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Ode to Womanhood



strong womanIt’s easy to know a woman’s job…just look at our sisters, mothers and aunties around us. You sweat for your family, deny yourself clothing to pay their fees, deny yourself laughter in your quest to keep it all together. There’s nothing strange about it, it is our way; we are women.

We have grown up with a culture of self-denial, and so many times we cross over into martyrdom without even noticing we were at the river. It happens in life…as we grow up, in relationships, at work, it happens all through our lives, as we sweat and we bleed to give and fall into bed exhausted at the end of the day, hoping that those we have given our all to, will somehow understand that we deserve something back.

As children, we quickly give up our self indulgent play, as we learn how to cook and clean, “for the man we will someday marry”. Sooner or later, on one level or the other, it seeps into our consciousness; you are not meant to choose, say No, and refuse to work one more minute. How dare you decide you hate to cook, you will not clean, are not in the mood… have you forgotten that you are a woman?

We get married and then the real work begins. We wake up at 4am to make hubby’s breakfast so we can leave home by 6. And when the children come, we buckle down, waking up at 2am to breastfeed the baby, who obviously has a built in sensor that triggers an alarm as soon as you fall into tired sleep. It never once occurs to you to ask for help, you’re a woman; it’s your job.

And as the years go by, we juggle home and work, hubby and children, friends and in-laws with almost inhuman strength. We become so used to saying No to ourselves that it’s impossible to say yes, even when our bodies are crying out for relief. Instead we yell at our children for being children, snap at our husbands for being men and snap at the gateman just because. When budgets are tight, we immediately change saloons and start painting our nails at home so that we can still buy the new Barbie backpack for our daughter – you don’t want her to get laughed at in school. We do these things without thinking, we are women.

Sometimes, our loving husbands decide we work too hard and offer to do something. They might say, “Stay in bed, let me take care of the kids this morning”, but as you lie back, you remember hubby is actually as big a kid as his kids; he’s going to allow them eat Frosties for breakfast instead of Quaker Oats. Before you know it, you’ve worked yourself up so much that you can’t stay in bed. You swoop into the room 10 minutes later and dispatch the kids to the table while you start tidying up the spotless room. Why?

Why is it so hard for us to accept help sometimes? Why do we deny our need for rest, relief, sometimes even laughter? In pain, sickness or sadness, we keep on, never stopping to ask ourselves why this doesn’t feel as good as it should. Do we have something against feeling good, lazy, and sometimes just a little bit selfish?

There’s nothing wrong with working hard for those we love, but why do we let it go so far? Why do we insist on sacrifice, even when it’s not necessary and then feel wounded when it’s not appreciated? Why do we feel good only when we’re juggling everything at once and then envy our friend who refuses to give up her monthly visits to the spa and her quarterly shopping trips to the US? When did we decide that we only find truth in giving up and giving up and then giving up some more?

I have a man I love with all my heart. One day, when I walked into his room to see him vigorously brushing the rug, I experienced a moment of pure blinding panic. At my frantic questioning, he quietly replied that he just thought the rug needed to be swept and he wanted to help. It was scary at first; I couldn’t relax. I finally stood and started cleaning up too.

Months later, I’m realizing its okay for him to take out the trash too.


  1. amina

    March 17, 2010 at 7:06 am

    wow , i love this.. thanks Arit !!!

  2. Debo Ade

    March 17, 2010 at 8:47 am

    waow. lovely article and its so true. you kinda described my mum b4 we forced her 2 let us starta help her. we need to accept help once in a while but really nothing beats the strength of a woman.

  3. Fols

    March 17, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    This just describes the women in my family..although i’ve decided not to tow that line. i’ve learnt accept help even from my 4year old son even if its not perfect…we all need a break sometimes

  4. ladyDi

    March 17, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    I have this discussion with my mom all the time. She does too much! I keep telling her that she doesn’t have to do everything all the time. It angers me when my siblings are always running to her- i mean, she is only one human being! Geez. I have a father, yet they want to only run to mom. Mom doesn’t help either by always pushing herself into everything occuring. Mothers o! We love them sha

    Nice write up!

  5. amina

    March 17, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    Nice article!Love it. But this doesn’t apply to me at all!
    It used to but no more.I have dry stove day which means no cooking day, besides my kids are not allowed to leave dirty dishes in the sink ( you clean after your self), same goes for the bathtub, the toilet seat and it’s the law! ( i mean house rule lol)

  6. Ola

    March 17, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    This is the story of my life. I am the first one to wake up @ 6am and the last one to go to bed. I just finally decided that I can’t do it all and what doesn’t get done will get done later.

  7. Tha Sista

    March 18, 2010 at 9:34 am

    Brilliant piece!

  8. Ginger

    March 18, 2010 at 10:00 am

    great article. women should love themselves more. But sometimes I think this ‘doing it all by ourselves’ is a way of staying in control[control freak??] when you dont/cant let yourself receive help.

  9. Tha Sista

    March 18, 2010 at 11:33 am

    Brilliant piece Arit!

    Well done! Hope to read a lot more from you.

  10. duchess419

    March 18, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    This is every african woman that you have just described, for me it even goes further to my grandmother cause she still used to awake before the sun came up. Yes, nothing compares to the strength of a woman, her unconditional love for her family and her unquestionable commitment, dedication and sacrifice of her own dreams so that yours can strive. Nice piece Arit.

  11. Rita Onome Eghujovbo

    March 18, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    beautiful and so true.
    Ran this ruetine at a time, as a daughter and a sista.
    but as a wife and a mother I have come to realise that I need a break once in a while. So i not only accept help, I go all out to get it, n thank God I have a man who is interested in seeing smiles on my face not ‘stree marks’.
    when we give and give and then give some more, we soon discover our man is looking like our kid brother.

  12. B

    March 19, 2010 at 9:12 am

    Hi Arit, so true. I look up to my mum & hate imagining how empty life will be once she’s gone.

    Maybe your next article should be on juggling motherhood + a career. Sitting here now in the office at 8am and listening to 2 senior execs (one a CEO & the other a director) calling their kids because they’ve left home way before the kids have woken up admirable yet also questionable….How far will we women go, to hang on to “success”

  13. Nneka

    March 19, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    I enjoyed reading this Arit.

    But I’m not really that woman, my mum is. She’s the super woman. I plan to either outsource the chore, do it when I can or scratch it off my to-do list.
    My body no be wood.

  14. Toyin

    March 20, 2010 at 5:03 am

    This article describes my mother. She is the most hardworking woman I know. I love her bits and I hope someday I can be half the women she is.

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