There are many crises that become part of African men when they move their families to the United States. The cultural shock is such that not all the families survive. One couple that came to a United States seminary with family ended up going back home prematurely after the wife got so depressed. While the husband was busy with education, she was alone with the children: Nothing to do and she could not drive! The loneliness almost drove her crazy! The man decided that it was not worth going ahead with his PhD education at the expense of his family.
United States is not an easy place to settle. It has a very robust culture that can intoxicate even the strongest of families. According to a senior psychologist with Reach Family Services, depression is the lead cause of many African family break ups in America. Imagine a family leaving the African cultural context where the sense of community and environment allows for the functionality of life. In Africa, families with children are able to afford house help, the wife has church community and cultural fellowships that are comfort zones. The idea of a neighbor is different and the woman has usually a garden, which she can tend. All these cultural traits help keep women busy even if the husband is not around.
After arriving in the United States and settling in a seminary, a friend of mine could not finish the course and opted to go back to his family back home. These are major issues that African families have to deal with once in the United States. Then there is the issue of domestic responsibilities. With both parents working, the issue of domestic responsibility becomes complicated. The man who was not used to cooking, washing dishes, changing diapers, cleaning the house find himself in this role as the demand for finances blur the traditional categories.
The other effect of American culture has gone to the issue of family planning. Usually within the African context, it is the women who have to use family planning methods. However with American equality debate, African men have found themselves in the dark. A friend of a friend from Ghana got into a heated debate with his wife as to who should use the family planning methods. He lost the debate and ended up submitting to the wives demand for vasectomy if they were going to have sex in the marriage!
A vasectomy is an operation for a man, so that their partner can’t get pregnant. The problem is that in some cases, it’s possible to reverse the operation. But reversing a vasectomy isn’t easy and doesn’t always work. So you shouldn’t get the procedure unless you’re sure you won’t want to be able to get a woman pregnant in your future.
After getting the operation, he and his wife divorced. Recently he decided to get married. The problem is that his new wife needed to have children! This now again became a debate as to whether he should have the procedure reversed: Which woman wants to get married to a man and not have children?
These are some of the crisis that African men are going through in modern societies. They are trying to adjust to western culture while remaining true to their culture and tradition. One must wonder which culture will win. And if you were a man, what would you do?
Happy Man’s (Father’s) Day
Teddy Njoroge Kamau (PhD)
Diaspora Messenger Senior Columnist