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Busola Abayomi-Adebayo: Omugwo Chronicles



God bless whoever invented the concept of Omugwo. For those who have been blessed to enjoy it, omugwo is quite simply an awesome experience. I am pretty sure almost every culture in Nigeria has a semblance of omugwo albeit with variants.

Omugwo refers to the period when a close motherly relative takes care of the needs of a newborn baby and its mother. In Yoruba culture, it is usually the mother-in-law who goes to take care of the new mother/baby, while in some northern cultures, the new mother and baby move back to her parents’ for the very much needed TLC.

I recently had a baby and got to enjoy omugwo and it was truly delightful. My mum definitely pulled out all the stops to ensure that it was a rewarding experience. She was right by my side pre and post-delivery, most especially immediately after the birthing process when everything was sort of a blur. The first night baby spent in the room with us, I was fast asleep when I heard one shrill unrecognisable cry from nowhere. Before I could stir myself awake and acknowledge the cry, mum was already there cradling the baby and this became the norm for weeks to come. After our discharge from the hospital, my mum became the chef, housekeeper, baby minder and new mum-carer; wearing every cap with ease as the situation arose. Now, my mum is a busy bee (I wrote a tribute to her on her birthday here) so it was not so easy for her to stay home for weeks on end tending to baby, mummy and daddy, but she did it all the same.
Of course it wasn’t all fun and games, we had our areas of disagreement, but these could never overshadow the very good times we had.

I had a wonderful omugwo experience, but not all women are so lucky. A woman is very vulnerable and needy post-partum and she needs a lot of affectionate care. However, that memo seems to bypass some mums/mums-in-law. I have heard some horror stories where the new mum is turned into a modern day slave: cooking, cleaning and catering to every whim of those meant to take care of her.

My neighbour resumed full market duties two days after giving birth. Without a car, that meant biking to the market, all to cater for her dear mother in law’s special dietary needs. She had to wash clothes, clean the house and cook for the guests that just happened to drop by to greet mama.

I have also heard of demands for the new mom to pound yam, wash piles of laundry and do all manner of chores for the mum/mum-in-law. And of course the inevitable disputes over archaic ideas mama might wish to apply over the baby such as using kerosene to clean the umbilical cord; female circumcision and yes, grandma attempting to breastfeed the baby. Seriously.

For my friend who had a caesarean section, since her mother-in-law was unable to come for omugwo, the married sister in law was deployed to help out. However, said SIL had other ideas. Not only did she not cook, she didn’t clean and barely carried the baby. In fact, she expected to be waited on hand and foot. True life story.

There is also the blatant disrespect and lack of boundaries that accompany some omugwo visits. Some grandmas believe that since they have come to take care of your baby they also have the right to know what is going on in your relationship/bedroom and offer their unsolicited two cents.

After 9 months of carrying another human inside her and finally bridging the gap between life and death to bring forth that child, a woman needs to be pampered and coddled. Issues like post-partum depression, sleeplessness, weight gain and feelings of alienation from baby after the birth are serious enough for anyone to deal with without compounding the situation with omugwo worries. Omugwo should be a period of comfort and relaxation for the new mother while she gradually eases into her new role as mummy, any distraction from the above should neither be accommodated nor tolerated from any quarter whatsoever.

Photo Credit: © Noriko Cooper | Dreamstime


  1. Abike

    December 1, 2017 at 2:59 pm

    Olojojo Omo

    In Yorubaland both mother and mother in laws take care of the new mum and baby/ies. The only difference is that the mother of the new mum has to leave after 40 days while the mother in law stays and continue. In modern age Yoruba, some mothers will only stay until after the ikomo (naming ceremony) or even up to three months in accordance to their needs, lifestyle and arrangement.

    The Yoruba call it Olojojo Omo. There is even a Yoruba movie about it. You can google it. The movie is old though.

    The only difference to omugwo is that the mother in law has to stay longer, it is because they believe it is their son’s home back then. Especially in those days when all the family live in a single compound with different quarters or flats or houses. But nowadays, most ladies are buying mortgages and building homes with their husband. So the home is now seen as the couple’s home rather than the husband’s. So the couple agree on which of their mothers stay longer in accordance to the rapport they have with either of them for smooth transition and peace sake.

    • Busola AA

      December 2, 2017 at 7:44 am

      Thank you so much for this enlightenment. Honestly never heard of Olojojo Omo. We learn something new every day. ??

  2. Ajala & Foodie

    December 1, 2017 at 3:06 pm

    My late sister had a terrible experience with her MIL, my sister resumed market duties and had to visit the market so often because her MIL had all this self made dietary needs. The one time she held the baby on their way out. She dropped her and emergency services had to be called. My sis had to cook, clean and cater to the baby all by herself, and then include catering to mama’s every need including losing mama’s hair and braiding it too.

    Based on that experience I decided anyone that is coming to help me will spend sometime with me first and after that I have settled on my mum. My mum is busy but after my sister experience she is ready to leave all she has going on to be with me or any of my siblings should the need arise.

    • Busola AA

      December 2, 2017 at 7:47 am

      Wow! So sorry to hear about your sis. She definitely got the negative side of it. Mum is best always

  3. Engoz

    December 1, 2017 at 3:53 pm

    “the chef, housekeeper, baby minder and new mum-carer’.

    You’ve summed it all up. My mum is doing it like a champion. She sees it as a duty she has to perform. No stress whatsoever. Food everywhere. My sisters even leave their own place to raid my fridge, lol.

    • Ijeoma

      December 1, 2017 at 4:45 pm

      Oh you had a baby??? Congratulations!!!!! I am happy for you. I remember your comment one time about what you were going to do if/when you become a mother and you backed it by research and stuff like that, can’t find the link now. I was quite pleased and I wondered how you sounded so mature and you had not got a kid yet. Good for you. Blessings to your kid.

    • Mrs chidukane

      December 1, 2017 at 7:24 pm

      Congrats Engoz. Enjoy your little one.

    • Engoz

      December 1, 2017 at 11:25 pm

      Thank you girls!!!!?

    • Busola AA

      December 2, 2017 at 7:49 am

      Congrats! The enjoyment nor be hia… savour it while it lasts??

    • Californiabawlar

      December 2, 2017 at 11:55 am

      Yasss! Congrats!!! God bless mother and child… and grandma too!

  4. Nenye

    December 1, 2017 at 4:16 pm

    Omugo is not easy for some mother in laws. Some just come to eat and sleep while some come to take care of babies and help out too. BTW Stelladimoko blog has Omugo chronicle column please don’t copy..

    • wifematerial

      December 2, 2017 at 4:05 am

      Mine wasn’t omugo but somehow related my hubby sis came to US during summer and she stayed almost 5 months…………….this woman is so lazy she can barely raised her hands to do anything……….am wife. mother, student and a full time worker and she still want me to do everything for her……… possible ?????? coming home late sometimes 12.30pm since am .whenever I opened the door the first thing I will hear is Ebi n pa mi……mama obe wa ninu fridge………… everything she sees in the house is my brother owns it mama we both own it…………. some are so pleasant and some are terrible……….. just recently she called that she wanna come down I told my husband my kids is enough me to carter for my is just in her early 60s 0000000000…

    • Busola AA

      December 2, 2017 at 7:52 am

      Oh really?! That would be hilariously funny I’m sure… wouldn’t dream of copying ??

    • Busola AA

      December 2, 2017 at 7:56 am

      @wifematerial: sorry about that… some of these visitors simply choose not to be sensitive….

  5. Deleke

    December 1, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    Some have it good, others have it bad. With our first, the 2 mothers did their thing and my MIL left so that my Mom would take over.

    Worst thing ever. Still vexes me when I think about how my mom treated her, after a CS. Still boils to the pit of my stomach when it all came to light as wifey didn’t even tell me what she went thru, what a doll.

    Still don’t speak to her after 2 years, we had our second, no one did the omugwo thing with us and we coped very very well.

    Silly traditions that make no sense………….

    • Busola AA

      December 2, 2017 at 8:02 am

      Awwwww…. that’s sad; your wife is truly bad for not revealing all, not sure I have the same restraint but pls try to mend fences with mum…this world is too uncertain. Pretty sure you guys have gotten a hang of it now and can manage without mum esp when you also help out. All the best!

    • Uberhaute_Looks

      December 4, 2017 at 11:26 am

      Busola AA we can’t all be the same. At times, wives learn to keep quiet about mil because they don’t want to destroy the relationship between mother and son. So, I don’t think Delekes wife is a bad woman.
      My Omugwo story was cool. That’s all I’m gonna say

  6. Mrs chidukane

    December 1, 2017 at 7:25 pm

    Congrats Engoz. Enjoy your little one.

  7. Mrs chidukane

    December 1, 2017 at 8:13 pm

    My omugwo is a time of eating pounded yam and chicken soup. Enjoyment international. No weight watching whatsoever.

    • Busola AA

      December 2, 2017 at 8:03 am

      Hehehe enjoyment madam… So how dyu get the weight off afterwards?

    • Mrs chidukane

      December 2, 2017 at 12:28 pm

      Get which weight off? Hmmm, lemme not go into details. Shaa be praying for me.

  8. Reltel

    December 2, 2017 at 10:46 am

    Am the last in the family of 7 and I watched how my mom did omugwo for all my siblings…even my sister in laws enjoy her company more than their moms. In her case she only lived with them for 4months afterwards she was commuting as early as 5am everyday to return home at 9pm and she did that for another 5months (the driver hated those periods). My mom was already retired so She saw it as a new employment so was thrilling and fascinating…she didn’t get the chance to do omugwo when it came to my turn though, she had passed on when my little honey bunny landed…MIL did exceptionally well and it was like they had a conversation. She did everything I saw my mom do to all my siblings…to be Honest, there is nothing like having good inlaws especially Great mother in Laws.

    Congratulations on your delivery.

    • BusolaAA

      December 2, 2017 at 3:05 pm

      Thanks! Sorry bout your mum’s passing but thank God for LOL stepping in adequately

    • Ibukunoluwa

      December 4, 2017 at 5:30 pm

      This is my story exactly, except that I’m waiting to deliver and I pray silently that your story would be the same for my MIL.

  9. Tayo

    December 2, 2017 at 11:47 am

    Humm, i wished my MIL never came for the omugo. The issues she masterminded is still yet to be resolved. I started Going to market a week after child birth. She doesn’t eat drop soup that has been refrigerated and that means fresh soup. So many issues that I almost concluded the advent of the baby has marred the marital bliss we’ve had. Please put me in prayer!

    • Iya ibeji

      December 2, 2017 at 4:15 pm

      God will cone through for you and your family!

  10. Sweery

    December 3, 2017 at 11:18 am

    I didn’t even want to read this, it opened wounds I thought were healed. What I went through in the hand of MIL all in the name of making peace reign. I don’t wish it on my worst enemy. Yoruba tradition sucks when it comes to issues like this, you’re just expected to smile through pains and abuse

  11. FABulous

    December 3, 2017 at 4:33 pm

    Anytime, I would vote for my mom to come to my
    rescue if I still have to have another child. It took me a long time to forgive my MIL for bringing raw pap to the hospital for me rather than the ready-made one.2 weeks after delivery, she was in our home ordering me to make hot Amala. I politically declined by lying we were out of yam powder. Unfortunately, my mom who was at hand after I put to bed had to return to work some 3 weeks after I gave birth so i had to learn early enough how to hold forth. The second time was easier. My mum’s help stretched to some 4 weeks. Enough to find my footing with a new baby and a toddler to mind. But it wasn’t easy. Nowadays, new moms have to learn to early to be self-reliant,because moms and MILS won’t be available for long,even if they want to. It makes us tougher moms but also equally vulnerable.

  12. Ibukunoluwa

    December 4, 2017 at 5:26 pm

    Congratulations once again Busola. You know it’s so sad watching my mom did olojojo omo for my sister and sisters-in-law, while silently praying and wishing for my turn but she won’t be there. I’m about seeing my worst fears coming to reality because she passed away recently. Trust me, it’s the best feeling in the world having your mum around. Please don’t take it for granted. Blessings to the newborn, you, and the Grandmums?

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