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Amy Nwoku: Children of Divorce

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There is a group of people I admire so much. This particular set of people are good psychological case studies. They are the children from broken homes and the children whose parents are divorced. I am referring to children who tasted the complete family life before it shattered.

You may think divorce is a new thing in Nigeria, but it is not. Divorce has been around since the time of our ancestors. It just was not called “divorce”, since no legal procedures were involved. They were in the form of separation and “chasing” of spouses. Unlike our generation that loves to advertise their divorce details, those ones were private and known only to close family/friends. If you dig deep, you will find out that a large percentage of the old women dancing in your church have been separated from their husbands for years.

Both the old form and new form of broken homes, have one thing in common… the children. These children are hardly ever considered. A broken family always affects the life of a child; and sometimes, the child is unaware of the effects. The female child whose father was the bad one and the one who left, would either find it hard to trust a man or she would spend her whole life searching for a father figure. Her male counterpart would work hard all his life to prove he is not like the father.

The female whose mother was the bad one would spend her life proving she is not like the mother while her male counterpart would find it hard to trust a female. Then there are the insecure feelings that comes with the territory of having a single parent.

I do not know about other tribes but in Igbo land this particular set of people are looked at with one eye (if you know what I mean). Once you introduce your intended spouse to your people, they turn into the FBI and conduct investigations to certify the person worthy enough. Woe betide you as a female if you are from a broken home. Your fiance’s people will tell him that it is likely your mother caused the problem and that the idiom “like mother like daughter”, is not a joke.
Woe betide you if you are male and your father was the one who walked out. Your fiancee’s people will also drum it into her ears that “like father like son” is not a joke. Even when the child is not about to marry, people would still find ways to hurt him/her. Any misstep, and statements like “Are you surprised? She is from a broken home”, are easily made.

The rate at which separations are being legalised as divorce and made open is getting high now. Each time I read about one, I think of the children involved. They may have evolved into a stronger breed who are not affected by the fall out of their parents’ marriages. I doubt that though. How does one love and know how to keep a marriage when that of your teachers in the form of your parents, fell apart? A mother can only try to be but she can never be a father and vice versa.

A new step-parent can only try to but can never replace your biological parent. I admire this set of offsprings because over the years; they have tried to survive and some of them have gone on to live lifes that their counterparts with normal families live. It is the duty of everyone to think before getting married and to always try more than extra hard to work things out when they go wrong.

For the children whose parents have failed in this duty,I am just trying to tell you that somewhere in Nigeria, someone is rooting for you.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Anke Van Wyk

Amy Nwoku is both a medic and a writer. Born and bred in Umuahia,a city where everyone knows everybody;she aims to teach and inspire the world with her experiences and those of the people in her world. For now,more of her works can be found on her facebook page,www.facebook.com/Amy4me.

30 Comments

  1. juju

    December 16, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    thanks Amy! what u said is totally true….. The female child whose father was the bad one and the one who left, would either find it hard to trust a man or she would spend her whole life searching for a father figure. Her male counterpart would work hard all his life to prove he is not like the father.

    and d worst part is dt, no matter how u successful or strong you are in d face of the untold trauma you and your mum have been put through, at times you just find yourself very very angry, and trying to understand what did you do wrong.

    and after all said and done due to some so cold tradition, the family still expects your mum and you the children to go and beg, i leave evrything in the Hands of My creator, funny thing is that He walks away, BUT YOUR LORD AND CREATOR REMAINS. in the end i think for both male and female children affected, we just find a way to make peace with ourselves, find strength in our weakness, and find what drives us and pray that our Future partners understand us.

    xoxo

  2. Yinkz

    December 16, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    Dear Amy,

    Your article is apt well to my life in an extent…my parents got seperated when I was about 11 years old. Boy, it did have an effect on us (my siblings and I) and we scaled it, surviving was tough especially when you had to lie that your mother was now in the States etc just to prevent your friends from secondary school knowing why you did not get food and provisions from your parents on visiting day. Finance also became an issue for my dad and we started having it tough,..I no wan go into details dear as tears don they form and THANK YOU for rooting for us!

    People also need to know that an individual should not be judged by the virtue/vices of the parent. I have a life to live as an individual and should not be viewed as a reflection of my father/mother just because they erred in making an important decision in their lives!

    Another part of this issue we tend to ignore also is how children who have never seen their parents have a fight or know what a broken home means end up getting divorced not once or twice after marriage. Could you write an article on this and let us have different views.

    • beauty

      February 16, 2015 at 3:56 pm

      you are a genius! nobody is ready to answer your question all what they want to point out is d effect of negativity on children from Broken homes and will never encourage or say something good about them, forgetting that destiny can never be changed. There are some bad father figures that you wouldn’t pray your children to emulate and the best option is just for the woman to walk away. My Bible says, my Children will be taught of the Lord and great will be their peace! Once I know this and do not derail in serving and obeying my God, my Children will do good in the land of the living. I will not stay in a bad marriage to satisfy Church Members and Friends. Chikena

  3. tbn

    December 16, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    I honestly don’t know the purpose of this write up and the lesson which you hope to bring out of it. I know something though, what would be would be, that is life. SOmetimes there is absolutely nothing anyone can do about a marriage that cannot work. Its a very hard decision and i don’t believe that people who separate or divorce, take that decision with levity. I agree that children are unfortunately the biggest casualty but I ask; is it better to stay in an emotionally and physically abusive marriage for the sake of the children? My answer is NO, As a matter of fact, i think it is better for the sake of the children that one leaves that kind of marriage, so as not to scar them for life. I left my marriage with my children because it fell in that category, that does not mean that I have failed as a parent. Instead I believe i have saved my children the heartache of seeing their parents fighting and accepting that its a normal thing, By taking this decision, i believe and pray (because one cannot choose what would happen) in future my daughter would not marry a man who would do the same to her in the name of marriage/love, and she would accept it just because she grew up seeing the same thing happening while she was growing up. Also, my son would not grow up abusing (physically or emotionally or otherwise) another person’s daughter because that was how he saw his father treat his mother while he was growing up. In our society, a lot of men behave the way they do because of how they were brought up to treat women.
    In answer to what you wrote about a girl whose father left, a girl who grew up in an environment where her father mistreats her mother and she stayed in the marriage, could also look at men with distrust because she is sensible enough to know that what her father does to her mother is wrong, and she won’t want a man who would treat her like that.
    Lastly, i have seen and have a couple of friends whose parents were divorced who have turned out well- have their own families and are living happily. On the other hand, i have seen where those who grew up in together and happy families, end up in divorce (case in point me).
    I think we should start emphasizing more on how children whose parents are divorced can cope with it, live meaningful lives and heal with the involvement and support of both parents and the society rather than on how the parents have failed to keep their marriage together and on stigma that comes from such unfortunate occurrences. We as human beings have to be sensitized and accept divorce and separation as one of those things that happen in life even when it is not planned. There should be more support for those children and the parents too like we see in developed countries.

    • C'est moi

      December 16, 2014 at 2:00 pm

      Very well put TBN I have friends going through hell & high water in their marriages but see it as the norm because well, it’s what their mothers had to put up with too & thus teaching their young girls to shut up and put up with too. Even worse when notions of divorce are tied in with religious dogma. Just causing all parties more damage than good.

      What some call a broken home I call a fixed home.

      & Amy what a condescending myopic article, think it’s time to leave Umuahia for the bigger world.
      I’ll add, some step-parents are the best thing that could ever happen to one, it takes more than biology to be a good parent if you aren’t inherently so.

    • Amy Nwoku

      December 16, 2014 at 3:31 pm

      *smiling* C’est moi,the bigger world I would leave to would still be “my world”. Thank you for the critique of my piece. My piece highlights what the society thinks about the children from broken homes and my encouragement. Your friends’ situations are answering a question I asked in the article-how can one love and know how to keep a marriage when your teachers in the form of your parents could not keep theirs? Oh yes,a step-parent might be great but can never be ypur biological parent. Ever wondered why adopted children search for their biological parents even when the adopted parents are totally awesome? Ever wondered why someday when the parent who left comes back for forgiveness,most still forgive?

  4. mz willz

    December 16, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    I could write an epistle abt dis but den,i’ll kip it short. I come from a shattered(not jst broken) home nd yes,its been a battle cuz i learnt at quite an early age to make impt decisions for myself which ordinarily a parent shld mk for a child. I also learnt to be strong for myself no matter what. Ve made my mistakes but i ve vowed that my children will never have to go through what ve gone through(not evn quarter of it). The long and d short is dt its not been easy but God is still holding my hands.

  5. Friday's OtherChild

    December 16, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    Some of my favourite commentary on the so called ‘broken home’. It challenges what we consider, and should be considered as broken.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_VJrFZPTIo
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_8nxbeX9kI

    ‘Broken homes’ are certainly frowned upon in Nigeria, here I think the author states the obvious. What I disagree with is the generalised conclusions about the impact of divorce on the children. In my opinion, a clean split with two parents actively involved in the lives of and still loving their children, is probably a much better environment for the children to grow up in, and likely to result in the children becoming well-adjusted adults, than a dysfunctional two-parent home.

    I think the key thing is that if people are going to get divorced, they do so before things get so bitter that they have no chances of remaining cordial. Then its imperative that they themselves heal and that they don’t hid things from their children. By this, I don’t mean that they should start ranting to their children, I mean they should make it known to the children that they used to love each other, and although they may not anymore, they still really love the children and will do everything to make sure they have what they need from both parents. Part of this is the ‘offending parent’ being brave enough to be openly accountable for his or her actions and apologising for the ‘offended’ parent in view of the children. If they are not old enough, at the point that they are, both parents should sit them down and have the conversation with them together. When adults -either in or out of marriage – put the children in the middle and use them as bargaining chips, they suffer and more likely to exhibit symptoms of disturbed emotional development – described in the article.

    Single parent homes don’t automatically result in dysfunctional or emotionally inept adults, but the actions of parents – and societal bias – married or divorced parents can.

  6. Chinma Eke

    December 16, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    BN where’s the: ‘love this’ button for the article?
    Thank you Amy, good to know someone understands the pain of the ‘children. Of divorce’.

    • Chacho

      January 13, 2015 at 7:55 pm

      Which yama yama pain? Have 3 seats.

  7. Over IT

    December 16, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    Was engaged to a guy who grew cold feet because according to him, he didn’t think his parents could accept a woman from a dysfunctional home (Raised by my mum and step father), Didn’t waste my time breaking up with him! I’m better off for it cus I’m with someone who doesn’t care about my family issues but rather loves me for who I am and accepts me.

  8. Amy Nwoku

    December 16, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    Dear tbn,I totally understand you and I am really very sorry if you felt slighted. I wrote an article and not an essay so it had to be quite succint. But believe me,the “bad people” in my article are not parents like you but those that cause the harm like your husband and the couples that were never compatible so had no business getting married to each other. I could not have mentioned those who are affected by the trouble in their family since it is an article on those whose come from broken families. Thanks for the tip about writing on how to live as a child from a broken home. A big shout out to my friend who had to invent a mum who travelled.

  9. Amy Nwoku

    December 16, 2014 at 2:28 pm

    And tbn,I did mention those of them who go on to live happy lives like children of normal happy families do.

  10. B

    December 16, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    tHIS post got me thinking about loads and loads of stuffs with tears in my eyes,It s well,The Lord is still keeping me,He s being my all through the years,

  11. MO

    December 16, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    This article is so on point especially this ”The female child whose father was the bad one and the one who left, would either find it hard to trust a man or she would spend her whole life searching for a father figure. Her male counterpart would work hard all his life to prove he is not like the father”. it takes the grace of God for such people to find the right guy and they are easily hurt.

    • Chacho

      January 13, 2015 at 7:58 pm

      Is it better to live in a house were the man constantly beats his wife. The female daughter will think its normal for her spouse to Mike Tyson her and the male son will believe it is his absolute to assault women. Now, how is this better than removing ones self from a toxic situation?

  12. Butterfly

    December 16, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    A normal family is one where there is love and acceptance,this is what makes a normal child.

  13. O

    December 16, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    Being from a broken home is one of the tough situations of life. For me it made me overly independent; I approach every relationship with way more than a healthy dose of skepticism, every relationship, not just male/female. Ultimately watching my mother giving more than anyone should have to make me feel more indepted than I should. It’s a very emotional thing for me as it’s brought out the best and the worst in us.

    A well rounded family is the ideal, but I’ve this life for a reason, and in life we are the choices we make. So broken family or not, I owe it to me to be the best version of me. Everyone has something to contend with, and it’s called life.

    If you are from a broken home, know that it is not the best thing that could happen to you, neither is it the worst. Instead, focus on the positive, give people a chance to be in your life, and check out this TED talk, it helped me a lot

    ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability

    • O

      December 16, 2014 at 3:54 pm

      The grammatical errors, please forgive…

  14. I notice that SOME (not all divorced women) are always touchy and aggressive when you talk about the issue. However there are certain things to look at;

    1. Dont be quick to let the world know that the man was the problem, many divorced women tell their children this as well and so they hate their father.

    2.Nobody gets married to get divorced so its painful on both sides.

    3. Everything in this world is cause and effect; it takes two to fight, it takes two to make babies and it takes two to make a marriage work as well.

    4. When a marriage fails, its the fault of both parties, not just the man or the woman

    5. The devil hates marriage, he cant marry and he cant reproduce so he fights it, prayer is key but love and forgiveness goes a long way.

    May God keep us all.

  15. didi

    December 16, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    my parents got divorced when i was 9. and so what? their life doesn’t define how i should live mine.that they birthed me doesn’t mean i must partake in the misfortune of their marital woes.
    @OverIt..im glad you left that guy..i was once in your shoes too.
    Hopefully ladies like us would make better homes than that of our parents with a man who would love us just the way we are. No time to waste time abeg

  16. Dee

    December 16, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    I would like to read an article on the effects of staying in a dysfunctional marriage to children. I think a lot of children whose parents have horrible marriage but stay there thinking it’s for the sake of the children actually turn out more damaged than the children of divorced parents. That is why some women see nothing wrong with their husbands beating them since Daddy used to beat Mummy and Mummy stayed same way the boys may turn into women beaters since their “role model” made it seem like it’s part of marriage. I believe the best thing one can do for children is to take them out of a negative environment.

  17. Jennifer

    December 16, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    I’m not “‘a child of divorce as you put it”. My parents got divorced. It does not define me. This article is so patronising. Some people do have the issues you highlight but many of us don’t. My parents decided and did a great job of raising us transparently without bitterness but to you that would be “‘advertising” their divorce as you put it.. I’m good, much better than some whose parents remain in dysfunctional marriages. You’re clearly a woman with traditional values and that’s fine. Just try to acknowledge that other means and outcomes exist.

  18. l

    December 16, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    I am 18. My parents divorced when I was 16. It was very hard for me to understand why they even got married at first because they were always fighting. Now I got to understand at that age that people fall out of love.. Infact the divorce made me grow up so fast, I had to learn to love them differently and know that they truly loved me but we’re not good for each other. It hurts when I know my friends parents are celebrating their anniversary but my parents are not even on speaking terms. Divorce affects children whether you are doing it for them or not. We expect our parents to be together and when it does not happen we feel bad. But that doesn’t mean they should leave if it’s a bad narrative but the bottom line is no matter the situation divorce affects children. I’m thankful for my parents anyway they ensure they both play a role in my life.

  19. Iris

    December 16, 2014 at 10:30 pm

    I understand where your article is coming from but i disagree with a few thingsabout the greatness of biological parents. Adopted children sometimes look for biological parents because they seek answers. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are predisposed to love the biological parent by default. You can even love both but if all other things are equal (eg you dont have a disagreement with your adoptive parent over a fundamental issue that you and your new found biological parent agrees on), to me it us very clear that the parent you grew up with will come first. As for the forgiveness issue, it is possible to even forgive the father of your three children who left you; it does not mean you will reunite with him. When you are older, you can forgive a lot of things simply so that you do not carry bile in your heart.

  20. Tosin

    December 16, 2014 at 11:48 pm

    You know the worst case scenario? Kid suffers in a divorce/separation and swears his/her kids would never have to endure such. Then marries and the kids suffer in a by-force happy family and swear their kids would never have to endure such.
    Everybody chill out.
    I also think our ‘family’ is as big as we want it to be, nothing super-sacred about blood, though many would disagree.

  21. Bobosteke & Lara Bian

    December 17, 2014 at 10:56 am

    I re-read your article just so that I do not go off half cocked.

    You see, I found your article to be too set on the effects a broken home has on the children. You painted an either this or that situation which I find very myopic. Not all children from broken homes are scarred and not all of them spend the rest of their lives trying not be like the parent they feel committed the most wrong. Some are happier with the split because the tension at home had become so palpable you could cut it with a knife and the separation was a breathe of fresh air that did everyone good. Some were mature (which is not age dependent) to understand that their parents’ issue was just that: their issue, and in no way bore any effect on who they were. Some have even become counselors to their parents and have helped fostered a good familial relationship between both parents, which was not necessarily to restore the family into a nuclear one but for a relaxed air all round. So for you to impose the victimhood theory is inferior thinking to all concerned.

    The truth is that any one from a family, whether there was a separation, divorce or where the parents were together for the sake of keeping up appearances, may or may not come away unscathed. If my father was irresponsible and my mother overly critical yet they stayed together, I may still live my life trying to prove that I am not like one or the other. These are not necessarily traits that endure from a broken home. And what is a broken home anyway? Surely the definition must extend beyond physically living together to parents who live together but cant stand each other. The ties that bind are beyond having a dining table and equal number of chairs, but a tapestry of love, commitment, friendship, forgiveness and faith that everyone grows and learns from.

    The environmental effects however, such as being ostracized, lack of finance and the like, are a whiplash effect that one may have no control over, is where I may agree with you. You find that even the most educated and informed exhibit these tendencies; but really whoever finds himself/herself in this situation should not feel it is his/her duty to prove them wrong. If you they don’t appreciate what you are bringing to the table, let them eat alone.

  22. bimztheory

    December 17, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    Well said Amy, this write up is really on point , I totally relate with it and @Dee, your comment is very vital too as the rate of so many dysfunctional marriages lately is very high and the effect on the children is indeed doing more harm than good. May God help us all.

  23. tolu

    December 19, 2014 at 10:50 am

    @ Jennifer – well said , certain stuffs shouldn’t define who we are . life is all about choices . from a broken home doesn’t mean you are broken .

  24. Anon

    January 15, 2015 at 9:08 am

    A guy once told me he couldn’t marry me cos I was from a broken home even though I had all the qualities he wanted in a wife. According to him, children from broken home don’t make good wives. Presently, He has filed for divorce from his wife who was from a ‘normal’ home after just 10 months of marriage and a child. God figure!

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