Ann Wairimu @ann_wairimo
Single mothers are highly stigmatised in our society and unfortunately, their children bear the brunt of this stigmatisation. According to relationship coach Barnabas Achoki, society looks upon single mothers as women with loose morals or who are independent and anti-family.
“It is also assumed that because of not having their fathers around, these children are unruly, have bad behaviour and suffer from psychological issues. They are thus looked at as potential troublemakers or spoilt brats. Thus from the beginning, there’s a bias in dealing with them. They are judged harshly for any misdemeanour compared to children from two-parent families,” says Achoki.
Raising children is a task
However, raising children can be difficult under any circumstances. “It doesn’t matter whether you are single or married. Child rearing is a task. What matters is the values and characters you inculcate in your child. Actually, we have had children from single mothers turning out fine, just as we have had children raised by both parents becoming wayward.
Those speaking ill of single mothers should also not forget there are children who only bear their father’s name, but the father has never been there for them. Of what benefit is such a father?” poses Jacinta Maina, a sociologist.
However, a child brought up by a single mother may have certain challenges that arise from the fact that the parent is trying to play the role of both parents for that child. In the process the child may miss out on a few things according to Geoffrey Wango, psychologist, University of Nairobi.
“It’s good to be sensitive to the struggles of children of single mothers. They are trying to cope with a missing parent. At the same time, single parents have a lot of pressure of providing for the children, nurturing the child, and in the process, the aspect of disciplining the child may miss,” he says.
However, we cannot generalise the character of children of single mothers. “Locking of a single child from a school is telling them that they do not belong. That has serious psychological problems. Teachers ought to appreciate and embrace all children regardless of their background, race, culture or family background, Wango says.
Single mum’s also have a big role to play. “There are times when single mums pour their frustrations (it is hard to raise up a child alone) or hurts (especially if the child reminds them of the man who really hurt them). So the children vent their own frustrations and hurts on other children in school or Sunday school, thus confirming the stereotype about children from single mums.
Therefore, it is the responsibility of single mums to build confidence in their children so that they grow up with a positive self-esteem. With that kind of esteem it will not matter what others say about them or label them,” Achoki says.