I can’t lie; one of the things that worry me about settling down is how the family is going to be run. Before you kill me, let me explain.
I believe in the equality of man and woman, however I insist that man and woman are not the same. I grew up in a family where it was understood that the man provided while the mother held the house together. While I will not insist on my madam staying home because I love career women, someone has to ‘hold the house together’. And it cannot be me, not because I think I’m too good for that position but because I do not have what it takes – just like a lot of men.
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So what to do?
I do not have the answer. As soon as I do, I will marry.
Work and family is a tricky terrain that requires a lot of things to navigate. These days, there are too many dysfunctional families – families with both parents absent because they’re both busy making money for their children. And no matter how much they provide for them, the children end up hating their parents because while it’s important that children are made as materially comfortable as possible, it’s not the most important thing.
More than fancy shoes and pretty clothes, children need loving and firm hands and a consistent presence to help them navigate what end up being the most important years of their lives. Whatever your religious beliefs or lack of are, you have to agree with the Bible when it says: “Teach a child the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it”.
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Now I do not intend to castigate or judge parents who are working day in day out to provide their children the kind of life they themselves never had. That is the kind of parent I’m working towards being. But I also know that while my father did his best to give us the best of what he could afford, we do not have a relationship – so to speak. I do not hate him, I have nothing against him but we just never bonded; so I wouldn’t even know what to talk to him about.
Basically, I do not know him. He does not know me.
Yet, he is my father.
Everything is crazy nowadays. With so much distraction available – even away from work – finding time for what really matters can become a challenge. But putting things in perspective helps. It starts with determining to have family time no matter what.
One of my friends is a happily-married doctor. We met for drinks a while ago, and then the conversation made its way to the inevitable oga-when-will-you-marry question. I had no answer, so I managed to steer the conversation towards his family. In discussing, it came out he and his wife had made a commitment to eat breakfast and dinner as a family no matter what. They had rules like no one misses a meal except during fasting or they’re out of town, no phones at the table during meals, no house-helps, one or both parents must drop the children off at school every day.
I was surprised and said so. I wanted to know how they managed to stay committed to their schedule in-spite of the one-million-and-one things that could go wrong – Lagos traffic just being one of them – and he said: “Once you’re committed to something, no excuse will do. You have to find a way to make it work.”
He was right.
Family is important – more important than anything else, even work. With that kind of understanding, making a commitment and sticking to it shouldn’t be impossible. Little things like taking one’s kids to football or choir practices and generally just getting to spend time with them makes all the difference.
Let’s even leave the kids for a moment and focus on their parents. Spouses also need attention and affection from each other. When was the last time you showed up at your partner’s workplace to take them out for a surprise dinner/date?
Little things make all the difference. A holiday off at Obudu Cattle Ranch would be wonderful, but while we’re trying to create time for that, ice cream at Coldstone will do just fine.
Pay attention to your family. That’s about all any of us truly have.
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