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Fri Oct 31 21:09:19 SAST 2014

Superdad's diaries

Mahomed Saleh Abba Omar | 22 April, 2013 00:06
Abba Omar and his wife Inga with their children Malik, Mika and Jamila
Image by: TEBOGO LETSIE

When I first became a stay-at-home father I thought I was having a groundhog day. There was endless changing of nappies, dusting, washing and cleaning, cooking, shopping, taking and fetching the children to and from kindergarten.

Apart from dealing with the cultural shock of being in a new country, I had to face the overwhelming number of tasks that have to be performed by the main care-giver. But my shock of taking on this role wore off as things became more routine, more organised and more familiar.

At first, my family in South Africa couldn't understand that I am my childrens' primary caregiver. To them, it was not normal and beyond their imaginations.

My wife, Inga (Niehaus) is the main breadwinner and I work freelance so I cantake care of the children. I enjoy watching my children grow and being part of this process. I have a strong emotional bond with them.

Inga and I have three children - 10-year-old Malik and eight-year-old twins Jamila and Mika. I have a fourth child, Sabina, who is 23 and studies in Cape Town. They were born in South Africa, where we lived until 2005. We moved to Germany for my wife to complete her PhD and this is where I took on my role as stay-at-home dad.

How I live is very different from how I grew up. When I was young, "children were seen but not heard", and most family decisions were made by fathers. And let's not forget, fathers were the main breadwinners while mothers kept the home fires burning.

I grew up in a middle-class family of Indian Muslim origin. My parents had six children. My paternal grandparents lived with us. The family was strongly traditional and deeply religious. Both my father and grandfather were faith healers who practised from home.

I was fortunate to have two father figures at home. However, their time was spent offering us spiritual and religious guidance rather than playing games and going for walks.

In Germany it is still an exception, but more and more men are becoming primary care-givers. When the kids were in kindergarten, I got together with some mothers regularly for coffee. I was the only man in the group and my women friends strongly expressed the wish that their husbands would take more responsibility for the children and the household.

For my children it is normal. They have grown up not knowing differently. However, recently my daughter Jamila has been questioning why her mother spends so many hours at work and why I am always the one at home. It made us realise that the ideal situation would be that both parents work less and equally share parenting and household chores.

In South Africa I believe we have a long way to go before we stop the widespread neglect of children by their fathers.

Those involved in educating the young should emphasise the necessity to change family life and encourage young men to contribute to household responsibilities and raising children when they get married. Gender stereotypes should not be perpetuated.

We have to move away from using sportsmen as male superheroes. Our heroes should be fathers who step back from their professional careers to look after children and care for the home.

  • Abba Omar won the Mestemacher Preis Spitzenvater des Jahres 2013

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