Hi - my name is Kate; I am a gender expert, writer, and Advisor for the Gender Equality subgroup at Fathering Together. To celebrate Father’s Day and #MoreThanANecktie, I’m talking to 10 dads over 10 weeks about what it really means to be an engaged father. If you like this series, you can read more on gender (in)equality. Website. Twitter.
Location: Lilongwe, Malawi
Ages of Kids: 4 and 10
I asked every dad I interviewed what they thought about the term “caregiving” as it relates to being a father. Laston is not opposed to being called a caregiver; but it is not a term he would choose. He explained that in Malawi people tend to use the word caregiving to describe paid work. Mother, father, and parent are used when describing one’s own children, and guardian is commonly used when a person is a caregiver for a child who is not their own. For example, Laston is a father to his own two girls, and a guardian to a niece.
A lesson learned in being a dad. Laston and I talked about what inspired him to be an intentional and involved father. He credits his parents and his Christian upbringing – but he also credits a negative experience. When Laston was eleven, his eldest sister’s husband abruptly left her and an infant daughter, forcing them to move in with family. After witnessing her struggle, and watching his niece grow up without a father, Laston promised himself that he would never abandon a wife or a child; that he would never cause someone pain like his sister and niece were feeling.
This story fit a pattern with my research; I have interviewed many dads who have been inspired by a negative experience in their lives. Sometimes the “what not to do” is just as powerful (if not more than) as a positive role model.
Advice on building a community. We’ve all heard the phrase “it takes a village” to raise a child, but Laston was honest about the fact that dads need to be aware that there are negative and positive influences that come from every “village.”
Recently, Laston’s oldest daughter is starting to encounter negative behavior from her friends at school. At ten, she is finding her own independence, and making up her mind about what is right and what is wrong; what she is willing to do and what she is willing to stand up for. Laston thinks it is important for dads to purposefully recruit a “positive community” into their child’s life from an early age, so that healthy messages are not just coming from parents. (Because we all know a parent’s influence only goes so far…) If kids receive healthy messages from a variety of sources as they grow up, as negative influences become louder, kids will have the skills to be able to make better choices. Laston is glad his daughter has a range of people in her life where she can find help and guidance.
Laston is excited about fatherhood, and eager to grow fatherhood networks in Malawi. The virtual launch event for Fathering Together Malawi is this Sunday, August 15. Everyone is welcome!
My favorite quote from Laston’s interview: “I never actually thought I’d be good at this. But here I am, trying hard. And I experience so much joy from being a dad.”
We’ll post the last article in this series next Friday, August 13. Hope you have a great weekend!