Photo: Jeffrey Abrahams / African News Agency (ANA)
Back in the days of apartheid, many black South African households often found themselves being headed by one parent - thanks to the migrant labour system of the time.

Today, the one-parent household is still prevalent, only this time, homes are headed by single parents.

Stats SA’s latest household survey has found that most South African children live with only their mother - that’s 43.1% of South African homes.

Shows like Mzansi Magic’s uTatakho highlight the emotional devastation left behind by the absent father.

Certainly, as episode after episode of uTatakho can attest, the children feel abandoned and lost. Many blame their failures in life on the fact they grew up not knowing who they are - they feel disconnected from their ancestors.

Psychologist Nozibusiso Nyawose, who consults on uTatakho, says these children want a sense of belonging from both their father’s and mother’s side of the families but because that is not always possible, they lose hope.

“They often become victims of their circumstances. They feel: ‘I don’t have a father so nothing is going to come right in my life, so I might as well just sit at home and become a failure’,” Nyawose says.

But it does not have to be like that.

“South Africa has gone through societal changes,” Nyawose says. “We no longer have the old traditional family structure where there is the mom and the dad who is the breadwinner,” she says. “So, we all need to adapt because society is changing. You don’t have to feel incomplete just because there’s a parent missing in your life,” she adds.

There are many reasons why fathers leave and don’t look back, but it’s important for the children to understand it is not their fault. Perhaps if society was more accepting of the fact that not many women set out to be single parents, accepting themselves as they are would be easier for children being raised without their father.

“We can never predict the future,” Nyawose says. “Things happen but it’s up to us to adapt to our circumstances.”

For Nyawose, the important thing is for children not to let their circumstances dictate their lives.

Not having a father who is involved in your life is not the end of the world. “They need to constantly remind themselves that I can change my life and future whether I have the support of others or not,” she says.

While uTatakho and Moja Love’s No Excuse, Pay Papgeld may portray the raw pain absent fathers leave behind, there are plenty of cases that prove that growing up without a father is not a one-way ticket to failure. Just ask Barack Obama and Julius Malema.