• Friday, February 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

Motherhood in recession

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Women are generally expected to embrace motherhood as soon as they are married; in essence, having children was an accepted fact of life, but today, this can often be a lifestyle decision, writes ANNE AGBAJE.

Mothers were quite strict with their children’s upbringing when Oluwatobiloba Adesanmi was growing up. It was just the start of the Nigerian civil war, and there wasn’t time or room for softness or indulgence. But that experience didn’t influence her decision of wanting or not wanting children of her own, it wasn’t something that even occurred to her to question because nature made it so.

In those days, it was automatically accepted that motherhood was what girls naturally embrace with cheerfulness. However, after graduating from the university, the pressure to get married and start having children immediately became high and her mother was ready to guide on how to go about family life.

“I was in my late teens when I met my husband, Wale. I was very innocent and a green horn when it comes to relationship issues. After dating for about four years, we eventually got married. At that time for me, marrying meant giving up my job as a trainee staff in a bank, which I had to do without question.

“I was later to find myself trapped and dependent on a man, which I never bargained for. Nevertheless, I had two sons, Samson and Adetokunbo. So, I tried to stay strong but I almost regretted being a full-time housewife because it almost wore me down to nothing. I was not really prepared for the emotional turmoil that comes with motherhood,” she says.

However, when Oluwatobiloba realised she was pregnant for the third time with Rotimi, she almost went mad with despair. She described herself as a caged tigress because she felt so trapped, staying at home full time without working.

“When I was in labour with Rotimi, it was my darkest moment. In between contractions, I felt I was sinking into an abyss. But when they put this little beautiful girl on my chest, I suddenly felt love, as all the sweet feelings that come with child birth suddenly exploded in me, and I was happy to nurse a child again,” she recalls with a laugh.

According to Oluwatobiloba, it is not all gloom thereafter; there were moments of joy when motherhood had been fun, particularly when she played with the children, running around the house and becoming like a little girl herself.

The age difference between them made it easier for her to raise them without much ado. “But they were few and far between, and it wasn’t until much later that I discovered how fun and freeing having your own children could really be. I remember chasing them around the house and making them shriek with laughter,” she says.

While Oluwatobiloba is angst by motherhood, Rachael Akinlonu, a 42-year-old mother, is happy about the joy motherhood brings.

Rachael lives in Oniru private estate, and works as an IT consultant for a telecommunication firm on Victoria Island. She has been with her partner, Peter, for 25 years, and for a long time after she got married, Rachael didn’t realise she never wanted children.

She assumed her biological clock would start ticking, but it didn’t. It never did and she can’t imagine it ever would.

It was only after giving birth to her first child that she was able to finally accept this as valid as wanting to have children. “Then I had the awful task of admitting how I felt to my partner, who did not want us to start having children early,” she recalls.

“This has been the source of a great deal of unhappiness and stress. For a while, I became obsessed by my lack of maternal feelings. I thought there must be something wrong with me.”

For her, it’s not a commitment issue, as she would do anything for her partner, but it’s very unfair for a child to come into the world unless it is truly wanted. She believes children should be loved and cherished, and if one don’t have the urge to do that it’s not fair to just have one.

“You can’t give a child back if it doesn’t work out, and I know there’s a huge likelihood I might end up resenting any child I have, and that would be an appalling thing because I was building my career.”

But when she got pregnant with her first child, she found out that she was happy and expectant, but she can’t describe how relieved she felt when her husband assured her that if he couldn’t have children with her, he didn’t want children at all by another woman! That was the turning point for her.

“I’m confident there are many more people like me prepared to admit it, but there’s such a huge taboo in our society about admitting you don’t want children or don’t find motherhood an all-consuming joy, that we’re very far from being able to have an honest public debate about this issue,” she says.

Also sharing Rachael’s feeling is Ronke Adarinjo who has a daughter but never experienced or had any particularly tender relationship with her own mother. But Ronke always has a rose-tinted view of what motherhood should be.

“I imagined it as someone being dependable, reliable and always there. The trouble was that I was always so aware of my own insecurities and faults that I never felt I could offer a child that,” she says.

But this feelings changed when her friends started having children, and she realised she had to join the train else be left behind.

“From the moment I knew I was pregnant, I felt more content than I’d ever felt in my life; I immediately mellowed. That was when I suddenly realised I was ready to be a mum, but telling myself that I was able to love deeply, and feeling really secure was the first time I’d ever been really nice to myself.

“It was almost like I’d been given a blank canvas to do things right with Vicki that hadn’t been done right for me, even though no one’s to blame,” she explains.

Now, Ronke affirms she never thought she could ever have felt this happy and complete without having children. The closeness, the bond, that sense of joy at every level of her daughter’s achievements gives her immeasurable fulfilment.

Now, when she looks back and sees how her daughter had developed into such a wonderful woman, she is really amazed. “She makes me want to burst with pride,” she enthused.