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Happy Mother’s Day – By Francis Ewherido

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By Francis Ewherido

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day, a day set aside to honour “the mother of the family, as well as motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in society.” I spent much of my one-week leave, which ends tomorrow, with my mother. We ate, relived old times and threw jibes at each other. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with her. When you are lucky to have an 85-year-old mother in a society where the life expectancy for women is about 54 years, you can only be grateful and savour it while it lasts.

Every Mother’s Day, this thought always comes to me. Why should anybody celebrate his/her mother? Is it just because she gave birth to him/her? Mothers also gave birth to those children in orphanages; same with children rescued from bushes and pit latrines. A photo I saw on Facebook, to me, explains why mothers should be honoured and celebrated: a mother returning from the farm on a bicycle. She had three children with her, one in front, another on her back and the third child on the seat behind, with firewood on the bicycle’s rear cargo carrier. Words and images flew into my mind: working hard and parenting simultaneously; endless love and sacrifice.

Today, many mothers are also working hard at earning a living, but they have relegated parenting and the larger society is bearing the brunt big time. Mothers of old were industrious, raised children (more children, as a matter of fact) and supported their husbands simultaneously. In agrarian setups, while the husbands cultivated yams, the wives cultivated cassava, vegetables and other edibles. I keep hearing many of today’s mothers say that circumstances have changed. Yes, but the fundamentals are still the same. Juggling earning a living and effective parenting are tasks every mother must master.

Many of today’s mothers are contented shipping their children to the boarding house, paying huge school fees and deliberately or inadvertently outsourcing parenting to the school authorities. I have asked this question before. If you, a mother of four, cannot effectively take care of your children, how do you expect a school with a few teachers, house masters and caregivers, to effectively parent hundreds and thousands of students? Parenting is not outsourceable, you are playing with fire.

Take time and interact with youngsters from any school. All their parents pay their school fees, but you will hear about those whose parents are “in their lives and those whose parents are not.” Paying your children fees is good, but not enough. You should check their school work, go for open day, attend parents-teachers association meetings, interact with the school authorities, keep an eye on how they live their lives, discipline, scold, correct and mentor them when necessary. Unless you are in your child’s life, you cannot perform these tasks. Some parents spend millions of naira every year on fees and upkeep, yet these children do not go to classes; some have been rusticated and their parents are not aware in this age of internet when everything is in the public domain! They buy these children the latest Samsung phones, iphones and ipads. Gifts are no substitute for good parenting.  Personally, I have issues with buying a child, whose annual salary on graduation will be N1.5m at best, a phone of N700,000 during his undergraduate days. It creates disequilibrium in expectations or a revolution of rising expectations and we are currently seeing the after-effect in our society.

Why am I focusing on women as if they marry themselves, impregnate themselves and bring forth the children all by themselves? Isn’t parenting a joint responsibility between husband and wife anymore? It still is, but we are celebrating Mother’s Day, so I am talking to mothers. Moreover, mothers are the bedrock of the home; they are the last bus stops, the goal keepers. Once the ball eludes them, na goal be that!

Our society is sick, family values are fast being eroded. We are in trouble and mothers need to come to our rescue. At this rate, very little will be left in years to come; indigenous languages are dying with alarming rapidity, only the Hausa language is intact right now. Cultural values are going, morality is going? Forty years ago, who would have thought that youngsters will kidnap and rape an octogenarian? Who would have known that clergymen will become the main target of some kidnappers? Who would have known that rituals will become a source of livelihood of youngsters? But these are the harsh realities. These are children brought up by today’s mothers; children from rich and poor homes, children of Christian mothers and non-Christian mothers.

Something is missing from today’s parenting; the sacrifice is no longer there. Parenting involves enormous sacrifices. Many of us in our 40s, 50s and 60s adore our mothers, not because they brought us into this world, but because of the enormous sacrifices they made. They hawked, they farmed; they worked very hard, but they also kept an eye on us to ensure we did not derail. They gave their all to make us what we are today. Today’s mother cannot use work as an excuse. Our mothers worked just as hard, if not harder.

Some of today’s mothers see marriage as a 50/50 arrangement. They are chipping in what they consider to be their 50 per cent and expect their spouses to put in 50 per cent. But the call to matrimony is a call to give your all in spite of what your spouse gives. It is a tough call, but that is what it is. Mothers should face the home front squarely. Our society is going down and the solution starts with fixing the home front.

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Well, it is not Father’s Day yet, but we need to talk to fathers because mothers cannot do it alone. Fathers cannot live and behave like the lion king whose only tasks are impregnating the lionesses and patrolling its vast territory to ward off competition. The lion does not participate in parenting and rarely participates in hunting, except large preys. Fathers must be involved through and through. We need to be there especially for our boys. We need to be good role models; we need to guide them into responsible adults. Many boys go with cultural inhibitions and see themselves as above maternal control at some stage. If you have such a son, you need to bring him down from his high horse. Some daughters bond well with their fathers. The fathers need to take advantage of that bond and influence to help mold their daughters. Do not bring up daughters who will bring you shame later in their matrimonial homes.

Fathers can no longer come back from work and stretch their legs in front of television, while the wife, who also went to work, labours alone in the kitchen. If you cannot join her in the kitchen because you are not familiar with the kitchen environment, guide the children with their homework. Fathers of young children should give them their baths while their mothers are busy with other chores. Your wife is a helpmate not a slave. Team up with her and create a great family. At the end of the day, children bear their father’s name, not their mother’s. Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers who are working hard towards creating a better society, starting from the home front.

 

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