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Why having children can sometimes do more harm than good

By Nina Steele 

My nephew is in his early 20s and has been in and out of jail many times already. His father who happens to be my brother has washed his hands of him years ago and so, my mother has been his main guardian. Although he has lived with my mother most of his life, his birth mother has been involved in his life too and has done her very best to put him straight to no avail. He was the result of a brief relationship my brother had, while already in a long term relationship with another woman, who is now his wife. The said wife has never forgiven him for what in her view constitutes the ultimate betrayal and the child by extension has paid a heavy price for his father’s failings. The general consensus, at least for now, is that he is damaged goods, although he has recently moved back with my mother and is making lots of noises about wanting to turn his life around.

It is his mother who I have the most sympathy for. Unlike all the other adults in this sorry saga who are now living comfortably, the boy’s mother has been struggling for years and had pinned all her hopes on her son making something of his life and helping her out one day. This is the African way. Children are seen as a long term investment. Unfortunately, instead of the help she had hoped for, she now finds herself having to help him out whenever he gets himself in trouble. He did a 3 months stint in jail recently and his mother, along with my mother, had to move heaven and earth to have him released (apparently, without their intervention, he would have gone down for 5 years).

It is clear now that he does not believe in hard work and instead, believes that he can have it all without so much as breaking a sweat. For example, my mother found him a job, which he promptly turned down saying that it was beneath him. He has no qualifications, yet he feels like he can pick and choose jobs. He tells everyone who is willing to listen that he wants to become very wealthy and sees himself as some kind of exceptional human being who happens to have been born in the wrong family and so naturally, a life of crime was inevitable.

Before his situation took a turn for the worse, I had at one stage, considered bringing him over to the UK to live with us. Now looking back, I am relieved that this never materialized, for I could have regretted it for the rest of my life. Occasionally, my husband and I wonder what our life would have been like had he moved in with us and every time I hear of more troubles he has got himself into, my heart breaks. He was once such a lovely boy. What a waste of life!

There is no denying that the absence of a male role model was a contributing factor in the way in which his life has turned out. Even so, there are many people who were raised without a father figure and still managed to make something of their life. He has caused so much trouble that understandably, there is anger directed at my brother for not playing his part in a situation that he created in the first place. In utter desperation, his mother even threatened when the boy was still a minor, to take my brother to court. She gave up at the end but still bears a lot of resentment toward him. Unlike the rosy picture that is generally portrayed in the media, having children can sometimes seriously mess up your life and I am sure that the boy’s mother will agree.

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