She said she was ‘only a stay at home mum’ as she avoided making eye contact with me. I felt bad all of a sudden, it seemed as though I had attempted to open a can of worms that she may have wanted to stay closed forever. The word ‘only’ in the statement and the silence in her voice after I asked what she did for a living seemed to stir something up within me, about the labour of motherhood.
The tale of the working mother vs the stay at home mum is not a new one.
Many women are vocal about their opinions on what method is right and what method is wrong. Many working mothers feel guilty that they are not 100% available when their children are growing up. Whilst some working mothers ask the question; ‘so what do you do from 9-5 when the children are at school? Watch the television in your boubou?’
Obviously, some stay at home mums brand working mothers as selfish, ambitious, and sometimes as undevoted parents. Whilst some of these women silently wish they could actually have some sort of work outside the home.
Women seem to be the main culprits when it comes to criticising their fellow sisters. We criticize too many personal decisions; mothering skills, breastfeeding in public, losing track of their children in the supermarket, children crying in first class on an airplane, chubby toddlers,or my pet peeve the fact that their child won’t stop wailing in in a restaurant. Many times, mothers are never to blame for these situations, and are often as embarrassed as the judgmental observer.
Recently, a friend of mine told me that she and her boyfriend had gotten to a stage in their relationship where they were talking about marriage and kids. She was very happy to share this news as she is convinced this is the man she is going to marry. They are so very cute together I have to tell you; they’ve even picked wedding dates and selected baby names well in advance. However, he wants her to give up her career when she has these children. He wants a wife who will be fully present to raise his children, as he fully capable of ‘bringing home the bacon’.
When she told me this I almost started to panic for her. You see, my friend is a career girl, she is driven, she is motivated, and she has worked really hard to get to where she is today. So when I asked her if she was ok with this idea, she said to me; ‘Of-course not! That will never happen’. I remained silent.
Women have been told several times that they cannot have it all; a husband, well-adjusted children, a trail blazing career and time to pamper themselves. Having it all is a myth; that society has tried to sell to us over and over again. I believe women can have all those things, as long as they truly want it and are willing to work for it. Even though nobody can have it all, we can have a lot of several good things, but it is impossible for anyone, male or female to have everything good. There has to be a balance; that is the law of nature. However, choosing a career over your children or your children over your career should not be one of those things that determine whether you have a balance.
You may say that I am biased, because I was raised by a working mother, who was herself raised by a working mother; who as a working mother raised five working mothers. I somehow feel this to be part of my family heritage, just as it might be for someone else to be a mum who stays at home.
Several times in my life when I have spoken to my mother about career woes and future dreams, she would always remind me that as long as I was doing something I loved, I would be ok. She would remind me of the lady who had been selling her tomatoes at Alade market in Ikeja for several years. One day whilst my mum was buying tomatoes from her ‘customer’; she heard someone call out ‘MAMA DOCTOR’! And she turned around. Lo and behold they were talking to my mum’s ‘tomato-seller’. Yes oh, she had been working and saving to send her only daughter to medical school in Lagos.
The woman’s daughter had recently graduated and started working that year and everyone at the market was very proud and excited about it. ‘Their daughter’ was a doctor! They were elated and had to tell the world!
You see this woman had done this on her own merit, with no help from any man. She had sent her hardworking daughter to medical school to help her fulfil her dreams. My mum assumed that she was going to be leaving Alade market seeing as her daughter was now a doctor, but she exclaimed ‘Ah Kilode? Ise ni ogun ise!’ (Suggesting that she won’t leave the market, as hard work is the medicine for poverty)
To some, that may seem to be another labour of love, but I think she still enjoyed her work. Being around her friends, meeting new people every day, being a silent witness to the lives of others! (Trust me to romanticize everyone’s job!)
So back to my friend and the lady I met who said she was only a stay at home mum. I cannot judge you if you feel that being at home is what is best for both you and your children. So don’t judge yourself either.
Do not put yourself down because you have made a choice for yourself and for your family. As long as you are true to yourself, and love your children as best as you can, I’m sure you’re doing a good job!
Happy mother’s day to all the women out there, who are raising the leaders of tomorrow we love you and more grease!
Photo Credit: midgs.com
Damilola Ogunrinde is a lady in training who loves to write about anything and everything. Her passions are varied and range from sitting at home reading Jane Austen to Parasailing on the pacific! When she isn’t reading or hanging out with friends, she is in the kitchen baking something sweet!