Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Life of a Woman - a rejoinder

Before I begin to write, I hasten to say that this is not targeted at Nigerian men. I have spoken to loads of women married to non-Nigerian (and non-African) men who are experiencing exactly the same thing. There are many, many good Nigerian men out there (I am married to one) but they have their shortcomings like everyone else, I included.


A few days ago, I read a post by fellow blogger Ore which she titled The Life of a Woman and I was tempted to leave a comment but I knew it would be so long that I felt it would be much better to just blog about it instead. Ore writes

Being very used to mapping out my days solely according to my agenda, and even then, often not having enough hours in the day to accomplish most of what I need to get done, I feel that any chance of my succeeding at balancing a work and family life are totally doomed.

My answer to that is that you can succeed at both but you have to be clever about it and you have to hone in all the skills you never thought you possessed.

The truth of the matter is once you have a child put all thoughts of mapping out your days solely according to your agenda out of your head. Believe me, I was the ultimate 'doing my own thing woman'. I lived by routine and lists. I hit targets I set for myself, came and went as I pleased and yes, the hours were never enough in a day. Marriage before the kids arrive on the scene won't affect this much but once a little one comes along you are functioning solely to its agenda, for the first couple of years anyway and certainly for the first six months.

Your days and nights are going to be filled with the cries of a baby, you'll be incredibly sleep deprived, you'll stink of regurgitated breast milk, you'll be knee deep in nappies, and you will generally feel like hell. At the same time, be prepared to have your man look helplessly at you as you hand him a nappy or ask him to make up a bottle. I cannot count the number of times I have had to tell my husband that when I had a baby, I was not given a manual telling me what to do, I am learning on the job and so can you!!! For some strange and unexplainable reason, men just assume that we know what to do with a baby. Well, I have news for you guys�� we don't!!

And if you, like me, thought you were being the model wife by running around like a headless chicken trying to tidy the house, make dinner, do the laundry and still look glam for when he comes home from work in addition to attending to a little person who is demanding your attention 24/7 you'll be in for a rude shock. This is the only thing it will do to you - DRAIN YOU. I think women put way too much pressure on themselves. We want to be everything - the supermom, superwife, supercareer woman, superlover. It's just not possible. Something will have to give and more likely than not, it will be you. I will let you into a little secret ladies (for those who haven't worked it out yet) - YOU are the ones who make the marriage. Whether you like it or not. You think a mans' life will change when baby comes and that he will miraculously become more proactive with the house work? Hahhahahaha, I guess you know the answer to that one already. It's the woman's life that has to do all the changing. And get used to it, if not you'll be banging your head against a brick wall. If you want things to happen YOU have to make things happen.

So how do I get the work-family life balance right?

The first thing is, you'll never really ever be able to get it right but you can get it to a level you can live with.

-I got round the work/career bit by doing this - I switched to working part-time. This may not work for everyone but it works for me, at least for now. I am not certain how many opportunities there are to work part time in Nigeria, but here there are loads. So I spend time with my daughter two days a week and the other three days I go out to work. I have to, to keep my sanity. I get to see other grown ups and have grown up conversations and not have the theme tune to Dora the Explorer running around my head all day.

Oh by the way, many men think that when we stay at home with the kids we sit around all day watching TV with our feet up. Oooooooooooo, this just makes my blood boil. Yeah, the house is self cleaning, the food is cooked by remote control and the kids are washed and scrubbed by a virtual nanny. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, but you have to breathe and tactfully disabuse him of this idea.

- I do what I can do and the rest I leave. I play the game of 'if you can't see it, neither can I'. So let the laundry basket overflow for a few days longer, ignore the pile of clothes growing on the bedroom chair (verrrrrrrrrrrrryyyyyyyyyyy difficult for me to do), don't feel like making the bed? Then don't. These things are incredibly hard for me to do because I am a bit of a neat freak but hey, all things are possible if you just try.

- as much as you can, do not scream your dissatisfaction and frustration at him. It will get you nowhere. It can go two ways - degenerate into a screaming match, or result in being given the silent treatment for a few days. There is something that switches off in a man once you raise your voice. Be calm, state your case and hope for the best.

- don't start something you don't intend to continue. I have never ironed my husband's clothes and I never will and he knows it so the issue never comes up. Don't expect to start something and then 1 year down the line announce that you are not going to carry on with it. You'll have a tough battle ahead of you and lots of 'but you used to do before'.

- Ask, ask , ask. You need help? Then ask your husband/partner, especially here where we don't have the luxury of having a helper. But when you ask, ask with sense. Don��t nag (oh, a word I have heard fall often from the lips of my beloved) - this is very important. You have to be able to get him to do things around the house by implementing the stealth of a cat and the Wisdom of Solomon and the cunning of a fox. Weigh your words, be diplomatic and praise him. It may not come easy (I have to grit my teeth sometimes when I do it ) but if it gets the job done why not?

- Learn to laugh. You're going to need loads of humour to keep things going.

- develop selective hearing. Need I say more?

- Make time for you. Actually this should read forcibly make time for you because if you don't take it by force you'll never have any. My friend and I once left our respective husbands and kids and checked ourselves into The Hilton for the weekend. My husband said I came back a changed woman!! You want to join the gym, an evening class, go swimming, see a movie then just do it. Tell your husband (nicely and diplomatically remember!) (also notice I said tell not ask) what you want to do, when you want to do it and tell him to put it in his PDA so he doesn't forget.

- hold on to the memories. These tend to get clouded and/or forgotten a few years into marriage. Remember the happy times, the things that attracted you to him, the special names you called each other. Whatever it is, hold on to it.

- and remember, you can't change your man. He was already the way he was before you married him and that's who you fell in love with but in the flush of passion and love you chose not to see the irritating little habits he had lurking just beneath the surface. Or maybe you did notice but thought you would be the woman to change him (�� ha ha ha, don't make me laugh). He is still a good man, if a little flawed but hey, no one is perfect and you'll never find the perfect man. He is a myth. Your perfect man is the one whose ring you are wearing (or going to wear). Forget the media hype about the new age man. Welcome to reality.

And finally,

- Take pleasure in the little things

and

- Love what you have got.

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6 Comments:

Anonymous Ebby O said...

Very insightful...

"Forget the media hype about the new age man."

I read somewhere that "TV taught us that we can be a rockstar, have the perfect marriage, have the perfect body etc, but we are gradually realising that that is not the case..." or sth to that effect.
I have always thot that marriage is WORK...hmmm, joyful work I guess. I enjoyed your post.

8:20 pm  
Blogger Pilgrimage to Self said...

Glad you did and yes marriage is work, looootttttsssssss of work.

9:15 pm  
Blogger Ore said...

Great post! I really should print this off and save it for when I tie the knot. That way, when I am at my wit's end I can pull this out and remind myself that I'm not the first woman going through the ups and downs of marriage.

3:12 pm  
Blogger uknaija said...

That sounded like it came straight from the heart....well done you

3:15 pm  
Blogger Pilgrimage to Self said...

Ore & uknaija: Thanks guys. These are all the things I wasn't told before I got married. You sure learn on the job :-)

4:12 pm  
Blogger adefunke said...

I am one step ahead of you ore, this post is printed, folded ready to take up residence in my bible.

My mum had warned me about the 'super woman' thing and not starting what you can't finish/continue is something you should apply in all areas of your life.

10:38 am  

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