Celebrating East African Writing!

Working Mothers: Adam vs Eve

Working Mothers : Adam vs Eve

EVE: Hats off to working mothers

In a perfect world where everything comes easy and life is good and has no hardships, mothers should indeed not have to work. They should stay at home and take care of their children. At least until the last child is 5 or more years old. While the mother is home taking care of the children, the perfection creed reads that the father works and provides for the family.

Then again, ours is not a perfect world, is it? Assuming you are a career woman who has been through college then secured a very good job. The next most natural thing is for you to settle down and start a family. You and Mr. Right walk down the isle, recite your vows and leave the chapel, church, mosque or AG’s office hoping to start a family together. You start a life together, and continue pursuing your career. You go to work, he goes to work. You meet in the evening and discuss the day’s events. The Modern couple you are, you make dinner together and the day ends leaving you feeling content. Everything is in place. Everything is perfect. You are a wife and a career woman, and you are managing just fine.

Sooner or later, Mother Nature beckons and your motherly instincts go into overdrive. You see a child on the street and you stare at him or her wishing it was yours. Two or three conversations later, you and your husband decide that it is time for your family to grow.

Your company graciously accepts your application for a maternity leave and when your due date approaches, off you go. From the time you start your maternity leave, the clock starts ticking! You have exactly 3 months to give birth, get acquainted and bond with your child, learn to breastfeed, bathe and clothe it (clumsily at first), witness it’s umbilical cord drop off, and very quickly wean it to solid foods.

Within the stipulated span of 3 months you have the obligation to learn to be a mother. Fast! When your leave period comes to an end, you either go back to work, or kiss your career goodbye!

Assuming you opt to stay at home and take care of all your children each time they are born (thanks to your financially stable husband), you might have to put your career on hold entirely until you have that tubal ligation. It could mean choosing between your career and being a housewife because we do not have ‘mother-friendly’ company laws. Going back to work after a very long time could also be quite a laborious experience. We live in a fast world so don’t be surprised when you eventually go to work only to find that you have to take an extra course in order to fit into a career you thought you knew everything about.

Basic child care includes, feeding, clothing and providing shelter for a new born. All these basic needs come with a price. Being an imperfect world, not all women have the luxury of staying at home and having their rich husbands take care of them. Not all women who have children are married, let alone to rich husbands. Again, and most important not all men are responsible husbands. Some women are dumped immediately they fall pregnant. These irresponsible men neglect the mother of their children and do not offer financial child support. No one holds them accountable and the mother has to go out there and seek the means to provide for their children.

If a woman can juggle work and motherhood, in this imperfect world created by irresponsible men, then she should be commended for it. It is not easy. Leaving a 3month old with a house help, though inevitable, is never easy for a mother. It is a sacrifice in itself. You keep worrying that they will fall and hurt themselves while no one is watching. You hope that they will be fed well and more so on uncontaminated food and drink. You pray that they will not develop allergic reactions to particular food supplements you introduce to them. These worries never end; one takes the place of the other.

For a working mother, the time to go home to her children after work never reaches soon enough. Those few hours and the weekends are the only times that they get to be with their children and to teach them about life, with the hope that they have not already been corrupted by the house help or their peers. Mothers who work have no choice; they do so for the sake of their children’s welfare.

Working mothers, I salute you!

ADAM: Are housegirls the new mums in the house…..

Motherhood is a sacred institution. Fact.

Womanhood is not sacred. Debatable.

Journey with me. Thanks.

From the moment a baby is conceived all the way to delivery 9 or so months later, women have been known to brave a myriad of body changes and external hurdles. There is the unpredictable, sometimes laughable and sometimes annoying, mood swings culminating is some strange impulsive urges. Then there are those physiological changes which results in some mother doubling their body weight and size, sometimes for good. To cap it all, there is a cocktail of morning sicknesses that see women develop strong liking or disliking for certain foods, people, places.

Then after a comical and anxiety filled journey of 9 months, labour pains do set in. On average 3 to 6 hours of laboring sees the woman complete the anxiety and usher in a newborn into the world. There are exceptions, of course. There are those who undergo the knife, elective or not, while others either give birth prematurely or to disable children. Some lose their babies. But on average most women make it through to give birth to healthy bouncing babies. This, to me, is the only Wonder of the world.

After the baby has arrived, the woman goes through unscripted baby blues, that unexplained and anticlimactic feeling that has driven a number of women to the asylum. Suddenly the woman finds herself battling a nocturnally skewed being, colic pains, rashes, insensitive housegirls, a husband (or boyfriend), in-laws and, sometimes, other children all clamouring for her attention.

Monthly immunizations, weekly milestones, changing sleeping patterns, doctor’s visits and the mother finds herself suffocated. Time up and in the twinkle of an eye, three months are up and the mother’s maternity leave is over. Time to go back to work or is it job? But allow me digress over here and venture into great mothers of days gone.

Shaka Zulu, that genius of a military ruler from Zulu land is believed to have lost his mind when his mother, Nandi, died of dysentery. Shaka put on his war regalia and proceeded to scream in anguish and the entire tribe of 15 000 Zulus erupted in wailing and shrieking. It was the beginning of the end of Shaka. Even in adulthood (in his forties), Shaka could not imagine life without his mother, who, as far as Shaka could remember, had never been far away from him.

German dictator Adolf Hitler’s hatred for Jews stemmed from his belief that his mother was poisoned to death by a Jewish doctor. Hitler was 18 when it happened. What took place later with the Jews is a permanent and painful era in the annuls of history.

There are endless stories of great word leaders (Napoleon, Martin Luther King Jnr, George Washington, Gandhi) whose mothers played great roles in their lives. There are also notorious figures like Al Capone who traces his failures to the lack of attention in life.

Closer home, many people trace their good habits and strict upbringing to their mothers. Every year musicians look for different ways of expressing their love for their mothers. One needs to look at the level of irresponsibility in our political leaders to realize that something in their upbringing was lacking.

Back to our point. After all that a woman has undergone in carrying a pregnancy to term, delivery, hospital visits, financial stretchings, the same woman makes a ‘painful decision’ and goes back to work. Who does she leave her precious child with? A total stranger called a housegirl, who will be paid anything between shs.1500 and shs.5000 per month to take care of the bundle of joy. (The horrors that housegirls subject children to is a story for another day). That a well educated, sophisticated mother with titles such as BSc, MSc, and who belongs to various clubs (Chamas to be precise) can actually leave her 3 month old helpless angel in the hands of an often illiterate stranger ranks as one of the weirdest decisions made by women in recent times. Most of these children go through an average of 3 housegirls annually.

The reason (or is it excuse) for this behavior? Rent, food, clothing, good living etc. But is that the real reason? So how come the sonkos who live in Nairobi’s Runda, Kileleshwa, Lavington and who seem to have no problem paying rent or buying food still have only two or three children?

Well here is the cold truth: women loathe motherhood because it ties them down, reduces their marketability, distorts their figures, erases their identity and kill their spirit. Women crave the same independence that men seem to command and you need not go further than the trousers that has become an obsession amongst women. Less women are wearing skirts and dresses (what are those?) and the market for petticoats long dried up.
He he.

Unfortunately nature did not design it that way. Female species were created for motherhood. Period. And all those sex changes, homosexuality and whatever veering from the norm you know of, will never change the fact that female are the only ones who can and who will bear children. Men have accepted this and have no problem with it. It is time that women also accepted their role in the society and stuck to it: give birth and take care of the babies until they are of school going age. The rest, as they say, are just excuses.

Twenty housegirls to bring up (or is it down?) your child or one mother?

First Published in the East African in Focus on 28/01/2010

If you would like this piece to be the Story of the Week, please vote below on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being weak, and 10 being excellent. The numbers will be tallied on Friday and the story with the highest figure shall be Crowned Story of the Week. Be sure to fill in your name and verifiable email. You can include your critique/comment after the vote.


One comment on “Working Mothers: Adam vs Eve

  1. Kyt
    February 18, 2010

    Noma sana! Spot on my brother! Keep the spirit. Very true. 10.5 for sure!


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