June Man of the Month: Mpi Ndebele on Fatherhood

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It’s Father’s Day in June, so this month we talked to Mpi Ndebele, husband of 1, father of 4 and Managing Director at Charisma, a Bulawayo based Design and Marketing Agency, about fatherhood.

What does fatherhood mean to you?

It means a lot. Fathers are anchors in families and society. Fatherhood is a role we get from God our Heavenly Father which makes it quite a big and crucial role. I think that to be a father is to be a foundational figure that brings strength, backbone and hope to a family.

What are the key roles of a father?

A father loves. This is possibly the most crucial role because love is a cornerstone virtue in all aspects of life. It is important that a father demonstrates and articulates love. It means the world to children. A father affirms. This is one I have to consciously work on because I am often bent on making sure my children do right and don’t do wrong. I see what it does to them when I affirm my love for them and who they are regardless. God did the same with Jesus at His baptism. A father gives. I’ve recently been struck at just how much of a giver God our Father is. The Bible is full of God as a Giver and it is crucial for us earthly fathers to learn from that. A father protects. Look around you and you’ll see lots of things our children need protection from. A father guides. Our role as fathers is to help children with direction. A father teaches. Children have lots of questions and they love it when dad gives answers. A father brings fun. This is important. Dad’s always got the funniest jokes and pulls the funniest faces and is the best playmate. A father corrects. When dad speaks, children listen. It is important that we bring correction in a way that points them to the way of the Lord. A father listens. Children have a lot to say and they love saying it to dad. They need in him a friend they can trust. A father prays. I could go on, but I’m getting nervous that you will now ask how many of these things I’m getting right.

What role can a father play in preparing his own son for fatherhood and marriage?

I think a lot of this has to do with being there and being a role model. If dads see their every action as setting an example for their sons, that changes the game quite significantly. Then there’s all the easy-peasy stuff I listed in the previous question that a father does. Fulfilling those roles serves as the basis for preparing a son for all things to come. Obviously not all sons will have the privilege of having their father present as they grow up, and so as uncles, grandfathers and men in society we need to see that our responsibility goes way beyond the four corners of our house. Little boys and young men are looking to us to lay solid foundations in their lives and to make them into real men. It’s no small task.

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How important is it to have a father in the home?

As I have said before, it is crucial. For those men that have that privilege, we need to see our role, take on our responsibility and work to bring the much needed love, strength and stability to the home.

What would you say are the effects of an absent father?

Well, understandably, I think the home may not find the level of security or stability that is ideal for complete and full family life. Children might seek the attention they missed from their father from other, not very helpful, sources. But we obviously need to be careful not to think this applies to all children in such situations and also to not overlook the role that God plays as the perfect Father to restore what would otherwise be lost. He gives us all hope.

How do you balance work and family life?

With difficulty. I work a full time job and also tend to be a workaholic so I’m not at home as much as I’d like to be, and this is something I’m working on. It is hard to find the right balance but God is definitely helping me and I’m making progress.

What are your core values as a parent?

I don’t really have a list but love is key and foundational. Integrity is also very important because kids can tell when you aren’t being honest and transparent and that can damage them. Fairness; when you have more than one kid, they will always look out to see if you are applying consistent values, privileges and rules.

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How do you and your wife settle parenting disputes if there are any?

We talk about them. We have very different parenting styles and so that inevitably leads to conflict. But we both have good relationships with the children and each know that the other has their best interests at heart so that helps. So we each allow the other to exercise their parenting style but we give each other input as well on things the other can try and do more of, or less of.

How would you approach the conversation about dating with your children? Would it be different depending on whether you are talking to boys or girls?

Firstly, I would be cultivating the kind of friendship that would hopefully mean that my children are free to talk to me. I think that’s important. I have actually very recently been receiving guidance on that very issue from people who have walked the road ahead of me. Essentially this is a conversation that needs to be happening at every step of the way, obviously keeping it age appropriate. It’s about teaching the children to respect themselves and to respect others. I imagine that a day will come when the tone of the conversation will change given the stage of life the children will be in, probably around puberty. And yes, it needs to be appropriate for each gender as experiences are different across genders. And also, I suppose experiences are unique to each child so the relationship/friendship will be crucial. I’m no expert here, still in the classroom myself.

What informs your perception of fatherhood?

Definitely the Bible and learning about our Father God. I can’t think of any better source of information and inspiration.

Does society at large help you in your role of parenting or does it make it more difficult?

I find that like-minded communities tend to help me a lot. Church is the best example of a community that helps me significantly. I think with society at large, there are many stereotypes and expectations and sometimes these are not helpful. For example, in Africa, fathers tend to eat first and get privileges that the children don’t get. This is a sign of respect. But unfortunately what we call respect can very easily turn to fear and I believe fear of fathers is more of an issue than we realise in many African families.

What is the best way for a wife to support her husband in his role as a father?

By being a friend, a wife and a mother. Parenting is a partnership and for those who are privileged enough to raise their children together, the more they see parenting as a joint responsibility graciously given by God, they will work together and help each other. Knowing his love language and affirming him a lot helps. And yikes those dads need prayer!

Any final nuggets of advice to men entering fatherhood?

Yes, I’ve heard it said that there are men who avoid responsibility, those who abandon responsibility, those who abuse it and those who abdicate their responsibility as men and as fathers. Let’s be those who accept our responsibility and embrace it as a privilege and gift from the Father of fathers, God in Heaven. It’s well worth it.