For Susan, it was heaven since the day she got married. One year down the road, she couldn’t be any happier. News of a pregnancy gave her and her husband unmatched delight. As she went about building her family, one day, her entire world changed. She found out about a child her husband had sired with another woman before they got married.
What was she to do? Many thoughts went through her head; why didn’t he tell me before? Is the child going to live with us? Will we get along? What if the child’s mother is hostile? And etcetera.
She remembered her vows — for better or for worse — this was it!
This may sound familiar, as some married people have probably found themselves in this predicament. The topic is delicate, as people are understandably emotional and opinionated about their views on what to do when it comes to raising a child that isn’t biologically theirs.
The day Shafic Ntambi met his wife; he was convinced that she was the woman he was going to spend the rest of his life with. The fact that she had a child from a previous relationship didn’t bother him at all.
Family and friends cautioned him to think twice before taking over ‘another man’s responsibility’ but he was committed to making it work.
A few years into the marriage, things took an unexpected and unwelcome turn. It was his wife’s constant encounters with the child’s father that shook their marriage.
Ntambi is just one of the many people who have faced such a dilemma, but would you take on the role, wholeheartedly, of raising your partner’s child?
James Friday, a TV presenter, says he would gladly raise a child that is not his. He says as long as issues are settled upfront before the nuptials, then all would be well with him.
“I would raise my partner’s child and treat them as my own. A child is a child; however, it would be a different case if the woman gave birth to another man’s child when married to someone else.”
For Derrick Kabanda, a graduate, it would certainly be a different case. He believes raising another man’s child is a burden too much to bear for a lifetime.
“Accepting to raise that child means that one will have to deal with the child’s father forever, this brings up trust issues and it is not good for a marriage,” he says.
Joan Kaitesi, however, believes that if she was to be with a man who had a love-child (like in Susan’s case), she wouldn’t think twice about taking in the child as long as they have love for each other as a couple and are committed to building a lifetime commitment.
“I would look after the child because she or he is innocent; I am a woman who wouldn’t want anyone to mistreat my kids, so I would also raise someone else’s kids like they were mine.”
Kaitesi points out that children are a blessing from God and one can never know who they turn out to be.
Aristide Mugabe, a basketball player, is of the view that if it happened that he is courting a woman who has a child, as long as he loved her and dated her knowing that fact, he would raise that child.
“I wouldn’t mind about what people say, if I am convinced to do something, I will do it if I think it’s right. People will always talk no matter what you choose to do,” Mugabe points out.
A popular Facebook page was ‘on fire’ this week when a man asked for advice concerning his wife who only told him she had two kids after six years of marriage.
What kind of woman keeps her children a secret? Many asked. How desperate was she that she thought the man wouldn’t take her if he knew she had kids? If he chose to leave her because she had kids, then that is clearly ‘good riddance’ as children come first. These were just some of the comments on the thread.
Many insisted that children are innocent in all this, however, a few couldn’t dodge the issue that this kind of news can break a person as the man was neither emotionally nor financially prepared for it.
Should it matter at all?
Damien Mouzoun, a counsellor and CEO of Ayina Think Tank, says the issue shouldn’t be about whether or not a man or woman should take on a partner with a child, rather the basis of the marriage itself.
He says, “I think the question of marriage or choosing a partner for life is more intuition-related than logic-based. Though there are so many considerations according to personal facts, family values, culture, religion and society; I believe there is no unique rule in this matter which works for everybody.
“The most important thing in a marriage is to live a happy matrimonial life in true love and mutual support. It might be for the best and the worst at the same time.”
The counsellor notes that when a single parent is to choose a potential marriage partner, one of the most difficult and most crucial considerations is not what the guy looks like in a snug pair of jeans, how fat his bank account is, or how ‘romantic’ he or she is, “none of these things are nearly as important as this: how will he or she treat their child?”
“When we consider universal principle of humility over pride, kindness over envy, abstinence over gluttony, chastity over lust, patience over anger, liberality over greed and diligence over sloth, we should not even ask these questions in the first place,” he adds.
Mouzoun quotes Albert Einstein — “Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted.”
Pastor Enock Cyuzuzo of God’s Power and Healing Ministries recommends that when a couple is in courtship and they end up getting pregnant before tying the knot, it would be better that they get married to avoid the long-lasting repercussions of having a love-child.
“You need to look at the rights of the child, when you get married when you have a child with another person there is a chance that you will not take the required responsibility for the child. It can even be a challenge for your partner,” he says.
Cyuzuzo emphasises the child’s position in all this, saying that a child needs to be in an environment that makes them happy and comfortable.
The question about step-parenting
An article on huggies.com titled “Can you REALLY love a child that is not biologically yours?” attracted all sorts of comments. One particular one read — “I have seen many people love a child that is not biologically theirs as if they were their own, and I really and truly take my hats off to these people. The difference with these people is they refer to their non-biological child as ‘their’ child rather than a ‘step child.”
30-year-old Aline (names withheld) lives an isolated life. She has always been a timid person ruled by an inferiority complex. Raised by her step-mother, Aline believes that it was the trauma she faced at a young age from her father’s wife that made her turn out this way.
Stories about ruthless step parents, especially stepmothers, have been around for ages, but why is it so? What is really the extent of this claim?
Mouzoun points out that the sense of ownership makes it difficult for many people to adopt, unconditionally, children from another father or mother, even the child adopted can be exposed to a personal feeling of not belonging.
He says parents who decide to take on this responsibility are bound to face hardships at some point but he advises that physical intimacy, self-control and morality are keys in overcoming the hardships.
“One of the books I found impressive in addressing human behaviour problems in this regard is ‘Quirky’ by Melissa Schilling,” he says.
Doreen Mutesi, an events organiser, says being a parent is already a difficult full time job and being a step parent is certainly more challenging with numerous reasons behind it.
“To begin with, you are forced to deal with kids not of your own blood who might not like you. This poses various challenges, the good thing is that there are several things you can do to smooth the bumps associated with raising step children,” she says.
Mutesi, however, says step-parenting wouldn’t be a factor that would stop her from marrying a man with a child if only there is no business between him and the child’s mother at all.
Lillian Uwintwali, the chief executive officer of M-AHWIII Ltd, believes that people should take responsibility for all the choices they make and that children shouldn’t be victims of their mistakes.
She says, “If the man had a child before meeting her, she would understand and accept him and also be in a position to accept his blood as well.
“Provided that I have consented to marrying the man I cannot refuse his blood, I would gladly raise the child because in all this, the child remains innocent and is just a mere victim of circumstance.
“Of course all this will depend on the mother of the child in question, if they are okay with their child being raised away from them, because their opinion matters and should be taken under consideration.”