Home African Caribbean Single Parenthood Part II

Single Parenthood Part II

by Scherin Barlow
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Anthropologist contributor, Scherin Barlow Massay

In many societies that have a history of enslavement, there is no stigma about single parenthood. Nonetheless, male behaviours are not the only ones to come under scrutiny. Women too, need to be called out!

The model handed down to women has also been distorted. Enslavement normalised having children with different men. And today, there is the real danger of abuse from predatory men who see the children of previous relationships as easy prey to abuse sexually. Thus, by getting rid of the framework in which children should be raised, female headed homes became part of that social pathology that had its roots in slavery. In the past, pregnancies were a source of economics and labour to the slave owner.

However, today, some women have weaponised the state of pregnancy. Women often use pregnancy to pull one -upmanship against their love rival, or will fall pregnant just to show that she is with a certain man.  Some also reason that a child would cement the man staying in a relationship with them.  Another contributing factor to embracing single-parenthood today is the social trend for women to reject much of the toxic masculinity that men bring to a relationship.

Many women tired of the drama and infidelities that plague many relationships, upon realising that they are pregnant, feel that they have no other option but to embrace single- parenthood. However, in so doing, they too become perpetrators in the cycle of abandonment and poverty, with children caught up in the middle as collateral damage.

I have highlighted some of the problems that result from the prevalent behaviours of communities that were built on Euro/ American slave culture values. Another important factor of having multiple sexual encounters is the health risks. Not only do multiple partners carry the personal risk of disease, but unborn children can be affected and born with mental retardation or other birth defects.

Also many diseases including: male and female cancers, blindness, bone density problems and damage to the heart, liver and brain has been linked to sexually transmitted infections. So what are the solutions? Firstly, raising awareness of the problem, that is why it is important to have a dialogue going. Some things are beyond our control, but there are many things that we are in the position to change, like recognising and taking responsibility for the destructive patterns of behaviour that thrusts us into parenthood. 

We need to make informed choices, being aware that each decision has far reaching consequences. Women are responsible; we have to take responsibility for our bodies. We need to take into account that a bad choice puts an emotional and financial burden on us. We need to rethink our concept of family and what those responsibilities are. We need to teach our sons to be responsible fathers and husbands. Men need to take on the mantle of responsibility too. Children should be loved and wanted, not by-products of sexual encounters. 

Manhood is not about how many children you can produce, but about how well you prepare your offspring for life, how you support the emotional well-being of that child. It is about having children within a loving relationship that will allow the child to thrive.

Parenthood is not something that should be taken lightly because it requires a lot of self-sacrifice and dedication and we need to think of the emotional and psychological problems associated with parenthood. Questions that should be asked are: Am I mature enough to handle the responsibility of a child? Am I financially secured to be able to provide for a child? And what are my support systems?  

Finally, I would like to end with the poem that I wrote that first inspired me to write this article.


Great Grand-father,



You have failed me,

By only imparting

The biological substance of me.

Like a seed, left by the wayside,

To choke and struggle,

Among the weeds and thorns of life,

Without cultivation,

Without protection,

Without care.

Love and caring,

Lasted as long,

As lust flowed through your veins,

Never a second thought

For the life you had made.

Generations without men,

Generations of women having to fend

For the children.

Oh, but how readily you accept the role

Of surrogate father,

Given to you by Massa.

Generations later,

Still you blame

Your inadequacies,

On black the woman

You say she has taken away

Your masculinity,

But where were you,

When she needed you?

She had to be strong

While you abandoned restraint

Destabilizing the black family.

She had to take your role,

To compensate,

For your irresponsibility.

How long? How long? How long?

Does she have to struggle,

While you remain impassive to fatherhood.

You gave the child life,

Now, give him love

Now, give him security,

Make him whole,

For the generations to come.

Make him whole,

For the unity

Of our people.


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Scherin Barlow

Scherin Barlow

Guyanese born, Scherin Barlow Massay, is a writer, educator, poet and artist. She studied applied human science at university and later Caribbean studies at Goldsmiths’ University of London. She has lectured on various subjects and ran courses in socio-linguistics. She recently conducted research for a London museum that is now part of the KS3 programme throughout the British Isles. She was an editor for a quarterly university journal, and has edited books for other writers. Her approach to writing is to keep it simple, keep it factual and keep it relevant to the audience. She is a keen photographer and her photographs have been used on the front cover and within books.


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