By Francis Ewherido
Sometime ago, I listened to Ms Grace Zemaye Egbagbe, lawyer and television personality, on Metrofile, Channels Television. Her hostess asked her the secret of her youthful looks. She responded that two reasons make women age faster: husbands and children. In other words, she looks young partly because she does not have a husband (Although she said she still nurses the hope of getting married someday if the right man comes along) and has only two children to contend with.
As a husband and father, it got me thinking. How do husbands and children contribute to fast tracking the ageing of women? Unfortunately Egbagbe did not elaborate, so let us take it from there. I do not believe married women age faster than single women. But I believe that husbands can make wives age faster and vice versa. However, husbands or children do not necessarily make women age faster. There are many other factors at play: peace, happiness, financial state and state of mind, among others.
When Jesus visited Mary and Martha (Luke 40: 41 – 42); Martha complained to Jesus that Mary had left all the chores for her. Jesus told Martha that she worried about too many things that only one thing mattered. In marriage, that one thing is peace of mind. If you have peace of mind, you have it all; without peace of mind, you can age geometrically.
And just as Jesus observed, some people worry about too many things. Everything is an issue, everything is a big deal. Some cry wolf where none exists. Some belong to the group of people one of my priests, Fr. Tobias Nwafor, described as creators of worries, those who worry because there is nothing to worry about. Take your marriage very serious to make it work, however, do not take everything that happens in your marriage too serious. If you do, you will not only age faster, you might suffer a stroke or die of a heart attack.
“Battles” are inevitable in marriage, but you must choose your “battles” carefully. Leave trivial and petty issues and stick to fundamentals. While growing up, there was this snake-like fish—I do not know the English name; I have not seen it in ages—called Igbene. It was very cheap and of low nutritional value. We have a saying that you do not burn your fingers because of Igbene, meaning, do not roast Igbene; it is not worth burning your fingers for. Ignore the Igbenes of your marriage.
Also remember the statement of Stephen Covey: it is not what happens to you or people’s actions that matter, but your reaction. You might not have control over your spouse’s actions, but you certainly do over yours. Take charge of that which you have control over.
In addition, what is the state of the marriage? If the marriage is a happy one, then there is no reason for the woman to age geometrically. But the issue is who is supposed to make your marriage a happy one, your spouse? No, a happy marriage is a product of conscious effort by both spouses. The quantum of contribution may differ, but both parties must put in something to make it happy. Where the husband contributes nothing, Egbagbe’s assertion may be correct, but where the wife is not satisfied with the quantum of the husband’s contribution, the problem is partly her mental creation. This is especially so if she can fill the gaps but refuses to because “it is his responsibility.” When you prefer to worry rather than provide the solution that is within your means, the outcome is geometric ageing.
Poor finances can stress women enormously. No woman wants to be threatened by a landlord over rents; no woman wants her children kicked out of school over school fees; no woman enjoys seeing her children in tattered clothes or hungry; but worries have not solved any financial problems. Constructive thinking and planning do. When spouses pray, plan and take action, they make progress, no matter how little.
On children, every parent should attempt to shape the first 10 years of the child’s life. That is when they are most pliable and dependent on the parent. Thereafter, the paradigm begins to shift; peer and other external influences gain more grounds in his/her life. Children will definitely do dumb things at some stage, they will make mistakes, many will be rebellious, but hopefully the foundation you laid in the first 10 years and your subsequent efforts will prevail at the end. But if the situation gets beyond your control, get help, surrender it to God. That was what St. Monica, mother of the legendary St. Augustine, did to turn the tide.
When some parents worry over their children, it is sometimes selfish worries. Some worry because the children are not meeting up with their expectations of running their financial empires when they are gone. Shouldn’t you be more concerned, not worried, about the kind of eternity that awaits you? My own take is, do your best while you are around. Once you are dead, you are gone, simple.
Some other parents worry because the children are the only retirement plan they have. When the children fall short of their expectations, they worry about the uncertain old age that awaits them, not necessarily about the children. This is why we are all encouraged to make our retirement plans during our active years
Finally, God, the author of life and creator of marriage and family should get His preeminent position. God makes the impossible possible, opens ways where there is none (Exodus 14:21). He has invited all who are weary and overburdened to come to him for rest (Matthew 11: 28). Spouses should accept this simple invitation and stop aging unnecessarily. Naaman, the leprous Syrian general did and got a new-born-baby’s skin (2 Kings 5:14). You too can avoid geometric-aging. Life is short and uncertain, get the best out of it while you have it.