- Category: Think Tank
- Written by Paida Mpaso
It has now been six years since 46-year-old Anthony Kachingwe (not his real name) told a daughter he fathered when he was still in college that he would integrate her into his family.
As the head of the family, Kachingwe has never told his wife about the daughter.
“Every day, I struggle and murmur. I want to tell my wife whether we can bring on board my 22-year-old daughter. I have been married for over 10 years and my wife has no idea that I have this child and that I have been paying school fees for her,” he says.
Kachingwe is aware of how devastated his daughter is because of his dilly-dallying.
“She is now in college and I know she wants to be integrated into a family. It is not her fault, but I do not know what my wife will say. It is a tricky situation,” he says.
Manyowe Township resident in Blantyre, Emma Banda, says most people fail to integrate children born out of wedlock for various reasons.
“I, too, have a child born outside wedlock. When I first got pregnant, my parents chased me and I had to live with my aunt. They took me back in when my child was one year. Some years later, I struggled to tell my husband about my daughter. But after some time, my husband accepted. All in all, I think it is a tricky situation.
“But why should people fail to accept a child born outside wedlock? We all make mistakes. Now, I am happily married and living with my daughter together with my husband and our two children,” she says.
According to Banda, children born outside wedlock must be accepted into the family.
“The best approach is to sit down with the child and talk to them nicely. In a family setting where either parent is struggling to bring on board their child from the past relation, I think this decision needs to be carefully thought through, especially on the grounds that we all need a sense of belonging. You never know what the future holds,” she says.
Marriage counsellor and family expert Regina Phanga says parents and families must never run away from the responsibility of raising children born outside wedlock. She argues children are never at fault.
“Like anybody else, they must never be denied their right to live in a normal family setting. Mistakes happen. If either parent has children born out of wedlock, it is better to sit with the partner and discuss the issues. There is no need to leave a child in the cold; it is not fair. Though some issues could be complicated, a simple prayer can also help break the barriers,” she says.
Psychologist Sandra Mapemba says most families do not want anything to do with children born outside wedlock.
“It is not so much the child they do not want, but the backlash of society [or spouse] that reinforces the [resolve] to refuse to take care of the child. It is because society has ostracised families where their girls or women have had babies out of wedlock.
“Most families fear more the reaction or rejection of their friends or religious community. It really has to do with the fact that parents feel they have failed to raise their children to the standard dictated by society. Therefore, by chasing the mother or rejecting the child they save face with society,” she says.
Mapemba says children born outside wedlock should be treated well and be allowed to integrate into a family.
“Parents need to understand that parenting is about guiding children to make good and responsible choices. However, as children grow, there is less control and, therefore, the best one can do is guide teenagers through information about sexuality, abstinence, delayed sexual debut and contraceptive.
“The key is to keep communication as open as possible. If this is missing, children will go to peers and the advice [they get] there is usually a chance of misinformation. If their daughter does get pregnant, then they need to think about the repercussions of losing their child. By refusing to raise or integrate the unborn child, they are closing the door to their own child.
“Parents need to weigh the pros and cons – usually the wives fear the reaction of husbands who may ask them to leave. So, they reject their daughter or the child instead. The issue needs to be discussed internally first, if it is not working, then seek help from outside, professionals who can help them sort out fears,” she adds.