Stepdad steps in to cover deadbeat father’s shame
There are men who sire children and never look back. The deadbeat fathers who don’t take responsibility of their children. Well, after the bad and the ugly, let’s call it kissing too many frogs, Prince Charming comes along and puts the crown where it belongs. This is the story of Veronica Karambu Munyua.
On her final year of study at Kenyatta University, Nairobi, she conceived her daughter. What she had thought was love turned sour when her then boyfriend travelled abroad in search of greener pastures. She was only three months pregnant. Being a single mum was not a walk in the park, especially being jobless.
“My baby was born on the same day I graduated from university in July 2013. I was alone and jobless and things were hard, but I had no choice but to struggle through. All this time there was no communication from the father of my child. I got a good job in 2017 as a teacher, in Meru and that is when things started looking up,” shares the mother of one.
In 2018, she met Erick Munyua at one of teachers’ events and a friendship was struck. Erick also got an opportunity to meet Veronica’s daughter, Angel, and a strong bond of friendship came to life. In 2019, he asked Veronica to marry her.
“He definitely did not mind that I was a mum. I asked him about the baby and he said he loved her so much. And that’s how we have been a family. He is the best. He takes care of all of her needs. Even his extended family has accepted baby Angel as his own.
“For Angel, this is the only father she knows and that’s it. She met her biological father when she was a year old. He had visited our home to see the child and left never to be heard from again. Erick is her only father,” Veronica shares.
For Erick, loving a woman who has a child starts from loving the child — this is the whole package. It was not such a big deal to him and it has been a beautiful journey.
“I fell in love with Veronica because she has a beautiful heart. Her child was an extension of this heart and I loved her. If you love people wholly, you accept them fully. Also, no child chooses where to be born. But they deserve to be loved fully and I am happy and grateful for what we have built over time. To Angel, I’m her dad and that is all that matters,” he says.
Erick blames irresponsibility of men and social norms that has made many look
down on single mums, a mindset which needs to already have been washed away through time.
There is more to being a stepfather than just bribing the child to like you with intentions of getting into mother’s life. The man stepping into this position will need to build a more heart-to-heart bond than just about gifts and fun places.
As child psychologist, Faith Mutegi shares, it takes ‘dating’ both the child and mother.
“When it comes to being a stepfather, they have to keep in mind they are not only dating the mother, they should also date the children. And if it’s a son or daughter they need to relate with those children differently. They need to know that they are not coming to take over,” she says.
“If it’s a man coming into the picture where there is a boy, especially if the boy is of age (have started school) they have known they are the male in the family, and has learnt that everything comes from the mother. The boy has to understand you are not taking over from his mother or trying to take her away from them. As much as you want to be a father figure, remember they have been self-reliant for a long time. Allow the child to see you for who you are, your authentic self so you don’t scar a child’s life for life. Children are idealistic,” she adds.
Relating with step children
“You need to know how to relate with a girl. Have time where it’s not just you and the family. You can have moments where they see you with other children. And then they slowly adapt or see who you are, whether it’s with them or other people. Your intentions have to be clear and don’t rush it. Be authentic, don’t force it, don’t show off. Even silent moments such as watching their favourite cartoon and laughing helps in bonding, so they know you can relate to them,” she says.
To seamlessly fit in this position, Faith says, is not as smooth as others might assume. In some scenarios, both man and woman have their own children. Read, research on step and blended families.
“Irrespective of who has the child, you are not the normal typical family and people will know. Your immediate family members equally need to be educated that there is nothing wrong with marrying someone who has a child. There are many online support groups for men who have stepped into that role and learn from them. Sit down with an elderly and ask for wisdom,” she concludes.
make you feel uneasy and unnatural around your child. Just treat him/ her as you would your own child: if you love your spouse so much, why shouldn’t you love her child?
• Be patient when waiting for your new stepchild to respond to your caring, affection, and love.
• Schedule regular times away from the children as a couple. Besides the benefits you will see as a couple, your stepchildren will take great comfort in your commitment to one another.