Question:

Good day,

I have a very loving relationship with the father of my toddler. We love one another dearly, but unfortunately, we have no money. He has no money, and I cannot go on living day-to-day worried about the next meal. Our child lives at my home, where my parents cater to the child's every need and have hired a full time stay in nanny to look after the child.

We live in the city, in an expensive flat that my parents pay for. They aren't even aware that we live together, but they are happy to help me out and pay for my things, as I just started an entry level job. My partner is a great proud man who tries very hard, on top of the money he gets from his job, to generate money through a small business he started after the baby was born, so he could have us married and all living in one happy home with our child.

The problem here is that when his family came to mine to acknowledge my pregnancy and pay damages, my family was very angry and more so because his family came in to say they were there to pay damages, not lobola. The elders in my family ended up saying some really cruel things to his elders, and asking for a very large unspeakable sum of money, and still, insisting that the baby will be ours. She will keep my surname and that the money they paid is for the damage they've done to me, because if I were to be married, they cannot ask a lot, so the money they demanded makes up for the difference.

Because their family wanted to maintain good relations with mine, being aware that we want to marry eventually, they bit their tongues and complied. The baby was born before the full amount of money had been paid, my partner indeed came to the hospital, then after a few days had to return. A month later my partner was denied access to me and my baby by my father because the money hadn't been paid in full. He went and took loans and got assistance from his family, then his entire family arranged to travel to my home to bring the money and gifts for the baby. They were welcomed well and they fill our living room with gifts of all shapes and sizes! Family relations are okay today.

The process has made him not even want to attempt starting talks about lobola with my family because of the asking prices they somehow reach. I have expressed disappointment to my family, but as a female, I can't speak to elders and my dad about these issues, but my relationship is really suffering now. We both have to move to a different city now for work, and I will not carry on living without my daughter. Now that we are moving to this other city it seems like I will have to choose between living with my partner whom I cannot imagine my life with, and living with my daughter- who is growing up so quickly, and it breaks my heart that I'm away more than present in her life.

His mother also feels a lot of money has been paid and the child needs to be given the "correct" surname and be taken to her dad's home, but in my culture, it won't work that way. It simply won't happen. Now she is really trying to get us to get married, so we can raise our daughter in a good and stable Christian environment. But the business is more trouble than it's worth. We pay the workers salaries out our own pockets and still end up broke because they steal from us. I am so tired of feeling like my partner is broke, and that's something known to my entire family, as that is the only answer we have as to why we aren't getting married.  I am also tired of having such hectic money problems when I have a supportive family. The difference is that he is older than me, which is why his family doesn't get as involved in his finances. It got to a point where our mothers discussed the money issue, and his mom then went back to him and offered to assist him in paying lobola. He is a very proud black man, and having your mother pay for your lobola is just not an option.

I need serious advice, I want my partner and my child. I can't choose. We can't all be living in the city in two different apartments. I've spoken to my mom and she's saying my family won't ask a lot from him because what he has already paid will be subtracted, so he just needs to come, but she's also a female and won't be in the negotiations, so there's really no telling how it will go, and the last thing his elders want is to be embarrassed like they were in the past. We go together to discipleship classes on Sunday afternoons after church, and we really are trying to do things right, so we can raise our child correctly. But even now, I'm at my home visiting the baby, and I know there's not much food in the house back there.

Please give me advice, they money we've been putting toward the business will now go toward rent and deposit if we live together. I hate referring to him as my boyfriend, we live together, have a baby and he is so much more than that. It embarrasses him too, and in some instances he introduces me or refers to me as his wife. Fact of the matter is that I'm not and everything always goes back to the issue of money.

I'm sorry for writing such a long mail. I simply have no one to express these emotions to and to seek advice from because I want to always respect my partner and everything he stands for. Your response would be highly appreciated.


Answer:

What I see is that your extended family is overly proud and is more focused on getting what they want than doing what is right. Labola is a local tradition that is not required by God. It is fine if you want to follow traditions, but not when following traditions get in the way of being righteous before God. Your boyfriend is also putting his pride before God. He would rather live in sin than get married to you and that is a shame on him.

Go down to the government office and get a civil marriage. Or find a preacher and get a Christian marriage. Put God first. Tell your families this is what you are doing. I suspect that they will try to make the traditional wedding work.

In regards to your child, you are responsible for the child. Stop having your parents raise the child. It is fine if they want to help, but the current situation is keeping you separate from your child.

You and your boyfriend need to sit down with the business books. If the business is not making money, then he needs to sell it or fold it. Always live within your means, even if that means living poorly for a while. It sounds like most of your financial problems is self-inflicted by trying to please everyone.

Thank you so much for the response. God bless you.