By Francis Ewherido
Leisure: A man with a family of eight I met recently mentioned some mind-boggling figures they spend on airline tickets and accommodation when they go on vacation, especially to the United States. Many Nigerian families cannot afford that kind of vacation.
Some who can will either be reluctant or unwilling to spend that much on a holiday, especially with many needs snapping at their feet. A friend’s son wondered why “we all can’t just go on holiday at once instead of the bits and pieces.”(The father normally travels with one or two children for each vacation while those left behind take their turn at the next vacation).
And my friend snapped: “don’t you know the money we will use for such an adventure is enough to build a bungalow!” Some families opt for cheaper alternatives. Whichever way, the larger family will spend more.
For those with lower income, the economic circumstance is no excuse not to give yourself a break once in a while because that is what a holiday or leisure is.
When we talk about holiday, many people’s minds are fixated on travelling abroad. That is not it; your holiday can be going to spend time in your village. But this too involves expenditure and the size of your family becomes a factor.
Time: In many families today, especially in urban areas, parents leave home early and come back late. Parents need to devote quality time to their children, especially during the pre-teen and teenage years. Parents need to guide, mentor and assist their children to chart their future. The presence of house helps or nannies should not make us shirk our parental responsibilities.
These people are helpers, not substitutes, and many of them are inexperienced and ill-equipped for parenting. With the increasing amount of time parents devote to economic activities, there is a lot less time for their children. The amount of time it takes to get each child ready for school on weekdays and church on Sundays gives an idea of how much time childcare consumes. That is partly why the number of children is a main issue.
In planning, therefore, couples need to have the number of children they can give quality time. If after all the time spent on economic activities to make the family financially comfortable, the children do not turn out well, then “no work done” as my roommate in the university, Lawrence Ogbuogebe ,used to say.
Sacrifice:Beyond giving children time, giving birth to and raising children involves enormous sacrifices. You practically donate a chunk of your life to them and the more children you have the bigger the donation. We therefore need to reflect on how much of our lives we want to donate to our children. This should have a say in the number of children we settle for.
My sister-in-law, Tolu Ewherido, sees number three as the threshold where couples need to deeply reflect upon and comprehend the financial and physical impacts before launching into “number four”. She should know because she has four children and I agree with her even though I have five children.
Her view is borne out of the realization that the “fourth child moves you into another tranche of needs that you will have to meet for your family, like bigger vehicle, likely a bigger house (or more crowding to fit in) and it goes on. Even for a middle-upper class family, you and your finances will likely feel the impact of number four and beyond”, she posits.
I am not out here to argue for small or large families. I believe it is each couple’s prerogative. What I am saying in one sentence is: plan very well to suit your circumstances.
Nigeria is grappling with a lot of social and economic problems — armed robberies, youth restiveness, unemployment, rapes, kidnapping, child trafficking, cultism, etc. Much of it has been blamed on visionless political leadership and corruption, but that is only part of the story. I believe it starts from dysfunctional families who produce and foist dysfunctional and badly finished products on the larger society.
Intending couples should start on a well-thought-out foundation; they should have only children they can adequately cater for, to not do so is to foist the results of their lack of control and prudence on the larger society thereby creating additional problems for everybody.
That said our governments need to come up with good policies to transform our large population from a liability to an asset. Much of the transformation that has taken place in China in the last two decades can be traced to human development and capacity building. India is on track right now in human capacity building and development, although it is still having very much work in progress, the number of poor people there is gargantuan.
Of the eight countries in the world with a population of 150 million or more people, Nigeria is the least (I mean no disrespect, but do not mention Bangladesh, monkey get grade) in many of the major indices for measuring human and physical development (life expectancy, access to good healthcare, access to education, standard of living, earning capacity, presence of basic infrastructure to enable the citizens optimise their capacities, gross domestic product, etc).
Enough of this aimless politics and visionless leadership: governments at the three levels (nonexistent governance in many local governments on my mind) should roll up their sleeves and get down to real business.
As we prepare for the general elections in 2015, one of our priorities should be to ensure that people’s votes count so that we can flush out the multitude of clowns in government positions. *Governance is for serious minds not jesters whose proper place is a circus. Real development and good governance only takes root when the people’s votes count.