Motherhood unites us in so many ways, no matter where we come from. There are 54 different countries in Africa, with a myriad of different cultures, tribes and languages. Despite the incredible diversity on the African continent, there are many traits of motherhood that are universal among mothers across Africa.
You know you’re an African mother when…
- …the temperature dips below 20 degrees Celsius (70 degrees Fahrenheit), and you dress your kids in 10 layers of clothing to protect them from the “cold.”
- …your baby’s first solid food is porridge (uji).
- …you find yourself giving your kids “THE LOOK,” which your own mum used to give you when you were misbehaving in public.
- …you refuse to give your child anything cold to eat, and will heat everything from apple juice, to milk, to watermelon, to ice cream (!) before serving it to your child.
- …when your child has a loose tooth, you take them to the dentist to have the tooth pulled, else the new tooth will come in crooked.
- …you send your children off for an extended visit at your parents’ house in the village for at least one of their school breaks each year.
- …you are no longer known by your own name, but rather by your first-born child’s name – for example Mama Mya.
- …you are willing to make endless sacrifices for your child, to ensure they have food in their bellies, a roof over their head, and their school fees paid.
- …breastfeeding in public is the absolute norm, and carrying your child on your back is a way of life.
- …you bring home cake or treats for your children, wrapped up in napkins, any time you go to a party or event.
Thanks to all the mamas who contributed ideas for this post about motherhood! This was a collaborative post, bringing together ideas from mamas throughout Africa. Asanteni!
Do these motherhood traits speak to you? Are they universal to mothers, even outside Africa?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Tara Wambugu. Follow Tara and her family’s adventures on her blog, Mama Mgeni, and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Photo courtesy of Frank Douwes / Flickr.
My husband is a New Yorker whose theatergoing parents always planned their theater outings well in advance. He’s adopted this same long-range planning attitude, and that’s how we ended up with tickets to “the Harry Potter play” this past September. In a fit of jet-lag , he’d bought tickets the previous November during an airport layover en route to Abu Dhabi.
Using our airline miles, we flew to London in September, during the Eid holidays, to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. We took our children, of course, which meant that it wasn’t a vacation but a family trip. Although you might want to think that these are synonyms, they’re really not. If you’re on vacation, you’re never forced to whisper-yell at someone to put down his phone and pay attention when he’s going through security, or explain (for the umpteenth time) that we didn’t fly all the way to London just to hang out in the Jack Wills store.
Those of you with small children or infants might think that traveling with older children looks easy. Their gear tends to be smaller and there’s that whole “go to the bathroom on their own” thing, which is pretty great. But with a small child, there is always the chance that she will fall asleep in her stroller, a cracker crushed in her pudgy fist, and then you can proceed to stroll in the park, or walk through a gallery without much whinging. Older children whinge; they have opinions and needs.
Other people’s children whinge, that is. My family travels in an entirely whinge-free zone. No whinging here, nope, nothing to see here, move along.
Wrapped in our whinge-free bubble, we went off to the play, about which I can say nothing. I’m pretty much sworn to secrecy about the play’s magic, other than to say that all the effects were accomplished through stagecraft. There weren’t any digital effects or computer-aided sorcery, which in this day and age is rather a marvel, all by itself. The plot was… well, you may have already read the book (which is the script of the play), so you know the plot. It’s the standard Rowling combination of magic and family, with the emphasis on family.
There is one key plot point that sets the play apart: Harry Potter is forty. He works for the Ministry of Magic and has discovered, as so many of us do, that life as an adult isn’t as much fun as we thought it would be. Harry longs to continue dashing around in an invisibility cloak, but there are reports to write and files to go through—all the joys of adult work. He’s chafing a bit, is our Harry. Ron even jokes that Harry’s scar aches not because of any Voldemort-related reason but because of middle age. Everything aches a bit these days, he points out.
When the play starts, Harry and his family are standing on platform 9 ¾, and Harry’s elder sons, James and Albus, are bickering so violently that Harry whisper-yells at them to “behave!” Can I tell you how heartening it is to see that even Harry Potter’s children misbehave in public?
At its heart, the Harry Potter series is about a child wondering about his parents. The play flips the tables: now it’s a parent wondering about his children. Harry’s son Albus feels the weight of being the son of “the boy who lived” and, as is the case with most teenagers, Albus doesn’t always handle his feelings gracefully. Of course, as is the case with most parents, Harry doesn’t always handle his feelings gracefully, either.
In an effort to keep Albus safe, Harry imposes more and more rules, which have precisely the opposite effect. As I watched Harry struggle with Albus, I winced in recognition. Lately it seems that in my efforts to connect with my almost sixteen-year old son, I inevitably say the wrong thing at the wrong time and before you know it, one of us is yelling. (And of course, the fault is always mine. My son makes that abundantly clear.)
Harry’s questions remind me of my own: how do I keep my teenager safe and, at the same time, let him grow and develop in his own way, even if that means letting him take risks and (occasionally) be really quite an idiot? When my children were toddlers, I wished someone would invent a kind of bubble wrap suit that I could wrap around them to prevent bruising, and now that my children are older, I wish there were emotional bubble wrap that would prevent the inevitable heartache that comes with growing up. If only Jack Wills made such a thing.
As Harry and Albus slowly find their way back to one another after the emotional battles that wound them both, they learn to accept one another’s imperfections. The lesson of the Harry Potter play highlights the fact that we don’t need to be perfect to be loved—and therein lies the real magic.
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Deborah Quinn, Mannahattamamma of the UAE. Photo credit to the author.
I recently attended a wedding and observed one of our local customs that gave me pause. In a Nigerian wedding, there it is tradition for elders to offer marital advice to the new couple during the ceremony. Interestingly, in most cases, all the advice is directed to the bride. Is this because people believe that a man is hardwired with knowledge of how to make marriage work? Or because they feel there is no reason for a man to know anything about making marriage work? Or is it simply because most of the wedding attendees who give advice happen to be women? I watched as speaker after speaker gave the couple advice, consistently directed only to the bride.
Since the groom at this particular wedding received no advice, I thought I would offer some, just for grooms.
- Don’t be afraid to say I AM SORRY. Your wife may forgive easily, but this is no reason to keep offending her deliberately. Apologies should be sincere, and you should never apologize just for the sake of it.
- Make your wife feel important. Treat her like she matters, and be considerate of her feelings. Respect begets respect. My husband once said to me, “We are not just spouses we are friends.” Be sure to build a strong friendship with your spouse.
- Make family decisions together. Communication is key in every marriage! Don’t try to shield your wife from troubling situations. Instead, let her know what is going on whether with work, and let her share your burden.
- Be grateful. Appreciate your wife for all that she does, and never ever take her for granted. Always recognize her for her contribution to the family, work and household.
For marriage to work beautifully, I believe that BOTH parties must make a conscious effort. Most of all, the couple must set goals together, and review them regularly.
What advice would you give to a groom? Is it the same advice you would give to a bride? What are the wedding customs where you live?
This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by Aisha Yesufu in Nigeria.
Photo credit to the author.
If you’re a parent, or a child, or anyone, you may have heard the phrase. “It takes a village” (to raise a child). After reading a post written by a fellow contributor, KC, I remained in thought about this village that’s needed to raise our children.
KC is currently a stay-home-mum to a precious toddler, so you know she has one of the most rewarding and challenging positions in the universe; one weighted with a lot of responsibility, as well. Thankfully she takes the time to write about some of what’s going on in her world as a mum, a woman, and as a person, because out of her writing I found something I want to discuss, too. Check her out at http://www.mummyintransit.com. She is a really good writer, and she’s funny too.
In reading KC’s post I thought about my own experience as a child in Italy, a teenager in Tanzania, and an adult and parent in the United States. What was my village like? Who did my mum include in forming my personality and my worldview?
I love post-prompts like this one, as they make me think about my everyday actions, especially the ones that come out of habits I created overtime, and no longer think about. Let’s get right to it and I’ll say that even though some of my dos and don’ts apply to varying types of relationships, I am focusing on romantic relationships like the one I have the pleasure of having with the man who is my husband. These are only a few of my favorites: (more…)
Frequently I am embarrassed by the fact that I only speak one language. Many of my friends in Abu Dhabi speak at least two, and most of my students speak three or even four. A few years ago I tried to learn Arabic and was stymied by a simple fact: my brain is old. It’s that whole “old dog new tricks” thing, which is to say, my brain wanted nothing to do with new lexical and grammatical systems.
Lately, however, I’ve been confronted with another new language and it’s proving equally difficult to master. In fact, maybe I will never master it.
It’s the language spoken by fifteen-year old boys in the twenty-first century in a first-world city. It’s both a spoken and a written language, comprised of monosyllables, grunts, emojis, and weird snapchat abbreviations. It’s a language that his friends speak fluently and one that he never deigns to translate to us, his parents.
Let me be clear: my son is the proverbial “good kid,” who still (occasionally) sits on my lap (usually when he wants a favor), does his homework without being asked, and is (sometimes) nice to his younger brother. But beyond that?
We get commentary about his basic human needs—food, sleep, wi-fi—and then he retreats into his digitally created iCocoon.
When I look at my son these days, the air seems full of ghosts; it’s like I’m seeing time, compressed and wispy, floating between the two of us. I see his baby self, staggering around the house with mushy graham crackers clenched in each fist, and I see other snippets of his childhood, too, hovering just beyond his (increasingly broad) shoulders. And at the same time, there’s the ghost of my own teenage self, snarling at my mother (sorry mom!) as I stand by the phone, willing The Cute Boy to call me.
The phone is a key difference in this linguistic and generational incomprehension. Those of you of a certain age will remember the days when houses had those things we now call “land lines,” which were anchored in a specific place and were frequently shared by the entire household. That meant that your TOTALLY ANNOYING younger siblings could pick up another extension and a) eavesdrop on your conversation; b) tell your mom what you were talking about; c) tease you mercilessly while you tried to be cool with The Cute Boy on the other end of the line.
Now, however, my son and his teenage friends carry a scrim of adolescence with them at all times, an endless stream of chitterchatter, gossip, sports scores, vaguely obscene quizzes, and god knows what else. Did you know it’s possible to have a scintillating conversation conducted entirely in poop and unicorn emojis, with the occasional emoti-face thrown in for good measure? It’s as if teenagers have all been transported into an ancient Egyptian civilzation and are fluent in hieroglyphs—yet another language I do not speak.
As I think about it, I am not sure, really, whether it’s that my son and I are speaking different languages or that his other language is omnipresent in a way that my teenspeak was not, because technology didn’t let it happen.
At some point I had to hang up the phone and turn off the TV, and engage with my family. Mind you, I wasn’t necessarily pleased about those engagements, but the world of “non-family” was regularly shut off.
Now, with smart phones, the external world is always ready to hand; there is always a way to tune out the family world.
I can hear you all, shaking your heads and muttering that we should set some boundaries and be firm about your expectations and teach your kid some manners and I bet that some of you, with small children, are thinking “my children won’t ever…”
Here’s the thing: I’ve thought all those things too. But then one night my son became fifteen and the battle lines got redrawn. How many times can we argue about how much phone use is too much; how many times can we discuss “reasonable use?” My son insists that I am the only parent who nags about such things, but my totally unscientific research suggests otherwise. I’ve talked with friends from Europe, Africa, the States, and elsewhere in the Middle East, and the screen-time battle seems to be an almost universal parenting problem.
If I think about it, the translation problems run in two directions. If my son could speak “parent,” then he would understand that in my repeated (and to him unreasonable) requests that he turn off his phone and talk to me, I am really saying “don’t grow up so fast, please don’t be in such a hurry to leave us behind.” He would understand that watching him grow up is lovely — and ineffably sad.
Maybe he’d understand if I put it in snapchat-ese for him. Can anyone translate into emoji for me?
How are things different now from when you were a teen? Do you find that the teens of today speak a different language?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Deborah Quinn, Mannahattamamma of the UAE. Photo credit to the author.