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 However, in April, the funding for her husband’s research got withdrawn and the team had to look for funding elsewhere – or face unemployment.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?

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

COULD have; SHOULD have; WOULD have.........?!

I was reading the paper the other day and I came upon this interview with an old man. The interviewer asked him if he had any regrets - about things he should have done when he was younger. Unsurprisingly, the man had a few - with his main regret being that he should have spent more time with his children!

Well, as I DO spend quite a bit of time with my kids, and since I do know that my presence is not always welcome by them *smile*; I started thinking of all the things I could have, should have and would have done - even just once - IF not for the fact that I am the first born and I have always tried to act 'responsible':

1. Worn much shorter skirts
Looking at my old pictures, I am glad to say that I was really a cute girl. I now regret not wearing really short skirts to show off my fresh young legs *smile*. I could have, but as a 'good, well brought up Catholic Naija girl' - with a strict father; that was defnitely a no-no!
It was even impossible because after we moved back to our home-town, it seemed like I grew up with spies everywhere - as everyone knew everyone...*sigh*
As my legs now look like that of a retired footballer, I have to say the hemlines of my skirts will now only march southwards......!*double sigh*

2. Travelled round the world
When my white colleagues tell me about their various travel experiences, I must confess that I am envious because at the time when I should have been gallivanting round the world (early 90s); Nigeria was not really in a great state. So, being a good Naija daughter; I spent all that time worrying about my siblings and parents in Naija. Any regrets? .....mmmm.....I have to admit, somedays, yes.
That is why I intend enjoying the narrow window - between when my kids all leave home and they start bringing their grandkids to me  - to do some travelling!
Consequently, I have started praying for good health.
Again, I have warned my boys that none of them should think of any 'nonsense' till they are at least 28 years old. I am definitely not praying to be a young grandma anytime soon. Please join me in my prayers. *smile*

3. Tried mind-altering drugs
I know not everyone will agree, but I would have liked to have tried at least one mind-altering drug (alcohol does not count)*smile*
Just to see what the big deal is all about. As I am a wimp, I never did try. I could have because I remember one guy who was always offering me weed - because he wanted me to 'lose my inhibition'. I refused then and told him the 'inhibition' was there to remind me that I should not lower my standards and date him!
Could I still try drugs now?
Frankly, no...because I think my brain is too fragile to play with now, and secondly, with 3 boys, I couldn't even begin to warn them about drugs when I am indulging myself.....!

4. Dated a non-Nigerian
I use the word 'dated' loosely here. All I would have liked to do is to have is s*x with someone of a different colour - Asian, European, Latino, Eskimo....It doesnt really matter. I would have welcomed the opportunity to find out if s*x is any different. I'm sure its not, but I should have found out.
As I am an equal opportunity manager and friend, it beggars belief that I did not extend my colour-blind attitude to 'dating'! It could be that I was only attracted to Nigerians? Possibly, I dont know. I could still cheat and find out, but that is definitely not an option......So this door is definitely closed!

5. Bought a motorbike
I have always wanted  to own a bike. Not some rickety, sad, spluttering bike but a huge, throbbing, monster of a machine that can only be called a 'beast'.....mmmmm!
I still sneak into bike shops whenever I go shopping just to feel the leather seats or to take away some imagery I can use in my dreams *sigh*
I can even tell you that I would truly love to own either a Suzuki GSX-R750 or a Honda CBR 1000RR Fireblade *double sigh*
My hubby doesnt agree as he thinks they are dangerous.
However, I feel one runs a greater risk of dying when you get on a plane or even cross a busy road! So, I do think this wish is NOT going to die as a should have. There's still life in me yet so who knows...................?

P.S: Do have a think about what things you could have, should have or would have done; and let me know.
(If it's too naughty, do leave an anonymous comment....*smile*)

Monday, 22 November 2010

Old Age + Experience = WISDOM? Pt.1

When I was growing up, I was taught to respect my elders and to defer to their superior knowledge. Even when I knew that someone older than me was talking rubbish, I always smiled, listened and accepted their 'pearls of wisdom'.

However, as I got older, I began to see that not everyone who has grey hair is wise!

Imagine a polygamous good-for-nothing uncle who managed to produce 11 children from 4 women giving me advice about how to be a good wife? What was even more painful was that I know for a fact that it was each wife who bore the responsibility of feeding, clothing and educating her own children!

To make matters worse, my 'funky' aunt who had 5 children for 4 men and whose daughters have proceeded to follow her footsteps decided to pull me to one side at a party - to 'advice' me that I 'should not drink alcohol in public as it is not befitting of a married woman!' Ewoooo.....I have to confess say I bite my tongue sotay blood comot...............! However, as a good Naija gal, I smiled and said 'thank you for your advice ma.'

So, I got thinking about all the instances that our hypocritical elders have let our generation down............

1. Old Lechers:
We always dey blame our girls wey dey do 'runs'. However, I must confess that most old men are simply agbaya ashewos (old prostitutes). I recall when I was only 20 years old and I had to deliver an official parcel to a relative's client. As I made to leave the office, the baba who was at least 60 years old knelt down and begged me 'to do it with him, just once.' If you see the way I ran out of his office, you go think say I see ghost. When I told a couple of my friends about it, they said that maybe it was for fetish purposes....?!

2. 'Sharp' Mothers:
Despite the fact that most mothers got married to their husbands when things were still rough, I have observed that quite a few seem intent on matchmaking their daughters with affluent suitors - no matter the background. How else will you explain an aunt who actively encouraged her daughter to date only 'aristos'. Any yeye ordinary boy who mistakenly knocked on their door was made aware that 'his type' was not welcome there. Anyway, end result is that she did marry a rich thug, who abused her and she is now a divorced 38 year old - raising two children single-handedly!

3. 'Blind Eye' Parents:
These are the ones who choose to ignore what they know is happening because they prefer to enjoy ill-gotten wealth. For instance, your child is supposed to be an undergraduate but lives a lifestyle that you know cannot be from a credible source of income .....OR.....
your child left for abroad two years ago and has come back with five cars and built two palaces.....OR.....
your child left for Lagos or Abuja penniless and comes back within a year to shower you with money and build a duplex.
Shine your eye oh.....Shine your eye oh......Big meat dey choke oh!

4. 'Evil' Mothers-in-law
I cannot understand why a woman who was once a new bride can be soooo evil to the bride of her son. Someone please explain. Here in London, we are constantly beseiged by these women who think we are 'enjoying their son's money'. Oh, I laugh .....!
The most evil ones are those that come to do the Omugwo (take care of a daughter after she has given birth). Traditionally, it is the mother of the girl that comes but, no way, nowadays, the boy's mother HAS to come! I have actually seen cases where the mother-in-law will be watching television and asking the new mother for breakfast. Imagine doing this to a young girl recovering from childbirth! (more gist about this another day)

5. Stingy Leaders
I do not even need to talk about this ...abi? Election is next year abi? ...Same old names have started coming out. Do you think the youth will be allowed to play a relevant role. Obama is 49 yrs old; British PM (Cameron) is 44 and Australian PM (Gillard) is 49 and a woman. How can we move forward when vibrant portfolios like technology, women affairs and sports still remain with the old guard? *sigh*

To be continued............................
(and in the words of Naija film producers - 'To God be the Glory') *laughing*

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Poetry: A Woman's Ode to Loss

You have come again
I know there’s going to be pain
Have you come to please
Or to tease?
Whenever you are around
My heart begins to pound.
As I lose myself
Becoming a shadow of my self,
Revelling in your presence,
Drowning in your essence.

Fantasising, Dreaming
Wishing, Hoping
For when you will restore my name
And take away my shame.
Will you stay this time?
Please be mine.............

The first time you came
I named you,
The second time you came
I gave my heart to you,
The third time you came
I devoted my home to you,
The fourth time you came
I worshipped you,
The last time you came
I despaired of you!

I hate you, I love you
I want you, I despise you!
There can be no greater pain,
Definitely no gain
In the loss of a child.
I am now reviled...............

What is the use of a seed
If I cannot breed?
What is the use of a womb
That becomes a tomb?
What is the use of hope
If it will always elope?
Running away with faith
Leaving me to wait.
Savouring the bitter taste
Of self-hate!

Hoping, Praying
Mourning, Loathing!
I refuse to be consigned
To the scrapheap of the resigned.
My womb has failed me
But it has made a stronger me.............!

By Naijamum (COE)
(This poem is an original poem and cannot be reproduced without the permission of the blog author)

I know poetry does not appeal to all but I often use poems to describe angst or joy that cannot be easily expressed.
Suffering a miscarriage has to be one of the most painful experiences a woman can ever go through. This poem arose from witnessing such loss - repeatedly!
I do hope it resonates with someone. 

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Real Nigerian Family Life Portrayed on British Television..................!

A Nigerian family - The Adesinas - are being featured on British television.

The family were filmed around the clock for the Channel 4 observational documentary series, The Family.

The programme makers describe the Adesinas as:

 'A large family living in London. Vicky and her husband Sunday have been married for 30 years. They are traditional Nigerian parents with strong views on God, love and family values, with four British-born children aged from 15 to 27, all living at home'.
'Together they run a family business- a Nigerian takeaway and restaurant. This is the first time in six years that all adult children and parents have lived together and tensions simmer as the streetwise kids collide with their parents' old fashioned ways'.

I watched the first episode and so far, the potrayal has been honest; and the family are really down to earth! I am hoping the programme makers do not misrepresent this family.

To find out more about them, visit:

Monday, 15 November 2010

Certified Agbaya loves TINIE TEMPAH..................!

One of the things I love about life is discovering new things - food, music, shops, books...whatever. As a certified agbaya (someone who refuses to grow old); I find that my kids, numerous nieces, nephews and god-children are always asking me....'Have you heard this song by......?'

My son drew my attention to TINIE TEMPAH and I am loving his music.

He is a London born Nigerian and he is doing great things - he has performed at Glastonbury (big music festival here); addressed the Student Union at Oxford University and collaborated with Snoop Dogg, P Diddy and others

Best of all, like a true Naija, he believes in the power of education saying: "I definitely want to be in a financial position where I can head off to Cambridge or Oxford or somewhere. I would study something like music management or something extremely random like physics, which no-one would expect, as I like challenges.''

Mmmm...I have a listen and let me know what you think:

(1) WRITTEN IN THE STARS..........

(2) PASS OUT. .....this was his first break out tune and the beat is 'sickkkkk' (my son's words for fantastic)
Seriously, whenever this comes on, we all start dancing...even my boys stop whatever fight they are having at that moment to dance....!

......and PASS OUT live at Glastonbury (Summer 2010) with Snoop D

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Spaghetti and Shaki

My three boys make me laugh continously and it really is never a dull moment when they are around.

I shall now introduce you to them:
     First -      Prof1(beacause his primary concern is reading more and even more............)
     Second - Cool2 (because his primary concern is looking cool...............)
     Last -      Blanket3 (because his primary concern is making sure I am seated comfortably so he can sit on my lap 24/7................).

First and second are over 8 years old and the last is under 6

And before I forget, I'll call my hubby YL (stands for young love........awwww <grin>)

Now, as a mum, one of the things that really frustrates me is getting them all to agree on what they want to eat. As we constantly alternate between naija and western food, this makes it an even bigger issue.

Here is a typical pre-meal conversation:

Prof1 walks into the kitchen and asks................'Mummy, what are we having for dinner ?'
Me: 'Spaghetti'
Cool2: 'Yaaay! I love spaghetti. Thanks mum!' and he comes over and gives me a kiss
Prof1: 'Thanks mum'
.............Silence follows as they all leave the kitchen.
After a few seconds, Blanket3 walks in, stands beside me with a frown and with his arms folded across his chest..................
Me: 'What is it, Blanket3?'
Blanket3: 'I HATE spaghetti! It's too wriggly'
Me: 'Well, you have to eat it because I wont make anything else today.'
At this stage I know tears will soon follow.
Blanket3: 'Can you feed me?'
Me: ' are too old to be fed. You are a big boy now so you have to feed yourself!'
He walks out of the kitchen and I can see him sitting down on the couch with a forlorn look.
I refuse to be moved!  
Cool2 then walks in....
Cool2: 'What kind of spaghetti is it?'
Me: 'Spaghetti Bolognese'
Cool2: 'Can I have some shaki and cowleg with it?'
Me: 'NO!'
Cool2: 'Why?'
Me: 'Because shaki and cowleg is not for spaghetti bolognese'
Cool2: 'Why?'
Me: 'Because you have shaki and cowleg with Naija stew or  soup'
Cool2: 'But I like shaki and cow leg................TOO MUCH! I really do.....!'
Me:  (getting frustrated and trying to stay calm while carrying on cooking).....'Yes, I know but not today.' I answer firmly
Cool2 then leaves the kitchen. Prof1 walks in.....At this time, I really am not in the mood for any objections or domestic mutiny.
Me: 'What is it ?!' I ask tensely
Prof1: 'I just wanted to help you cook mum!' he says as he comes to stand beside me and put his head on my shoulder.
I now feel really bad and in my mind I start calling myself a real b*"^ch!

In the end, Prof1 helps out in the kitchen and we get the meal ready together.
I end up giving Cool2 some shaki (from the stew in the fridge) on top of his spaghetti.....and yes, I end up feeding Blanket3!

All round peace....for now.

Oh well, you really have to pick which battles to fight and which to walk away from .......................!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

A Giant Leap....

I'm absolutely delighted to start blogging. So much on my mind.!
To start off, I want to blog a poem I heard recently. I loved it...

Come to the edge

"Come to the edge."
"We can't. We're afraid."
"Come to the edge."
"We can't. We will fall!"
"Come to the edge."
And they came.
And he pushed them.
And they flew.

~ Christopher Logue (1926)
The message that came through to me is 'NEVER be afraid to TRY.....!'