Tag Archive | love

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.

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

Nevertheless we Persist

 

 

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Last Saturday I was invited to speak at an International Woman’s day event organised by the Smileers. The focus was on “what it takes to build something” I was invited to participate as founder of Path to Possibilities. Here are extracts from what I said:

Success is not lonely: You can’t do it by yourself, so tap into your support network and use them to propel you forward. For those who plan to get married, I said be wise about your choice of husband. Marry someone that loves you enough to support your dreams or your crazy adventure. Your choice of partner can be the difference between soaring or stagnation, it may even derail you completely. No marriage is worth a derailment from purpose.

If you marry a man who expects you to be the sole child carer, sole home maker, or to always take care of his needs first, this may not be compatible with your own individual goals. Much respect to women who have no dreams or aspirations outside of their immediate family, feminism is about informed choice, with no value judgement – family may be enough fir some . But as I said, for me, and for some women our husband, and our children are part of our world, not our world.

Define success on your own terms: Do not let the noise of the world define what success is for you. It may not be CEO. It may not be a six figure salary. It may not be the trappings of wealth or drive for more and more material things. It may be at odds with what everyone considers to be successful. Success is individual to you and your values. Success is rarely compartmentalised either, so you should see it manifesting in every area of your life once values are aligned.

Strengths and weaknesses: in trying to develop ourselves we sometimes think we must always improve on all our weaknesses first. And that we can’t move forward until this has been developed. Sometimes this leads us to focus obsessively on those areas we are not good at at the detriment of understanding our strengths and letting that strength guide us into spaces where we will flourish.

Knowing our weaknesses is important, but the rhetoric that suggests developing them is instrumental to success can be flawed. I used body building as an analogy. I said I apply the principles of bodybuilding into my style of exercise or training. Body builders in general split their training into body parts; so one day they may work legs, next day they work arms, another day shoulders, next is back – you get my drift. There is an intense focus on splitting and training muscle groups together, this system works very efficiently because no part is neglected. Now because bodybuilders do this, they are also very much aware of their weak areas. I know for me my weakest spot is my abdominal- I’ve had two kids and muscle separation and quite frankly it’s been stretched to wrinkles. For a while I obsessed about my abs, I tried to train it hard but then realised it was making my muscle separation worse, so I stopped training it hard, I got stricter on my diet, but then I realised I was cutting out too many things because they bloated me, which made my abs appear worse. I focused so much on my abs I started to forget about how great it felt to be active, or how great my legs were looking or my shoulders, and my back. My point is yes we all have weaknesses, but overly focusing on them may stop us appreciating our strengths and even limit our drive to go to places we can occupy inspite of our weaknesses. The founder of the Smileers Francesca Danmole said ” you can simultaneously be a masterpiece and a work in progress” this is my belief too. Do not let your weaknesses be the excuse. It doesn’t have to hold you back. You don’t have to be perfect to succeed! You don’t need to tick all the boxes. Your strengths can take you far.

Stop waiting for affirmation: I was asked what piece of advice I’d give another female starting their career and I said I’ll say stop waiting for people to congratulate you, to promote you, or to value you. You wouldn’t always get the recognition you deserve or the promotion – if it’s not happening and you’ve asked and it’s not happening then leave! You don’t have to stay in the same job, or on the same path, you can leave. Sometimes the old adage is true ” a queen is not recognised in her own queendom”

I was asked why I stated the charity Path to Possibilities and my answer was simply. I am
here today, not because I’m special, or brighter, or more intelligent , I’m here because I’m standing on the shoulders of many other women who helped my mother. My efforts to educate other children is born out of that knowledge. My greatest hope is that many more of us will realise that we didn’t do it alone and that we can be instrumental in changing and touching other peoples life’s. and although it often seems like a Herculean and thankless task we owe a duty and a responsibility to God, the universe or Mother Earth not just to take, but to give back.

If you would like to join me in making a difference please come and run with me on 1 July 2017 in North London. We will be fundraising to keep more children in education. Last year Path to Possibilities established a library which we can only keep open with support. Please sign up for our annual race, if you raise £50 you’ve done more than enough to help us. http://www.race4change.co.uk

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Above is a picture of the centre I’m desperate to keep open!

happy international women’s  day.

More than ‘I do’ and a Womb

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When I was a younger lady living with my now husband. My dear Aunty came round to give me some advice. She was not happy with my living arrangements. I had expected her to go down the morality of living in sin route, but she didn’t, instead, she asked if I was going to marry this guy. She said ” A man can always dust off his shirt and leave, but what would you do after?” This was the point where I stared at her, I didn’t want to argue because I liked her and still like her very much, but in my mind I was thinking ” I’ll move on too innit”

The problem wasn’t just her question which some may excuse as being ” out of love” but the loaded presumption and sexism in the question. That I, a female, would struggle to put my life in order if my partner decided to leave. You see, there lies the problem, particularly in the Nigerian culture, until we believe and teach our daughter’s that they too have  options and choices; the choice to move on, the option to opt out, until then, we are belittling their existence and even sending dangerous messages for them to settle for much less and not to live fully. We are asking them to stay in abusive  and unhappy homes.

Sadly, my Nigerian culture fetishises marriage more than even love or ironically a happy marriage. The pressure is on young ladies from the age of 25. And after marriage it’s children. and wow betide the woman that seeks to leave an unhappy marriage because she is UNHAPPY. I have heard the laughs. How can she be unhappy, he pays the bills, he takes care of the children .. what is there to be unhappy about.

And when a woman hasn’t had a child or children in a marriage, the misery some  will endure  from external busy bodies! A post for another day. Whether you are married or not, have children or not. You are doing the “sisterhood” a great disservice, a huge dishonour if you proclaim (for you can have your beliefs but keep them to yourself) that our purpose or worth in life is confined to two things; marriage and children – above all. My strong belief is that our uniqueness, value and worth isn’t tied to either marriage or having children. We are unique and valuable simply because we exist. Not because we are married, not because we have children. We must, must, must, drum this into our children both boys and girls.

Big Girls Toys

I got married almost ten years ago, 10 years this July! I know right, it’s a whole decade. I had been dating my hubby for 6 years so although we celebrate our 10 year anniversary this year we’ve actually been together for 16 years. That’s a long time to be shagging one bloke! common, I know you were thinking it!. This is big girls talk abeg! And this shagging point is an important one which becomes more relevant towards the end of the piece so bear with me.

This whole marriage thing, it’s hard right? The sheer weight of domesticity can wear you down sometimes. And if you are a full time working mom I duff my hat to you. If you have young children and are dealing with school runs, homework, kumon, Au pair drama, mannnn it can be overwhelming right? Let’s not even start with in-laws :),  or the peculiar behaviour of men, you get the drift, marriage can be hard work, it can be boring and beautiful and hard!

Nigerian marriages are extra special; I salute the Nigerian woman who is unfortunate enough to be married to a sexist and chauvinistic Nigerian man. As if we haven’t got enough to deal with.  And before you all start abusing me or jumping up and down; I have not said all Nigerian men display these traits, just a lot of them!  I am talking about the type of man who believes that women have a specific role to play in marriage, and that this role is dictated by her gender. The type of man who believes respect is commanded and certainly not reciprocated. He is the type of man who expects to be cooked for and he isn’t prepared to wash the dishes. In fact if she kneels to serve him I bet he wouldn’t object! Didinrin.

This type of man decides when his wife can be modern e.g she can go out to work; but he decides how her income is spent – Hey listen, I was at a baby shower where one well educated Nigerian woman said her husband expects her to pay her wages into his account and she obliges; she even defended it by quoting the bible! listen I completely appreciate that different things work in  different marriages, but what if he drops dead one day?.  How is completely disenabling one partner healthy? Anyway,  this type of Nigerian man is so up his own ass he is likely to brush aside infidelity as one of those naughty things that men do,  but he will cry blue murder if he hears any married woman has had an affair.  What really winds me up is when these men assume that women are innately monogamous; that we too never wonder about a  bit of variety. That we too don’t want a bit of escapism from the daily routines of cooking for him, our children, the inlaws again! actually  sometimes we too want to check out! We do. That’s the honest truth. The only difference is that some women are more disciplined. To all the women i know marriage is special,  a great gift, and we think beyond our own  instant gratification.  Most of us would rather explore the variety within our marriage than jeopardise our family for a flimsy extra marital affair.

When family life gets a bit much we plan girls trips away, and we talk!  And  once we’ve opened a bottle of wine  or three we talk more freely! We talk about sex, all types of sex, we talk about men cheating, women cheating, dirty weekends,  and big girls toys. On one occasion I was gobsmacked to learn that I had been dulling! I had no toys! No big girls toys! As my friends talked about rabbits, cockrings  and various objects small and large, designed to pleasure, my eyes began to pop!! and there I was thinking my ish was the shit.  So I did what any wife would do, I went home and said ” everybody is having better than us SB”, my hubby  laughed,  we talked, or rather I kept saying ” we need to spice things up, we need to spice things up” . But just as it probably happens in every home we forgot about it, we went back to our familiar sex and all talks about big girls toys were shelved.

Then one day, out of the blue he came home singing ” happy birthday to you daddy buy something for you oh oh oh daddy buy something for you” hi five if you know that tune. I stood smiling “what!!!!” is it a bag!!!! (Typical naija chick!) Nooo  it was a rabbit! Now I must admit I didn’t know what to make of it, weeks had passed since our conversation but I really wanted to understand what all my friends were going gaga about. Let’s just say, toys can enhance a good sex life.  Now some of you will read this and think for goodness sake! Too much info! I think not. I am writing this piece because I am very aware that as we women get older,  we become less visible. The longer we’ve been married; complacency creeps in. It is important for us to remember that even as wives and  as busy working moms we are also desirable sexual beings, with our own needs. Sex toys are not for everyone, but if you want to try it go for it, I’m still a bit too shy to rock up into a  sexshop! But the Internet is your friend! Otherwise let him go and get it!