Posted in Culture, Motherhood, Relationships

GUILT!!!

I have come to believe caring for myself is not self indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival.”

– Audre Lorde

There is a certain guilt I feel when I force myself to take a break or rest up a little. As I lay down to relax, I can’t help but feel less of a woman/wife/mother because I chose to take care of myself rather than clean the house or spread the clothes. Often, I get so overwhelmed with that guilt that I end up putting a stop to my relaxation and getting up to do whatever needs to be done. Whilst trying to figure out where this guilt was coming from, I realised this is something that is embedded in our society and culture in different ways. 

Growing up, I watched my mother and the women around me do EVERYTHING in the household. Our mothers took care of everyone but themselves. Although my mother never specifically advised me to do the same in my marital home, the expectation was set. I followed in her footsteps and tried as much as I could to be a good daughter and help out in any way possible around the house. Whenever I showed any intentions to relax or have fun, a series of questions such as “have you tidied up the house?” or “have you cooked the stew?” followed. Only if I answered ‘Yes’ to these questions, was it then acceptable for me to ‘relax’. There was a constant feeling of ‘the home needs to be in perfect order before I can relax’. 

Going into my marital home, I subconsciously carried the same pressure with me. I wanted to be a superwoman – the perfect wife and mother. I wanted to do everything like the great women that came before me. So I did. I cooked. I cleaned. I took care of the baby and everything else in between. There was a sense of fulfilment and empowerment that came from looking at the spotless house, coupled with the smell of food from the kitchen that made me feel like a good wife. I had done everything on my own. My worth as a wife was very much linked to the chores I did around the house. So much so, when I couldn’t do ALL of those things, I felt I was failing in my role as a wife. I was not enough. As you can imagine, this mindset coupled with a full time job and a baby left me feeling drained with no time to myself. I was constantly tired and cranky.

…I recognise it, I am working on it, because self care isn’t selfish…”

As a human being, I painfully recognised that I needed a break to recharge; I tried to take the time out. This meant allowing my spouse to carry some of the household responsibilities. I struggled. Watching him do more around the home went against everything that I had observed or had been taught by women in the society. I questioned my ability as a wife and a mother and instead of feeling relaxed, I felt selfish and incapable. I felt guilty for taking a break. I felt guilty for not meeting the expectations that I had set for myself. 

Having acknowledged that I was trying to live up to the expectations that I had set for myself in my own marital home, I am now personally trying to unlearn this ‘superwoman’ behaviour and allow myself space and time to take care of myself without feeling guilty about it. In doing this, I have also realised that it is okay to let someone else take the reins. I am slowly learning to take a step back and not feel the need to do everything. I’m not there yet, but I recognise it, I am working on it, because self care isn’t selfish. You cannot pour from an empty cup. 

Do you feel guilt when you make time for yourself? If so, know that you’re not on your own. Do you feel the need to overcome this feeling and how do you do so?

Till next time

-A

Posted in Culture, Empowerment, Relationships

New you, New Wife?

Hi everybody, hope ye are all having a good week so far. My week started off well until I came across a certain scene in a Nigerian movie. This particular scene really annoyed me, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. So, as you do, I decided to talk about it.

My mother-in-law was watching a Nigerian movie and I happened to walk in on a scene in which a husband was explaining to his wife the reason behind him marrying another wife. Basically, this man married another wife because he felt his wife was not suitable for his new role. He had been elected to a certain position in the community and felt he needed a more learned woman by his side.

I can understand why he felt his wife might not be the most suitable candidate for his new position. His new role put him in the public eye and required him to interact with the public. If seen with him, she will be forced to speak English, which she was unable to. However, I’m not sure that marrying another wife is the solution. If his current wife is not holding it down the way he wants her to, then why can’t he support her to be the wife he wants her to be (assuming she wants to be that wife). Instead, he chose to marry another wife, forgetting that she didn’t speak English when he married her.

marital growth

I’m just tired of hearing about men marrying new wives because they refuse to support their wives to be better. Yes, the Islamic religion permits a man to marry more than one wife (This man wasn’t a Muslim btw). I am not disputing that. However, marrying another wife to replace another seems selfish to me, especially if the things she lacks can be achieved. These women have been through the worst with you, choosing to basically replace or dump her when you reach a certain milestone is just lazy and selfish. He was very happy being married to her until he was promoted to this new role, so why isn’t she good enough now.

I’ve heard so many silly reasons for men wanting to re-marry; ‘I want a younger wife’, ‘her body is not as toned as it used to be’. They forget that they are the reason her body isn’t toned, they forget that she was young when they got married.  If her body isn’t as toned as it used to be, encourage her to exercise. In fact, exercise with her and get rid of your belly. You don’t see women re-marrying because their husbands now have pot-bellies, so why is it okay for men to do it? Marriage shouldn’t be a ‘you’re good for this aspect of my life’ thing. The person you marry should be good for every aspect of your life. An example is Goodluck Jonathan and Patience (ex-president of Nigeria and his wife). Patience wasn’t as learned as her husband but she was still known as the First Lady of Nigeria (although, I do think he should have encouraged her to improve her English to save her from ridicule). I believe that marriage should be a loving partnership in which both partners support and encourage each other to be better. Your marriage should encourage your personal growth. Your partner should be your cheerleader.

That said, I’m not going to completely put this on men. As a person, it is your duty to improve yourself in any way that you can. At the end of the day, no one can care about you more than you care about yourself. In order to make sure that life doesn’t leave you behind, you need to continue to work on yourself. The woman in the movie took things into her own hands and started to learn English part-time. I didn’t stay to watch the rest of the movie but I wouldn’t be surprised if her husband came running back to her beaming with pride.

Till next time

-A

 

Posted in Relationships

I’m sorry.

“Apologising does not always mean that you’re wrong and the other person is right. It just means you value your relationship more than your ego” 

Hi everybody,

Last week, my husband and I had a slight misunderstanding. Misunderstandings aren’t unusual in relationships, but this one differed because we both felt we were in the right. Neither of us wanted to apologise because we felt the other person was wrong. I wasn’t too bothered about the argument at this stage because, like I said earlier, misunderstandings are not unusual in relationships.

However, the misunderstanding started to linger because neither of us wanted to accept blame. We were both annoyed at each other and were waiting for the other to apologise. As you’d imagine, the delay in resolving the disagreement started to affect the relationship. We weren’t rude to each other, we weren’t ignoring each other. In the space of a few minutes, the way we corresponded to each other started to change. The way we spoke to each other started to change slightly; pet names went down the drain, ‘would you like to eat now?’ became ‘your food is in the kitchen?’ the way we acted towards each other was slightly different. This was when I started to worry. So, I decided to apologise.

It wasn’t so easy. It took me a good couple of minutes to come to that decision. I had initially planned on starting another dispute about how I was right and he was wrong. I wanted him to see my point of view and apologise. However, I started to think about the impact of the initial argument. We were both annoyed and none of us was willing to budge. We had already argued about being right, going in to try to convince him with another argument was not going to make any positive difference.

peace

At that time, there were only slight changes, but I started to worry about how these changes might progress if things stayed the way they were. Although there had only been little changes at that point, those changes were important to me and were part of what made our relationship. The way we related to each other really mattered to me. I wasn’t willing to sacrifice that for a silly argument. So, I said ‘I’m sorry’.

To be clear, I still didn’t agree that I was wrong. And I wasn’t apologising just to apologise. I was apologising because the dynamics of our relationship was more important to me than winning an argument. As well as that, I knew that apologising would open the line of communication and help towards resolving the matter rather than living things to fester and turn into something else.

I guess what I am trying to say is that there will be times when you have to put your ego aside in order to do what’s best for your relationship. It is a matter of importance, your relationship or your ego. For me, the decision to apologise became easier when my relationship started to change from what we wanted it to be. I knew something had to be done. As far as I was concerned, the argument was creating little cracks in our relationship. It had only been a few minutes, I wonder what changes hours might have made. I wasn’t prepared to wait and see the holes those cracks might turn into. My relationship was and is way too important to me.

Till next time

-A

Posted in Culture, Relationships

Standards

Speaking to several friends/sisters about marriage, I noticed a common theme; most of them were being advised to lower their standards when it comes to men, in order to find a spouse. For the purpose of this post, ‘lowering standards’ refers to saying ‘Yes’ when you’re not completely happy.

I can understand the pressure to reduce standards when it comes to marriage. Unfortunately for us, especially in this part of the world, there is a scarcity of ‘husband material’. Yes, husband material. There are more women ready for marriage than there are men. Men our age are either not ready to settle because they are not ‘there’ yet or they aren’t finished playing the field. As well as this, the men that are available are not necessarily what we want.  So, when a ‘good enough’ man comes around, our family and friends encourage us to ‘go for it’, even if it means lowering our standards because another ‘good enough’ man might never show up. As well as this, we have the added pressure of our biological clock. As our mothers would say, ‘your clock is ticking’. We are always reminded of our age and how it may affect things in the future such as bearing children. So, ‘do what you want to do quick’. Of course, this advice comes from a good place, for the most part. Marriage is a huge deal in our culture and it is their dream and happiness to see us married.

yin and yang

However, I have to disagree with marriage under these terms; lowered standards. Marriage is many things. It is a beautiful dream but it is also hard work. It can be difficult, frustrating, stressful. There is a huge difference between being married and being happily married. Lowered standards can be that difference sometimes.  When I reflect on conversations I have had with women who are unhappy in their marriage, I realise that they all say the same thing; the signs were there but they chose to ignore them and settle. In marriage, you will have to compromise on some things, the man you marry shouldn’t be one of them. Everybody’s perfect man differs. What is good for me isn’t necessarily what is good for you. Compatibility is very important in marriage. It is so important that you share the same core values, are able to understand each other and help each other through whatever life throws your way. Marriage is difficult enough, you do not want to add more pressure to it by having a spouse that is not on the same page as you.

Before getting married to my husband, I had several conversations with him. These conversations dealt with things we knew we wanted from each other; things we knew we couldn’t compromise on. We spoke about our day to day lives, our goals, our expectations of each other and our understanding of our roles. We spoke about religion, ambitions, children. All these conversations gave me insight into the man he was and whether he suited me. Learning from my past, I made sure that we shared the same core values not excluding humour. Funnily enough, one of the main things we talked about after Islam, was cleanliness. It’s very important to the both of us and so needed to be addressed. From these conversations, we decided that we were compatible with each other. So, although we have disagreements, our ideas on important issues such as raising our daughter is very much the same.

When thinking of whether to settle or not, I’d advise that you have a list of realistic things that you cannot compromise on; things that are absolutely important for you to make your marriage what you want it to be. This will help you to deal with the pressure and keep yourself in check when deciding on a spouse.

Remember it is better to marry ‘late’ than to marry wrong. Be patient. Think of the end goal, your happiness is important.

 

Till next time

-A

 

 

Posted in Culture, Relationships

A Year and counting…

Hi everybody, hope ye are all having a great week. This week, I’ll be discussing what I have learnt in my marriage so far. I have only been married for a year and a month, so I still have a lot to learn. But here are some of the things I have learnt so far…

  • Marriage is NOT always 50/50- Marriage is not always 50/50. Sometimes, it is 70/30, sometimes it is 60/40. There will be times, more often that none, when one partner will need to do more than the other in order to keep the relationship afloat. Sometimes, your partner just doesn’t have 50 to give. In cases like this, it is important that you pick up the slack. A perfect example is my pregnancy. If you have been following my posts, you would know that I had a terrible time and my husband had to step up greatly. He was doing things that I would normally have done as well as his duties in the household. The main thing is that the relationship was kept afloat. If he had done otherwise, our relationship probably wouldn’t be where it is. Pregnancy is an obvious one. How about a situation where one partner can’t give 50 percent because they are simply tired? If one waits for the other person to put in 50 all the time, things won’t get done. However, if each party gives in the best that they can in order to make the partnership work, the likelihood of things getting done are much higher. If the relationship is important to you, then you should go in with the mentality of wanting to put in the best you can everytime to make things work.

“And one of His signs is that He has created for you, spouses from amongst yourselves so that you might take comfort in them and He has placed between you, love and mercy. In this there is surely evidence (of the truth) for the people who carefully think.” (Quran 30, Verse 21)

  • Love takes work- In the beginning, there was love. Fiery passionate love. When I got married, things got busy really quickly for us. I went back to finish my postgrad in the UK a week after we got married. My husband went back to work. I fell pregnant while doing my postgrad and he fell into the role of the travelling – doting husband. We went from the honeymoon phase to ‘I need to catch a breath’ phase. As you can imagine, things were emotionally tiring for both of us during this time. However, I noticed that it was the little things that kept us going. It was the little things that we did for each other that kept the love going. It was the ‘I took out the bin because I know you hate taking bins out” or the “I bought you werthers because I know how much you love them”. It is the work that we both continue to consciously put in that filters our long days with love. It is the mentality of “what can I do to please my husband today” or “what can I do to please my wife today” that allows the love continue to grow.

happily ever after

Good men are for good women and good women are for good men.” (Quran 24, Verse 26)

  • You get what you put in: If you want an extraordinary husband, then you need to be an extraordinary wife. Just like everything in life, you get what you put in. A great man deserves a great wife and vice versa. We all want the best for ourselves but in order to get the best, you have to put it in your best. If you want a husband that goes the extra mile, you need to be a wife that will go that extra mile. You cannot expect breakfast in bed from a man who barely gets food when he comes home from work. A great man will continue to be a great man if he is supported and appreciated by a great woman and can even become a greater man and vice versa. Show your appreciation for your great man through your actions; saying I love you doesn’t always cut it.

 

  • Other relationships can affect your relationship: If you’re Nigerian like I am, then you know we come from a culture where you don’t just marry the man but you marry the family. Personally, I have always liked this aspect of our culture. I used to always say that I wanted my husband to be able to feel comfortable visiting my family without me having to be there and vice-versa. However, having these close-knit relationships means that arguments and differences can happen. I have found that situations, where a spouse has to deal with recurring differences between his/her partner and another close family member can impact the relationship. It can get tiring having to sort disputes and arguments especially when both sides feel they are in the right. Try not to put your spouse in a situation where he/she feels they have to choose between people that they care about; it can add pressure and stress which can then filter down into your relationship. As well as this, in trying to not take sides, it can cause the build up of walls in a marriage.

 

I’d love to hear your opinions. What have you learnt in your marriage or from others? Tell me in the comment section below.

 

Till next time

–  A