|Article in brief
As a parent, I am getting to understand first hand that looking after children is one of the biggest sacrifices parents make. Save for the unlucky ones who grew with single parents or no parents at all, you must be grateful to your parents. Either way, you must appreciate your guardians and parents for bringing you up. It is not easy.
The daily routine is a tough one: wake up at 5 am. Wash the kids. Pack for them some drinks and snacks. Drive them to school. Bear the snake long, snail speed traffic jam. Rush to office and look for money. Rush back to school and pick the kids before 6pm, else you pay fine. Repeat the same routine daily for nine months a year. Some of you are lucky with government jobs, and the driver does most of the picking and dropping at no extra fuel cost. Enjoy while it lasts.
And that is not all.
You must be home early to help the kids with homework. Police them to avoid watching bad tv channels. Keep them away from the house help whose English is more lethal than her cooking skills. Then wakeup in the night to ensure they are sleeping fine. Teach them table manners. Help with their tidiness. Ensure their dental is tended to or you may have a monster in the making.
Given that routine, I’ve concluded that most men with more than seven children did not do proper parenting. The parenting process is just trying.
The average age of middle class men fathering their first child is at 30 in Uganda (and 27for women). This is too late. It means you will be 33 years when your 3-year old first born is joining Nursery. OR you will be 47 years when your first born is going to University – assuming your kid is an average candidate.
Justification for delaying getting kids earlier
A chat with one of the middle aged executive at a big four audit firm gave two reasons (i) career and (ii) family background.
When you get your first job, you want to give it your best. And you know having a wife and kids would be a big challenge. Some jobs are too demanding that you need to put in your all. Tough deadlines, coupled with opportunities for travel and expose mean that you are not yet ready for a family. If you complete campus at 23 years, you need another four years of hard work to stabilize before thinking about looking after someone’s daughter. Men of these days want some stability; and this comes only when they have a land title and some structure on it. That way, they have some confidence to settle. At that time, unfortunately, it is getting late. The good thing with men is that they are able to give birth in a short while via multiple partners. But that is not what parenting is about.
So the question is: of what use is a successful career without a wonderful family? You must balance the two. While at University, you need to identify a soul mate.
Great relationships are made when both of you are still fresh and struggling. That bond – of being together through thick and thin and then starting to grow together – is all it takes to find a fantastic soul mate who is ready to bear with your shortcomings and hang on come rain or sunshine.
Why do parents invest in their children? It depends on your family’s financial standing. Every parent will say they want their children to live better lives. But that is not all. In the African culture, children are investments.
Parents invest in their children because they want them to help finance their retirement. You want your kids to provide for you with necessities during your old age. You want them to come home and visit you. Bring you gifts. Help pay your upkeep. And generally your kids should make your life easy whether you can look after yourself or not.
The worst thing is your own children exploiting your old age and vandalizing your investments and assets even before you die. The fact that your children are not interested in your wealth when they are old is a success on its own. And you are proud of that.
Some families/ parents are not lucky.
Children will delay marrying because once they do so, their families take Centre stage. Most of the time, once one marries before helping their siblings or relatives by paying their fees it is difficult to help them. Money is just not always enough. Plus some women (or men) won’t be happy with their husband (or wife) looking after their siblings.
And that is what starting a new family portends – joint scrutiny of your finances and prioritizing based on the immediate family needs.
This means, to help your parents, siblings etc you can easily do it when you are single than married. And next time you see someone is still single at the age of 35. Don’t be alarmed, they are just trying to lift up their relatives before their priority changes.
And it does change. If your kid is sick or your wife is in labor, and your father calls that they are feeling dizzy, and you don’t have enough money for both: whom would you first tend to? You get the point. Good news is that you will not be faced with several trying choices like this. And if done with good faith (depending on the urgency and need), everyone will understand, and if they don’t your conscience always does. Without generalizing, some wives are great people and will understand your situation and be supportive along the way. That is what a great partner is all about – understanding your circumstances and helping you fix what is needed.
Your best bet is to work hard and have enough money, earlier. Having your first born on your 30th birthday may not be fancy. You will be 40 years when your kid is completing primary seven; and 47 when s/he is going to University. That is 50 years when s/he is graduating. At that time may be you are no longer available to introduce your first born to your friends and buddies in your business circles to network and enjoy the benefits of your friendships.
Think about it.
It is the qualities of the choices we make that define our destiny. Whoever makes better decisions succeeds. You’ve seen this with Man U and their choice of manager.
And you have your own reasons for not doing certain things at a given time. May be, when looking back, you will think about it and ask: when should I have got married? Was it necessary anyway? Am I better off today? After all it is your life.
Wish you happiness regardless of your choices.
© Mustapha Barnabas Mugisa, CFE. 2014 All rights reserved. You are free to share with appropriate attribution.