WRITTEN BY CHARLES ODUGBESAN
For years I’ve been looking around and seeing people with whom I grew up or spent years at the same school/university all having children. Without having one myself (and hopefully this doesn’t come soon; I’ve still got some living to do) I can already see some of the life lessons that comes with it.
Recently I caught up with a friend who has a child by his ex-girlfriend. They live apart. He broke down months of friction to me and how they’re poisonous relationship with each other is making it hard to co-exist and raise their child. She thinks he’s not doing enough and he believes he’s been prevented from seeing his son – basically he’s having baby mama drama right? Real life baby mama drama. No Jeremy Kyle stuff. Real friction, real arguments, real fights, real accusations, real police involvement and a real custodial battle… all with an unfortunate toddler stuck in the middle of the mayhem. Listening to my friend rant on and on about the problems he and the mother of his child have had brought two things to mind. Firstly, what a terrible relationship he and his ex have; I’d hate to think of how they were together. From the sounds of it, they are both showing faults and just refusing to work it out. And secondly, more importantly, that poor, poor child!
People usually live by the idea of ‘right person, right time’ when it comes to having a child. But (depending on luck and the strength of a relationship) how often do these things go completely to plan in life. Relationships can fail or even never form. But if you both have gone far enough to have given birth to a child there now becomes something bigger at stake: a young life that is effectively in both your hands. A new commitment.
Unresolved issues between a mother and father do no good for a child whatsoever. I had to be honest with my friend and tell him that not only did I feel like he and the mother were acting incredibly childish, but if problems keep occurring between them, one of them could be pushed away from the child’s life completely.
“She’s crazy, she lies and she’s denying me access”. “He’s lazy, he doesn’t supply, and he’s just a sperm donor”. We hear these kind of cheap shots between split parents all the time right? And all the while they have no idea how much the back and forth conflict (which has every chance of escalating as this situation has) affects a GROWING child mentally and emotionally. Quite frankly, it’s not a healthy environment for a kid to be in. I’m sure neither of them would want their son possibly growing up misguided or even resenting one of them! And if there are some truths to the accusations and one (or both) of them are coming up short that’s not acceptable either. A child is dependent on BOTH its parents and that can’t be met with half assed commitment. It’s like failed partners can get so engrossed in being at odds with each other that they forget what’s most important. Instead, picking fights and petty one up-manship are more often the order of the day. The child will be at a disadvantage before their life has even started. And I’m not saying a child can’t be adequately raised by one parent… I was… but two heads are surely better than one.
It’s easy to sit here and give you the notion of ‘make sure you’re with the right one’. Having both parents, whether they are together or not, is the ideal scenario for a child growing up. But how often does the ideal scenario ever play out in life? This is the real world and truth be told, you’re lucky if you end up building a family with the ‘right one’. One of the biggest life lessons that having a child will teach is the art of selflessness. Just because a relationship fails doesn’t make it the child’s fault. Once the baby is born it’s not about you vs your crazy ex-girlfriend or you useless ex-boyfriend. It’s about being the adults you thought you were when you were rolling around in the sack without a jimmy and stepping up! Don’t let a young life be hindered because you couldn’t settle your differences with your significant other. It’s a team game now. So suck it up and buckle down!
Communicate. Set differences aside. Work together and don’t make promises that you can’t keep. Friends, even family may speculate and try and force their own opinions on the situation, but as a mother/father this is YOUR small family at the end of the day. Last thing I told my friend was that neither he nor the mother should let their actions give them a bad reputation. Life is about taking responsibility for your actions and seeing it through. Good or bad.
So go ahead and do just that.