Not all of us are bad fathers - we try to do our best, says this single dad.
It all started when I fell in love with a girl from my hometown, Umtata. It scared the hell out of me when I learnt that she was pregnant. We were both young to be parents.
Although still at school, I had no choice but to wear the body of a fully grown up man. We decided to break the silence by going to her aunt's place and tell her first. Everything went according to plan until my girlfriend decided to call my father without my knowledge. Remember that we Xhosas are 'protocol' people when it comes to dealing with pregnancy issues. My old man had no choice but to put her in her right place and that worsened things from my side.
I went to her mother and accepted the fact that I'm the father and will take responsibility as the father. I dropped out of school and decided to look for a job. Things got tough; the money was too little to even take care of myself. I couldn't afford to even send money to support my child. I acknowledge the fact that I was not there for my child at the time due to financial constraints, but my heart was with her all the time.
My daughter, now 9 years old, was raised by her granny from the mother’s side. I would provide the little that I had at the time and that would happen once in a few months, but I made sure that I called and visited her. I thank the granny for taking care of my little girl.
Things changed when the mother came to the picture. She decided to take the child to stay with her. I still contacted my daughter through telephone. The mother started restricting me from talking to her, telling her that I'm a bad father.
I sent clothes for my daughter through post office services and she never bothered to fetch them from the Post Office and they got lost. My child would tell me that she didn't receive her clothes because I was a bad father – imagine that coming from a child.
Lastly I got a maintenance order from the court in East London. She was demanding an amount that was close to my monthly salary. I attended the first hearing and agreed with the office on a certain fee based on my earnings.
I asked the court and her to give me my child so I can raise her without all the paperwork and my name being dragged on the wall of irresponsible fathers. She refused.
I appeared in court for the next session and she was nowhere to be found. The court asked me what I wanted to do, even proposing that I cancel paying maintenance. I had to be fair by asking them to proceed with the first agreement which was the amount I was already paying. I had to do justice to my child and support her.
It feels like I'm feeding my child from the bush. I don't like the arrangement. If it was for me I would take my child and go to a planet where her mother doesn't exist.
I acknowledge that at times I didn't give money for my child, when circumstances wouldn't allow me. From the bottom of my heart, I would never let my child suffer while I watch. Mothers should not let their bitterness deprive kids of relationships with their fathers. They should also stop abusing the maintenance system as a way of getting back to fathers when relationships turn sour.
My struggle continues.....
This story was written in response to Masanda Peter’s column Chasing Papgeld
Is it hard for single fathers to do the right thing for their families?