Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Place of Women in Marriage and Parenting

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There's a saying that we're the product of the environment in which we grew up. I want to add that we're also who we are; we are unique and sometimes we are different or weird. I grew up in a sheltered home, a typical Nigerian home you may say. My parents were both working class, and Christian. They knew what they wanted of and from us children and they would do their best to see that we toed the line.

I knew it wasn't easy on them, they both worked very hard and sacrificed some things to make sure we were OK. My parents enrolled us in the best schools and after-school lessons, and they would spend their time to tutor us in our studies, help us with homework, or simply see that we did it. I appreciated this aspect of their parenting and it is what has helped me to be who I am today.

But there was another side of the strict upbringing that chafed on my personality. I felt restricted and forced to do some things I didn't want to. From the earliest I can remember, I hardly made any decisions for myself; everything was controlled by my parents. The clothes I wore, when and how to cut my hair, the friends I was allowed to have, and when I could visit them, if at all, all were decisions made my my parents.

By the time I got to university, I was tired of others dictating how my life went. I wanted freedom. And the idea of marriage and 3 or 4 children certainly didn't sit well with the picture I had of an adult me, free to do any and every thing I wanted. I had an aunt and an older cousin who were single and who had no biological children. They were both working class, and I liked their simple, independent lives.

Now, my mum is an amazon and I admire her greatly. Sometimes, as I was growing up, I wondered how she was not overwhelmed by the responsibilities of a husband, 5 children, and several househelps over the years. She tended to all of us along with a full time teaching job and a growing private business. I feared that if that was the life of a wife and mother, I could not be that hard working, it was just too much. So I kind of chose the easier route in my head, to remain single.

Also, there was something else. While my dad pulled his weight in parenting us, a lot of men with children, fathers if you would, were very different. It seemed that many men wanted children the same way some children want a toy or pet. The children want to be able to brag about having the toy to their friends, but will probably leave it to the adult to take care of. The same way, some men want to be able to sit with the responsible men in society and call themselves fathers, but then they will leave it to their wives to take care of the children.

It dawned on me that for this reason, most women with children - married or not married - would have to forego their own needs and desires. While it is as it should be that they put the needs of the children first, if the men never chipped in, they would most probably always remain servants in their homes, and second class citizens in the society. Of course you can guess that this formed part of the foundation of my also owning the feminist label.

I had a lot of self esteem, fostered by my personality, my parents, and the stable home they made for us. I wanted to see that my potential was not dulled or withered by society and its dictates. The society may not be totally favorable for me as a woman, but I felt that by virtue of my social and economic class, there were a lot of people even less privileged, and I wanted to be able to contribute to making life better for those people, women and men, and any way I can. If that meant having to forego marriage and motherhood, I could live with that.

As it happened, there was a man I loved, who loved me back, and we saw in each other partners for life, a life that included children. We discussed our views on building a family over several conversations, while we were dating, after we got married, more seriously when we started TTC, and at each stage since. We both agreed that we want a family where we would, as individuals and as a couple, be fully involved as parents. However, we also agreed that I wasn't simply a child-bearing machine, nor him a sperm donor. We would be individuals and a couple before we are mothers, fathers, or parents.

All these were before we even knew there would be road bumps on our journey. I think those conversations helped us, and continue to ground us as the fertility treatments progress. I cannot begin to emphasize the importance of discussions with one's intended partner in marriage on important topics that matter to the couple. It definitely makes it easier to remain on the same page and better able to weather the storms that come with marriage, gender roles or not.







18 comments:

  1. Nwannem, you are simply awesome. awesome awesome awesome.

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  2. Amazing post! I always learn so much from you

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  3. Brilliant post, Myne. I feel exactly the same. The roles imposed on us by (Nigerian) culture frustrates me. And it is one that I still find difficult to deal with even as I speak. Sometimes I wish I wasn't born into that culture not because I yearn to be westernised or anything like that but an individual who does not conform to cultural expectations becomes an outcast in their own community and is usually treated as such. The pressure to conform comes at a huge price to that individual. But it is what it is. Sigh!

    BTW, living child free is an option and a laudable choice. I think Nigerian culture over values natural birth to the point that it's become ridiculous. I know it's rich coming from me as I've got two of my own. As much as I love my children dearly, I think one can have and nurture children in so many other ways and hugely contribute to society. Oprah has a lot of children all over the world. She will forever be remembered (immortalised in history books) and she has not given birth to any child!

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  4. So much of this makes sense. I was talking with a friend once, saying I'm not sure I want to have kids of my own - it's such a huge responsibility, and one that I'm not sure I want to have. Plus, odd as it might sound, I'm not sure I'd be a good parent *shrug* But I do want to get married, and I realize there aren't many men who would even consider not having kids. And our families would probably go crazy. Lol. But if I'm so lucky... (I also realize I might change my mind about the kids thing sha.)

    What I do hope to remember, if I have kids, is to not lose myself completely. I think that's probably what makes some parents want to control their kids' lives so much, even after they're grown. Many feel that (or at least, this is what I think they feel), well I sacrificed my life and dreams and everything for you, my child, so what reason could you have to not do as I wish?

    I dunno...

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  5. Sometimes it's like you read my mind for these posts of yours, to think that not so long ago I was just thinking the same thing and comparing the life of 'singledom' vs 'marriage'. Living single was looking very very good to me in my head

    But what I am taking from this is that it's 'easier' with the right partner

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  6. I admire the understanding you have with your husband.You people are friends and partners and these make your marriage better off than lots of marriages.I hope you people keep it up.

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  7. Your seeming lack of obsession with such issues is what seems to have helped you a bit in facing your challenges.

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  8. Like you, I feel our Nigerian culture places an unfair burden on women

    However, women are their own worst enemies. Two examples:

    - When I was suffering miscarriages, it was usually women who mocked me and asked 'What are you waiting for....when are you going to have children?'

    - At a parties, sitting beside my husband and having a drink.....it is usually women who ask me whether I am not going to get my husband any food.

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    1. lool @ d last sentence.... getting the food.. it is soo norm in our society... kia.

      i like a guy that is a rebel and does not conform to society standards but stands out and does the things that is not only considered taboos i.e. washing the children or bathing them or getting your wife food as she is breast feeding or tired to walk or do it for a change.. In general, i like helpful and supportive people am drawn to such character...

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  9. Splendidly written! I see why you write- you do it so well.Your hearts' desires will come true in Jesus's name.This I believe.
    www.tobechistyle.com

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  10. Myne you write so well, and by the way, nice smile and beautifil pic.

    Yes! I can't stop wondering about this issue.

    I thank God that I found a friend as life partner, its makes things easier for us.yea though there is challenges but at least we both understand each other in regard to our nigerian which I'm not a fan, we know where to draw the line.

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  11. "We discussed our views on building a family over several conversations, while we were dating, after we got married, more seriously when we started TTC, and at each stage since."....that right there is what we miss sometimes. Discussing our views on several important issues even before saying I DO

    The more we learn this, the easier (to an extent) life would be.

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  12. God bless you Myne.

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  13. Sometimes i want to shed the labels: wife, mother etc and just be me. Not because i hate them but for the simple reason that i seem to have lost myself in the process.

    I'm married to my best friend, i have a fiesty and beautiful daughter and a supportive famil on both sides. But its still not easy. I'm not complaining but i still want a life.

    Then i wonder how other women cope who dont have it so good. I just want  strike a balance, i dont think its asking too much

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  14. Wow. This is awesome, I'm still struggling with all these, being 21 and having HUGE career goals, but at the same time I want to get married, have children, and actually raise my kids myself- so I don't know how all that will come together. And, this actually scares me, the possibility that I might not be able to have children.

    But then I'm thinking, if I don't have kids I could focus on my goals instead- but I don't know...
    This was a really great post though, it really got me thinking

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  15. @UcheAnne (the reply button wasn't working ;P) I think it's more because as a parent, you have brought this child into the world..not because they asked for it, but because you just did..so that responsibility gets a little overhwhelming for parents, especially since they've lived in this world and they know how nasty it can be-even to children. So to protect them from all that they get a little over protective and lose themselves in that process- at least that's what I've gathered so far from parents around me.

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