Is It Better To Be A Stay At Home Mum?

I will be honest and admit that before the arrival of the sprog, I did not fully comprehend the amount of work involved in raising a child. Indeed I did not know how much time and emotional investment that go into looking after a child. I think having been raised in Nigeria, I was always surrounded by family, and friends and nannies (as is quite common in middle class Nigeria) and thus did not think how raising a child without that support system can be quite difficult.

Increasingly, as the world becomes more globalised and the pressures of economics mean that people are moving further away from family, children are being raised without that treasured presence of grandparents, multiple aunts, uncles and cousins. The result I think is that primary carers of babies and young children are increasingly faced with the choice of putting their children straight into child care or putting their careers on hold in order to look after children.

I am ashamed to admit that when I was younger, I thought that women who stayed at home to raise their children had the luxury of watching soaps on TV all day and painting their nails. Well, I have been at home with the sprog for nine months, and I can tell you that my nails remain unpolished, and the closest I have come to watching any soaps is falling asleep on the sofa after dinner with the chief. It has not been easy. There is the physical exhaustion that comes with looking after a baby, there is the monotony of speaking “motherese” all day, and there is the emotional draining that crowns it all. When I put her to bed at 7pm, I skip out of her room and rejoice for the few hours that I get to be alone before bed. I am thankful that we do not have to spend thousands of pounds on childcare. I am thankful that I have been present for all her milestones so far.

However, I do miss the buzz and the fulfilment that came with my job. I worry about what this break means for my career growth, employers do not like gaps in CVs. Most importantly, I think that my career in many ways gave me a certain validation, and without it now, I feel almost bereft. You see, I grew up surrounded by strong educated women who beat the odds in a patriarchal society, who had day jobs, and could hold their own anywhere. My mother was a teacher and raised four of us. She was pregnant and breastfeeding through most of graduate school and teacher training. So part of me wants to work because I thrive in that environment, but also because I was raised surrounded by strong independent women who built excellent careers.

Choosing to raise one’s child full time is a sacrifice and a full time job, which can only be good for the child. One must remember that the alternative to staying home full time is paying or beseeching someone to do it. Stay at home mums have two jobs really; looking after the child, and also running the home (those meals, that laundry, the cleaning, will not do themselves). Conversely, choosing to be a working mum is a sacrifice too, often for a much needed income and a burden of guilt about leaving one’s child. Let us not forget the question of proving themselves at work because for the most part, women are held to a different standard than men. There is also the question of dealing with the guilt of fitting in mummy and wife at the end of a long days’s work.

What do the professionals say?

A research published by the Telegraph claims that children who go to Nursery do better than those who stay at home with their mothers. The research found significant progress in stringing sentences together and dexterity that comes from interaction at Nursery.

A research by Jay Belsky, a child development researcher at London’s Birbeck College, published by the Huffington Post, corroborates research which states that “long hours in child care are associated with behaviour problems”.

My Verdict

Babies go through monumental and rapid development milestones. These are as varied and as important as their emotional needs. Some babies will require more emotional support than others and no secondary care is better or greater than that provided by parents. It seems to me, from reading the literature that being a stay at home mother, or going to work, both have their pros and cons. Invariably, it does take a village to raise a child, babies will benefit from social interactions with the world, be it grandparents, neighbours, friends or extended family.

As for me and my household, I believe I will stay home for now with the sprog. I plan to return to work, but perhaps when she is a year old and walking, when she has some understanding of object permanence and where Mama has gone. Additionally, I think she will benefit from the social interaction at Nursery, because although I take her to mummy and baby classes and groups three times a week, she has recently become very afraid of strangers. I understand it is a milestone, but I often wonder of this is heightened by the absence of “the village” in our lives as we live far away from our family. What I would prefer is a combination of both worlds. It would be great to have a home based role or a part time job, so that she benefits from some vital nursery time, but also spends time being emotionally nurtured by yours truly.

2015 Elections in Nigeria: Which Candidate Will Win?

Elections in Nigeria will finally start with voters going to cast their ballots this weekend for the presidential election. The presidential and National assembly election was moved from valentine’s day to March 28, 2015. Has anyone been at any campaign event or witnessed any rally? It’s been quite an experience to watch the two largest political parties APC and PDP go at each other, manufacture stories, slander each other, and just provide general entertainment and many times embarrassment to Nigerians. The two main candidates are the current president Goodluck Jonathan and one time military head of state Muhammad Buhari. To me, this is the most intensely contested elections so far. Nigerians are beginning to ask questions, although we still have people whose politics are based on ethnic and religious sentiments, but I think we are making progress, albeit a slow one. The response of the political parties to this awakening is to give away money and ‘goodies’ to the man on the street, which is a little bit sad.

GEJ and GMB: PDP and APC Presidential candidates respectively.
GEJ and GMB: PDP and APC Presidential candidates respectively.

To be fair, politics all over the world is usually based on some giving and taking, last minute lobbying and discrete allocations of funding to different development schemes. Take the UK for example, with the forthcoming elections and before the two months (or so) embargo on new public spending before elections (which it looks like Nigeria doesn’t have or maybe we just do not implement?), the Tory government is giving funds to community development programmes, schools initiatives, charities, and conducting the announcements and press releases themselves. This is a final push and bid to look good and ‘earn’ votes. I know some charities which have received sudden funding for projects that were not funded previously. We are talking about grants up to one million pounds to recognised bodies who will of course do development work and show evidence. First world lobbying eh?

Now this is a slight difference from the Naija model which has seen politicians distributing branded phone recharge cards, bags of rice branded APC or PDP. The last one I saw yesterday was branded sachet of garri, sugar, and groundnut. Haba! Why are people wicked like this? No milk included, I find it really upsetting, at least add milk if you must share garri, and I hope it was ijebu garri. It smacks of laziness, ignorance, greed, a disrespect of the people, and just sheer poverty. Why do we think these people will do anything worth doing if their style of lobbying is agbalumo and garri? I will take a new road quickly constructed in my home town, or scholarships quickly paid out for six years for some bright financially disadvantaged students. I will take hospitals being revamped and programmes for free and expedited treatments set up, a borehole renovated for clean water, or a community centre for the elderly built or renovated.

PDP dividends of democracy: Garri, sugar and groundnut.
PDP dividends of democracy: Garri, sugar and groundnut.

I will take a new programme providing meals in schools, research grants for universities, training for the police, and small and medium enterprise grants over agbalumo, bags of rice and groundnut oil. But this is what you get in a country where a shocking percentage of the population lives under one dollar a day. This is what you get in a country where people are murdered and justice is committed to God because we do not have a system that works; the police is either not competent enough or not equipped enough to find the criminals. Or maybe it is both. This is why we have such intense proliferation of religion which does not translate into social change; because God is our police, our NEPA, our only recourse to surviving the reckless driving on the Abuja-Lokoja expressway and malaria. But that’s a post for another day.

APC recharge cards. Source:
APC recharge cards. Source:

Has anyone been to the airports or to the motor parks in the last couple of days? People are leaving in droves, it is as though there is war in Nigeria. I wonder if we are making too much of this situation of if this will indeed be the bloodiest election that Nigeria has ever seen. Which ever way one looks at it, it is quite scary to be honest; that we are in such a defining moment in our history and it could be marred by dishonesty and blood shed. I hope it does the opposite, I hope it sets Nigeria on the path to dealing conclusively with evil such as Boko Haram. I hope the country remains the largest economy in Africa, and an emerging market where the world congregates economically, and where this growth reflects on our indices, social services, infrastructure and the life of the man on the street.

Peace in Nigeria. Source:
Peace in Nigeria. Source:

Yesterday, international election observers arrived to be a part of the monitoring process and the rest of the world will be watching to see what Nigeria makes of this opportunity to choose its future and to maintain peace and prosperity. So March 28th let’s go out and vote for the right president and the appropriate members of the National assembly. On April 11th, vote for the right governor and members of the state house of assembly.

Do not vote for those who will loot the national treasury and instead of fixing our social services, spend it on educating their children at the most exclusive schools around the world (anywhere but Nigeria right?) or go to the best hospitals in the US or Europe to treat migraines while Nigerians take panadol and die from the simplest infections. Do not re-elect anybody who you know was not akin to Dangote before he became Governor, and now suddenly, his children are driving porches and Lamborghini on instagram. Now he/she owns houses in London High street Kensington and hosts lavish and vulgar weddings for their children. May we get it right. Vote your conscience.

Say no to pre, during and post elections violence. Stay safe. God bless Nigeria.