By NBF News

Dr Uchendu Alaefule is one medical doctor who has really perfected the art of applying humour therapy in his medical practice. The medical director of Jay Alams Hospital and Maternity, Ikotun, Lagos has for a long time been running health awareness campaigns.

One such activity is the radio and television programme titled, Dr. Nothing dey Happen. He is also actively engaged in marriage counseling as his professional medical practice had often compelled him to get in involved in the marital issues that affect his patients.

In this interview the amiable doctor bares his mind on the issue of single motherhood, which is fast gaining ground in the country. Excerpts…

Cause of single motherhood
Single motherhood occurs when a woman decides not to get married but raise children on her own. This could be due to several reasons: probably because they have had heartbreaks with their boyfriends or fiancé. For some others, it could be that they were sometime married but later divorced and don't want anything to do with marriage again. Again, for some it could be because of the emotional problems they have not gone through but had witnessed from their parents.

For such, they grew up in separated homes and had seen ugly sights like their father maltreating, beating or even killing their mother. Because those sights don't leave their memory, they grow with it and tell themselves that they will never have anything to do with men or marriage. They begin to see men as killers and monsters in the society. This affects their relationships and even when they manage to be in one, it lacks love and trust. Most times you see or hear them say I can't stay under a man.

Another thing that has contributed to increased single motherhood is money and education. An instance where the woman has so much money, she finds it difficult to come down and stay under a man and wonder why she should answer 'sir' to a man when she can fend for herself. However, there have been cases of women who submitted to their men despite their wealth.

There are also single motherhood situations resulting from several cogent reasons. So I don't condemn until I have heard their stories and backgrounds. Some ladies have almost died for a man only to find out that he is not sincere and has been cheating on them. So they never ever want to give their life to a man no matter the psychological treatment offered to her. So many go through emotional trauma that is difficult to heal so they just decide to raise children on their own and of course they have enough money to take care of the children but the effects are there.

Implications of single motherhood
Of course being a single mother has implications because those children will be missing the fatherly love they need. Marriage is the first institution on earth ordained by God but because of these problems, some women just decide to be on their own and raise their children.

These children need and miss that fatherly love and at a point in life when they grow up and they would begin to ask questions, wanting to know who is their father. Naturally, the mothers wouldn't want to disclose their father's identity, so they will try to cover up by telling them their father is dead or that he had an accident. We have also seen some that might be out of carelessness like getting pregnant when young and deciding to keep the baby rather than abort it. When they keep the baby, some guys don't want to take up the responsibility for a lady who already has a child, so when they are dating such ladies and discover that they have a child, they back out because they see it as an extra load on them which they don't want to carry.

A guy wouldn't want to do that based on personal reason; they feel 'how can I train a child out of wedlock? Would that child ever see me as a father?' An Igbo adage says 'that there is nothing you do for another man's child that will make the child call you father'. Also you will find out that where the man doesn't feel bothered about raising another man's child, the relatives will make him see the folly of training the child especially where the man has developed love for that child and it is a male child.

The parents might tell him how stupid he is for doing such while he hasn't gotten his own. All these things affect the marriage and of course leads to break down of the relationship. When such occurs, the lady might decide not to go into another relationship and opt to keep her baby and raise it as a single mother.

Surprisingly, single motherhood is on the increase now. So many ladies when I see them and ask why they don't want to get married, they respond that they prefer to be alone because men are useless, heartbreakers and devils.

Health implications
Honestly, the health implications are basically emotional trauma because you may actually have all the money and resources to send the child to good schools but one day the child is going to long for that fatherly love especially when the child sees his friends' or colleagues' parents and wish for such also. The child may be able to express such longing to the mother but that child is suffering it and enduring it. And when the mother tells the child that the father is dead the child finds it hard to believe. We have situations where the neighbour uses this to taunt or abuse the child by calling the child names like bastard or that a miscreant impregnated his mother.

When a child doesn't know who the father is, it is a mystery and once there is a mystery about yourself you are not yourself because there is one aspect of your life that is not complete, because there is still a vacuum and nature abhors vacuum and so will try to fill up that vacuum. In trying to do so, and if it is not done properly, you find the child having emotional depression and other illness associated with it.

All these are the health implications.
Life of make-belief
One might be rich enough to take care of the child but that emotional aspect can never be taken care of. And on the mother, it is all about the heart because she has made up her mind that she doesn't want a man anymore. So with that they tend to live a life of make belief and pretend that they are happy but inside of them they are not happy. And the only implication is that emotionally they have a defect but aside that there is no health implication because many of such mothers go outside to catch fun. When they want a man, they know what to do and how to go about it. When they want to get pregnant they play their card well by seduction and when they get pregnant they don't tell the man about it but keep the child to themselves after delivery.

It is very rampant in our society and it is not helpful because we are only producing children that don't know their fathers. The rate is alarming because there is no longer trust in the society. When ladies don't trust guys and vice versa they can't live together. Biblically, it is written that two cannot work together except they agree and when they cannot live together there is breakage in the marriage which leads to a high rate of divorce. Take a look at our celebrities. I can mention quite a number that got married in the last one year that are already divorced. There is no longer trust in the family. Gossips also play a role in such breakage. When one partner hears a rumour and doesn't confirm such rumours, but rather takes action based on hearsay.

Dwindling moral values
Moral value in Nigeria is decaying and I cannot tell why but it is dwindling. In those days there was great respect for the man as the head of the home but nowadays its not so. A woman will tell you, 'my salary is more than that of my husband's so who is the breadwinner? In some homes, the man is not doing anything because he doesn't have a job but it is the woman that is catering for the family and this is affecting the home.

You find out that so many women will not be humble again and will not respect the husband; with that the marriage breaks down. Some relatives come in as third parties, causing strife that leads to breakdown of the marriage. All these are basically affecting the home. The only area I can commend most of these single mothers is for the fact that they are determined not to commit abortion so they decide to keep the babies which is a good thing medically speaking, but on the other hand since they have decided to keep the baby they should allow the child to get to meet with the father rather keeping the child away from the father.

Happily married
It is exciting to know that I am happily married and I thank God for the marriage institution. There is a Yoruba adage that says: the husband's house is a learning ground. We keep learning everyday and truly marriage is like that; we learn everyday. You see people who have been married for about 40 years still quarrelling and so it is something that people should understand themselves and their spouse, know each other's weak points and try to make up for them.

You can never find a spouse that is perfect like in those days where we would list qualities we want in a spouse we are dating, like being tall, fair and others. The thing is that you can never find 100 percent of those qualities in a spouse but rather you will find about 50 percent and you make up for the rest. These are things that we need to learn to do in our society. I have been married for about seven years and I already have four kids in the house. I must say that I am one of such doctors that don't encourage child spacing especially in our environment now because unlike in those days where our parents got married off at such young age as 16 but now, our ladies do so at the age of above Age-25 because they have to go to the university.

Most of them wait to graduate before answering any man for marriage. So you find out that ladies finish at the age of 30 and get married 32 and when you start talking about child spacing, how many more years does she have to attain menopause? So I advocate that women that get married should have their babies as fast as they can especially those that don't marry early.

About 80 percent of our ladies don't marry early and if you look at statistics it is because of education, career or trade and the same for the guys because they want to get a house, a good job before talking about marriage. My dad married my mum when he was 24 and she was 16 but how many of our men do so now?.

I don't encourage child spacing for such ladies that marry late because menopause will catch up with them before they start having children and child spacing. At that age many women begin to suffer infertility and are faced with a lot of vaginal infections and problems. So by that time getting married and having babies becomes an issue and telling them to space is another problem. So I am saying that if God blesses you and you start having babies, have them as fast as possible before age starts setting in and other health problems like fibroid come in.

I married at the age of 30, which I believe is still early and my wife was 21 when I married her.