As more and more women chose the career path today, either to prove themselves or due to the economic realities of the time, ANNE AGBAJE writes that a generation of women still may be obsessed with motherhood.
Growing up, Bimpe Adelegan got a lot of flack from people when her goals primarily included marriage and motherhood, although her father wanted her to be a lawyer.
“Why would I sell myself short like that?” One of my aunties said. I could have both, you know, I later realised. I could have a successful career, and then hire a nanny to do the mindless task of raising my children. A serious boyfriend once told me that if we got married I would not be allowed to work outside the home,” she recalls. Eventually, Adelegan chose to take the career route.
Over time, one might have thought that, the move towards sexual equality in the workplace would have meant that a yawning gap between women with children and those without would have closed the degree that it would be almost insignificant. In fact, it seems to be growing, at least among the middle class.
Once upon a time, educated women fought to separate their identities from the ideal of mother, knowing that until the two came to be seen as wholly distinct they would never be taken seriously; and, in any case, who wants to be defined by only one aspect of their life?
In the past decade and up till now, a growing number of women have reverted to the 1950s-style, by identifying themselves primarily and vociferously as mothers – they idolise childbirth, and are obsessed with all that follows it.
For some people, motherhood is a sacred role and there is a cultural belief that the mother belongs in the home. “Motherhood is the greatest potential influence, either for good or ill in human life,” says a family sociologist. “The mother’s image is the first that stamps itself on the unwritten page of the young child’s mind. It is her caress that first awakens a sense of security; her kiss, the first realisation of affection; her sympathy and tenderness, the first assurance that there is love in the world.”
Therefore, this ability and willingness to properly bring up children make motherhood the noblest office or calling in the world for many. “The woman who rears a family of healthy, beautiful sons and daughters, successfully deserves the highest honour that man can give, and also the choicest blessings of God,” says Boluwatife Alarape, while quoting Mckay.
Obviously, the sociological significance of the mother’s role is great. Her relationship with her children and her guidance in their growing years influence the formation of values and attitudes they will carry throughout their lives.
Catherine and her husband have been blessed with the examples of two strong, amazing women. Their mothers are all currently working outside the home. All are well educated, intelligent women and are wonderful mothers. “While I’ve certainly had my moments when I wished I were sitting in an office instead of cleaning up our son’s room after he’s managed to get his diaper off, I made the right choice to be a mother, I believe. So, I wonder why we, as women, spend so much time criticising each others choices if we’re all so happy with the choices we’ve made in our own lives,” says Catherine.
The significance of motherhood continues undiminished following the birth of a child. The long-term stability, security, and peace of a human soul are built in large measure upon the foundation of love, and any individual’s ability to give and receive love is rooted strongly in that person’s earliest relationships. For most people, that earliest influence is the mother.
“She who gives the child life is first and foremost the one to give it a way of life, teaching the child what it should or should not do. She encourages strong character formation as she teaches the child to impose limitations on some of its natural instincts. By her words and actions she teaches her child the regard that should be shown other individuals if that child wishes to be included and loved as a member of the family circle,” explains Chinenye Nnamdi, a parent.
The ultimate responsibility of a mother, then, is to lead her child lovingly through its personal development and toward its divine destiny. The child who has been mothered in this profound way usually develops a moral conscience, a respect for society, a desire to contribute to the well-being of humankind.