For many fathers, Father’s Day brought with it more pain than joy. While their fellow fathers were out celebrating fatherhood, the emptiness that engulfed them that day reminded them of the agony they have to live with every day.
These men are estranged fathers. After being separated from their spouses, they were unable to continue having contact with their children. For these fathers, it’s not the pain at the end of a relationship that haunts them. It’s the fact that despite numerous efforts to do so, they are unable to see their children.
“The pain is so much. I had rented a room somewhere and then on the wall I had a small picture of my son when he was still small. I would look at it and cry. I would talk to him,” says Dennis Mwangi, a father who hasn’t been able to see his son.
Society places the role of a man as a protector and provider. For these fathers, family is everything. Yet they are unable to be a part of their children’s lives and even provide for them.
When trying to explain why some mothers cut contact with the fathers of their children, counselling psychologist Elmad Rigan had this to say, “The main goal is to be controlling over the other partner because this partner who wants to gain control will use the child as a decoy or as bait to get the child to feel that they are more important, they are more loving as a parent, they are more secure as a parent as opposed to the other parent who is often blamed and made to feel that you’re not doing.”
John Mwangi hides his sorrow quite well. He has two sons for whom he stills pays upkeep but he is unable to see. “People outside there may see me smiling but what is deep in my heart are very painful memories,” he says amidst tears. “I just want my kids to be allowed to see me.”
After the loss of his first wife and son, Robert Muigana was lucky enough to get a second chance when he remarried and now has another son. But he doesn’t stop thinking about his son with whom he has no contact.
“We used to talk about this painting,” he says, when reminiscing about the earlier days. “I would say that calabash is mama, the other one is daddy and he is the bowl and we are pouring out to him, we are making him.”
While these fathers are a clear example of the adverse effects of parental alienation, children too suffer when they are denied the opportunity to know their father or mother. Children suffer from identity crisis and a low self- esteem.
“If this child cannot finger-point and say I also have a father, I also have a mother who cares for me, that means the emotions of this child will be at question,” says Rigan. “That means that they will have issues with their self-esteem, they will start hating themselves. Some will resort to doing drugs. As teenagers, as they grow, there’s that moment of identity crisis trying to find, who am I really? They may resort into getting into a relationship for the sake of it. Some will end up being violent to their partners or re-enacting the same type of parental alienation to their children.”
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