The Impact of Modernity on the Sacred African Family
The sacred African family, a symbol of unity, resilience, and continuity, has been significantly impacted by the wave of modernity. As untested Western European customs were introduced to African societies, the traditional family structure underwent a profound transformation. The most damaging of these changes is the rise in single parenthood, a concept alien to the communal upbringing intrinsic to African cultures. In the Roman Africa we find ourselves today, the erosion of these essential traditions has led to an unprecedented surge in single-parent families.
The Wisdom of Ancestral Traditions: Pregnancy and Post-Pregnancy Care
African ancestral wisdom understood the profound biological and emotional changes a woman undergoes during and after pregnancy. Traditional practices dictated that husbands and pregnant wives were often separated to varying degrees, with the expectant mothers being placed in the care of wise elder women. This period of care extended post-pregnancy and its duration was influenced by the gender of the newborn child.
These practices were not arbitrary but were rooted in an understanding of the sacred biology involved in bringing life to Earth and the transformative impact it had on the mother. This understanding has been lost in the wave of modernity and the adaptation of Western cultural practices.
The Western Concept of ‘Mom Brain’ and its Relevance
In contemporary Western societies, the term ‘mom brain’ is used to describe the cognitive changes some women may experience during and after pregnancy. These changes can include forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, or feeling mentally “foggy” and are believed to result from a combination of hormonal shifts, sleep deprivation, and the overall stress of caring for a new baby.
However, our ancestors understood these changes not as a ‘deficiency’ but as a natural process that required support, rest, and a nurturing environment. This understanding formed the basis of the tradition of entrusting pregnant women and new mothers to the care of elder women, ensuring they received the support and care they needed during this transformative period.
Linking the Abandonment of Tradition to the Rise in Single Parenthood
The abandonment of these vital traditions has had a profound effect on family structures, contributing significantly to the rise in single parenthood. During the sensitive post-pregnancy period, relationships can become strained and often break down, leading to single parenthood. A few months later, the woman might find a ‘new’ partner, contributing to the cycle of single parenthood.
If contemporary society understood and appreciated the wisdom of our ancestors, we could effectively address this issue. By reviving these traditions, respecting the biological changes women undergo during and after pregnancy, and providing the necessary support structures, we can decrease the prevalence of single parenthood.
The Power of African Wisdom
The care and support for expectant mothers were shouldered by a collective of community mothers and elders, and even the task of naming the newborn was a communal responsibility. In traditional African societies, a person did not carry a single name throughout their life, but rather, was bestowed with multiple sacred names at various life stages, reflecting their unique journey and growth.
However, Western influence has imposed a fundamentally different perspective on family and community. Marriage and family life have been reframed as matters concerning only the couple and their paid professionals, such as therapists and counselors. This perspective, inherently tied to the ability to afford such services, leads to the isolation of the family unit from the wider community. Those without the means to access professional support are left particularly vulnerable. This shift away from the African tradition of communal support and care significantly contributes to the rise in single parenthood observed today. The erosion of these vital community bonds underscores the urgent need for a return to the traditional African wisdom that values the collective over the individual.
The wisdom of our African ancestors holds the key to addressing the issue of single parenthood. Through reviving the traditions around pregnancy and post-pregnancy care, we can create nurturing environments for mothers and strengthen the sacred African family. The lessons from our past can guide us towards a future where the family unit is once again a beacon of unity, resilience, and continuity.