KENYA: Are we raising our girls to be subservient?

KENYA: Are we raising our girls to be subservient?

Raising our girls

The other day, a fellow mom and I were seated outside, basking in the warm Kenyan sunshine as our children played. We both have two sons, each aged 3 years and 5 years. Our boys were playing in a group of 11 children – six girls and five boys.

Their play area was quite muddy and so were their shoes, as it had rained just a few hours before. But as the weather changed from the warm sunshine into a windy, cloudy affair, with signs of the skies soon opening up again, we instructed the children to each wipe the mud off their shoes before proceeding into the house. Time for play was up!

While the girls immediately began wiping the mud off their shoes, the boys continued running around, begging for more time in the playing field. They even argued that it would ‘be much more fun’ to play in the rain. Their joy lasted for a few more minutes before they finally gave up, realizing that we were not going to relent. They then sat down, disappointed, but nevertheless ready to begin wiping the mud off their feet. But it really got my neighbor and I thinking.

No sooner had the boys begun working on their shoes, than the girls swiftly started doing it for them. Quite effortlessly, they asked the boys to relax, that they would do clean the mud off their shoes for them.

That surprised us!

Our instructions had been very clear – that each child was to wipe the mud off their own shoes.

But it happened so mechanically, so swiftly, that the girls, aged between 5 – 8 years, took it upon themselves to wipe not only their own shoes, but those of the boys too. And to be honest, the boys looked like they were not going to protest the offer at their disposal. Even though we quickly stopped the girls from going ahead and instructed the boys to undertake the chore themselves, it got us thinking: why do women (and girls) instinctively feel the need to wait on boys and men? Is it automatic? Are we born with it? Is it in our DNA? Or perhaps it’s cultural? Could it be how we were raised? Are we raising our daughters this way? Or is this how we are raising our sons: to be more than accepting to have girls and women always wait on them?

The episode took me back to a conversation that I had recently with my colleagues. Why does it happen that when in meetings, when tea time arrives, many women feel the urge to serve the men tea, even though they are all equals in that meeting? Even when she doesn’t feel like it, she just feels as though it’s her responsibility to do so?

When a fellow board member says he is thirsty and could do with a glass of water, why is it almost always that the woman will unconsciously rise up to pour the man a glass of water, and not only stop there but go ahead to ask other men around the room if they’ll have some water too, then pour it for them? Why do we impulsively feel the need to serve men, even when it’s not necessary to do so? Is it something that we learn from our childhood? Is it instilled in us?

The incident of our sons and their girl playmates was quite revealing, I must say. How are we raising our daughters? How are we raising our sons?

This is an original post for World Moms Network by Maryanne Waweru-Wanyama of Mummy Tales in Kenya.

Photo courtesy of Women Deliver / Flickr.

Maryanne Waweru Wanyama

Maryanne Waweru-Wanyama, a mother of two boys, writes for a living. She lives in Nairobi, Kenya with her family. Maryanne, a Christian who is passionate about telling stories, hopes blogging will be a good way for her to engage in her foremost passion as she spreads the message of hope and faith through her own experiences and those of other women, children, mums and dads. She can be found at Mummy Tales.

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OMAN: Black Milk, an Identity Crisis

Black Milk

The moment I saw the title of the book, I knew what the author meant. It was as if it was written for me. Black Milk by Elif Shafak, renowned novelist from Turkey, is a memoir described as ‘a thoughtful and incisive meditation on literature, motherhood, and spiritual well-being.’

Although I enjoy reading, I am not good at writing book reviews. As a lover of books, I can talk about what I read with friends, who, like me, are still amazed by the creativity of authors. I find it easy to talk about my favorite books, and the stories that stick with me, ones that I will never forget. However, writing an objective book review is something I find very challenging. Yet with Black Milk, I believe I owe mothers out there. I owe them sharing what I gleaned from reading this groundbreaking book.

Shafak wrote about herself – but it could have been about me. Me, a mother who experienced postpartum depression; a new mother who felt at a loss, and who thought that she should not feel this way; a woman who stopped doing things for herself and thought that motherhood should be more than enough; a mother who experienced fluctuations in her feelings 100 times a day; a woman who did not really understand what was going on.

Black Milk describes those ups and downs encountered by many new mothers, especially those experiencing anxiety about the huge change they’ve embarked upon – those mothers who overthink things and believe that they should be able to control the world, and not stop and ‘relax’ for a moment and ‘blend’ with the world.

In the book, Shafak has many inner conversations with her ‘Thumbelinas,’ who each represent aspect of herself. These tiny ladies are constantly fighting, trying to overcome one another to be the dominant part of her personality. Shafak is very objective in writing about them, and instead of hating them, you feel the opposite. In writing about the competing characteristics within, she seeks to find some kind of unifying identity for herself.

Shafak writes about western female writers as well, including Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, Simone de Beauvoir, and Alice Walker. She explores their lives, the way they found balance between being writers and mothers, or the way some of them chose one role over the other. In these women’s lives, Shafak seeks balance between her life as an artist, and her new life as a mother.

Being a mother and a writer means seeking some sense of self, besides the role of motherhood. The same applies to any personal career or decision a mother takes. Such a choice was not common in the West until recently, and it is still not acceptable in many eastern societies to this day. Thus this subject, though some might consider it a personal issue, is more of a political one that is affected by patriarchal societies. Elif Shafak does not make judgements, and why should she – this is a subject that has no right or wrong to it. The ability to choose and be respected for whatever choices you make should be totally acceptable.

Shafek’s book touched me, as a mother, a writer, and a woman. I really identified with her struggle, her experience with postpartum depression, and her personal crisis as she adapted to motherhood.

How do you find balance between your own personal well-being and the demands of motherhood? What books have inspired you on your journey?

This is an original post for World Moms Network by Ibtisam Alwardi of Oman. 

Photo courtesy of Raúl Hernández González / Flickr.

 

Ibtisam Alwardi

Ibtisam (at Ibtisam's musings) is an Omani Mom of three, living in the capital city of Oman ,Muscat. After working for ten years as a speech and language therapist in a public hospital, she finally had the courage to resign and start her own business. She had a dream of owning a place where she can integrate fun, play and 'books', thus the iPlay Smart centre (@iplaysmart) was born. Currently she is focusing on raising awareness through social media about parenting, childhood, language acquisition. She started raising awareness on (the importance of reading) and (sexual harassment) targeting school-aged children. Ibtisam enjoys writing, both in Arabic and English, reading and working closely with children. She plans to write children books (in Arabic) one day. Contact Ibtisam at ibtisamblogging(at)gmail.com.

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CANADA: Finding A Balance Between Awareness And Fear

When I was a kid, the sexes in my household were nicely evened out. There was a mother and a father, a son and a daughter. Even the numerous family pets were split more or less fifty-fifty.

When I take stock of my current household, things are very different. There’s my husband and my two sons. And then there’s me, the sole representative of my gender. We don’t even have any pets to swing the balance.

I am seriously outnumbered, and my family takes great pleasure in letting me know that. “Gang up on Mommy” games feature regularly in our lives. It’s a great deal of fun, and we all get a lot of laughs out of it.

It also means that I have to live with an inordinate amount of boy humour, which, let’s face it, boys never grow out of. I live with three people who have contests to see who can fart the loudest. (more…)

Kirsten Doyle (Canada)

Kirsten Doyle was born in South Africa. After completing university, she drifted for a while and finally washed up in Canada in 2000. She is Mom to two boys who have reached the stage of eating everything in sight (but still remaining skinny). Kirsten was a computer programmer for a while before migrating into I.T. project management. Eventually she tossed in the corporate life entirely in order to be a self-employed writer and editor. She is now living her best life writing about mental health and addictions, and posting videos to two YouTube channels. When Kirsten is not wrestling with her kids or writing up a storm, she can be seen on Toronto's streets putting many miles onto her running shoes. Every year, she runs a half-marathon to benefit children with autism, inspired by her older son who lives life on the autism spectrum. Final piece of information: Kirsten is lucky enough to be married to the funniest guy in the world. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Be sure to check out her YouTube channels at My Gen X Life and Word Salad With Coffee!

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Saturday Sidebar: Who does the housework?

Housework is "For the Birds"

This week we’re talking about housework.  MamaMzunga of Kenya asked our writers,

“How do you divide up housework? Does it fall into predictable gender divisions? And, maybe most importantly, do you think it’s divided fairly?”

Check out what some of our World Moms had to say…

Alison Lee of Malaysia writes:
“I’m lucky to have a cleaning crew come once a week to do deep cleaning. The daily chores of just keeping the place neat and tidy, laundry, cooking – well, that’s all me!” (more…)

World Moms Blog

World Moms Blog is an award winning website which writes from over 30 countries on the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Over 70 international contributors share their stories from around the globe, bonded by the common thread of motherhood and wanting a better world for their children. World Moms Blog was listed by Forbes Woman as one of the "Best 100 Websites for Women 2012 & 2013" and also called a "must read" by the NY Times Motherlode in 2013. Our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan, was awarded the BlogHer International Activist Award in 2013.

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NEW YORK, USA: Guys and Dolls

Our son is turning three next week.  He wants a baby doll for his birthday so of course, that is what he’s getting.

I mentioned this to a friend last week and she asked what my husband thinks about it.  Surprisingly, I did not even consider that he might have an opinion on the subject.  In my view, our son has asked for an age-appropriate toy for his birthday so I was just going to hop online and order one that looked cute.

Turns out, I was right, and Andy just shrugged and asked if I needed him to pick it up at the toy store near his office.  But, my friend’s question got me thinking about boys and dolls.

Chase is a typical three-year old boy, he loves just about anything with wheels.  Right now, Thomas the Tank Engine toys maintain their ubiquitous presence in our lives but he also enjoys playing with generic race cars, taxis, buses, front end loaders, cement trucks . . .you get the idea.

But, in addition to all of the “right” kinds of interests, lately Chase is also extremely into everything involving babies.  (more…)

Allison Charleston (USA)

Allison is a 35-year-old attorney-turned stay at home mom. This New York City mom lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan with her 2-year-old son, Chase, and her husband, Andy. She is also expecting baby #2! In her former life, she was an attorney practicing in a mega firm on NYC’s Park Avenue, putting in long hours, working hard and reveling in the fast pace of her life. She loved living in “the city”, and when she could, she took advantage of all it had to offer. But, when Chase was born over 2 years ago, that all changed. These days, the work has changed from writing legal briefs to changing diapers and the hours are longer, but she wouldn’t have it any other way! Allison is enjoying her adventures as a metropolitan mommy, raising Chase in New York City and has gained strength from her longer-than-she-wanted-to-wait journey getting pregnant with her second child.

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