Good husbands must be good fathers too!
Simon Mbevi lost his father when he was eight and never got a chance to know how to act among men, but when he got married to Sophie 14 years ago, he had to man up and become a good husband, in order to be a good father. By Mary Mweni.
SIMON MBEVI grew up as a lone boy surrounded by his mother and four sisters who are older than him and he felt like the most-loved child of all time. It was not until it was time to start a family of his own that realised he was ill-prepared for what awaited him.
“The family, the society and the world at large suffer in many ways because of the absence of a father,” he says. “Seventy per cent of social problems like crime, sexual immorality, child and drug abuse can be helped by the presence of a strong father-figure in a child’s life.”
He says “fatherlessness” has reached a crisis point and very few children have fathers they can be proud of. “Recent statistics show that 20 per cent of men have had good fathers while 80 per cent have father-wounds. The wounded
ones, both young and old, hobble along with masculinity issues.”
Mbevi, who is the Executive Director of Transform Kenya Initiative, lost his father when he was eight. “I did not know how to act among men and I always felt timid and lost in front of people.” His wake up call to stand up for his family
came when household roles and responsibilities were not done.
“My wife and I were always arguing over things I thought were meaningless and as time went on, we could not agree on anything. I expected her to handle utility bills and she wondered why I could not take charge of manly roles at home,” he remembered what used to happen 14 years ago, when he and Sophie were newly-married.
Mbevi and his wife are pastors at Mavuno Church, and are involved in marriage counseling. His argument was that his mother and sisters used to do everything in the house, but Sophie’s take was that she saw her father take care of the bills single-handedly.
The realisation that he had not been mentored into masculinity hit him like a thunderbolt. “I had to consult older men and also developed a passion for boys who fell into such a situation.” He took the initiative to help bridge the gap for the fatherless and Boys to Men programme was birthed. The programme recruits high school age boys into a 12-week course.
The course entails in-depth studies on the definition and roles of a man, stages of man-hood, sexuality, identity, purpose, code of honour among other affirmations. In addition to the course line, the boys also learn five values that are critical in the life of a man and which are summed up as LICKS – Loyalty, Integrity, Courage, Kindness and Servant hood.
When he realised he had a burden for the boy-child, Mbevi set out to do a research in Nairobi on how many men really needed fathers.
A population of 3,500 men at Nairobi Remand and Allocation Centre at Industrial Area (Industrial Area Prison) revealed that 72 per cent did not have fathers while they were growing up.
Another group of 350 men within Nairobi West residential area produced 68 per cent of men who lacked fathers and a further 12 per cent who had passive fathers. “Passive fathers equally cause harm to their children just as absentee fathers. They are never involved in the lives of their children and that contributes to how the children relate to life issues including sex.
“Not having a father affects the way you turn out as a father or as a husband yourself,” he says, and adds that “if a man is not emotionally connected to his wife, he will do the same thing with the children.There is no way you can become a good father without first becoming a good husband.” He advises men to know themselves. “Take note of how and why you are hurting, what you are struggling with and where you are coming from.”
For him, he says, it was a lot easier to discover his struggles since he and Sophie did not have children until four years in to their marriage.
The father of three says a real man is a male who takes initiative, leads sacrificially, loves faithfully, lives responsibly and leaves a legacy. These qualities, however, do not come easily but through a conscious commitment to confront your past in order to make good the present and the future. You have to be man enough and come out clean to your wife. Let her know that you have challenges that you wish to confront, with her help of course.
“I take the initiative before my wife confronts me. I am responsible for the vision of my family,”he says.
Children are sharp and will realise there are problems at home even when parents do not tell them. To counter that situation, he takes his children on dinner dates every fortnight, in turns.
The children, two daughters and a son aged between two and 10, always look forward to chatting with their father. “We spend quality time talking about various topics that range from boys/girls to loyalty. They tell me which areas they are struggling with and I find a way to address their needs. I believe the greatest gift a man can give to his children is a great marriage.”
“She was very gracious and has never let me down for the 14 years we have been together.”
He calls on women to realise that men have issues.”Be easy on men. Do not call them names when they fall short of your expectations. That way, you will just drive them away. Work together and build his confidence, be¬cause marriage is about working out things together and not blaming one another.” Mbevi says that a man needs to know that the anger he feels is not towards his spouse but towards himself.
“Instead of getting frustrated with life and marriage, work on them, for they are all about intentional continuous growth. Anybody can achieve their dreams when they live purposely.”
He says men should talk to their sons about how to be good fathers. For those who are being brought up by single mothers, father alternatives should be adopted with trusted relatives or friends taking up responsibility of being father figures. “The society needs to give permission to the man to realise that he is wounded so that he can deal with the wound openly.
Women, on the other hand need to stop smothering masculinity. “A woman can at best be a very good wife and mother, never a man or a father. There must be a cutting of the apron strings. “Every mother must release her ‘boy’ to govern his life and his family. A man who has not broken ties with the mother is not fit to get married,” Mbevi warns.
The 19th of June is Fathers’ Day, and Mbevi is planning to launch a book titled Dad is Destiny: The difference a father makes.
For more information on the book and other fatherly networks, please visit www.transformkenya.or.ke.