Having spent my entire childhood in Douala (the major Economic city of Cameroon), at 16, I moved to Yaoundé where I continued to live with one of my elder sisters who at the time was transitioning from a single lady to a married woman. I was basically their first child − It is very common in our African culture that the last born is usually treated like the first born child of the older siblings of the family. I was practically raised by my older sisters.
Few years in my sister's marriage, I noticed she became so worried about child-bearing. Given that she had experienced quite a number of miscarriages, depression set in.
One night, she had returned home from a tontine meeting, I stumbled on her at the kitchen balcony while she was deeply lost in thought.
“What’s wrong? You don’t seem happy” I enquired With a very long hiss (as though she was chewing sugarcane) and reluctantly she said:
“You should have seen the embarrassment I got at the meeting today. My friends were talking about their children; everyone was commenting and laughing. I was the only one with nothing to say. I felt so embarrassed. Such a shame that I don’t have kids. I can’t speak confidently in the presence of my mates. What am I supposed to say when subject of kids comes up in public?”
“But you have me, I am your child. When they are talking about their kids, talk about me. I am your kid” I said, to give her hope and make her feel happy, but it was unwelcomed. It didn’t give her hope nor make her feel happy as I intended my words to be for her.
Many years in to marriage, my sister had a desperate desire to give birth to her own biological children. It was a desperate desire born out of the need to conform to the cultural ideas so as to be accepted and respected. It is that desperation which made her to be gullible to charlatans who robbed her of her hard earned money. These charlatans where fake pastors who gave her false promises of giving her the fruit of the womb.
I believe children must not come from your loins or womb for you to call them yours. It is not uncommon that few weeks in to marriage, people will be closely watching your womb to see if there’s a baby bump. You shouldn’t let them pressure you in to depression, or unnecessary actions which could break you and rob you of your joy. It is also very common to see a young couple, instead of enjoying every moment of their marriage, they are busy trying so hard to get pregnant just because the cultural idea or public opinion thinks that’s what validates one’s fertility and proves that one is woman or man enough.
Is it bad to desire your own biological children? Far from it.
Talking about children, I love them. I remember when my sister gave birth to her two girls; it was such a fulfilling moment for me as played the role of mom, auntie and babysitter. It was so much fun helping them grow. A lot of people who did not know me before then thought the kids were mine. An argument I could never win seeing that the nieces in question are my exact replica.
And the fickle public cesspool of opinion, ever changing their minds, relying on that instead of eternal truths as a tool to shape one’s beliefs, is treading on very thin ice that is about to break. I mean, why let the fickle public determine how you enjoy your womanhood? Why let the public determine if you should marry or remain single? Why let the public determine the kind of job you do? Whether you want to take a white collar job or run a back alley restaurant, as long as it is legal, decent and sustains you, it is up to you to determine that, not the public. For public opinion could rob you of your true happiness and drive you in to depression.
About children and fitting in to public discussions, if you are amongst friends and they are talking about pregnancy and children, even if you’ve never been pregnant, jump in and talk about your niece or nephew; how you cleaned her from the day she was born, how it felt caressing that little fragile body and enjoy the moment. Talk about your little sister or brother who is in your care, you are her parent and she is your child, boast about her, enjoy being a parent to that which you have at the moment till you finally bring forth your own fruit. At least that’s what I do and it’s been working just fine. If you hear me talk about my nieces, I refer to them as my children. You’ll never hear me say “my nieces”; I will always say “my children” and public opinion will say why are you calling them your children, go give birth to yours.
I remember in 2018 when I got entry to work as journalist/reporter at CRVT, my family was so excited; their daughter was going to be on TV. But I wasn’t excited. I devoted my time there having at the back of my mind that it was a learning process for me despite the accolades I got for my performance on TV, but deep down, I longed for more, why. One year in to my job at CRVT, I got hired by an NGO as Communication Officer. When some colleagues heard that I am leaving, they wept and recommended that I don’t leave.
“How can you leave Renette, you are good for TV” One said “You know this is a government job, it is permanent and secure. These private jobs are not secure. I think even if you are going to work for that organisation, you should not leave CRTV totally, maintain your file here for possible reintegration in future” another male colleague advised.
Another female colleague called from Bamenda (a town in the North-West Region of Cameroon) and said “what am I hearing Renette, that you are leaving CRTV?”Without even giving me the chance to speak, she went further to say “This is an opportunity many people are looking for, to work with CRTV and here you are just throwing it away like that. I hope you know what you are doing” she said.
Talking about opportunities people are looking for; just because everyone or the majority of people are scrambling for something does not make it the place in season for you. We must understand our times and seasons and know when to grab or let go of opportunities.
If I had harkened to public opinion on this matter I would still be wallowing at CRTV right now with no penny to my name.
While public opinion might influence politics in a democratic nation and a dictatorial government almost stands no chance with an idea pursued by an overwhelming majority of the public that is a major threat to a dictatorial regime. That kind of public unity to pursue a worthy idea is what I wish Cameroonians East, West, North and South unanimously possessed.
The danger of Public Opinion is that, if it controls your life, it might just leave it in shambles.
And just like the great Abraham Lincoln said, “If there is anything that links the human to the divine, it is the courage to stand by a principle when everybody else rejects it."
What then? You must build strong convictions. We can’t afford to live without principles and personal convictions in this noisy world with constantly changing cultural ideals and volatile public opinions of what is chic. You can’t live without personal strong convictions in a world that’s constantly bombarding information towards us, meant to program and change us to conform to some public standard. From bribery and corruption, mediocrity, social irresponsibility to same sex marriage, the public throws an avalanche of values to your face and attempt to force you to embrace it as the norm.