What Legacy will you leave as a Mum?

On Thursday, I attended the service of songs or wake keeping for my cousin, Sola, (still can’t believe it). One of his closest friends read a tribute and talked about the legacy he left to his daughter. Although he spoke about a lot of things, the word ‘legacy’ has reverberated through my being since Thursday. What legacy am I leaving for my children?

When Sola’s daughter came up and read her tribute, I was struck by two things. Firstly, what an eloquent young woman – her parents must have been so proud of her. Secondly, how present her father was in her life. Β Over the next few minutes she went on to describe explicitly what it means to be present as a parent from a child’s perspective.

Sola poured his life into his daughter and her well-being what his utmost concern. Whilst he might not have had much, he had a lot of love and he lavished it on her. I realised as she spoke, that on this dusty road we call life, he focused on the principle thing – love.

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Mother’s day can mean a myriad of things to many of us. A day to be cherished; a reminder that we are taken for granted perhaps; a reiteration of the fact that you are both mother and father to your child; a reminder that the child you long for is still not yours; maybe sadness over the loss of your own mum – it means so many different things to all people.

In the midst of all the chocolates, flowers, pampering and what nots you may or may not be doing, I’d like to take moment to focus on what it does mean to be a mother – to be a parent. These are the lessons my young cousin taught me on parenting from the view of a child.

  • Children are kind. They don’t always hold your faults against you.
  • They love unconditionally.
  • They appreciate when you spend time with them – quality time.
  • It is important to create memories. It doesn’t cost much to watch a movie on TV together or share your favourite songs with one another. Create unforgettable memories.
  • Encourage them all the time. Motivate them. Be their greatest cheerleader.
  • Though you are parent first and friend later, be the one that they want to come and share their burdens with.
  • When they find in you someone they can trust with their hearts, they share their lives with you and crown you ‘best friend’. This is not a title you bestow upon yourself.

I hope I haven’t rained on anyone’s parade today. It’s a reflective time for me and a stark reminder about what parenting is really about – at least for me anyway. However, I also find it encouraging that what children remember are the simple things, not the things – what they remember is you.

My cousin’s daughter, my young cousin, taught me what IS important about parenthood. In her words, “my dad wasn’t perfect but he was perfect to me”. It suddenly dawned on me that parenthood-slash-motherhood is an act of service not a trophy. It is also a privilege that I probably do take for granted if I am honest. And in those moments when we rush from pillar to post in a bid to do it all, all of the time, this is a wonderful reminder that we are enough.

Her time with her father was so so brief, it is really heartbreaking, but he left an indelible imprint on her heart that will last a lifetime. I wonder how my children will remember me? Have you ever thought about that? What legacy are you leaving your children?

Yours,

RWW

Happy Mother’s Day

I chose this dress for my daughter.
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She hates it.  I think it’s lovely. She wore it grudgingly. “That’s fine” I said. “When I was your age, my mother put me in dresses that had lace, net and sequins that scratched the living daylights out of my skin. I still have nightmares. This is an improvement on that. And you will do the same to your daughter if God wills. And she will do the same to her daughter.”

For this is one of the perks of motherhood. To torture our children with clothes they despise. πŸ˜†πŸ˜†πŸ˜†πŸ˜†πŸ˜†

Happy Mother’s Day

You Are Doing a Great Job

I wanted you to know that despite your darkest moments and constant doubt, you are doing a great job.

Just by showing up every day and being there for your child, you are doing a great job.

Sure there are things you could do better but always remember that children only care that they are loved unconditionally.

So remember to laugh, remember to live in every precious moment and remember to love unconditionally.

Happy Mother’s Day
πŸ’‹πŸ’‹πŸ’‹πŸ’‹πŸ’‹πŸ’‹

Happy Mother’s Day – For Mums No Longer With Us

I uploaded a picture of myself on my blackberry profile and my cousin instantly commented on how much I looked like his mum.

To be honest with you, that was like the bestest compliment anyone could have paid me. My aunty Dupe was hot, stunning, tall, graceful, fashionableΒ and a fully domesticated goddess. She cooked, gardened, hosted amazing parties – as far as I was concerned as a child, she was uber amazing and her love for her children was unequivocal. She was just a chilled mum and I loved that about her.

I told my cousin that was the best compliment he could ever pay me. Apart from the fact that she was pretty and elegant, I’ve always had a picture of her in mind when I imagine domesticated bliss. Her way about the kitchen was always an inspiration to me. I proceeded to tell him a little story of how I remembered her.

When I turned thirteen, she gave me a YSL Paris perfume. It was such a huge moment for me. Not only was it not a cheap body spray, it was an expensive perfume. It made me feel so grown up and spoilt.

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Sadly, she passed away about six years later and I could never bring myself to throw away that perfume bottle. I kept it constantly on my dresser – empty as it was. When I moved from Lagos to London at twenty-one, I brought it along with me. To which my cousin responded hoarder, in the way one would say L-O-S-E-R. I wasn’t ashamed. I know I have hoarder tendencies but only of things that have sentimental value and parting with this I guess felt like I would be losing the constant reminder of her. I cherished the constant reminder that bottle was of her in my life so I couldn’t throw it away. However, when we moved to Cambridge we got rid of a lot so two and half years ago, I finally parted with it. It was a little bit tough to let go of it but clearly her memories live on in my heart.

She was by no means a saint, in fact she was a real as they come but as a human being, she had a great heart. When my mum was going through a divorce, my aunt was there not just to support her but to make her laugh. She made an unpleasant experience lighter somehow with her infectious laughter. And when she laughed, the whole world knew someone was laughing – right from the depth of her. She would throw her head back, and her shoulders would shake uncontrollably, often accompanied by tears of joy. That’s how I choose to remember her – pretty, elegant, tall, generous, joyful and sublime.

So this post is dedicated to my cousins, her children, and all my friends and a host of people who I’ve never met, whose mums are no longer with us. I hope you remember them today as special. I hope you remember them today as loving. I hope you count yourself blessed to have been birthed by her – faults and all. I hope today is a day to cherish those wonderful memories you have of your mothers.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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Children Can’t Keep Secrets

Never trust children to keep a secret. It’s hopeless. Even if they don’t tell you, tell hint at it.
It’s obvious mine have been making cards or some gifts at school for Mother’s Day. I’ve actually been the one telling them not to tell me any more, particularly my daughter- she can’t help herself.

I guess it’s the excitement.

    “Mummy, you are NOT allowed to open my book bag this week”
    “Mummy, I’ve been writing a poem but I’m not going to tell you what it’s about.”
    “Mummy, there is a bag in the living room, and you are not allowed to look into it.”
    “Mummy, I’ve moved the stuff into the cabinet with the CDs so DON’T go there.”

All the while I can feel my husband on the verge of saying something before she spills the beans. Giving her the side eye.

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It’s hilarious because I’m the one having to preserve the secret otherwise she would have told me what they’ve done at school ages ago. Only one more sleep! Let’s hope she survives the wait.

Redefining Wonder Woman: My Mother My Hero

Welcome to the first of many Redefining Wonder Woman (RWW) stories from ordinary women who have done extraordinary things. It would be remiss of me to start this series without acknowledging the influence of my mother on my life – just in time for Mother’s Day too. It was an interesting experience interviewing my mum as a woman and not as her daughter. I discovered so many things about her that I never knew and came to understand her a bit better. She has always and will always be my epitome of a strong woman. I hope you are as inspired by her story as I am.

RWW: What did you want to be when you were little?
Mum: As a child I didn’t really think about it.  When I left grammar school, I thought I wanted to study dentistry.  When my father sent me to England to study, he said I had to study Law. I protested and told him I would rather be an accountant if I couldn’t be a dentist. However, not having the prerequisite grades meant I would have had to complete a preliminary course before University. My father promptly told me he only had enough money for a three-year course and that’s how I ended up studying law.

RWW: Did you like it?
Mum: I enjoyed it even though it was tedious.  There was so much case law to get through and you had to constantly read journals and newspapers to keep abreast of current issues. In retrospect, I don’t think I would have enjoyed accountancy as much. For instance when I heard Tony Benn had passed away, I remembered that the renunciation of his peerage was one of the cases we looked at whilst I was at school. Daily occurrences made law a very interesting subject.

RWW: So no regrets about studying law?
Mum: Not at all.  I was very thankful to my father for forcing me to do it. Eventually it worked out well.

RWW: How did you get into Insurance?
Mum: After I graduated, I worked for the Board of Trade (now the Department of Trade and Industry) within the insurance division for about four years. Then I moved back to Nigeria in 1970 and attended Law school there. Before I left the Board of Trade, I asked my bosses to give me a recommendation of Insurance firms to work for. As soon as I got back, I contacted the two companies I was given, had interviews and secured a job offer with Royal Exchange before I graduated from Law School. I started work there on the 1st of June, 1971 and worked there till 1995 when I retired; almost twenty-five years.

I started out as the Assistant Legal Officer and within six months I was promoted to Company Secretary, Legal Adviser when the incumbent went back to England due to an illness. I subsequently became the Company secretary and I rose from Assistant General Manager to Deputy General Manager and eventually became an Executive Board member; the first female executive in the history of Royal Exchange, worldwide.

RWW: I find it incredible that you worked at the same organisation for almost twenty-five years. Why didn’t you move elsewhere?  
Mum: Should I say it was loyalty? I enjoyed what I was doing and I had everything I wanted in a job. I had a lot of autonomy within my role and I had the privilege of flexible working hours which meant I could do the school run and start work about 9.00 AM. I was also one of the top professionals in the industry with a good rapport with the Heads of Units at the Head Office in England which was very important in terms of longevity at the time. And you’ve got to remember that during this period there was the divorce, and I needed job stability. And to be honest, I didn’t have problems at work and there weren’t many companies at that time that operated flexi-time and that was very important to me.

RWW: What challenges did you face as a woman in the workplace?  
Mum: Internally, I found that men didn’t respect women or their opinions. They found it hard to accept a woman was their boss. Externally, when I went to meetings, people (men) looked down at me and I found that I had to put forward my views forcibly in order to be heard. However, since I dealt with trust investments, they soon realised they had to work with me.  

RWW: Can you recall an occasion where this was overtly displayed?
Mum: Yes. I remember a meeting with foreign investors and a much older Nigerian gentleman told me to shut up. He brushed my opinions aside and carried on with the meeting. I was livid, but I knew I had to be calm and avoid a slanging match. So I said very calmly that what he said wasn’t nice and he should accord me the respect due to me. I was proud of the way I handled it and at subsequent meetings, he addressed me appropriately. Ironically, eight years later, this same gentleman was embarking on a venture that required my approval to succeed. Suddenly my opinions were valuable to him as I was an instrumental party.

RWW: LOL

RWW: After you retired, you started a travel agency in your early 50s.
Mum: Yes. I used my severance package to invest in a Travel agency because I loved travelling. I ran that successfully for about ten years and eventually sold the company. I had no regrets when I sold it. It was the right time to do that.

RWW: Speaking of travelling, what countries have you explored?
Mum: Australia, Brazil, Venezuela, Jamaica, Thailand, Japan, Singapore, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Spain and other places in Europe as well as several American states. A few of those trips were done when I travelled round the world in six weeks with one of my best friends.

RWW: Let’s get personal. What was it like raising four girls on your own?
Mum: It was hell on earth!
RWW: LOL
Mum: Not because you were bad children but primarily because of my own fear of making a mistake.  I wanted you all to turn out right. There was the fear of whether you would excel at school, and then university and then life. I spent a lot of time being anxious for each one of you. I was constantly wondering if I would ever get this thing right? There was also the fear that people would say you would have been better off with your father. With a lot of determination and God’s help, it turned out right even when things were tough financially.  I have no regrets as far as you children are concerned.  It was just the pressure to look after the family that sometimes got to me.  Even with all that pressure, I still count myself very lucky to have had the four of you as children. I know people in similar circumstances who did not have the same ending. I count myself very lucky indeed.

RWW: Would you say you were successful?
Mum: LOL. That would be for other people to judge. I think I set out to do what I wanted to do as far as Law is concerned. I have done everything I wanted to accomplish. Even though I didn’t want to do it, I have thoroughly enjoyed being in the Legal profession and have no regrets at all. I met many Nigerians who were much older and pioneers in their professions through Law; older members of the society who acknowledged my success and accorded me my due respect. I’m happy with all I accomplished.

RWW: Although you are retired you are still quite busy for a woman in her 70s.
Mum: Yes, I’m very much involved with a few church committees and several charitable organisations. I’m also a non-executive board member of an investment company and a school governor for a boys secondary school in Lagos.

RWW: What concerns you about young women in Nigeria today?
Mum: I think there is still room for women at the top of corporations. I pray for a time when women will not have to make a choice between being there for their family and work. These days, it is difficult to marry your home and your job. It’s very difficult for women to get professional jobs with flexible working hours. I feel there is going to be a time when things have to change as they have changed in England.  

RWW: What is most important to you?
Mum: My name.  The fact that I can go out today and hold my head up high without any shame.  I didn’t steal or cheat anyone. My name counts for a lot. 

RWW: Thank you mummy.

Mummy collage