In the run up to Father’s Day we ask some UK based Daddy Bloggers to write a guest blog for Save the Children.
Bill Fathers aka Shouty Dad: http://shoutydad.blogspot.com/
Bill has several children, ranging in age from two to 22, most of whose names he can remember except when he gets cross and starts shouting random names at the wrong child. He’s married and lives on the Sussex/Kent border and when not changing nappies or burning tea, works as a part-time journalist.
The offer came out of the blue: would you like to join our campaign to celebrate dads, said the woman from Save the Children. Just tweet about all those lovely dad-type things you do with your kids.
You mean like shouting at them when they’re rude or don’t eat their tea, those kind of dad-type things, I said.
Well, she replied, I was thinking more along the lines of when you take them to the park or make cakes together, that sort of thing.
Hmm, trouble is even then I still get a bit shouty – you know, if I can’t read the paper because they want to be pushed on the swings or they make a mess with the flour.
So she tried a different tack: how about being a guest blogger in the run-up to Father’s Day?
Well, all right, but I don’t really blog about how much fun it is to be a dad, or how privileged I feel and how wonderful my children are. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Take yesterday, for instance. I got back from my dreary job and nearly cried as I paid the childminder more or less what I’d just earned. Then, as I made the girls’ tea, Mae got into a cupboard and tipped a packet of rice on the floor. She saw me and squealed like it was a game and ran off to hide in the sitting room (though finding her was easy enough: I simply had to follow the trail of little lumps of poo dropping out of her trouser leg).
During tea, both girls pushed away the meal I’d defrosted so lovingly and Rosie began wailing and complaining of stomach pains. She complains quite a lot and is a bit of a worrier, so maybe it’s an ulcer or something. On the other hand, it could be a ploy to get out of eating tea. When I suggest this, she doubles over theatrically to let me know my callous indifference hurts her as much as the ruptured appendix or whatever it is.
This happy, happy day isn’t over yet, though, because watching her big sister has given Mae an idea to try bawling her head off as well.
So you see, my life as a dad isn’t exceptional. These are just the sort of situations we all experience and moan about and deal with.
Or that’s what I thought until I read about Suhaibu. His story puts my grumpiness over these little domestic dramas into perspective.
Life for him is harder. A lot harder. For one thing, he doesn’t have a childminder because he doesn’t have a job. If one of his children spills some rice, he won’t get out the vacuum cleaner, which he doesn’t own anyway, because rice is too precious to throw away.
If his children ran out of disposable nappies, which they don’t because they’re not available, he can’t jump in a car he doesn’t own and nip down to a supermarket that isn’t there. If his daughter has a stomach ache, he doesn’t have a medicine cabinet at home, or a GP down the road, or a well-equipped hospital nearby because… Well, you get the picture.
Suhaibu lives in Nigeria, where more than one million children die each year before they reach the age of five. It’s not the poorest country in Africa, yet Nigeria has one of the worst child mortality rates in the world. Almost a quarter of those who die are newborn babies.
Statistics are hard to digest, but listen to this one: six women in Nigeria die every hour from pregnancy-related complications. Six women an hour.
So what has this got to do with Suhaibu? Well, recently his wife went into labour, but gave birth to a stillborn child. As is the tradition there, Suhaibu washed and buried the baby immediately. However, on the way back from the cemetery he was summoned to the hospital, where his wife was haemorrhaging badly. She was given a blood transfusion but her veins collapsed because of the excessive bleeding and she died that night.
These all-too frequent deaths of women in poverty-stricken countries like Nigeria have a devastating effect on those they leave behind – their children and husbands.
Suhaibu has three children under the age of 12. He cares for the two boys, but has had to send his daughter to live with his late wife’s sister in a distant town and now must travel for one hour every day there and back to see her. That’s his life now.
Suhaibu, and dads like him, won’t be celebrating Father’s Day.
So I’ve written this post to try to help the charity Save the Children. In the run-up to Father’s Day, its Every One campaign deserves all our support.
Proven, low-tech and inexpensive solutions exist to stop children dying. But they’re not being deployed on the scale needed to tackle the problem. What Save the Children needs is the will – from politicians, the public, aid agencies, companies, EVERY ONE – to make it happen on a global scale.
Then maybe one day people’s lives will have improved so much that Suhaibu and others like him will be able to get grumpy about the little things – things such as rice on the floor. Rice and other little stuff.