Parents who have a child when they are not married to each other and have no plans to marry sometimes find themselves in a tricky situation. They have to plan who the child lives with and who becomes primarily responsible for its upbringing. They have to plan together to ensure fair access to the child for each other. The risk exists for the parent who becomes the primary caregiver to give the other parent limited or no access to the child.
This risk happens for various reasons. These include a grudge against one parent for breaking the promise of marriage or failure ( usually of the man) to reveal an existing marriage or attachment to another person. Sometimes after the woman becomes pregnant, a promising relationship breaks up for no reason and does not develop into a marriage. Even if the court comes in to decide how to share access to the child, the aggrieved parent may attempt to make things difficult for the other one.
Men in cultures where male superiority reigns use their financial and masculine muscles to take the child from its mother. Sometimes the man’s mother or sister is the accomplice who looks after the child from infancy with financial support from her son or brother. Resort to the courts can sort this issue out where family, church or community fails to find an amicable solution. Of course many fathers agree to the child living with its own mother at least until he is a few years old.
A father may also abdicate all responsibility for the child, including financial, to its mother. This may incite the woman to try to prevent the man from seeing his child or simply give him very limited access to his offspring.
An aggrieved mother may dump the child on the man who fails to marry her or provide financial support. She may even go to the extent of not relating to the child again. Such a woman may think she is punishing the man or making herself better prepared for her next relationship! This is often dangerous as her child may choose to have nothing to do with her when he grows up .
Keeping a father or mother who did not marry you away from their child can be harmful for that child’s physical, emotional/ mental and spiritual development . Steve Harvey once said, “Every boy that doesn’t have a father active in their life has a hole in their soul the shape of their father.” And I would add that the same thing happens to every boy or girl who doesn’t have a mother in their life.
I know a person whose father was not allowed to have any relationship with his child right from birth. For this and other reasons, that child did not do well in life as a grown up person.
A child brought up by a single parent may grow up to become a wonderful person in so may ways. But he may be at war with himself because one parent was absent when he was growing up . If he does not get help to grow out of his resentment, he may find it difficult to sustain a good relationship or marriage.
Even worse, such a child may become a problem child who becomes a difficult adult who also gets into trouble with other people, society or the law. Where one parent dies early, the child may accept his loss and with proper training grow into a mature person.
The single parent who alone is able to bring up the child to become a responsible and mature adult is truly blessed. Such a child has made peace with his past and can get on well in life and in his relationships.
Such serious problems are avoidable when both the man and woman are honest and apply biblical teachings to their lives. The Bible teaches, “ All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or No; anything beyond this comes from the evil one’”- Matthew 5:37 (New International Version).
My prescription is the assurance of adequate access to the child for the parent who does not live with the child. This will help the child know both parents as they cooperate outside marriage to bring him up the best way possible. Failure to get things done right may create problems not only for the child; one or both parents may also have difficulties in their relationship with their child when he becomes an adult.
I believe the advice in the Bible on child upbringing was meant for both father and mother, “ Direct your children on to the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it” -Proverbs 22:6 ( New Living Translation). Also having children is best done within the framework of marriage. “ Then God blessed them (Adam as husband and Eve as wife ) and said, ‘ Be fruitful and multiply’”- (Genesis 1:28a).
My sister in law has reminded me some men insist they did not make their girlfriends pregnant! They therefore do not take any interest either in the pregnant woman or support the upbringing of the child after it is born.