Marriage and Loss of Purpose - A Vicious Cycle
I am a person, a daughter, a woman, a wife, a mom but most importantly, I have dreams, hopes and aspirations. I want to live a life of purpose, I want to use my education and my voice to help others. I want to be the best wife, the best mom, and give the best care and attention to my children. But the question, is can I have it all?
Growing up as a girl with my own parents, I saw my mother and father working so hard selling different things to make sure that I could get a good education. This was especially important as their first daughter, so I could be a good example to my younger siblings (which I am), and to make them proud. Their expectations were high, and so too were my hopes; that with my education, I will be able to make meaningful contributions to my society. I remember suggesting to my mum that I don't have to go to a university; that I could go to a vocational school. Her reaction was so funny because she went into prayer mode - saying 'God forbid, over my dead body that my daughter will not go to a university, my daughter will be educated and not be like me’.
This is the situation with many daughters in my community. Most parents are enlightened, they don't give preferential treatment when it comes to the education of their children, they say, - 'what a man can do, a woman can do better'. But the same society that wants their daughters to do well also promotes negative social conditioning. As a woman in Nigeria, once you are done with your first degree, there's this urgency that the next important thing is marriage, with or without a job or career plan.
Marriage, in my opinion, and many women I've spoken to, slows you down, especially, when you have no plan. Almost immediately, the children start coming, and since there's no major career plan (and if your husband can afford it), you most likely become a stay-at-home mom. In the process of staying home, you lose yourself. This is what I've seen with countless women. You are financially dependent, again, which can lead to feelings of aimlessness and worthlessness, because a woman is also human, with potential needing expression.
This is where the vicious cycle begins; your mother suffered, so you can become independent, but you sacrifice your independence on the altar of marriage and being a good wife. We lose ourselves in the process of caring for others, we don't pause to think about ourselves. Miranda wrote in her article titled ‘I Need More Than Motherhood to feel Fulfilled’, "Becoming a mother is in part a surrender of self, but mothers do not cease to be human. Before motherhood I was a woman with ideas, goals, dreams. I am still that woman, and also a mother".
Being a mom is a role I am grateful for. But as women we also have to fulfill our purpose because that's the best gift we can give our daughters. That is my mother’s hope that her daughter will be a woman of substance. That's also the hope I have for myself, to be a woman of influence in my society, and just being a mom alone can't do that. According to a study by the American Psychological Association of over 1,300 moms, the happiest are, perhaps unsurprisingly, those who work part-time. Full-time working mothers were equally well-off on several important levels. Both part- and full-time workers reported better overall health and fewer symptoms of depression, than those who stayed at home. The working groups also showed no significant differences in terms of personal perceptions that their jobs supported family life, including their ability to be a better parent, said the study’s authors, in a press release.
As mothers, we ought to be role models for our children. How can we tell our daughters to work hard in school, just like my mom did, and strive for a meaningful career, when we don't have any career ourselves? That is not setting a good example. We need to tell our boys that the girls around them are their equals in every way, so they don’t end their careers just because they can afford to, when they eventually get married. We need to teach our daughters that there's more to life than getting married, and encourage them to discover themselves. As Marianne Williamson aptly puts it." It takes courage... to endure the sharp pains of self-discovery, rather than choose to take the dull pain of unconsciousness that would last the rest of our lives."