Another year has rolled by and we are glad to shout out ‘Happy Father’s Day!’ to all those who go by the title of father.
Let’s face it, a couple of years ago, it was a struggle to remember that men had days that were dedicated to them, too. However, isn’t it a bit ironic that just as the world started paying attention to men, we are looking for men, albeit fathers! When I realised that this Sunday was Father’s Day, honestly, I felt the need to explore the type of men we have that are looking at becoming fathers and if they are in any way shaping up to be ready for the responsibilities that come with the territory.
It is a recurring lament we hear from women: where are the good men – the guys interested in commitment, drive, ambition, and purpose? When a woman asks this, it is a clear indication that she understands the role a man is to play from time immemorial
Lest I digress, for a man to be a father, he must first be that: a man. Who is a man?
I set out to ask two fathers and I was happy they had opposing views, or seemed to. I asked them, “Do you think that the crop of men we have now are men enough to be fathers?” They were quick to answer, “Of course”. They should not worry; I will ask them the same question in due, course!
Anslem answered in the affirmative. He stated that men were men and would go on to be good fathers. They had no choice than to be men despite the hurdles that life and society had thrown their way. He recalled with nostalgia a vibrant and working Nigeria he grew up in to the rather radically different Nigeria he is living in. Anslem further said that society, the influence of media and the country Nigeria are factors militating against this young generation of men (who might become fathers) and they had no other option than to adapt to survive. In his opinion, men have not stopped being men; it is the mark of being a man that has made them roll with the punches. For example, he pointed out that when “yahoo-yahoo” and get-rich-quick schemes were a fad, especially in the late 90s and early 2000s, we let off the behaviour with a slap on the wrist to the point that it became a disgraceful toga for the country as a whole. What did we expect? In essence, we cannot expect to have wholesome men in society, good enough for our standards if we are not imbuing in the men the good we expect to see. We are getting exactly the type of men that we, as a nation, society and world have nurtured.
Chinedu answered an emphatic ‘No’. For him, there is no excuse cogent enough to warrant men being a certain way because the people turn a blind eye to corruption, things are economically hard and so on. He lamented the impatience on the part of the young men and how this has impacted on them, making them susceptible to all manner of vices. In his opinion, men had become lazy and entitled. He recalled a conversation he had with his son about working for three years post-graduation and his son returning a negative verdict. His reason? Too many responsibilities and burdens he was not ready for. Men now look for women within a good income bracket, making what ordinarily should have been a contribution of her volition to a mandatory or expected financial contribution, in addition to her homely duties. He feared that men no longer were looking for a decent companion that could support them in properly raising the next generation. The lure of westernisation and the heavy influence of the internet and social media became a converging point for both men as they deemed these as instruments of emasculating men.
“Do both of you think, based on your assessment of the younger generation of men, you have lived up to the expectations of being good fathers?” Contemplatively, they responded yes. What did I expect? I was asking the wrong audience.
Our men problem is rooted in a range of factors — the rise of electronic opiates, which distract men which largely has replaced traditional avenues of social interactions; the absence of role models that reflect positive images of male engagement in school, work, and relationships; a culture that discounts commitment. Though all of the above can be seen as reasons, in my opinion too many boys have grown up in homes without engaged or present fathers, which has left them especially unprepared to navigate school, work, and relationships successfully.
Part of this problem is attributable to the shifting character of family life in not just Nigeria but the world. We now have proud Baby Mamas with sometimes more than one child. Children with absent fathers and even those with present fathers, many men have not been given clear guidance from their dads about how to navigate relationships and develop a clear identity as a man, and this cycle persists. While today’s fathers are better equipped to help their children navigate school and work, they are less adept when it comes to preparing young men for dating, relationships and marriage.
More than anything, this growing body of directionless men indicates that the institutions which used to give shape and meaning to their lives are not as powerful as they once were because of the competing influences and homes left “unguarded.”
Looming on the horizon and threatening the next crop of young men who should become fathers is what I call the feminisation of the male. Yes, I have said it: men are becoming less masculine. There is now a “war” against men. It is being attacked on two fronts: patriarchy and what has been branded “toxic masculinity”. Wait! Before you come for me, I am not saying that these two states of affairs have not affected and done damage to women. Rather, it is how these men have been raised and what society has accepted as being OK “because he is a man” while the woman is to blame for literally everything that can go wrong. Now, let us mention a traditional male trait which is still prized by society in a simple context.
Aggression – a big no-no.
Chivalry – what a man can do, a woman can do better. Thank you!
Independence/Self-sufficiency – OK, this is still very much in play, as long as he can provide.
Physical strength – while not frowned at, you don’t see men on the frontline.
Dominance/competitiveness – dragging space with women.
Stoicism – political correctness has become the order of the day and we are canoodling people so that they don’t get hurt.
We forget that these traits, when harnessed properly, were what was used on the frontline of threats and protection – literally and figuratively speaking.
In the twenty-first century, men are being raised differently. We might disagree that this is not what is happening on this side of the Atlantic but it is subtly gaining traction in the way our boys are being raised and shown up. We don’t want warriors or soldiers anymore.
We want tame men who sit in offices and work 24/7 and who have feelings, and get in touch with their feminine side. When I asked Anslem and Chinedu if men should cry, they happily said ‘yes but in a corner’.
Soberly, they said, a man must be a man at all times. We tell our men that they should explore their feelings and be vulnerable and talk through their problems, and there is a place for that but not in the way our men are being redirected, sorry, until the day the trumpet sounds to call men into battle and no-one responds because our crop of men have taken it literal, and we are now seeing all manner of expressions. Our guardians are now playing dress up, looking better than women, with long nails, and are waiting for rich men to give them a soft life. Two sets of men are emerging here, leaving women in the lurch.
Who is a father? Fathers are sorely needed. It is not the provision of the one successful sperm that makes a father. While we have the problem of having men ready for the role, those that choose the role are tending towards abdicating their responsibilities. It is almost fashionable to either be married or in whatever relationship status to abandon the work of raising the children to the mother.
In simple terms, a father is a protector, provider, compass, strength, superman (LOL), disciplinarian, knowledgeable decision-maker. In the film by Biodun Stephen, SISTA, a young man of 19 gets a young girl of 17 pregnant and they have to fend for themselves. Sista sacrifices for the male and a second pregnancy later, and he is NYSC-bound, abandons her with both children for the next sixteen years, when a chance meeting brings them in touch with each other again. These are the pending issues.
As men and fathers celebrate this day, I hope they reflect on the fact that they are needed to produce well-rounded children. If we wish to revive the fortunes of today’s young men, we must help fathers teach their sons how to prepare better for adulthood, relationships, and marriage. And we must also revive our most fundamental bond – marriage – because it connects men to their sons in a way nothing else does. These steps matter, not just for renewing the fortunes of young men, but also for the sake of women looking for good partners to love, marry, and start families with, in the future.