CHILD ILLEGITIMACY entails the status of a child born outside marriage. Such a child is often referred to as ‘love child’, and sometimes, there are controversies surrounding the acceptability of the child in a family or marriage. Some children are born out of wedlock while some are as a result of infidelity. So if your spouse shows up one day with a child he/she had outside marriage, would you accept the child?
On WhatsApp Conversation, these are what those who joined the conversation and our expert said on the issue.
Does this mean the child has been with me for long time and I suddenly realise he is not mine? Or does this mean I am marrying someone with a child? Or my wife has engaged in extra-marital affair and has brought the child home? Generally, under the Nigerian Constitution, the status of a child’s ‘illegitimacy’ has been removed. Although that constitutional provision cannot mend the emotional consequences of discovering you have an extra-marital issue. If I raise the child and we find out in the future, I would not victimise him—I would love the child and leave him/her to decide his/her father. If the woman has had a child prior to the marriage, then we can easily discuss and negotiate. If she engages in extra-marital affair and gets a child from it, then I might leave the marriage depending on other circumstances including number of children we have at the moment and the number of years we have spent together. If the situation was a simple mistake or if it was caused by nonchalance. Overall, each situation would be decided by its merit.
I would accept an illegitimate child into my marriage on some grounds. These are based on the marital vow we had, the love we have shared and if I am yet to have a child. Furthermore, it also depends on if my husband could commit himself on paper that it is over with the mother of such child, if he is sober and the mother of child accepts the terms and conditions given by me as the legitimate wife, and if I would be allowed to own the child till eternity. Alas, my fear would be: would the child not discriminate and tell me stories of me not being his or her biological mother? Would there not be preference in the home? Would the child not cause segregation among legitimate children? Would my efforts not be in vain? How would I cope between the trio—my husband, the illegitimate child and the mother? But, marriage is for better and for worse. Whichever it offers, one should learn to adjust and cope in order to fulfil the mandate.
If I am in the know of an illegitimate child, I would rather prefer to bring the child in, train him/her with my children so that he/she would not become a burden to my children later in life. It is better to groom him/her from his/her formative age than when the child is fully grown and would have been brainwashed.
Illegitimate may sound somehow based on the context it is used. But, looking at it from the perspective of what does not belong to me, I may accept it based on some terms and conditions. Before such a critical decision would be taken, the mother of the child and I would have discussed extensively and weighed it on a balance to see if it would augur well if the child has to stay. I think the most important thing is understanding and trust. If those two terms and conditions are met, then I guess there would not be any problem.
Choosing a partner entails choosing everything that comes with it, including a child. So, he had the child while being married to me? Well, that does not count anymore because, first of all, we would not be married anymore. Therefore, there would not be a cause to decide about accepting a child into a marriage that does not exist anymore.
Dr Paul Ojokheta, a marriage counsellor, opined that spouses should be very careful when dealing with this type of case. Some fundamental questions need to be asked and answered. How and when did the illegitimate child come about—is it before or during the marriage? Is it the fault of one of the spouses or not? The child might come when one of the parties is behaving irrationally and the other party seeks for extra-marital affair or is just promiscuous. So, the two parties have to be invited and interviewed to know how the child came about. During the course of the interview, one would be able to deduce if the two parties could reason and forgive to carry on with the relationship. But if the two parties could not forgive, then efforts should be made to convince the aggrieved party to look at the positive side of the case. If it is the man that is affected, it is not always easy for him to accept such a child because of the ‘African mentality’ concept. However if it is the wife, she is always appealed to accept, forgive, forget and to take care of the child. Honestly, I do not believe any child is illegitimate. It depends on the relationship kept by the spouses. So, I think it is something they could sit together and talk over. Every child has a right to live. Therefore, both parties should talk it over and move on with life.
Next week on WhatsApp Conversation, we would be treating: How should couples defend their partners against family attacks?
Join our WhatsApp Conversation every Sunday by 8pm or send in your comments (50 words) to the phone number, email address above or Twitter handle: @WhatsAppConvs