Mama Tolu works very hard, the quintessential Nigerian mother. She wakes up at 4am while the world still sleeps and the spirits are prowling to cook and clean. When its 5:30, she wakes up the entire household; children for school, husband for work. She deploys her 3 pairs of hands to dish everyone’s food, while matching mixed socks, doing the dishes as they get piled up in the sink and refereeing fights that break out when the children break out fully from their sleepy state.
At 7:30, she’s almost bouncing to get the kids to school and oh yes, there is herself to get ready because she probably has to get to the market or work by 8:30am.
“Strong woman! Superwoman! That’s what mothers do; they do it all for everyone.”
We say these words, you and I, and whether we mean to or not, we cement this notion that there is only one valid way to be a Nigerian woman; the one where the path is paved with self-sacrifice and living for others before ever doing for self.
It is why we judge women who work outside the home because how dare they leave their primary duty post of caring for everyone else. We raise our nose at women who get helps because they step into their humanness and say “look, this pressure is making me lose my hairline before its time. I ain’t no superwoman and I can’t do it alone.” With our eyebrows just so, we wonder why they can’t be like their mothers who did all those things. After all, they didn’t die and why do women these days complain so much anyway?!
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is Balance for Better. This period is an important time in history where ideologies are being learned, unlearned and relearned. There is space to look around us and inside us and bring to question some of the beliefs that we have, seeds that were planted through our lives and have grown strong roots to become trees that tower over us.
The empowerment of women through the provision of sustainable infrastructures and revised solutions to drive a world where there is gender equality and women have a voice at the center is important. But none of it will matter if there are no sustainable structures built internally.
We need to disavow the thinking that if we want something that is ours, the individual, then we’re being selfish. We need to reshape the mind-set that tells us that being one thing is all that we can aspire to; mother is a role that we play, but it does not have to be who we are, and we don’t make that distinction enough.
I came across a post on the internet yesterday where apparently, interviews had been on for 3 days to fill a role and consistently, when asked what remuneration would suffice, the women who were interviewed quoted lower than men with the same qualifications for the same role. It’s conditioning, and that’s on you, on us, to rewire.
As the days give way to the next and the months add up leading to the demise of another year, I am learning to critically look inward and pull at the roots that depend on me for survival yet are holding me rooted in places where I don’t want to be, whether that is in the way that I think of my place as a woman or the way that I define and interact with the lives and choices of other women. Do you see?
So today, I want to ask that you redefine the Nigerian definition of what being a woman is. Is it a definition that creates space for you in all your imperfection as a human? Is it a definition that wholly considers who you are as a woman without the title of daughter, wife, mother, sister, and friend? Is it a definition that accommodates your shine without somehow diminishing your womanhood?
Is it a definition that serves you?
There are so many ways to be a woman, and there is no one right way to be it. So while you’re a being, allow yourself to also BE – human, with all that (that) comes with.
Happy International Women’s Day, Ladies! Can you see the arch of the rainbow? The world is more colorful for your presence in it!