schools has taught me that I have to constantly “barge” into conversations, as they are all mostly directed at only the mothers.
- Public spaces are also not father-friendly, as we cannot get access to baby changing stations or parent-friendly parking spaces as they are usually reserved for mothers only.
- General society is more supportive of women in general, which makes it extra hard for a father to access mental health support services and groups. This is especially negative considering the additional anxiety, stress, and depression that are associated with single parenthood.
- Shelters are not willing to assist single fathers at all.
- Usually, fathers will create a second social media profile to post their questions and struggles and to ask for advice, due to the fact that the advice is different when asked from a female point of view. This also helps fathers get access to more support groups and resources.
- It feels like the dating pool also becomes non-existent.
How to get it right
The parenting network shares a few tips on how to be a great single father when raising your children alone.
- Build a support team.
- Be there for the big things.
- Don’t be afraid to discipline your children.
- Remember that all children are different.
- Keep your emotions in check.
- Never badmouth your child’s other parent.
- Find a work-life balance that works.
- Know that love doesn’t have a price tag.
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