Ireti Doyle is an actress, a television producer and presenter, as well as a wife and mother. While reading her interview on the BN Weekend Celebrity, I was reminded of the post on Eya's blog where a woman wanted help in parenting her teenage daughter. A lot of very helpful comments came in, basically saying the same things, know your daughter and become a friend as well as a mother.
Ireti Doyle got pregnant as teenager, and had some problems with her mother not understanding her and vice versa. Now she is the mother of a 26years old lady and 4 other children. I found her interview very honest and indepth on how women can combine a career and motherhood - with help and acceptance of what you're trading - as well as on cultivating a relationship with your children, and being a parent at the same time.
How do you combine your duties as a mother with the demands of your job effectively?
It’s not easy, every working woman knows that. Sometimes you have to sacrifice and sacrifice comes both ways. Sometimes you have to pass things up, sometimes your family has to come to terms with the fact that they won’t see you for a bit. But the first ingredient for a balanced life is grace. And secondly, I am fortunate to have a fantastic team where each member knows what they are supposed to do and thankfully, they do it well.
Tell me about this team
They are not too many. I have my housekeeper who also doubles as a baby sitter when I need one. I have my Personal Assistant, she’s been with me for years. And I have one or two other people that I can call on short notice. Motherhood is basically being on hand to attend to your child’s needs and I can’t be in two places at the same time but I try and build my career around my family. Fortunately acting is not as rigid as an office job could be. Once in a while you might miss important moments but you just have to balance it out and fortunately I’ve been able to do that well.
Tell me about your children. How many do you have?
We had six but we lost one. One has graduated but the rest are still in school at different levels. Two are in the higher institution, one is in Secondary and the last one is in Primary school.
Please accept my sincere condolences on your loss. I read somewhere that you had your first child as a teenager. How old is she now?
I had her when I was 19 and she’s is 26 now. If you see us together you’d think she is my sister.
Looking back at the time you had your first child, what were the challenges you faced as a teenage mother?
Being a teenage mother is no picnic, back then or even now. As a teenager, you have no business being a mother. You should be discovering yourself, finding out who you are and what your dreams are. It’s one that can and should be avoided. Very few other instances can give a young girl a complex than being a teenage mother and it kind of clouds all your decisions from that point on if you’re not fortunate.
For a lot of girls, teenage pregnancies often affect the mother’s future negatively. How were you able to pull through that period in your life and make the best out of it?
I’m fortunate. I’m the living proof of God’s word that everything would work out for your good. Such an incident will give you baggage but the question is “Can you move away from the baggage? Yes you can”. Avail yourself of God’s grace, forgive yourself, surround yourself with positive minded people who love you and remind you that you’re not damaged, people who won’t judge you or think less of you.
Did the pregnancy cause any setback for you and your dreams at the time?
When all of it was happening, I did not forget my goals. I always knew I wanted to go to school, have a career. So it can’t even be called a setback any more because the fruit of that situation is a very beautiful and unique human being, one I’m very proud of.
Teenagers are more exposed these days and so the rate of teenage pregnancy is even higher. What would you say to teenage girls who have an active sexual life?
It is such an unnecessary journey to make. I try to school young girls that if you must have sex, please have protective sex. Things are even worse now. A teenage pregnancy is the least of your problems. What if you contract HIV/AIDS and you die before you’re 25? What if you contact Chlamydia and you become barren. There are so many practical reasons for you to be careful with your sex life.
Sometimes, it’s very hard to listen to older people’s advice as a teenager because you feel they are just being unnecessarily strict.
There are some things that are completely unnecessary and you would not realize it till you’re much older. So when an older person or your mother is saying curb your excesses, take it in good faith. They know what they are talking about. You can go to the person for advice. Never take that relationship for granted.
In some instances, mothers find it difficult connecting with their teenage daughters and giving them good advice on sex becomes a problem. As someone who has raised five children, what is the best way for mothers to connect with their daughters?
A large part of the reason why the situation went the way it did back then is because of the way my mother handled it. But I’m old enough to realize now that at the time, she was operating from a position of love and she was handling it the best way she knew how to. That I received it negatively is beside the point. We come from different generations, she grew up under completely different circumstances, my outlook on life is different from hers , my education is different. How I have been able to raise my girls so far successfully is by grace. You can’t do anything without it. I talk to my God about the things I hold dear and my children are a big part of that.
I remember vividly my communication with my Mum and how and when it went awry. I know the things my mother said to me that got to me the wrong way so I don’t say them to my daughters. If I’m trying to get a message across to them, it’s completely up to me to deliver that message in such a way that they can receive it. If she is upset and on the defensive, she will not listen to me, she will not take the message and she’s bound to get into trouble. As a parent, I need to get my message across so I have to package my message in such a way that he or she will understand. Don’t be deceived, for the younger generation, that packaging might come wrapped in a cane.
A cane? Now that is another issue causing a debate in the society with more and more people opposing its use. Don’t you see anything wrong in spanking a child?
What rubbish debate? What are they talking about? Even the Bible says it, Spare the rod and spoil the child. I have a policy with my children and they know it: “If you’re shameless enough to misbehave in public, I am shameless enough to discipline you in the same arena”. So if you know that you have a Mum that can embarrass you, you will arrange yourself. When your child sticks her finger in your eye and tells you to sit down and shut up, then you will know. The truth of the matter is that you are responsible for the way they turn out.
Is it really the parents’ fault if a child turns out bad?
Although parenting really never ends especially if you have a wonderful relationship with your child, but you should know that for the first 18 years of life, you’re going to be giving constant instruction. God forbid, if your child turns out to be an armed robber or a bad person, let it not be for lack of trying. Let society be able to say you tried as a parent but the child just didn’t listen. I don’t subscribe to the school of thought that says a child will turn out to be what he will be, that is arrant nonsense! Get into the child’s life and find out what is going on with him or her.
Read Ireti Doyle's full interview on Bellanaija