Choosing Motherhood [2] A Daughter of My Own

baby shoe

I scarcely told anyone about my decision to adopt a child. Although I felt the decision was right for me, questions gnawed at me. Moreover, I did not think people would react kindly to a forty-something-year-old unmarried female adopting a baby; Nigeria is a patriarchal society steeped in tradition. I shared the sentiments of whoever coined the saying: give me the benefit of your convictions if you have any, but keep your doubts to yourself for I have enough of my own.

A few years prior, I overcame my fear of surgery and finally scheduled an operation to remove the fibroids in my womb. After the myomectomy, my doctor gently told me, “Nature abhors a vacuum. You should get pregnant soon.” His words stirred buried desire. I wanted to be more than the best-aunt-ever or best-godmother-ever, two roles I cherished. I longed to be the best-mum-ever.

Two years after my myomectomy, I was no closer to realising my dream of having children under the conventional umbrella of marriage. My anxiety over not having a family increased.

Do sperm banks exist in Nigeria? I don’t know, but a couple of friends offered to father my child. I weighed the complications such an arrangement may present in future and declined. I went to a fertility clinic to enquire about IVF treatment. They asked, “Have you and your partner been trying consistently for up to a year?” I laughed, as I did not have a partner. They recommended I return after my partner and I had tried unsuccessfully for a year.

As time rolled by, all I heard was tick tock ringing in my ears. Even the most self-assured woman would be tempted to ask, “What is wrong with me?” About twenty years earlier, my friends at university had tipped me as the one most likely to marry and have kids first. Life, it seems, did not get the memo. Nevertheless, I still believe I owe myself better than settling with just any partner for marriage sake.

During a holiday abroad, my sister suggested adoption. The idea was novel to me and I toyed with it until I accepted it. I returned to Lagos, thinking of all the babies in orphanages who need parents and rushed to one to find my child.

However, it wasn’t that simple. Lagos state government has an adoption process and a screening procedure. There is also a long waiting list and I had no idea what number I was on the list. While the waiting period can seem long for anxious parents-to-be, I appreciated the forward thinking of the state ministry of youth and culture in preparing parents and adopted children for a new life.

Months later, I was invited to meet baby Folasade. She was a few days old, beautiful, light complexioned, and long-limbed. I fell in love with her immediately. She smiled at me each time I spoke to her as I held her in my arms. Later the orphanage staff explained that babies do that when they are experiencing stomach gripe!

Due to the Lagos state doctor’s strike at the time, she had not undergone medical check-up. She barely opened her eyes and mucus oozed from one eye. I arranged private medical care. The doctors confirmed she was born HIV-positive. I refused to leave her side. The social workers, doctors, and psychologists cautioned me about attachments, which form while bonding and advised me not to set my heart on Folasade because of her condition. I could not; to my mind, she was already my daughter. That weekend they moved her to an undisclosed orphanage where she could get special care. My heart broke.

During my visits to the orphanage, a three-year-old boy always ran to meet me and we became close. He had two sisters. Lagos state has a policy of not separating siblings where possible. I prayed that a family would adopt them all. He was not attending school because he didn’t have sponsors so I organized a successful charity campaign to pay for his schooling.

My heart still bled for Folasade and I wondered what became of her and other babies like her. Should I have fought harder for her, disregarding professional counsel and insisting on an exception to policy as the state would not put her up for adoption? Biological parents do not get to ‘pick’ their kids, but in a sense, parents of adopted kids do.

Sometime later, I was called to meet a two-week-old baby girl, Alison, who appeared shy and reserved. We did not bond immediately. Maybe she sensed part of my heart was still with Folasade. During the three-month bonding period when I spent every spare moment at the orphanage changing her diapers, feeding her, and talking to her, she avoided making eye contact. Was she testing me? Did she think I would bail?

As I persisted in bonding with Alison despite my confusion, I understood a mother’s fierce love—she loves whether her child responds or not. Coincidentally, I was allowed to take Alison home on my birthday, what a gift!

I was nervous as I gave her a bath, fed her, and cuddled her to sleep. I worried she would miss her regular carers and judge me for the novice I was. Instead, she was patient with me as I navigated our first few days. She barely cried.

Tended gardens blossom. Alison and I learnt to relax. Before long, her eyes followed me everywhere I went. She rewarded me with her beautiful smile more and more and we drew closer still, clinging to each other.

My daughter is now one and a half and it’s a privilege and pleasure to raise her. When I held a welcome party to introduce her to my close friends and family, they showered us with understanding and warmth. I was overwhelmed. Does love differentiate? Could they love my biological child, when I have one, any more than they love Alison?

Tentatively, I posted our photos on Facebook. My friends responded with resounding support, surprising me.

Alison’s birth certificate bears my surname. When people ask about her dad, I smile and reply, “I’m her mum and dad.” I realise that soon, she will ask questions. The pre-adoption counselling organised by Lagos state prepares parents for this inevitability. I still cherish hopes of getting married and having a family like the one I grew up in, with a mother and father.

Alison’s facial features now resemble mine and she displays my zest for life—or has love blinded me? Often, friends look at her and comment that she’s very lucky to have me. I shake my head and say, “No, I’m the lucky one. I am the lucky one.”

Ogo Williams is a banker by day and a mother 24/7. She is an avid Chelsea fan who enjoys meeting interesting people, travelling, and reading.

 

 

© Timi Yeseibo, 2016

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Advertisements

Choosing Motherhood [1] Learning to Dance

Dance

Learning to Dance

I got married at twenty-one. Our first son was born a year later when I was in my second year at the University of Nigeria, studying radiological science. My Parents tried to make me see reasons to wait before starting a family, but the day I stopped breastfeeding my son, I became pregnant with my second son. My husband, Ben, at twenty-nine had lost his job before our first son was born and was still unemployed by the time our second son was born.

My Parents harboured us, providing emotional and financial assistance. Ben was studying for an MBA, while I combined schooling with business, selling anything to support my growing family.

One day on campus, I cried in frustration from exhaustion. I practised exclusive breast-feeding so I breastfed all night while studying. Then I slept for less than five hours and drove to the university every morning. A lecturer tried to talk me into moving to campus and leaving my boys in the care of my parents and their nannies. I declined. I told him being a mother came first. Motherhood had chosen me because every family planning method I tried had failed.

I had few friends because I was the only married girl among my peers. They left me alone to work out my new challenges. I was not socially aware. I never partied and didn’t have fashion sense. Ben and I couldn’t afford to go out like other unmarried couples. I was devoted to my family and I wanted to prove to my parents and everyone else that I knew what I was doing.

By my final year, I was looking forward to moving out of my parent’s home. My dream came true when I landed a job in Lagos using my mum’s connections. Ben and the boys joined me shortly. After a while, I fell sick. To my dismay, I found out that I was pregnant for the third time. I was twenty-six.

I was depressed. We still faced financial pressures and I resented this intrusion to my dreams. I scheduled an abortion although it was against my values. On the day of my abortion, a doctor who is also a family friend disclosed my plan to my mum and she called to discourage me. I cancelled the procedure.

After my only daughter was born, my husband found his bearing. He got a job that enabled us move to our own house in Lagos. I also started a cleaning company that became very successful in no time. While we prospered in career and business, our marriage suffered.

From the beginning, Ben only wanted one child and he had not even wanted a child so early in our marriage. He came from a large family while my family was small and I had always looked forward to having many children. Four years after our daughter was born, we had another son. This put more pressure on our strained marriage. When we moved to South Africa, Ben eventually left me and the children.

It takes a village to raise a child. I could not have navigated my motherhood journey without support from family and friends. Looking back, I see that although I have always wanted to be a mother, I did not plan to be one. Children are precious gifts from God and deserve a home with parents who have lovingly considered the ramifications of their presence. Given another chance, I would choose motherhood in a heartbeat, but would wait until I finish school before starting a family.

My children are now 22, 20, 17, and 13. There is no time for regret only gratitude to God as I watch them mature into adulthood. I tell them that there is time for everything under the sun. We need to give ourselves time to grow and allow school to pass through us instead of just passing through school before settling down.

Motherhood cannot be distilled to a formula. It is a privilege to be embraced and it requires determination and wisdom. I grew up with my children, teaching them respect, compassion, responsibility, and love. They in turn gave me lessons in patience and hope. I am learning about fashion and music from them, practicing the latest dance steps and cool moves with them. We laugh together like siblings, when I go off beat.

 

Ada Obi-Okafor makes her home in South Africa. She’s a licensed radiographer who enjoys soccer, movies, a good book, and a clean house.

 

© Timi Yeseibo, 2016

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Love is Bridging the Gulf

African proverb

My grandmother was a darker smaller version of my mum. Parents do not resemble their children. It is the other way round, but that is how I keep my memory of her alive—in my mother’s strong arms, I see hers, ready to cradle the world. My mother tells me she was the daughter of a prince, who thought it a waste of time for her to acquire formal education and that she ran away from her first marriage due to harsh treatment from her husband.

She was kind. She only spoke her dialect and Pidgin English. I could neither speak nor understand her dialect. Her pidgin was the Warri-Sapele variety, which was difficult for me to understand and I barely spoke pidgin. Her eyes told me she had more to say than the little she did. She must have felt even more frustrated than I did; harbouring experience she could not transfer.

The conversations we managed to have, centred on her concerns that I could not speak her dialect. She would ask worry etched on her face, about what I would do when the war starts. I had heard about the Nigerian Civil War just as I had heard of World War 1 and 2, events in history, far from my reality. In her broken English, she would tell me how soldiers used language to determine if you were on the Nigerian or Biafran side. Those who could not speak their language were at the mercy of the soldiers.

Her stories did not motivate me to learn her dialect. I asked my parents where they had been during the war. “In Lagos,” my mum and dad answered respectively, and I filled in the blanks, “far from the war.” It showed in the priorities my parents chose for my life.

But those who have seen war speak of it with tremor in their voice. Does memory not erase the boom boom of falling bombs or the tikatikatikatika of machine gun rounds?

One time, she came to my university campus. Armed with my name and address she left her home in Sapele to visit me. When the driver who brought her came to call me, I hurried outside not believing. I met her smiling, and I loved her for taking a chance that she would find her eighteen-year old granddaughter in school on a Saturday evening.

“I bring fish for you,” she said, holding out some plastic bags.

Back at my apartment, we unpacked fish, plantain, spices, palm oil, yam, pepper. How could I tell her that I did not cook; did not really know how, especially did not know what to do with smoked fish and palm oil? That the gas cooker in my kitchen sat bemoaning its uselessness. That I nodded and said, “Mmm mmm,” to my mother whenever at the beginning of a new semester she admonished me not to set the kitchen on fire. That I was liable to throw the fish away because it ‘smelled’ and would go bad under my watch.

I thanked her instead. I did not want her to ask me what I would do when war broke out and I could not cook.

We sat in my room. She sipped a soft drink because I had nothing else to offer and because she said, “No, no,” when I wanted to go out and buy food. The silence made me restless and I longed to fill it, but you can only ask, “How your body? Home people? Sapele?” once.

She seemed content to look at me. Maybe I reminded her of her daughter. After a long time in which I started feeling uncomfortable and wished she would go before my friends came along, she broached the subject of language and war.

I let my silence speak for me.

After she lost her vitality, she came to live with us. Sometimes she would talk to no one in particular; it was no longer surprising to find her in her room alone, chatting. My mother made sure she was always within eye view because she could wander off into the sunset, her legs possessing an agility incongruent with the rest of her. By then, I was hardly home and when I was, I retreated to my world of youthful infallibility, busy with things I have no recollection of.

When she died, I felt the general sorrow, which accompanies loss of human life, and the particular sorrow that haunts a child who watches her mother grieve.

I am thinking of my grandmother because as I embark on a new series on motherhood and invite people to tell their stories, I wonder about the blank spaces in her life, which I cannot fill. I realize I did not do enough to bridge the gulf between us; there are languages other than pidgin and her dialect. My active presence is a language I denied her.

 

In loving memory of Princess Ajoritse-Debi Atsemudiara Etchie.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Skype Dad

shoes & tie

He promised us that everything would be okay. I was a child, but I knew that everything would not be okay.
That did not make my father a liar. It made him my father.
– Jonathan Safran Foer –

I was raised in a time when being a man included protecting and providing for one’s family as the primary breadwinner. This drive, not my alarm clock, is the reason I am out of the house before 8 a.m. Due to the changing economic landscape, I can no longer marry one job for life. My friends and I have changed jobs at least thrice, foraging for choice assignments on different continents.

I work 6000km away from where my family resides. Every other fortnight, at the end of a six-hour flight and one-hour cab ride, I turn my key in the lock of our home. Depending on the time of the day, the sound of “Daddy! Daddy’s home!” fills the hallway extinguishing any trace of weariness. Some months I spend more time with them because of national holidays or meetings, which are scheduled near the city where they live.

One evening, exasperated that my eight-year old wasn’t concentrating on his homework, I let out, “I’ll soon knock some sense into your head!” I didn’t mean it of course. He must have thought I did, because he replied, “No, you can’t,” and laughed while throwing his pencil in the air.

He was right. I could not have. We were on Skype.

Skype gives me the illusion that I am there for breakfast on weekends and dinner and bedtime on some weeknights. I am sometimes forgotten on the kitchen table, left staring at the white ceiling, when TV or something else captures my children’s imagination. Their vocabulary includes poor connection and weak signal and we have learnt to decipher the ‘omens’ of the Wi-Fi signal bars on our devices like fortune-tellers predicting the future.

This present-absence weighs on my heart. Am I a good dad? Am I missing my children’s growing years? Will they grow up resenting me? Have I exhausted the options for securing a job closer home? Beyond financial security for my family, what about my self-actualization and professional growth?

There are stretches of time when my colleagues, men and women who live with their families in the city where I work, hunch over spreadsheets and reports, late into the night. As I leave them behind and head to my small apartment, I contemplate the difference between 11km and 6000km. Is it the weekends?

Absence can make the heart fonder or ponder. If I am fully present when I am with my children, the memories we create as I drop them off at school or play with them in the park, might put paid to questions my absence creates. Nevertheless, their mum’s constant sacrificial presence, for which I am tirelessly thankful, reinforces the answers they seek.

One night after I read my daughter a bedtime story and kiss her goodnight, my lips leave a tiny film of moisture on my iPad screen. The sensation is cool, but my heart remains warm for a long time afterwards.

 

Skype Dad travels round the globe on business assignments, but is home at every opportunity. He shared his story with me in reaction to the post, A Man Just Like You and Me.

©Timi Yeseibo 2015

 

Photo Credit:  Unsplash/ https://pixabay.com/en/leather-shoes-boots-tie-laces-691609/

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Man Like You and Me

dad

It’s only when you grow up and step back from him–or leave him for your own home–it’s only then that you can measure his greatness and fully appreciate it.
– Margaret Truman –

 

Becoming Dad

Ha, mo de ma’ngbe e jo gan o . . .” my father replied, after some silence; his voice strained with regret.

His eyes were misty and distant as the words fell from his mouth a second time, “Ha and I used to dance with you in my arms a lot.”

I had just asked my father why he never played with me when I was growing up. It was a warm Tuesday morning and the sun’s glow outlined the Welsh mountains. We scoffed a lovely breakfast at The Melting Pot, my wife’s café. While resting our food, we talked about the meaningfulness of things done and left undone. The mood felt safe enough for me to explore territory I should have outgrown but which sometimes dragged me back to youthful despair, hence my question.

You see, he was visiting my family again after several years. We spent more time together during this visit than we’d ever done before. In recent years, we’d begun to discuss matters, from the deep and trivial to personal and philosophical. Each subsequent discussion stretched us, not apart, but closer, as we better understood one another’s worlds.

He leaned forward in his seat and explained that he had no such upbringing or peer influence. Moreover, he was usually away because of work. He reassured me that he loved me, but given his background, he’d only danced and played with me in my very early years. We were both sad that he had neither seen nor met what had been a big need for me.

I am now a proud father of two wonderful children. Ours is a joyful story of love and affection expressed through banter, wrestling, singing, cuddling, debates, work, travel, and discipline.

However, as a young married man I had angst about having children though I relished the prospect. I wanted to be the beautiful father I had carefully conceived, but there was no one to walk me down that road. Because I’d heard that hurt people hurt people and you can become the worst of what you hate, I feared that I would wreck my children.

I studied and I prayed. A major answer came through friendship with our pastors Rob and Sue. The intimacy they shared with their kids freaked me out at first, but I soon realised it was what I longed for. My wounds began to heal as they mentored my wife and me.

I believe every man has a wound or two that may hamper his display of love or calcify his heart towards his children. I also believe each man has enough desire, courage, and capacity to love his children and show it in edifying ways that buoy them into robust futures.

I’m still on the road to becoming a beautiful dad. However, I’m confident that my children are not archiving questions they plan to ask me when they are forty-four and I’m visiting!

Later that evening, my father watched me battle my children on the carpet for what seemed an eternity to him. He exclaimed with delight, “Ha, joo, ma se awon omo yen l’ese o! Please, don’t injure those children o!”

My children and I are enjoying the life my father couldn’t have with me. He treasures our lives because he is part of the reason I found a happy intervention and started a different story.

OluFemi Ogunbanwo lives in North Wales with his wife Margaret and 2 kids aged 21 and 15. He is a Pastor, Family Mediator, and Parenting Coach.

 

Seeing Dad Through Daddy Eyes

My best time with my dad was when I was about eight or nine. Dad was always the disciplinarian. He gets a bad rap in my memory, which is unfairly coloured by that one attribute, except when I focus on this period of my life.

Several defining incidents jump to mind. First was when I told Dad that our dog, Ricky, was run over by a car. My strong, Nigerian, macho dad turned to mush. He was visibly upset and I thought he would cry. I witnessed a sensitivity that I had never seen before.

My fascination with science started early. Dad got me a chemistry set and I had fun with it. I also spent many hours shoving dad’s tester into live sockets for the fun of seeing the light come on. I tried to create my own lamp once; armed with bulb, bulb holder, electric cable, and plug obtained from Dad’s supplies drawer. I put it all together but since I hadn’t learnt about proper wiring, I ended up with a mini explosion rather than a lit bulb when I plugged in my contraption. My ingenuity was rewarded with a tanned bottom.

I remember riding my Chopper bicycle with stabilizers down our crescent-shaped driveway, which ran for about 100 metres linking the entry and exit gates of our house. One day, Dad decided the stabilizers were coming off. He came close, real close, supporting my bike and me, running down the driveway with me, and then suddenly letting go. I went through a mixture of emotions: enjoying his tenderness yet embarrassed at being the focus of attention. I was afraid of disappointing him if I fell, but I relished the adrenaline-fuelled exhilaration of riding unsupported with the wind in my face. I was riding! I was riding!

As I grew older, I felt Dad should have done more, been more loving, paid more attention to me, disciplined me less, and better prepared me for life ahead. So I withdrew from him and moved forward, leaning on myself.

I realise now that even though he looked so big and mature then, he was younger than I am now. A man with five kids in his early forties, he held a mid-management government job. He clawed his way out of poverty with a technical school qualification to insulate his own family from every trace of his earlier life in a polygamous home. He never experienced the love of a father yet he displayed more than he’d ever received.

Have I done better with my son and daughters even though I started out with much more? Would I have done half as much as Dad did if life served me with what he was given?

Faced with my own pressures, my son is being relegated in my thoughts, more often than I’d like to admit, to a day in future when I will have time to be the dad I swore I would be. Remembering my youth brings home the truth that life is only lived in the present.

Dad, I have come to appreciate you more than I did back then. Thank you for giving me more love than you ever received. I hope I honour your legacy by doing the same with my kids.

Carlton Williams lives in Lagos with his wife Anita and has four children. His life mission, expressed in Christian ministry and business, is to help people discover and demonstrate their God-given magnificence. 

 

Photo Credit: Wokandapix/ https://pixabay.com/en/dad-father-tie-father-s-day-798086/

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Rethinking Motherhood

Rethinking Motherhood

I

She volunteered at an orphanage in Lagos, driven by her need for a baby. It was symbiotic; the babies also needed a mother. She changed diapers, fed, and held them. She sang quietly to them, tears welling up in her eyes as it receded from theirs. The way they hungered for her touch and cocked their heads to make eye contact with her legitimized her hunger for a child. Her time with them pacified but did not satisfy her hunger. She wanted her own child.

As a single woman in her thirties, legal adoption isn’t an option for her. According to the Family Law code in Lagos State, women below forty-five years don’t meet the criteria for adoption. The law is not her only constraint: culture frowns on single motherhood and her religion is negatively silent about it.

She gave up volunteering after a few visits because a couple adopted the child of her heart.  Although she knew they would do well by the girl, she was heartbroken and reported ill at work the next Monday. She spent the day wetting her pillows, stung by the loneliness that comes with being single and the childlessness that compounds it.

She is not alone. There is a growing demography of single women in their forties and fifties who may never marry or may be past their reproductive years before they get a chance at motherhood.  Should marriage or a steady male presence always be the precursor to motherhood without exception?

The absence of marriage does not take away the longing for motherhood. Ask the forty-five-year-old woman who never married and woke up to the onset of menopause or the thirty-eight year old who found out she has endometriosis.  Ask your friend who was married for fifteen years and lost her husband three weeks to their IVF procedure. Ask your grand-aunt who is divorced from a childless marriage and never remarried.

While adoption laws tend to restrict eligibility for single women, assisted reproductive options are more open towards them. For instance, a woman in her thirties can elect to have a child through ICSI or IVF. But often she won’t. Culture and religion make this taboo for her. Should they?

If we dare think beyond what we have always known, even within the confines of religion and culture, we may find space in our hearts for the unconventional mother.

Ideally, children need a mother and father figure to strengthen their socialization, but our world is far from ideal. We wouldn’t think of taking away a widow’s children because they would grow up without a father figure. We applaud the man who raises his child alone because his wife left him. We recognize that their children brighten their worlds.

Why then do we think less of a mature single woman who chooses to be a mother on her terms? Will motherhood through assisted reproductive options make single women lesser mothers or does it challenge our thinking about motherhood and families?

Step back and look a little closer.

Perhaps if these women were to choose between marriage and motherhood, motherhood would trump.

Abiodun Baiyewu is a lawyer and a human rights activist with a strong interest in medical jurisprudence and reproductive health. She is married and the mother of rambunctious toddler.

 

II

From childhood, many girls are programmed for nurture and they role-play motherhood with their dolls and toys. Their maternal instinct heightens as they grow older and wish to have families. Having children is a dream realized which brings them happiness. Anguished longing therefore afflicts the woman whose dream hasn’t come true as the end of her best reproductive years come into view.

But, is the purpose of having children to quiet the legitimate cry of a woman’s womb? Is it to assuage the loneliness that accompanies being a single woman? Then married or single women who have children would have ceased to grapple with loneliness and be living in contentment utopia by now.

In ‘rethinking motherhood’, two words raise concerns: longing and choice. Longing as a precursor to choice can be a shaky foundation. Longing is usually sustained by focus. If focus changes, what then? If we exercise our choice to satiate every longing, where would that leave us? Which yardstick do we validate or invalidate longing by?

Longing ebbs and flows. Longing that gathers momentum and threatens to overflow its banks one day, is the calm river that grants many boats safe passage the next. Like you, I have longed for something or someone until I thought my heart would burst. And like you, I have learnt to live and thrive with longing unmet.

Some have called ours, the ME generation. My life; my choice, are four words, which can be reduced to one: selfie, because the underlying assumption is that I am the only one in the picture. But choice reverberates like ripples. Our decisions have consequences we may not perceive because the time differential between choice and outcome prevents us from connecting the dots.

For example, can we rethink motherhood without rethinking fatherhood? What about the forty-year-old man who wants to adopt a twelve-year-old girl because he could not find a woman to marry and build a family with? Or the older man who wants a surrogate womb to carry his own child? Does maternal instinct trump paternal instinct? Society is evolving and choice experiments, driven by longing are giving birth to what was once considered unconventional families around the world.

Law, culture, and religion have been put forward as impediments to being a single mother by choice in the Nigerian context. Nigerian culture, steeped in patriarchy and communal living, seems to be antithetical to what at first glance appears like an independent and individualistic lifestyle for a woman.

Religion may pose the question: what is the optimal order for family regardless of the conditions that exist in an imperfect world like sickness, spousal death, or abandoned children? It may argue that it is one thing to accommodate a less than ideal situation; it is another to create one deliberately through choice.

In democratic societies, the law of the land is the will of the majority. In a sense, democratic institutions are custodians of choice. Democracy necessitates an educated citizenry for informed choice. This means asking even more questions and researching answers.

Should we rethink motherhood?

Timi@ Livelytwist
© Timi Yeseibo 2015

 

Photo Credit: gilprata/ http://pixabay.com/en/baby-shoe-maternity-girl-child-666355/

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Portraits of Motherhood [3]

Motherhood3

Caramel Kids

My husband John is white and I am black. Our first daughter was conceived after a lot of body heat measurements, lovemaking, and consultant fees. As a newborn, she looked nothing like me but everything like John—dark blue eyes under straight black hair, set in pale skin dusted with freckles. Twenty-two months later, her sister was born.

My beautiful girls have always seen and described themselves as caramel. They say caramel is the mixture of white and black. I also see them as caramel. However, I refuse to raise them as caramel. I am raising them as strong black African women to give them a sense of belonging.

When my seven-year old (who had played all day), wanted to play with her friends some more instead of studying, I said no despite her tears. Her friends in question are white, middle-class, and privately educated. She is mixed race, middle-class, and in a state school. In May, my daughter writes her SATs, her first exams.

Because I worry about my daughters’ academic potential, I constantly emphasize the importance of working hard at school. Only this time, her naïvety irritated me. I told her, “You will have to work twice as hard as your white friends to get where you deserve to be.”

In England, caramel is closer to black, and society regards them as mixed black Africans and not mixed white British. People see their sex and race first. They are not immune to this reality. As a warrior mum, I want them to know who they are and I want to give them every advantage they need to succeed.

Still, my main parenting ethos is to ground them in the kind of love I never experienced. Love, which is professed. Love, which cuddles. Love, which kisses. Love, which makes us spend time together. Because knowing you are loved and accepted unconditionally is a bulwark against ‘colour’ coding and separation.

Yvonne is crazy about retro and vintage fashion. She writes passionately about things that get to her at RealYvonneBlog

 

#Electiongate

E1 ran for house prefect last term. Three girls and a boy competed for the two positions. She wrote a speech and campaigned round school. After the elections, E1 came second. The highest vote was nine. She scored eight, the boy scored three, and the other girl one. E2 excitedly told her sister, “Well done, you got it.”

Imagine my shock a couple of days later when E1 reported that the other spot had gone to the boy.

I let off steam at the school office and emailed the secretary expressing my displeasure. A meeting was scheduled with the head teacher where she confirmed that because a boy and a girl traditionally filled the positions, the second post had gone to the boy.

I contended that since the candidates were not informed upfront, the entire process was a mockery. I decided to pursue the matter further as I felt E1 was robbed. Outlining my grievances in a letter, I pointed out that by denying my daughter equal opportunity the school was teaching her that gender is a deterrent to success in a society where gender discrimination is illegal.

It was a lonely and long fight. Well-meaning people asked, “What’s the big deal?” In the meantime, E1 was offered other positions. I told her it was okay to accept another position, as long as she made it clear she was still holding out for her elected post.

Countless emails and acknowledgements wearied me to the end of my tether. Then one Friday, at the close of school, the secretary handed me a letter. I ripped it open once we got to the car. E1 had been awarded the prefectship!

I turned to her, “You see why it’s important to stick to your guns and fight for your rights?” She nodded, joy brimming from her eyes.

I am trying to raise my daughters to believe that there are no limits to what they can achieve or how far they can go. They know that sometimes, they will have to fight. And I want them to know I will always have their backs as God gives me strength.

Joxy, wife, mother, bookworm, bookaholic, ardent Scrabble player, tennis fan, and foodie, writes at Justjoxy’s blog.

 

A Heart of Gold

My thirteen-year-old son is not special needs. He has special needs and barely qualifies to have some of them met in school. If you met him, you would not imagine that my well-spoken boy struggles in school. This challenge began in pre-school and has now progressed to annual team meetings with teachers.

The meetings always start with, “What are your concerns about Damon?” I exhale before I rattle off the same yearly list, lack of focus and mathematical comprehension, poor grades, etc. His teachers smile sadly and nod because they see it every day. In that moment, I don’t feel alone even though they are witnesses for only nine months.

What happens next is my favorite part and it happens every time. Sure, their faces drop when they describe how Damon hunches over his paper, so they won’t know he hasn’t written anything. But they then mention how his hand shoots up above his brown curly hair to volunteer to read; and my mind travels to the years he cried because he hated reading but persevered until he loved it. They smile as they recount his eager participation in class discussions, which elevates the conversation. We all laugh at the way he smiles and assures us that he’s, “Got this!”

And yes, Damon’s got this, this being the heart of life. He carefully scoops up infants in the church nursery where he volunteers each week. He emanates warmth as he greets homeless people whenever we hit the streets to hand out supplies. You see, I mother a child who on his best day puts in twice the effort to receive half the grade and has done so for nine years. Yet his perspective of the world and himself is untainted. Once when I checked his phone for inappropriate content, I saw a text from a friend who stated he wants to be incredible like Damon.

So yeah, parenting an out-of-the-box kid isn’t easy when it comes to schooling, but witnessing his spirit shine in the face of obstacles is better than perfect marks.

Brina Harwood, recent returning full-time student, aspiring writer, and working mother of four, blogs on occasion at My Life in Crowd Control.

 

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.