How can we best support involved fathers in raising their children? As home visitors who work with families every day, we ask ourselves this question daily. In our visits, we see that many fathers are involved, and many more want to be involved. Between 2018 and 2023, we visited more than 1600 families, and 71% of the mothers told us that the baby’s father was present. These moms tell us that they feel supported, and we see the babies connecting with their fathers. We met some fathers who bond with their babies by talking or singing to them, playing with them, and soothing them when they cry. Some of the fathers we met were physically separated from their babies, so they spoke to their babies over the phone.
We also met fathers who assisted with house chores, like cooking food to reduce the burden on the mom and waking up at night to take care of the baby. In addition, when we explain the Ububele home visiting project to parents, we see more and more fathers reading over the forms to truly understand the purpose of the home visits. Some fathers can even answer more questions about the baby during our home visits than the mother. As home visitors, we try to encourage fathers to participate like this in our visits, but we sometimes face difficulties. Fathers must juggle many tasks. They are often at work when we visit, but even when they are home, they sometimes leave the meeting because they believe that our work only involves women. This belief is not only held by fathers, as some mothers are also reluctant to introduce the father of their baby to us. Sometimes, when the relationship between the father and mother is strained, it is difficult for us home visitors to include both parents in the visit because the baby will also notice the tension and cry. In our visits, we have observed fathers who go for periods without talking to the mother, which makes it difficult for us if we want to involve them.
We live in a community with different cultures and beliefs. The work that we are doing is hard, and how we were raised is completely different from the Western world. But as home visitors, we see that the way we grow also shapes how we are as parents. Children whose fathers are more involved today will more often be present for their own children in the future.
So, in your opinion, what can we do to support you as a father? Please leave us a message.
Written by Thandiwe Khumalo, Lerato Khoza, Senzekile Khumalo, Florence Ramoshaba, Mamikie Rumo, Mariet Matlaila, and Mady Chen
Ububele Early Childhood Community Practitioners (ECCPs) and University of Leiden Intern/student
This Blog was written in collaboration with the University of Leiden’s Prof Josien de Klerk and her student Mady Chen. Ububele’s research partnership with the University of Leiden aims to provide a research basis and platform for the Ububele ECCPs to tell their stories. Look out for more blogs on their perspectives of parenting and working in Alexandra.