I spent most of my childhood and teenage years in Africa, so I understand the saying “It takes a whole Village to raise a child”. I have memories of being told-off by absolute strangers for things that they had no vested interest in. Some of those ‘busy-body’ moments were actually welcome, but most of them … well, let’s just say they don’t bring back fond memories.
As I have grown older, and I am tempted to force my advice on the youth around me, I remember how I felt, receiving those words of wisdom that I did not ask for. This makes me pause a little, and think a while longer, before I open my mouth. Oh, how I wish many others would do the same.
Sensitive Topic Alert!
Now being African, and being a consistent church attendee, means that I have numerous mother-figures in my life. I still have my birth Mother and I also have a Mother-in-law. So here’s the story; I’m at this function right, just minding my business and helping out to get things going, when one of the elderly ladies at the event calls me. I go over to her wondering how I can help and she says “When are you giving me another grandchild? Don’t wait until I am too weak to carry them for you o!”. I smile and tell her to keep praying. The following week, at the end of a church service, my friend’s mom calls my attention. I thought she wanted to give me a message for my mom or something, instead she said “Don’t waste too much time, have another child quickly and get it out of the way.” I was actually confused this time. I again smiled and said “Thank you Mummy.” I was still chewing over the two incidents when the following week, a lady in the church who had just had her fifth child came to me during the service to say “I thought you would be heavy by now!”.
Some people might see this as the Voice of the Lord telling me something, but for some reason I found it a bit uncomfortable. Almost every time I call my Mother-in-law, she reminds me that she is waiting for another grandchild. In fact, the last time I called her, she actually asked if I am on the pill! I am a mother of children O!!! I went to God in prayer for those waiting to have just one. I have my hands full and people around me (whom I call my villagers), based on their own experiences or expectations are giving me their loving advice. There was another Aunty who called within that three-week span as well. She said she understands that it is not as easy to raise children abroad, as it was for them in African back then. She was encouraging but I didn’t feel any pressure because she understood my reality. I honestly don’t know if there is another child in my future at this moment. I am open to whatever God wants; but I couldn’t help feeling a little offended at the voices from well-meaning villagers around me. None of these people knew that I was recovering from a miscarriage. None of them have come to sit with me at home to help with the children I currently have. None have asked how I am handling motherhood in today’s society.
I am so privileged that I don’t receive this pressure from my birth Mother. I know of people who have nearly lost their lives in a bid to please in-laws with more male children, or while dealing with medical complications due to age or other issues arising. Most of our mothers had their children between 20 – 35yrs of age, 35 being the extreme in their time. In the UK, any pregnancy at the age of 40 and above is classed as a high-risk pregnancy, but that fact in irrelevant to my faith-filled villagers. I really felt pain in my heart for waiting-mothers after these people spoke to me. I have my hands full and I am feeling under pressure to have another child … how much more pressure do our waiting-mothers go through at every turn, via some well-meaning Aunty, Uncle, Elder, in-laws, etc, talk less of those who do not mean well?
Another aspect of this is the actual raising of children, particularly in the western world. The struggles that parents with children under 7yrs of age go through is no joke. My mother and I were having a conversation about my children and she was attempting to encourage me to spend more intentional time with them to aid their development. She then said “I was also alone with you guys when you where younger as your father had to work away from home most of the time”. “Mummy please you can’t compare us!” was my immediate response. I distinctly recall that we had two helps in the house most of the time. My Mom was always back to work after 3-months of maternity leave. She only cooked when my dad was home and her idea of helping us with homework was to tell the helps to make sure we completed our assignments. I reminded her that if she noticed the bathroom was dirty, she would call someone to scold them about it. She never needed to sort out laundry or get involved with the household chores because we had help in the house; and once I was old enough, I was also made to help.
It was like she had forgotten the difference in our lifestyles. Either that or I was making this stay-at-home mom thing look really easy. A few weeks ago, I wanted to visit a friend out of town. I told my husband that I needed to go and he agreed with me, meaning I would leave him to handle the children for two days. My Mom happily stepped in to help him. My little one started running a temperature the day before I was to leave. My mom being aware of the situation sent me this message, “We believe God for the child’s healing…but your travel tomorrow depends much on the stability of the child by morning. God is in control.” I fully understood that she was telling me that my trip may not happen, so I completely ignored her message, while praying for my child. I did travel and everyone was okay, but I couldn’t help but wonder to myself, why should I want another child if my life has to stop because I have children? I don’t believe this has to be the case, but the voices from the village seem to push this ideal. Do everything for your children and just put your life completely on hold, particularly if you are the woman. Is this really what God had in mind when He designed the family?
I have written this just to give an idea of what the receiving end feels like. I know that most people have good intentions and sometimes, we really need to hear these words of wisdom, but please, proceed with caution as you most likely do not have the full picture. It still takes a whole village to raise a child, so let’s raise each other high, in love.