The Place of Women in Marriage and Parenting


There's a saying that we're the product of the environment in which we grew up. I want to add that we're also who we are; we are unique and sometimes we are different or weird. I grew up in a sheltered home, a typical Nigerian home you may say. My parents were both working class, and Christian. They knew what they wanted of and from us children and they would do their best to see that we toed the line.

I knew it wasn't easy on them, they both worked very hard and sacrificed some things to make sure we were OK. My parents enrolled us in the best schools and after-school lessons, and they would spend their time to tutor us in our studies, help us with homework, or simply see that we did it. I appreciated this aspect of their parenting and it is what has helped me to be who I am today.

But there was another side of the strict upbringing that chafed on my personality. I felt restricted and forced to do some things I didn't want to. From the earliest I can remember, I hardly made any decisions for myself; everything was controlled by my parents. The clothes I wore, when and how to cut my hair, the friends I was allowed to have, and when I could visit them, if at all, all were decisions made my my parents.

By the time I got to university, I was tired of others dictating how my life went. I wanted freedom. And the idea of marriage and 3 or 4 children certainly didn't sit well with the picture I had of an adult me, free to do any and every thing I wanted. I had an aunt and an older cousin who were single and who had no biological children. They were both working class, and I liked their simple, independent lives.

Now, my mum is an amazon and I admire her greatly. Sometimes, as I was growing up, I wondered how she was not overwhelmed by the responsibilities of a husband, 5 children, and several househelps over the years. She tended to all of us along with a full time teaching job and a growing private business. I feared that if that was the life of a wife and mother, I could not be that hard working, it was just too much. So I kind of chose the easier route in my head, to remain single.

Also, there was something else. While my dad pulled his weight in parenting us, a lot of men with children, fathers if you would, were very different. It seemed that many men wanted children the same way some children want a toy or pet. The children want to be able to brag about having the toy to their friends, but will probably leave it to the adult to take care of. The same way, some men want to be able to sit with the responsible men in society and call themselves fathers, but then they will leave it to their wives to take care of the children.

It dawned on me that for this reason, most women with children - married or not married - would have to forego their own needs and desires. While it is as it should be that they put the needs of the children first, if the men never chipped in, they would most probably always remain servants in their homes, and second class citizens in the society. Of course you can guess that this formed part of the foundation of my also owning the feminist label.

I had a lot of self esteem, fostered by my personality, my parents, and the stable home they made for us. I wanted to see that my potential was not dulled or withered by society and its dictates. The society may not be totally favorable for me as a woman, but I felt that by virtue of my social and economic class, there were a lot of people even less privileged, and I wanted to be able to contribute to making life better for those people, women and men, and any way I can. If that meant having to forego marriage and motherhood, I could live with that.

As it happened, there was a man I loved, who loved me back, and we saw in each other partners for life, a life that included children. We discussed our views on building a family over several conversations, while we were dating, after we got married, more seriously when we started TTC, and at each stage since. We both agreed that we want a family where we would, as individuals and as a couple, be fully involved as parents. However, we also agreed that I wasn't simply a child-bearing machine, nor him a sperm donor. We would be individuals and a couple before we are mothers, fathers, or parents.

All these were before we even knew there would be road bumps on our journey. I think those conversations helped us, and continue to ground us as the fertility treatments progress. I cannot begin to emphasize the importance of discussions with one's intended partner in marriage on important topics that matter to the couple. It definitely makes it easier to remain on the same page and better able to weather the storms that come with marriage, gender roles or not.