On May 8, 2020, Twitter user Lanndo (@Lxnndo), tweeted,
“divorced (sic) parents be meeting at store parking lots exchanging they (sic) kids like it’s a drug deal.”
At the time of going to press with this article, on December 2, 2022, the tweet has been liked by nearly 571,000 people, has nearly 86,400 retweets, and 12,000 quote retweets. The resonant tweet’s popularity is both a testament and an indictment of the fate of children in the event of a divorce.
While agreeing with the accuracy of the tweet, many who grew up under such circumstances condemned their upbringing and wished that their parents could have done better.
Whereas divorce is a likely outcome of a significant number of marriages in the Western world, and many children end up being raised by a single parent (usually the mother), in Africa, divorce was not the norm for the longest time.
But as the adage goes: ‘What California is today, the world is tomorrow’. Across Africa, as modernity peaks up, urbanisation spreads rapidly, and more countries embrace capitalism; divorce is likely to become part of life and a natural outcome of a substantial number of married millennials and Generation Z.
In Kenya statistics are fuzzy, but it is estimated that in certain demographics, say, urban, educated (at least degree holders), working-class, middle-class, three in ten marriages will end in divorce, within the first ten years of marriage. As is often the case, children are the casualties when two adults who decided to have them in the hope of raising them under a two-parent household, with all the familial love that comes with it, decide to call it quits.
Divorce affects each partner in a marriage differently depending on factors such as the reason for divorce, who initiated it, who wronged who the most, et cetera. That means the two adults’ egos will primarily affect the initial stages of the post-divorce life for the children. Some partners get stuck in that hateful, egoistical phase, understandably so, and sometimes even when it is not necessary.
For the record, women initiate up to 70 percent of divorces. Reasons cited include infidelity, cruelty, desertion, and shirking of responsibility on the side of men. However, objectively, the number of divorces that result from such extreme causes is about 25 percent, probably less. The other divorces are a result of women wanting better for themselves, a mismatch of individual ambition, differing views on the collective vision for marriage, and irreconcilable differences. Either way, men are always on the receiving end of the divorce, whenever it arrives, and almost all of them are always ill-prepared.
In the West, men— if the red pill and a host of masculinists are anything to go by—believe that divorce laws favour women and have made it easier for women to divorce. Lowering the threshold for divorce for reasons such as ‘no-fault’ has made it easier for women to walk away. They have birthed a saying that, “a man is worth more in divorce than in marriage” and they term the process of separation as ‘divorce rape’. Hence most leading voices in the manosphere encourage unmarried men to not marry altogether, since marriage is foredoomed.
This may not be entirely accurate, as there are far too many successful marriages (well relatively) than divorces. But if you have been rained on, news on rains, cyclones, and other wet enemies will be more appealing, rather than news about drought. However, men in the manosphere have been able to capture the pain and sadness that engulf men when they are separated from their families. The long-term psychological effects of the uprooting on men are yet to be addressed.
Used to be one of those fancy words in movies or Americanisms that were so far-fetched to Africans. Little did men notice that women were watching and buying into the idea, especially as more and more women were getting empowered.
I asked 20 women about the notion of co-parenting, and 17 of them were receptive to the idea, saying in the event of divorce, and the man is responsible enough, they would agree to a co-parenting arrangement.
I asked 20 men and only 5 were receptive to the idea. Seven outrightly rejected the idea, four termed it foolish, and three said it is only applicable in American television (or in America). Three of them with means expressed a wish to get custody of the kids, and for the rest, it was a question of whether or not: they either kept the kids, or they were completely out of the picture.
No surprises there. Women generally are more receptive to new ideas than men, especially in the social sphere. Even so, since they initiate most divorces, co-parenting is their compromise, their wish to have the father in the children’s life. It can be a genuine desire to have the father in the children’s lives. Sometimes it is because of the law. And other times, it is because the father has the means which by right, the children are entitled to and the woman understands that cooperation will guarantee better results for all parties involved.
If we accept divorce as a likely outcome of a third of marriages of a certain demographic (urban, educated, working class, middle-class), then we can train ourselves as men to handle the consequences, especially where they involve children.
Making Co-Parenting Work For Men
If you are a millennial, educated and you live in a city or a town, there is a 30 percent chance that you may one day end up divorced, getting a child out of wedlock (where the man vamooses), or outrightly refuses to take responsibility.
As things stand more than 90 percent of single-parenting is done by women. Whereas men have gradually embraced their parenting role outside marriage, voluntarily or through state coercion, the debate about co-parenting rages on.
Can co-parenting work?
It is a difficult question that we must contend with. Co-parenting working depends on so many factors. Who initiated the divorce for instance? About 70 percent of divorces worldwide are initiated by women. And where they are outrightly justified, some men may come to terms with their erring ways and try to rectify the situation by being present in their children’s lives.
The dynamics of divorce are complex and unique to each relationship. When it is the man who causes a woman enough pain to trigger her to seek a divorce, it can make some women very unforgiving. Because, let us face it, some women take in so much crap from the men, by the time they are divorcing him, they are so done with him and want nothing to do with him at all.
What about when it is the man who has been wronged? The very nature of how divorce unfolds makes it very difficult for men to come to terms with what hit them. Life after divorce for most men can be daunting. Typically, women move stealthily and when the man least expects it, usually at his weakest, she strikes him with the divorce. Many women have admitted that when they divorce a man, they first emotionally disengage from him before they physically cut him off. And it is that period between emotionally disengaging him and physically cutting him off when the damage is done. If a woman is leaving of her volition, some choose to be nasty, and spiteful, if only to assuage their guilt.
Most divorces are acrimonious, usually accompanied by accusations and counteraccusations. But one thing that men can’t deal with is the contempt of their wives that precedes some divorces. More so for women who call it quits for their own reasons, justified or not. To date, most women even when in the wrong, they would rather find a way to blame the man than take responsibility for their contribution to the collapse of the marriage.
Since, after divorce, the law and circumstances dictate that the mother takes custody of the child, most men find it hard to adjust to this new reality of life alone, starting from scratch.
Most men are proactive parents when they are married and live with their wives and children. But when separated, there are certain biological, evolutionary, and economical imperatives that make it hard for some men to initially cooperate.
Ordinarily, most men have an evolutionary impulse to keep their hereditary stock pure. Unfortunately. Women have the lock to this; men only hold the keys. So, when she goes away and is still of reproductive age, some men may find it difficult to accept the fact that their lineage may end up being ‘adulterated.’ It is a selfish regret, especially since some divorced men cheated in their relationships. But it is one of those irrational things we have to deal with as human beings, like most women having difficulties raising their husband’s children from another marriage.
However, with this knowledge, we can make co-parenting work.
Here is how.
1. Children Come First
Divorce is painful, and heartbreaking and recalibrates your life in ways you never imagined. Some men have told me divorce hurt them more than the death of their parents. But however painful, however hard it hits you; you must be ready to accept that the interest and welfare of the children override your personal hurts and problems with your now former wife. So, the sooner you can heal, the sooner you can resolve the difference at a personal level for the sake of the children, the better.
Act in the best interest of the kids above everything else.
2. Don’t be the toxic parent
Far few divorces end up amicably. And a good number have such a violent end, that one partner has to stay as far as possible for their own sanity, or safety. There ought to be room to handle things better for the sake of the children. Sometimes some partners ideally should be denied access to the children because of their violent nature or when they have proven to be a danger to the children. Some partners can be overly possessive or abusive even after divorce.
3. One Partner Will Move On, and The Other Will be Stuck in the Past
Commonly, after divorce, the wronged party tends to dwell on the past. The guilty party rarely has remorse for their actions, or they have a way of numbing them. In a marriage, whoever breaches the oaths, will always feel justified. That total lack of empathy is exacerbated after the divorce.
But once the divorce is finalised each couple must focus on their healing as soon as possible. Some have equated divorce to an amputation. And an amputation takes considerable time to heal. However, time waits for no man. There are kids at stake, and one ought to make peace with this and find an amicable solution as soon as possible.
Understand your ex will move on, eventually. They may remarry. They may go on to have children. So, you might as well move on. Don’t entertain thoughts of reconciliation. Because this is how some folks get stuck in the past. If especially, she is the one who called it quits, let her go. Channel the energy to the well-being of kids.
4. Provision, especially from the Man, is Key to Making things Work
Naturally, women look at provision as the primary role of a man. Because a child has to be fed, clothed, sheltered, and taken to school before we could even talk about other extra-curricular activities necessary for the growth and development of children.
But we have a situation. What if for a moment, as a man, you are not able to provide, and she denies you access? This happens a lot, especially with working-class women. Or what if you can’t match what she is able to provide and effectively relegates you to a deadbeat because she can?
First of all, it is the intention and your desire to provide that counts. Whereas temporarily you may not be in a position, if possible, try to communicate your position even though sometimes it can be met with derision.
Secondly, do the least you can, even if it means buying a pair of shoes. Sometimes, the least you do may not be acknowledged. This writer has spoken to a number of women on the issue and a good number of women argue that whatever you do is for your child, and you need not be patted on the shoulder. Fair enough.
That means that your focus should be exclusively on the child in the event the relationship between the two of you is too sour.
Thirdly, wherever you can, pay your proportionate amount towards the upkeep of the child. Where the mother is not able, be mindful of her welfare, because her welfare determines the welfare of your child. You want your child to grow up in a good environment.
Most men find it difficult to fund or furnish the life of the mother of their child(ren) if she is not capable, but it is a futile frustration. Men who swallow the pain and take care of both will always end up with better results for their child(ren). You do this for a limited time, as children soon become adults that you can engage with directly.
5. Children Only Care About Your Love|Presence
Whereas provision is critical, the absolutely crucial part of co-parenting is making time for the child. Time is synonymous with love. Provision is OK. Gifts count for much. But spending time with them, playing with them, going for walks, those bicycle rides, those are far better than all the riches in the world.
A father in a child’s life makes a whole ocean of a difference. You become present in a child’s life by giving him or her memorable experiences. Experiences may be cheaper, but they bring happiness to the children, create the best memories that they will live with long after you are gone, and it is the only way you can impart critical virtues such as courage, friendship, and responsibility.
Contrary to modern middle-class notion, experiences need not be too costly to be memorable. Of course, if you can afford a holiday in Mombasa, where you can run with your baby on the beach, do it. But sometimes, even riding a bicycle with them, taking them to the countryside, or a nearby national park, and telling them beautiful stories, all count for something.
6. Forgive the Mother if She Was the One on the Wrong
And forgive yourself if you are the one who messed up the relationship. Easier said than done.
Some breakups are a result of unforgivable betrayal, a total breakdown of trust, or extreme abuse. Many people have lived with so much pent-up anger, so much bitterness, all the way to the grave.
Kids grow up to know that mum and dad could never see each other eye-to-eye. And whereas they become adults and decide what side to pick and with luck can remain neutral, it is a whole new game when you forgive the mother and raise the kids normally. When they will become adults, they may know about the differences, but it makes for their healthy adjustments into adulthood to know that despite the differences, you both raised them to the best of your ability.
7. Respect the Mother
Sometimes the differences run so deeply. But without mutual respect between two parents, co-parenting can be difficult. So, as a man, you have to look beyond what brought the relationship to an end. It is never an easy thing, but if you can respect her, not for yourself but for the kid.