THE STAY-AT-HOME MOM: THE REAL UNSUNG HEROES
Adaobi Nneamaka Chikeluba, the only daughter among 4 brothers, is a fun-loving individual who strives for success at all times. A graduate of Mass Communication from Babcock University, she also holds a Master’s degree in Human Resources Management from Webster University, St Louis, Missouri, U.S,A. She began her professional career in 2003 as a broadcaster with the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria. She then spent 7 years serving the Nigerian populace as a Customer Service Officer at Zenith Bank Plc, Lagos. Like her brothers, she developed a love for the English language at an early age, when her father encouraged her and her siblings to pay great attention to the subject. Her penchant for writing also stemmed from the same discipline. Mrs. Chikeluba is happily married to the love of her life and is the proud mother of 3 wonderful children. A devout Christian, she enjoys cooking, singing, dancing, reading, interacting with, and assisting people
The day breaks to the sounds of a baby whimpering and making “cooing” sounds. I perfectly know what the sounds are but I shut my eyes tighter and pretend not to hear. Undeterred, and perhaps used to my gimmicks by now, Chiamaka stops whimpering and starts calling out
By this time, I know sleep is over for me. I raise my hands in surrender and walk groggily over to her playpen/crib. She eagerly reaches out to me and when I pick her up, she holds me tight, resting her head on my shoulder. The feeling is one that sends this sweetness down to the pit of my belly; one that I look forward to reliving each and every day. It’s a feeling that I thank God for.
After a short while, she starts calling out for her brother, Chidera. She makes her way to his bed and pokes at his face till he eventually opens his eyes, smiling. Mind you, ‘Till he eventually opens his eyes’, because he has been awake for some time and perhaps has learnt to pretend like me. We all exchange greetings, say prayers and THE DAY BEGINS!
When my husband decided that I was going to relocate to the States with Chidera, my mom was perplexed. She tried all she could to convince him otherwise, but his mind was made up. She had herself, stayed in the United States and did not want me to experience the same difficulties she endured while she was here with my father and oldest brother. I did not fully understand her concerns till I got here. In fact, it hit me when my husband had to leave us and return to Nigeria.
Here I was in a foreign land, with an infant and a bulging tummy. I had also enrolled in school. I had always considered myself to be a strong woman, but taking on all of this at the same time…
Before I continue, here’s a summary of the story of my life as at May 2012:
• I resigned my job as a Customer Service Officer with a bank in Lagos;
• Chidera was 5 months old and I was pregnant with Chiamaka (gosh!);
• We relocated to the United States of America;
• I started school (a Master’s degree);
• I did not have a job
Chiamaka was born on the exact day that Chidera turned 14 months. My mom and husband came to visit so one could say that I had some help. This was short-lived as they left a month after she was born. And I was all alone again.
As a baby, I thought Chidera could eat. Boy! did Amaka beat that record! The girl could was a foodie. Consequently, she didn’t sleep through the night after dinner. In fact, for my sanity, sometimes I would lay her beside me and put one breast in her mouth so I could get some rest and also catch some sleep myself. At this time, Chidera had come to realize that his spot had been taken and started throwing tantrums in a bid to reclaim his position as Numero uno.
My classes were in the evenings (5.30-9.30pm). Dropping the children off at the day-care center, I would drive 25 minutes to school and pick them up around 10pm after classes, then begin another 15 minute journey home. On getting home, they would get baths, dinner and playtime with mummy before retiring for the night. It was just me and them, the result of this was that they got too accustomed to not falling asleep except they were on my body. To get them to sleep, I would lay Amaka on my chest until she fell asleep. Then, I’d put her in her crib and carry Chidera on my chest till he fell asleep as well. After all these, I would get on to my assignments. There were times when I would get them in bed around 11.30pm and work on my assignments till about 3am then my Madam (Amaka) would wake up at 6am. Crazy.
My husband visited when Amaka was about 5 months old. The first time I left the children with him and went to school was hilarious! As soon as I opened the door, he started shouting for me to come and take the children from him. His major complaint was about his daughter.
“She just keeps crying. I’ve fed her, changed her diaper and she just keeps crying” he went on listing his grouses.
I asked if he tried rocking her or pacing around the house with her in his arms. “No”. I just shook my head and took my child from him. A little rocking and singing did the trick for her within minutes.
A friend of his saw me once and started telling me of how proud my husband was of me. According to the informant, my husband “has a renewed respect for me because of what he had now seen I go through with the children”.
He was left with the kids for just a few hours while I went to school and he nearly ran mad, talk less of me who stays with them round the clock every day and I still have school work to deliver on. I smiled, a little because I found it amusing and mostly because I was glad he had realized it for himself.
My typical day is a flurry of activities between making meals, laundry, offering toys and other placatives. I bear destruction of household appliances and toys. I have errands to run: grocery, hospital appointments, birthday parties, trips to the barber for my son when due, job interviews (none of which were successful).
There are soiled diapers, split lips, chasing of furniture climbers. “Mummy” is word called a million times daily. I separate fights, Amaka goes looking for trouble, scratching her brother’s face and hitting him on the head, then when the latter retaliates, both of them end up engaging in a crying match.
Thinking about it all now makes me go “Aaaaaaaargh”!
In spite of everything, I love these children that God has graciously blessed me with to bits. I won’t trade them for anything in this world. Having and taking care of them has given me a new appreciation for my parents, my mother especially.
The road is long, the journey is tough, especially here in the States where you have to do everything yourself, but the joy is unspeakable.
So, mothers, keep keeping on, no matter how hard it is. One day, your children will understand and appreciate the sacrifices you made for them.
Its time people stopped thinking Stay-at-home moms are ‘Jobless’. These heroes, are anything but jobless.
P:s. A very big thank you to my “twin” sister, Achalugo Tomato-Jos for giving me this opportunity to share my experience with others.
Blog owner’s note: I connected with Adaobi on facebook when people told me she looked like me, a lot of similarities in the sex order of our kids, even a namesake. The life without a house help, schooling and mothering, we just had to connect!