To Be A Woman series: Part 2
Over the past couple of months, I have discovered that a Nigerianne passes through three stages in life: She is born a girl, she becomes a lady when she starts wearing red lipstick and stilettos, and attains womanhood when she gets married, has children and keeps her family together.
Since my last post in the series, where I complained about someone who refused to call me woman, I have been informed that some females actually do not like being called that because of the weight of maturity the word carries. Perhaps he thought I would take offence to the word. I’m still trying to feel my way round this place…
To be a woman in Nigeria, you have to produce children, more accurately, living children because a ‘lady’ who repeatedly has stillborn births and miscarriages is more tragic than one who has never been pregnant. You are incomplete until you are able to rock a crying baby. Adoption is great but it doesn’t carry the same pride and honour.
You may be 15 or 16 but you’re a woman once you get married and have children (there was a law relating to this some years back that some paedophilic men in government introduced/attempted to introduce that sparked an outrage among activists. Could someone please help me remember?). Age can be acquired by having children, and through this heightened status, you get more respect. People take you more seriously.
Your marriage isn’t valid until you have a baby in your arms. Before you know it, you and your husband will become the topic at church vigils. He may even be pressured by his family to take another wife, who may be more fertile. You have to prove to him that you were worth the bride price, that you are worthy of womanhood.
Very little thought is given to how these children are going to be cared for in the first place; whether or not one can afford the nappies, clothes, vaccinations, malaria hospital runs, school fees and food. All that doesn’t matter. Get pregnant first then worry about the trivialities of finances and logistics later.
It’s rather easy to spot women who don’t want children from the way they talk and relate with them. Not that they don’t love their own children, they aren’t just… fond of the idea of parenthood in general. I see this in fathers too. Childbirth is a necessary righteousness that has to be fulfilled, no matter how reluctant the parents feel. And ideally, you must accomplish the feat more than once.
As for me, children are cute but they are not what I want to do with my life. Different people have different goals in this life. I am not one to labour to satisfy societal expectations or pursue that feeling of fulfilment that everyone seems to be looking for in childrearing. Neither am I a legacy chaser because one’s offspring will eventually die – and so will their children and children’s children – and I will be forgotten and unremembered by history except in statistics. If you see me pregnant a decade from now, just know that it was by mistake and I cry on my pillow at night wishing to rewind time; but on the bright side, I would finally be a woman.
Image|Source: Seattle Globalist, Flickr