Tue | Jan 16, 2018

Michael Abrahams | Don’t have kids if you can’t be there for ’em

Published:Monday | January 8, 2018 | 12:19 AM
Abrahams

Being an obstetrician and gynaecologist is not an easy job. It requires one to be knowledgeable at prescribing drugs appropriately to treat medical conditions, as well as being adept at surgery.

It is the speciality with the most exposure to blood and body fluids and, along with plastic surgery, places its practitioners at the highest risk for litigation. The speciality is also notoriously unpredictable, especially the obstetrics branch, which involves managing pregnancy and its complications.

You can come home from a party at 2 a.m., exhausted and sleepy, and as your head touches the pillow, you can be called for a delivery or some other emergency, and be required to present yourself at a hospital immediately, where you may remain for several hours.

Yes, the job is demanding, but my most difficult job is being a father. I have three children. My daughter is 18, and my sons are 12 and six. Three totally different personalities, belonging to different age groups, with different needs and requiring different types of interaction.

I absolutely love my children, and enthusiastically embrace fatherhood, but being a parent takes a toll on me physically, mentally, emotionally and financially.

I am required to balance disciplining my children with nurturing and affirming them. I have to show and teach them love, compassion, empathy and gratitude, among other positive attributes, while leading by example. I need to be present at sports days, prize-givings, concerts and recitals to validate them and show them how important their lives, activities and achievements are to me.

During the two decades that I have been practising as an obstetrician and gynaecologist, managing patients during the course of my day job has helped me to understand the importance of my job as a father.

When I attended medical school, I met students who were the offspring of doctors and who lamented that they did not see as much of their parents as they would have liked to while growing up, because they were so busy. I made a promise to myself, from then, that I would not allow my job to interfere with quality time with my children, if I were blessed with any. So far, I have managed to keep that promise.

My job focuses on the female reproductive system, but is not confined to that area physically. When many people hear the word ‘gynaecology’, their minds sprint straight to the vagina, but I have learnt that probing the organ between the ears is at least as important as investigating those between the legs. In doing so, I have also learnt that childhood events can have a profound effect on not just our mental state in adulthood, but can also affect our physical health.

Various forms of abuse, neglect and exposure to dysfunction as a child can cause permanent damage. Growing up with your parents does not guarantee protection from childhood trauma. Indeed, there are parents who abuse and traumatise their children, and although some are physically present, they are emotionally unavailable.

But there is something else that I have noticed, and it is that when children are sent to live with other relatives, such as grandmothers, aunts, uncles,or unrelated persons, the risk of childhood trauma increases appreciably. Some are passed around from relative to relative and ‘batter-batter round the place’, and along the way rack up traumatic experiences such as sexual assault by relatives and strangers, and being treated like house slaves.

Not everyone is cut out to be a parent. If you are not mentally or financially ready for parenthood, it is best to avoid pregnancy. If you are having sex with someone who is clearly very dysfunctional, it may not be a good idea to procreate with that person, as some of their unsavoury characteristics may be genetically passed on to their progeny, or they may set bad examples for them to emulate.

And if a man has a history of having multiple children with several women, and not looking after them, women should ‘take sleep and mark death’ and think carefully about ‘laying themselves careless’.

If you find it challenging to express love and affection, probably because of your own unresolved childhood issues, it would be in your best interest to seek therapy and address your state of mind before bringing a child into an unloving environment.

Children need stable and loving parents to be there for them physically and emotionally. If you cannot be there, don’t bring them here.

- Michael Abrahams is a gynaecologist and obstetrician, comedian and poet. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and michabe_1999@hotmail.com, or tweet @mikeyabrahams