Monday, 29 November 2010

The Female Dream - Reality vs Fantasy.........



As the year draws to a close, it is natural to take stock and assess what you have OR have not achieved.

This year has been particularly challenging for myself and quite a number of my friends. While the economic situation has not been great; the biggest challenge for us (myself and my friends) has been finding a way to juggle the demands of family alongside demands from work, extended family members and still keeping our dreams alive!

I was brought up to believe I can be whatever I want to be and have it all (family, career, wonderful husband.....)! However, I have found myself increasingly asking ‘Can a woman really have it all?’

Why? Please let me give you just three instances that have got me wondering:

1. My friend Vicky:
Vicky is an accountant married to a medical researcher. She had a great job in London while her husband was part of a research team here also. However, in April, the funding for her husband’s research got withdrawn and the team had to look for funding elsewhere – or face unemployment.

Luckily, they found a funder –who insisted the research be moved to Sweden! Well, Vicky’s husband has insisted that he is not willing to live a separate life from his family and wants them all in Sweden with him. My friend is distraught as this will mean leaving her job, friends and familiar sorroundings - but she will now be following her husband to a country that she cannot even speak the language...........

2. My second friend Ola:
Ola is an engineer who works with a large organisation outside London as a manager. She is also a mother with two kids aged 2 and 7 respectively. Unfortunately, this year, her youngest child has sufffered from several chest infections and Ola has had to take quite some time off work to nurse her baby. While her husband has been helpful, a large part of this burden has fallen on Ola. As a strong Christain, she has borne this challenge well.

However, Ola is now upset because her bosses recently passed her over for promotion - and promoted her colleague who has less experience than her. She feels this is because this colleague is more flexible (willing to work longer hours and travel more). What really upsets her is that she trained this colleague when he just joined the company!

3. Me!
I am the first to admit that I am ambitious and determined to suceed in whatever I do.
However, earlier this year, when I was offered a job that involved travelling within Europe twice a month; I declined.
My present job involves travelling within the UK sometimes; and this already leaves me feeling guilty whenever I leave my kids. I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I have snuck out of a meeting to call home to check on the kids. While my male colleagues are still laughing and networking, I am often looking for an opportunity to call home asking - 'Have they brushed their teeth? Have they eaten? Have they done their homework? Have they ......!'

Dont get me wrong, I love my job but I hate the way I have to juggle!


Why this juggling act?
After a long chat with my friends, I do believe the way we bring up girls is totally misleading. Please imagine this scenario of how a typical Naija/African daughter is brought up:

Daughter aged 7 years old: 'Mummy, I'm praying that I want to be a doctor, actress, lawyer, beauty queen, reverend sister, preacher, nun and mum!'

Mother: (smiling) 'Yes, my dear, you can be whatever you want to be. The sky is the limit....just work hard at school!'

 
Daughter aged 14: 'Mum, I got the best grades in school this year!'

Mum: (jubilating) 'Well done my dear! Remember, you can be whatever you want to be if you work hard in school and KEEP AWAY FROM BOYS!'  


Daughter aged 21: 'Mum, I graduated with a First Class degree and my university has offered me a Masters scholarship'

Mum: (excited) 'I'm so proud of you. Remember, you can be whatever you want to be.  I pray you will marry a wonderful husband and the sky will be the limit for both of you.'



                  
Daughter aged 28: 'Mum, I have just finished my PhD and I have been offered a job with a multinational company in ........'

Mum (sighing) 'You never cease to amaze me! I am so proud of you but remember you really should start thinking of getting married. You know your biological clock is now ticking louder.............!'





Daughter aged 35: 'Mum, I have just been made Director of Operations for the whole of Africa. If God is willing, my dream of heading this organisation might come true when our CEO steps down in 3 years time.'

Mum: (resignedly) 'My dear, the only dream you should be having now is finding a husband and having babies as soon as possible.....!'

Well?  Am I wrong?

My experience as a Nigerian girl is that you are sold the dream that you can achieve anything and then as soon as you get past 25, you are reminded that without a husband (and children); a woman has achieved nothing.

I suggested to my friend that we need to be more honest with our little girls i.e. Encourage them to be high achievers, but also tell them that getting married and having children MIGHT limit their ability to pursue their dreams full-time. I believe that this conversation needs to happen with teenage daughters (ideally when aged 15-18 years)

My friend disagreed because she says that this could be discouraging to a little girl -  Killing her dreams and making her feel that womanhood is a burden.

While I accept that this might happen in some cases; I still do believe that we need to be more honest with our daughters. Yes, a woman might have a supportive husband who enables her chase her dream; but the truth is that once you have a child, you feel guilty everytime you put yourself first. At least if our daughters are better informed, one of the things an ambitious girl should be looking for in a potential partner is how supportive he is/ will be!

Do let me know your take on this - Should mothers be honest about the compromises that come with marriage and motherhood OR
Should we let our daughters dream?

26 comments:

  1. I totally agree with you...I think mothers should be honest with your daugthers. Letting them know that being a wife, mom, and career woman can be challenging and some compromises may have to be made but to let them understand that it's possible...women are gifted with so much power, they just have to activated!

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  2. Absolutely Blessing!
    Totally agree regarding 'women are gifted with so much power'.
    I always feel sad when I see a woman who's given up. Thanks for that

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  3. It's best to be honest with daughters. The worst thing to happen is to grow up thinking unrealistically about things. When I was a little girl I imagined being married and having kids but I had no idea the challenges and struggles I would face being a married christian woman. I wish my mother would have told me the truth and gave me wisdom on what to expect in certain situations. It's okay to dream but at a certain age young girls should know the truth about life. I don't have any daughters, I have two sons age 5 and 2 but when they are old enough my husband and I plan to be truthful with them about everything.

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  4. So true about ALL you said......& my take is to be honest.....let them know the GOOD, BAD & UGLY side of life.. !I would NEVER, NEVER, NEVER! allow my daughters to be SAHM becox the society is more concerned about WHAT YOU ARE, RATHER THAN WHO ARE YOU?.

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  5. So true @ nitty-gritty. With the way the economy is headed it's almost impossible to be a sahm and live comfortably. I would advise young girls to live their life and work toward their dreams and goals while they have the chance and pray that the Lord sends them a man that will be supportive and understanding of their career!

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  6. My mother actually started the marriage song early, maybe when I was about 10. I was one that didn't look home stuff, like cooking, cleaning etc and she always said, learn o, so your husband and his people won't say I didn't train you. That actually made me very angry and I decided never to get married if it was to be all chores. And yeah, the major thing I looked out for was loving support from a partner. So yeah I agree with you in a way, on the other hand. I would probably tell my daughter, marriage is not mandatory.

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  7. @Nitty: True talk about SAHM. Again, I recall staying at home for a year after my last child and what I really didnt like was asking my hubby for things. I felt so powerless. Not a good feeling.

    @Dominique: You're right about the economy changing things.
    I really do wonder how it will affect our children because I have to be honest and say that it is virtually impossible for a couple to come home from work AND THEN produce a nutritious meal AND THEN sit down and help the kids with their homework AND THEN have a good sex life! *sigh*

    @Myne:
    LOL. I totally relate to the 'marriage song'!
    My mum always told me off because I couldn't pound yam.
    She said no man would be happy with a woman who couldnt pound yam..... I told her I would marry a man who would buy me a yam pounder!
    Funny enough, my hubby isnt really a fan of pounded yam *laugh*

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  8. Definitely think honesty is best otherwise it just sets you up for disappointment. One needs to be realistic to know that once a family comes compromises need to made. Even before family comes, once you're married even you do say goodbye to some dreams and create new dreams with your spouse. I know I have.

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  9. @Chichi
    Thanks for your comment.
    Agree that honesty is the best way to avoid disappointment.
    I do think boys and girls have different expectations from marriage and it is particularly difficult for an ambitious woman to keep all her dreams alive - post marriage.
    PS - Dropped by your blog and I was inspired by your words. Well done!

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  10. Honesty is definitely the best policy. Can't have it all but marriage and kids are not mandatory. Or the woman can choose to have kids later after a successful career if she chooses to do so.
    I think the emphasis on family making ASAP limits options for women. The point about supportive male partners is also very important.

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  11. @Naijalines:
    Thanks for that.
    Totally agree that marriage and kids are not mandatory but parents and society (African society especially) lay great emphasis on it.
    I guess its up to the new generation of mothers to tell our daughters this.

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  12. Nice blog

    I have to say no matter how educated women are, we still gonna end up being someone's wife and that comes with a huge responsibility. Being someone's wife means you have to be submissive to your husband. Your friend has no choice but to relocate to sweden with her husband, he is th head of the family, except she wants to do the long distance, which her husband is not prepared to do.
    Being a mother and a career woman in abroad is difficult, you do everything here yourself, no house-help or driver. It is sometimes frustrating because you dont spend enough time with your kids.

    I think women/Mothers who are back home in naija are so lucky, you get help from parents, families etc. Right now its snowing in the Uk. Schools are shut down, now parents are going crazy because they are not prepared for the crazy weather, no child minder, nothing.

    I think its harder to be a career women in abroad. Simple


    Following your blog now.

    Check mine out www.sesheajames.com

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  13. This is such an amazing post. I think that women should be honest with their daughters about marriage.

    Far too often, Nigerian girls are misled into putting marriage on a pedestal as if it is a monumental achievement while the reality is less glamorous. Young women should be encouraged to achieve all their personal and professional dreams and goals with as much fervour as young men are FIRST before anybody should even give any kind of thought to marriage.

    At the end of the day the man is getting on with his life while the woman is counting all the things she sacrificed that she could have done that made her happy.

    Awesome, awesome post!! ^_^

    --

    Sugabelly 2.0

    http://sugabelly.blogspot.com

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  14. @Seshe:
    Agree about it being more difficult for women abroad. However, our sisters back in Naija still have to deal with more family interference so it's almost like we all have challenges. Thanks for checking the post

    @Sugabelly
    Thanks for the compliment.
    Regarding your comments about marriage. Ido agree. I guess the challenge for women who do get married is not to lose themselves - once they get married!

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  15. Babe! I feel like you wrote this cos of me. Are you sure you haven't been watching the reality show about my life? :)

    You see, we (hubby, son and daughter) are moving to the US in a few weeks and I have had to come to terms with some of the issues you brought up.

    Relocating means shutting down my thriving fashion business of 5+ years and saying good bye to domestic help among other not-so-easy choices.

    Arriving at this decision hasn't been easy, but I strongly believe that my family comes first and so what works for 'us' comes before what works for 'me'. You see, if you take everything away and all I have left is family, I'll be fine, cos most (if not all) of it is replaceable.

    I can, and will, build another thriving business by God's grace. Domestic help?? I honestly don't know how I'll cope cos I'm so used to having a maid and nanny but thankfully hubby is very hands on...

    hmmmm...the part that worries me, my sister, is not making my own money (at least till my business kicks off and becomes profitable). I have always earned my own way and I find it extremely hard to depend on anyone. Is it pride? maybe...(Thanks for not giving up on me Jesus), but waiting for handouts is just not my way. I cannot be a SAHM... I'm just not wired like that.. I have a need to work at something, or make something and just create value one way or the other...plus it keeps me from being a nuisance to myself and others *smile*...

    I have big dreams oh! this reality? e get as e be!! but you know what? I have a strong conviction that God will sort me out, because I know this move is His will...

    Will I raise my daughter to compromise? yes
    will I raise her to dream? yes
    I will raise her to be independent, to earn her way, to be realistic and to trust God and follow his leading.

    @ Sheshe
    I agree with you oh!!! There's so much help available in naija.

    Yours is the first blog I'll be following.
    I started blogging recently cos I'm hoping it'll help me cope with all the changes this big move will bring and reading all these comments makes me feel like I'll be in good company in blogville :D

    I'm off to check out everyone who dropped comments here :)

    www.gbemisoke.blogspot.com

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  16. Hello Gbemi
    Thanks so much for taking the time out to comment.
    I am so happy that this post has touched you. I am hoping that this blog will be a place for womwn like us to have a chat about things that we find challenging - and realise that we are all in the same boat.
    I understand how you feel about relocating - I came over to join hubby and I did so reluctantly.
    I have to tell you that the first few years will be a huge learning curve as you have to adapt.
    However, you are blessed to have talent so you will be fine. My advice is take it slowly and use the first year to observe and learn. It might be a great opportunity to attend a fashion course i.e. in corsetry or pattern-making.
    This move will open doors and enrich your life in limitless ways. Amen and Amen
    PS - I'm off to your blog now...........

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  17. Amen!
    Thanks for the advice. I'll be careful to take it slow and observe... I'll definitely be coming around here a lot. xxx

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  18. God gave man and woman destiny, gifts and brains so why should a woman's own waste? Wisdom is needed though because having a family is very important as also taking good care of the family.

    Mothers remember that those kids have to leave one day and you are a female man FIRST before you are a mother. Gen 5:2, Gen 1:27&28. God called woman Adam BEFORE her husband ever called her Eve after they sinned. Don't live your life through your kids, let everybody live theirs or else your daughters will do the same.

    What is the use of raising up kids to fulfill their ambitions when you are not doing the same. Its like a cycle for women and their daughters, they keep postponing destiny. Anyway read Buchi Emeacheta's novel, The Joys of Motherhood and you will see that everyone has their own life to live.

    The training you give your kids will be more quality if you are an achiever yourself. The best thing have few kid sand give them more qaulity and quantity training.

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  19. Sorry I meant *The best thing have a few kids and give them more quality and quantity training*

    Let the men be more supportive and hands-on. What is the use of working donkey years to raise your kids and you are not even intensely involved with them? You just leave everything to their mothers. Don't make sense

    For the men to be hands-on, its the job of their mother and father to train them like that. Simples.

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  20. Thank you for your comment Amen
    I do agree that some women can get 'lost' in marriage.
    I have only sons so I am conscious of the fact that they are learning about how a wife/ women generally behave through me.
    For this reason, I always tell them that there are no 'male' or 'female' jobs in the house - As a family we all have to contribute and help around the house!
    Thanks again.

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  21. True! Though my mom did not teach us about the marriage, I learned from my older cousins that you need to hurry up and marry ...it is crazy though...sometimes I feel like whatever you achieve may not work with your husband's plan and then everyone encourages you to toss your dreams aside.

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  22. @Nenyenwa
    Thanks fo taking the time to read this old post
    I believe it speaks to soooo many women out there
    Well, I guess we can never change the 'old-school' but we can try to bring up our daughters differently - to be self-sufficient and happy.
    Thanks again

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  23. Very interesting article, U ARE RIGHT. I agree daughters should be pre-warned or at least be told that life is not what it seems ohhh... them stages come with challenge.

    Eventhough my pastor nags it into our ears that all women were created to fulfill husband dreams or help him at least. I am determined to make something of myself and not have THE NEED To depend on anyone.

    Growing up MUM was the bread winner and did most things and being a single mum. It makes it seem u dont need man jor... na so so whala..

    But thank GOD that the ones he will bless us with, will be more than supportive, encouraging, honest and trustworthy.

    I intend to tell my children the TRUTH nothing but the truth. And when they arr chasing the passion God has put inside them, don't 4get to make room for relationships with friends,family and God.

    I am glad am learning.. everyday too. to think I wanted to get married at 24.. lol. THANK GOD FOR GOD opening my eyes....

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  24. I know this is an old post but I just came across your blog through mrs newlywed and I couldn't help but love the contents. I definitely agree that mothers should be honest about the compromises that come with marriage and motherhood as opposed to letting their daughters dream. I am a typical example as I had my son at the age of 19. Most of the things I learnt from my parents esp my mum was more of education, doing well in school, getting those grades. Relationship wise, I learnt close to nothing. I was scared to discuss relationship issues with my mum and she did not touch on the issue too much. Right from time, I was not allowed to mingle with the opposite sex. It was like a taboo so that put a strain on discussing such issues with my mum. Fast forward to having my son at 19, My parents wanted me to get married to the father of my child because it was only 'right' in their books for that to happen. I did not have a problem with that and my thought was to make my parents happy because I felt like a huge disappointment at the time. In the 3 years of dating my child's dad, the relationship has mostly been down than up. I started to realize lots of things, I matured in a way that I did not imagine. Half the things I learnt about relationships, marriages was all by myself. I broke it off with my child's dad because the relationship wasn't healthy. My mum has been giving me grief on getting back with him saying its my cross and destiny. I think about it and am like if you had done your part and let me know about consequences of relationships, marriage and motherhood maybe we won't be going down this path. Don't get me wrong, I love my mum and she has sacrificed so much for her kids but theres still some loop holes and scores which needs to be settled between myself and her. In as much as I feel bad about the situation, I thank God because I see it as a positive thing. Having gone through this, I have told myself that my child/children will have a better life than I did. As early as they can understand the meaning of relationships and marriages, I will let them in on what it is and the consequences. I believe a lot of Nigerian parents don't see that aspect as being important. Some of them think they might be pushing the child into being inquisitive while some just don't think it at all. I think in my case, my mum thought it was more of not pushing me into being inquisitive. Also, Nigerian parents focus on the educational achievement aspect and tend to leave the other important things. I think in the end, a balance of all these is required.

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  25. We are our children's first and best teachers, and their primary source of information; every other source, is merely supportive. I agree that we need to tell our daughters the truth. Which ever way we want to look at it, marriage, if we decide to do it, comes with a lot of sacrifices and compromises. Compromises in the sense that situations could arise that we would find ourselves making decisions that we would not have been made, if we were single. Now, marriage is not a prerequisite for making Heaven and no matter how society makes singles feel, anyone who does not want to get married, should not be forced to get married. However, if one does decide to get married, then such a person should be ready to make the necessary adjustments in order to make things work, bearing in mind that, the male, is/should be the primary provider. Whatever we contribute as women, is meant to support our husbands. Personally, I would not want to trade my place as a wife for my husband's role. I love being a woman, I enjoy being a wife and a mother because I have a man, who makes it easy for me to enjoy my role, and yes-we are both full blooded Nigerians.

    Finally, as a christian woman, who fears the Lord, it is more important for me to ask the One who created me, what purpose He designed for me to fulfill, than go on a guilt trip because of some appointment I could not take up. A lot more women should go back to their maker and find out what He would really have them do, and once they come to terms with it, peace comes. I will tell my daughters the truth-and I have 3 of them, but above all, I will tell them that marriage, when they decide to do it, is designed to be a unit of the kingdom of Heaven on earth, and that they are partners with their husbands in ensuring that the purpose for which God allowed their union to be, is not thwarted. I will tell them that it is up to them to find out how they are supposed to fit into the equation and please God, because in pleasing God, they'd please their husbands. One thing I intend to teach all my kids, plus my son-and I have started-is that, they should never root the decisions of their life on societal expectations and what others say. What God has told them, is much more important. Sorry, if it sounds like I am preaching-but these are my values and I have trained myself not to take a decision based on external pressures to conform. My take.

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  26. I don't know if it's the best thing to do, teaching one's daughters just how hard marriage can be. My mother has ensured that all her daughters know exactly how difficult marriage can be - as a result, we are all between 22 and 32, and none of us are married yet! lol. however you'd be hard pressed to find happier girls around, because we have also learnt that marriage does not define us, and that instead of leaping into an unhappy situation because you want to be Mrs Somebody, it is worth the wait to be patient until you meet the right person for you who will cherish you, support you and your ideas, and most importantly compromise alongside you, because a good marriage is a taste of heaven on earth.

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