Mummy’s prayers

BLOG PRAYING MOTHER

Mummy woke up at ungodly hours to pray. Adorned in white.  With one hand she would sprinkle holy water held in a white keg and swing her incense burner with the other.  I loved the familiarity of  the sweet smelling musky smoke that engulfed our home.  I hated how the smoke stuck to every item of clothing; lingering in the house for hours, announcing us as foreigners to unfamiliar western  friends.

Mummy prayed for each of her children according to their  birth order, Iwalola. Omowunmi. Folashade. Moses. Titilolami.  She could have prayed for us collectively and halved her prayer time. But she took the long route, one by one. Perhaps she thought God needed to be reminded that she had four daughters and a son. Perhaps she was pleading with him not to inadvertently forget one or two.

Mummy had a standard list of prayer requests; good health, long life, good husbands, good children. Never wealth, never great careers.  Her list aligned with her values. And it didn’t  change unless we  were going through a particular challenge.  If  I had exams coming up, she would add success to the list.  And if she was upset or disappointed about our behavior, she would add obedience and rebuke bad influences.

I always thought the prayers for good husbands took precedence over other requests. I could tell by the slight change in her tone and pitch.  She would raise her voice ever so slightly, tilt her head towards the heaven and swing the incense burner a bit more vigorously before embarking on the request for God fearing men; Men who would love and provide for her daughters and their offsprings. The prayer always started in the positive; the things she wanted in a son in-law.  And then she would pray against husbands who only sought to use her daughters to obtain  British citizenship.  She would pray against low life’s. These  included uneducated men, men with a family history of mental illnesses, men whose families practised juju, unemployed men, philanderers, or any man whose behaviour or character didn’t glorify her God.

The prayers for my brother were special.  In addition to the general requests for long life, good health and in his case a good wife,  mummy would pray against physical and spiritual enemies who aimed to change, steal or alter her son’s destiny. She would pray against ancestral curses, demonic influences and bad company. The prayers for him took the longest and  were the most farfetched. Up until now I remain  bemused that she placed so much emphasis on unseen attackers, instead of attacking visible forces.

I’m sure my mother’s prayers haven’t changed very much. I’m sure they didn’t get shorter with each marriage. Indeed they must have grown  longer with the birth of each grandchild. I’m sure she has carried on the tradition of calling each grandchild by name; offering identical prayers on their behalf. I’m sure she is relieved to have us girls out of the house and with that the freedom to pray  in her Nigerian dialect, without switching from English, to Ondo, to Yoruba, trying but failing to accommodate the various ears of her children. I’m sure she still starts with the recitation of a psalm, followed by the the  different names  folks call God; Jehovah, Jesu Kristi, Holy st Michael, Oba Imole.  I’m sure she still ends her prayers with Psalm 23 and not the Lords prayer.

OLUWA ni Oluṣọ-agutan mi; emi kì yio ṣe alaini.

O mu mi dubulẹ ninu papa-oko tutù; o mu mi lọ si iha omi didakẹ rọ́rọ́.

O tù ọkàn mi lara; o mu mi lọ nipa ọ̀na ododo nitori orukọ rẹ̀.

Nitõtọ, bi mo tilẹ nrìn larin afonifoji ojiji ikú, emi kì yio bẹ̀ru ibi kan; nitori ti Iwọ pẹlu mi; ọgọ rẹ ati ọpá rẹ nwọn ntù mi ninu.

Iwọ tẹ́ tabili onjẹ silẹ niwaju mi li oju awọn ọta mi; iwọ dà ororo si mi li ori; ago mi si kún akúnwọsilẹ.

Nitotọ, ire ati ãnu ni yio ma tọ̀ mi lẹhin li ọjọ aiye mi gbogbo; emi o si ma gbe inu ile Oluwa lailai

And here I am,  at that same ungodly hour, head raised to  the heaven in prayer. I I pray for my children, calling on each by name in order, offering identical prayers . At this ungodly hour perhaps there are just a few billion of  us clamoring for God’s attention.  soon I’ll be back to quick mornings mumblings, thanking you in 30 seconds flat and trusting you to know and appease the desires of my heart. I’ll miss our midnight rendezvous just as  I miss my mother’s prayers.

 

First published as a Facebook Note.

 

 

All the things I was too drunk to say at my 4oth birthday party.

I was going to give a powerful speech on my 40th birthday but I was deliriously tipsy I can’t remember anything I said, and I know for sure no one else can either. So it’s a good thing I blog. Here are some reflections so far which does not include my heartfelt thank you to everyone who has helped me on my journey thus far

 

 

Blog Feature

The 40’s Blues

When January snuck its horrid pale head through I went into a sulk, a sulk I struggled to get out of for months. If I’m honest it was more than a sulk, it was a full blown sad mood, but not quite a depression. It was all the more annoying because friends and family constantly reminded me that I was going to turn 40 this year! Like I didn’t know. And they kept asking what the celebratory plans were, when I was in no celebratory mood. And when I showed my disdain, they reminded me of all my blessings which was equally as irritating as reminding me I was about to turn 40. If 40 hits you like it hit me, just let the low moods take its course, wallow if you must, it will pass, especially if you have good friends prepared to hear you moan and bitch.

The vanity of becoming invisible

For me 40 was that age when I firmly became middle age and invisible. I was no longer a youngish female, no longer in my prime of attractiveness. As a feminist I felt completely disappointed with myself for even letting society or its standards of beauty f*** with my head, but it did. And whether you agree or not, women become more and more invisible as they age. The box that society tries to enclose us in gets even smaller. All of a sudden there are even more rules; you ought not to wear certain things, go to certain places, or get too drunk. Even I, had created rules for myself prior to turning 40, useless rules. I once announced on Facebook, at the age of 35 or so  that I was going to give-up my hot pants at 40. I will not. I’ve changed my mind. I have great legs!  Science also conspires against us. these are facts.  Your metabolism slows down by 2%. Your muscle tone is down by 7 pounds from 10 years ago. Your libido declines because of hormonal changes. Stress is higher because of worries about kids, parents, career and finances. the worry is real! I slept at 1:00am yesterday completely in a wreck about whether my daughter would get into the extremely selective free school in our area.   And research shows that depression is more likely now than in later in life. What the actual f***.

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There is no such thing as perfection

My late 30’s were amazing because I embraced my imperfections more and I relinquished any attempt to them from others. Chasing perfection, or wanting others to see you or your lifestyle as perfect will keep you entrapped in a world where you can’t express your need for support. You will be trapped in a world where you can’t relax. You will be trapped in a world where you can’t be open and honest with your friends or family about the challenges you are facing. And the saddest thing is you will limit your connection with people. You will limit deeper understanding, insight, and even respect, because your pursuit of perfection keeps everything on the surface. I am not perfect. And my greatest delight in my 30’s was being able to reveal that to others. My relationship is not perfect. My children are not perfect. My finances – not perfect.  Sometimes my children go out wearing the most ridiculous clothes, because they choose it, and because I’d rather let their own identity develop without superficial interruptions from me, than worry about whether they look or are perceived as well-turned out. My daughter got a shocking 22% in a maths paper! I actually was stunned into silence!! Sometimes I snap at my husband  and he at me for the most ridiculous reasons and!! and on a good day you will see me in London looking disheveled, without a scrap of makeup because I am not not not not about that perfect lifestyle. Perfection is a burden and a trap. And it would keep you from excelling. Let it goooooooooo.

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Walk in your own light always

I have always hated and dreaded failure, so much so that I was probably handicapped by it in my 20’s. But things changed as I turned 30. I can’t tell you specifically what changed, but it sure had something to do with reading a fantastic quote by Marianne Williamson.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

 

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In my 30’s I stepped outside of my box on numerous occasions because I remembered this quote. For years I wanted to start a charity but held back because I knew there would be critics (myself being the biggest one), not least because anything attached to Nigeria lends itself to criticism, some well-deserved, some not. I also knew I didn’t necessarily have all the expertise I needed, and I’m certainly not Mary Slessor. However, reading that quote nearly 10 years ago gave me the confidence to dare a little bit more, step out a little bit more. I have learnt the importance of showing the different aspects of me, and I’ve become even more content as an individual for this freedom. There is Titilolami the philanthropist, the career woman, the fitness lover, the scandalous dresser, the wife, the mum, and more to come. Being true to all of those facets is a recipe for self-actualisation and contentment. We as women can be more than wives and mums if we choose to be. But it is not easy. I have always had to fight and be resolutely stubborn in the quest to be myself. You cannot do it if the approval of others is important to you. And for someone who is not religious I seek only God’s approval.

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My greatest achievement yet

My greatest achievement till date is the charity Path to Possibilities. All from an idea that we could do more collectively. With the hard work of volunteers this charity has established a learning Resource Centre in Ikota, Lagos. This is a purposely designed building offering free access to books, other learning resources and soon computers. The center opened in November 2016, and it is used by over 300 children each week now!.  A video link is attached here  https://youtu.be/Llk5qJpstDQ. We built a Borehole for Idale primary school in Ogun State, Nigeria. This school had no access to water for 50 years. We built and fully kitted two libraries for Asarudin secondary school in Ondo State Nigeria, and Idale primary school in Ogun State. We are currently sponsoring 11 children in full time secondary education at Caleb International School (Lekki and Magodo branches). We currently support three secondary school graduates, our first scholarship recipient is in Imo state University studying Government and Politics.

This has been possible with my full time job, my role as wife and mum because I decided to step out of my comfort zone. When you think about the lives you might inspire, the lives you can affect, not to talk about the personal satisfaction of beginning to realize your own potential why wouldn’t you step out. This applies not just to charitable deeds but to everyday life; that business you are planning to start may be the business that pulls someone out of poverty because you offered that someone a job. That job you are afraid to apply for (once you get it) may be the catalyst which propels someone below you to aim higher, work harder. When you shine you give others permission to shine and to sometimes outshine you. You give them permission to walk in their own light, even if you are just beginning to glow in yours.

 

WHAT NEXT FOR THE 40’s

There is so much left in me and death is my motivator. I told my friend recently that when you have grown up knowing death at a young age, my father died when I was about 6 or 7. That certainty that you might not live till old age can be the best motivator for living your best life. There is more to come because death is certain.

 

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Motherhood can be shitty too

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My son and I at 8 weeks old

 

Motherhood can be joyous, but it’s shit at times too. And because most people gush about the good bits, please allow me to assure you that there are shitty bits too, and that’s okay, it’s part of it too.

A shitty start

When I think back to when my son was 8 months old I shudder! I hadn’t slept in over 8 months. The Gina Ford instructions which helped me put some structure in place, just didn’t seem to work so well with my son. I was cranky and highly irritable. I felt like a zombie, morning, noon and night.

As the lack of sleep rolled from weeks into months the quarrelling between my husband and I intensified. One day as we were preparing to go to bed I said “if that boy wakes up and you don’t go and get him I’ll throw him out of the window”. We both ended up laughing and admitting that we weren’t copying very well, and that this was a shitty period, a period that would pass. And it did pass, but other shitty periods have since replaced insomnia.

Babies are boring!

Gosh! Babies are boring! I used to stare at both of mine thinking “do something”. Why don’t t people talk about the boredom; changing nappies, constantly feeding, watching daytime TV, and expressing milk! If I was warned about how boring and isolating being a new mother could be I’d have made an effort to join those mother/baby groups!

Children are not always cute and cuddly and nice. My daughter is as moody as I am and she is not always a joy to be around when she is in one of her moods – her father would say ‘ignore her jor’ but my personality finds it difficult to ignore, so I probe, which makes it worse, and we both end up getting even more upset! She is not even a teenager yet!

Sibling Rivalry

And then there is the sibling rivalry, the fighting and bickering which always drive me crazy! My son would scream “She said shut up to me mama”. My Daughter would scream back “he said I’m ugly”. They are always trying to compete with each other; they how many sweets I’ve shared out, my daughter says I favour him over her, my daughter thinks he is spoilt, lazy and poorly educated! Yes she said that “Mama you should change his school, he is poorly educated!”

If you think this is all trivial, perhaps you don’t work full time, or you don’t commute from outside of London into London on a daily basis. One fight after a long and knackering day can set off a full blown adult meltdown. And you know what, I don’t rush home every time thinking ” I can’t wait to see my children” on some occasions I have snuck into the house, crept up the stairs to relax for just 10 mins before announcing my arrival. I’ve hidden in the toilet on more than one occasion! Sometimes it’s just too much.

And then there is the worry. I am not a worrier naturally, but now I worry. I worry about bullying. I worry about racism. I worry about them getting hurt. I worry about secondary school entrance exam. I worry that my son is short.  I know! But short men ‘get as it be’.

I worry about raising compassionate and well-grounded children. I worry that my daughter doesn’t seem to have many friends at school; is it because she is one of only two black girls? Is it her personality? My son only has the one best friend in the whole world, a friend he loves more than “ice-cream”.  What will happen if this this boy leaves the school? I worry.  And all that worry makes me feel anxious, exhausted and it is aging.

And then there is the guilt. I feel guilty that I work full time. I feel guilty about going to the gym. But the thought of not going to the gym just paralyses me!! How would I cope? Exercising relaxes me, it is my coping mechanism. One day my son grabbed my feet and said ‘don’t go to the gym’ I almost caved in, but then remembered that this boy may be off to University as early as 18! And if my children where anything like me they wouldn’t look back. I need a life outside my family to survive my family (I like that sentence!). Motherhood can be joyous but it can be shitty too. People don’t feel comfortable talking about the shitty bits. Perhaps some mothers never feel as I do, but for those who do, there is nothing wrong with you, group hug.

My Daughter, my love.

Sometimes I look at my daughter and think can’t we just go a whole day without quarrelling, and sometimes we manage it, especially when her brother is not around. My daughter reminds me how complicated and multi-layered females are, how complicated I am too. We are so different yet so similar. She knows for sure that I love her to the moon and back and I know she loves me. If I’m down with the flu she will come to my room more than 10 times to check up on me – the son is on to the next person (Omo eran). But do we always get on. No. Sometimes I remind myself that we are not meant to be friends, I am her mother.

When you are a mother of young children you are practically a career, and carers get tired, carers feel low, carers need support. But again our culture muffles us when we try to articulate that it is not all rosy. We are told to be grateful because some women are fasting from dusk till dawn in the quest for children. But to acknowledge that being a mother can be challenging or shitty is not tantamount to wishing one didn’t have children. And as women we do ourselves and others a disservice when we know the truth but allow societal pressure around ‘perfect’ muffle this truth.

 

Apologies this was late, but you I’ve been very busy

 

Next blog up – keep up! the one about the in-laws!

 

 

 

Marriage, Motherhood and In-laws can be sh**

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Something about turning 40 this July  emboldens me to be more vocal about the things that matter to me, so today I’m inspired to write about the reality that marriage, motherhood, and in-laws can sometimes be shit. Let’s take each as a standalone topic.

The one about marriage: I recently said marriage was overrated on my Instagram page. Some may highlight the irony of my own marital status, but I don’t think it’s a dichotomy to say Marriage is overrated while being married. You can be in a good marriage yet believe that it’s overrated because it doesn’t measure up to the fairy tale and happy ever after stories we were sold.

I don’t want to digress, so let me focus on the reasons I believe marriage is overrated. I’ve learnt and seen a lot to make me conclude that there is something fundamentally warped and obscene about how aspects of the Nigerian ‘culture’, or rather, how entrenched  interests within the culture conspire to place unacceptable levels of control on the Nigerian wife. As a consequence, husbands, even good husbands, are emboldened and empowered to indulge in excesses that are detrimental to their wives, children and the wider society.

Marriage is overrated because in the privacy of girl talk, in that safe space where females open up and talk about things they really ought to take to a therapist I have heard too much. And if you really want to learn about the extent of the decay in Nigerian marriages, and the ‘cultural’ acquiescence  of the accompanying  stench, then do join the Facebook Group FIN (Females in Nigeria).

The decomposition 

Couples are living in separate rooms but attending church together. Husbands have families outside their matrimonial homes but their wives are advised to pray. Wives are being told to do whatever it takes to keep their families together, even at the detriment of their own mental or general wellbeing. Successful wives are told to downplay their success least it offends their husband. In the face of domestic violence, the church will advise that ‘God hates divorce’. Parents are refusing to provide a safe haven for their battered daughters because ‘what will people say’. Wives are told to not argue with their husbands because this is what leads to him hitting her.  Wives are being told that as long as side chicks remain on the side all is well.

Husbands are absolving themselves of raising their children because they are lazy; but he is excused as ‘traditional’’. Husbands are absolving themselves of financial responsibility but we are told to accept it because you know ‘till death do us part’. Some wives can’t go to the toilet without seeking permission from their husbands. Some marriages are sexless, completely sexless; 6 months, one year, two years of no sex. Wives are advised to treat infidelity like a mosquito bite – a mild irritant, instead of the first signs of decomposition that it is.  Wives are supposed to be subservient and respectful of husbands who treat them poorly,  they are expected to  love unconditionally even in the face of multiple betrayal and loss of confidence, often in the most public manner.

And our ‘elders’ have let us down. The church has been complicit to a large extent. The sermons are mostly directed at wives; all the things she ought to do – but all she does will never be enough when there is such a huge imbalance, and where excessive indulgence is permitted by the church. And we are silenced when we protest at the sexist attitude of the church – we are called pagans, unbelievers, ‘do not touch my anointed’.

We are taught to cover up the shame of infidelity but who ought to bear the shame?. We have fostered a culture where husbands are mini dictators and where we are being told that it is our responsibility to bend over backwards to accommodate this head of the family dicta.

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Raising children is not enough. 

Wives are lonely, wives are sad, wives are having nervous breakdowns- they feel invisible, and this invisibility only gets worse as they get older. And when they grumble to friends, friends offer an unhelpful ” it is well” or tell them to concentrate on raising their children. But raising children is not enough for most. Raising children and having hot sex are different things, and you cannot have hot sex when all is not right in your marriage. You cannot have hot sex when your husband is sexing everything else. You cannot have hot sex when someone is mistreating you or when you feel disconnected. Forget hot sex, you cannot continue to love a man that shows the world that he doesn’t love you through his infidelity, his disrespect, and his dishonor. And I’m really sorry the love between a man and a woman even in marriage is not unconditional! I cannot love pain, you should not love pain. I cannot love sorrow, you should not love sorrow. That’s not love. That’s Stockholm Syndrome!

What is the point of highlighting these issues without solutions. I do not have a solution. But I know for sure that we need to start talking about dysfunctional marriages, the bundnce of them, and the fact that it’s not okay.

We need to talk for the protection of our children and for the marriages of the future. We also need to challenge our culture or traditions especially when it is silent in the face of abuse to women.

Love

Titilolami

Tomorrow let’s talk about the shitty bits of being a mother.

Tips for Swimwear season.

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I am not ageists, just realistic. And like all realists I like to prepare for anything I do including going on holiday, because let’s face it, after a certain age ( 39 in my case) you just don’t “wake up like this”!

So when I’m about to go on holiday, especially to a city renowned for its glamourous ladies, naked bodies, beautiful skin, gosh I go into overdrive!. Now, some people might say this is all vanity and my response to that is! Duhhhhhhhh of course it is! I own my vanity. And you know what I’m glad I was prepared for Miami! What a sexy city!

So here are my top tips for preparing for holiday especially if swimwear will be involved.

  1. A month before you travel cut down on your sugar intake! Not necessarily for weight loss, but for your skin. Nothing looks as great as bare skin with a flash of bright lipstick in the sun! and nothing, bar cigarets ages you more than sugar! So dump the sugar in your breakfast cereals, breakfast bar, ice cream, sweets, and some breads for that glow, because sugar is the enemy of great skin.
  2. You have a month to go! You wanna lose body fat – how? Track your diet! Don’t just reduce your calories to 1,000 or less! But balance your carbs, your protein and fats and reduce your calories to no lower than 1,400 ( I am 5:5 I never go lower than this ever, otherwise crazy things happen to my hormones and it’s just pointless!) if you are taller you may even need more! Do not be afraid to eat! I get into my best shapes when I eat really well and train dirty! if you increase your protein intake you will never be hungry! Lean protein sources like chicken breast, turkey breast, and  most white fish will keep you full for longer. Use my fitness pal ( the app) to work out the balance between fat and protein and carbs! It will change your life!
  3. Three weeks before you go reduce diary. If like me you are prone to water retention or bloating you may want to try eliminating diary to observe the effects. Every time I do this I become less puffy, hold less water and my belly becomes super tight. I also notice that my skin becomes clearer. I’m now considering giving up on diary completely; I’m not saying never ever again, but not as often as I do now. Also, 85% of black people, mostly Africans do not have the requisite enzyme to digest diary well, surely an indicator that it’s not for our constitution. You’ll find that most body builders remove diary from their diet leading up to a competition for that lean look, you’re just doing yours for the beach.
  4. Three weeks before you go Increase your water intake! Minimum 2 litters a day! You should be doing this everyday anyway! But we all know how it goes! Scientific research shows that if two people are on the same diet, the person who increases their water intake will lose more body fat than the other who doesn’t. That’s just facts. So just do it. Is there a correlation between more water and clearer skin? Research says no! I know! I was shocked too! however more water does gives the skin a plumper look and this in turn minimises the appearance of fine lines. Also if you are bloated, you need to start hydrating, this will trick your body to flush out the water it’s holding for that lean appearance
  5. Two weeks to go! Reduce your salt intake. And if you can do it at one monthto go, do it! My beach trick is to dump salt! Including knor and artificial seasonings! All of it! I’m gangsta. Your body only needs half a gram of salt a day! But that’s almost impossible unless you make every single meal you eat yourself. Realistically 5 grams would do. That’s closer to the guideline. But if you eat processed food you are eating way way more than that! Because salt and sugar are cheap food flavour enhancers.  I stop eating bread 2 weeks before a holiday because it holds as much salt as a serving of crisps but it’s blended in, you wouldn’t even taste it!  I cook all my meals without salt, no maggi, fresh herbs only. My skin immediately looks better, i hate makeup on holiday so every little helps! I also I lose water weight quickly, my stomach is flatter – there is no downside
  6.  Still at two weeks to go! swap vegetables that are prone to bloat with those that don’t bloat. I don’t digest some fruits and vegetables well; it’s not me it’s the veggies and fruits! So I avoid broccoli, Kale, apples and pears especially.
  7. One week to go if you still suffer from bloating ( this is the bane of my life) try dandelion tea
  8.  2 days to go I stop exercising, Somehow a break from the gym or outdoor training reduces any body swelling possibly caused by the stresses of lifting weight.
  9. A day to go – spray tan! Yes I know I’m black!  but trust me it’s not in your face orange, and it evens out the skin tone – those faint stretch marks, the hyper pigmentation on the bum etc watch them all even out! Thank me later
  10. Finally! whatever you do – do not drink alcohol on the plane! It makes water retention and  swelling worse

IMG_7258Have fun when you get there eat and drink whatever!!!!!!

Stop taking relationship advice from men

 

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I wish women would stop taking relationship advice from ‘men’. And by this I mean men who are unqualified. These men are not Counsellors, Psychotherapists’ or Psychologists. They don’t know JACK about you or your partner.  But they are perambulating as relationship experts on social media and even on TV. Some of them are labeling themselves as lifestyle coaches with little qualification to show.  And worst still, a lot of these men have terrible track records of being awful partners to very many women. And you know what? Some women are doing it now too, they are on Facebook live, Instagram live! Talking about how you ought to ‘do’ your man!

Don’t get me wrong we can learn so much from other people, but in my opinion the tell-tale signs of a fraud is when you hear their advice predominantly directed at the woman; cook more, serve him, kneel when you serve him, have sex whenever he wants, pray for him, fast for him, he is your father. Have you ever wondered why these advisers direct their opinions 9and that’s all they are opinions) at women.  Why aren’t many more relationship advisers targeting men with these half baked advise. I’ll tell you why, because it is easier and lazier. Telling women what to do, and how to do it still fits into the traditional norms of many patriarchal society.

I am not a relationship expert either. I am just a married woman concerned about the wrong messaging and the abuse of women under the guise of marriage, and our own complicity as women and as a society in this abuse. All I am saying is that marriage should for the most part be enjoyed, being realistic and mature about its ups and downs too. And as a woman it is  not your sole responsibility to keep the marriage going, it’s a joint effort. You did not stand at the altar alone, you did not marry yourself, and before anyone makes reference to that  Yoruba proverb ‘Obinrin lo un di ile mu’  which translates to ‘it’s the woman’s responsibility to ‘hold’ her home.  We are not listening to that bullshit anymore. It has always and will always take two to make a relationship work and any advise that predominantly shifts the responsibility on the woman is wrong and dangerous.

I have observed that in the best relationships ‘power and responsibility’ doesn’t lie in one place, it shifts. Sometimes the husband is in the driving seat, and sometimes the wife is in the driving seat. I know that this idea of shifting ‘power and responsibility’ goes against the grain of how we as women have been raised especially in Nigeria.  But it’s what I have observed in my own personal interpretation of healthy relationships. In those relationships, the man is the head sometimes, and sometimes the woman is the head. No one sits on the throne forever! And no, healthy couples rarely sit down to carve out when the man will be the head, or when the woman would be the head, it’s probably more organic, falling naturally to where the couple’s strengths lie.  I am always adamant that in the healthiest of relationships a woman cannot always be in that submissive lane, nor can the man always lead. I warn you, if you stay in that submission lane for too long you will become redundant, a doormat.  And if you think you can constantly be the leader, you will morph into a tyrant, and in time lose your captor.

People often challenge me by saying their parents have been married for 50 years and did it the ‘traditional way’ – and some would list barmy things like (no lie I’ve heard all of these):

  • My father didn’t eat yesterday’s stew so whatever my mom was up to she had to cook fresh everyday
  • My father can’t eat pounded yam with lumps so my mum would have to remake it
  • My father didn’t let my mum work
  • My father had affairs but told my mother she was number 1

Often, children from these backgrounds appear to accept that their home traditions is the natural and right order. Never have I heard them question  the physical or emotional damage these imbalances might have had on their mother and even them. In fact they will argue that their mothers were happy, because she always looked happy or rarely voiced her discontent. But  how many mothers burden their children with their deepest unhappiness? And  one cannot judge happiness by the length of a marriage in a society where there is little support for those who leave their marriages, even under cruel and dire conditions; little support from the state, little support from the church, little support from the family). To point to length of marriage alone would be TOO simplistic. Being married for 50 years is not a goal. Being happy, feeling fulfilled and feeling accomplished whilst in the marriage ought to be the goal?.

 

Wives get bored too

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Some few weeks ago I went to see the movie hidden figures under the misunderstanding that My friend had booked us to watch the movie Fences. She was just as surprised as I was when Hidden Figures started. By the end of the movie, we couldn’t grumble because Hidden Figures turned out to be a fantastic movie.

I finally got a chance to watch Fences enroute to Miami. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. It is a touching story which feels real and true. And the dialogue is sublime.

Mid-way through the movie I started to shift in my seat, wishing I was on land so I could urge every female friend I have to watch this movie and heed three explicit warnings:

1. Do not become complicit in your own mistreatment.
2. Do not lose your identity, destiny or purpose in a marriage.
3. And if you choose to do both, be acutely aware of the repercussions and own the consequences.

In the movie we see Rose ( Viola Davies) immerse herself in family life, loving her husband completely, taking on his family, his shortcomings, and dealing with it as some loving wives might. And although this was heart warming to watch in the beginning of the movie, these traits soon start to grate as the viewer realises that Rose through her complicity, was enabling some destructive behaviour; behaviour which would eventually tear her family life apart.

Rose’s husband wasn’t a stereotypical abusive husband or father. This would have been too lazy. What he was is probably closer to the reality of most destructive characters, they are rarely one dimensional. Troy was loving yet unkind, warm but bitter, responsible and irresponsible. He was traditional to a point of disregard. In his opinion his duty was to provide for his family. And as long as he did this successfully, everything else was inconsequential, including meeting the emotional needs of his children, and ultimately his wife.

Every relationship can learn something from this story. But I am specifically drawing attention to this beautiful piece of story telling because of the parallels I observe in a lot of Nigerian marriages. Often the Nigerian woman is advised to accept and tolerate the intolerable in marriage. We are encouraged accommodate bad behaviour under the falsehood that compromise is the foundation of a good marriage. The problem however, is that too often it is the woman who over- compromises, especially when the husband is a good provider like Troy. But this one sided compromising is at the expense of our future happiness, and more importantly our mental health.

Rose allowed her husband to get away with atrocious behaviour, this she admitted to towards the end of the movie. As the movie progressed,  it became clear that men like Troy can become so self absorbed, they fail to see that they are mistreating their wives. And women like Rose, lose themselves so completely and absurdly in the superficial appearance of a healthy home; cooking for everybody, constantly fixing a plate; toiling. The way Rose was quick to enter the kitchen for Troy and his family; son from another relationship, her hisband’s friend,  his brother, was both symbolic and a clever way of highlighting how women give.

Rose expected her husband to be loyal, loving, and attentive because she was. Unfortunately her passivity or compromises or submissiveness emboldened her husband’s bad behaviour, to their eventual detriment.

Women too get bored too: There was a scene where Troy was honestly trying to explain why he cheated, and I understood it completely. I even felt annoyed for understanding, but at 40 and after being married for over 12 years I know that marriage isn’t all roses and make up sex. Marriage is partly about those daily worries and palavers like mortgage, bills, in laws, child care difficulties. Marriage is about the grind. It is about misunderstandings, miscommunications, neglect, being taken for granted, hurt, and sometimes lies. And yes the feeling of wanting to escape is normal – having an affair can seem like escapism for some – for Troy – who wanted to feel alive, devoid of responsibilities, duty or obligation.

In the middle of his emotionally charged explanation Rose cut him dead. In fury and in hurt she reminded him that for 18 years she had stood by his side, casting her own dreams aside – supporting him, accepting his flaws, covering for his flaws, even at the detriment of her own children. And through snort and tears, the viewers realises that she knows, that she had given too much, and literary played herself out of the marriage. Because you can give too much in a marriage? Yes. You have no business or obligation to give away your destiny or purpose or dreams like she did . No one, not the man nor the children you bear will thank you in the end. And even if they do it probably wouldn’t be enough.

As married women we must be wary of the false notion that giving up on our own development, destiny, or life goals is tantamount to love. It is not. And a truly loving husband wouldn’t want or expect it.

More powerfully Rose highlights a point I wish every man would take away from this movie. That it is not the preserve of men to crave escapism; to want out from time to time. Most women feel this urge too, that desire to run, to cast aside the burden of responsibility, to hide even. And as Rose put it, to seek comfort, desire and escapism in the bed of someone different. But. And there is a powerful But. What stops a lot of women, and some men from cheating, at that real point of frailty, is a combination of discipline, maturity, self respect and will power – holding on to the commitment they made while keeping an eye on the bigger picture – a healthy relationship. This discipline may not be applicable where abuse is present, emotional or physical abuse or indeed neglect may drive women to seek solace with another.

Sadly, most patriarchal societies pretend that women simply don’t feel the desires Rose highlighted.  I guess the very idea that women too feel this urge is itself an affront to the premise of patriarchy.

love

Titilolami