The euphoria of courtship, wedding and early married life gets so much that some young couples forget a potential “landmine,” waiting for them barely a year into marriage, all things being equal: parenthood. Many young couples engage in unbridled sex and why not? They have the marital license, youthful energy and their passion is still fresh, but barring any hitches, the result of unbridled sex is pregnancy. Nine months down the line a baby will come and that is when it will occur to some of them that they need to figure out how to care for the baby and also earn a living.
I often drum it into the heads of my marriage course participants that marriage is about planning, planning and planning. Without planning, things can really get chaotic. Unfortunately, it does not take time before chaos sets in. If an 8am-to-5pm working class couple gives birth to a baby without a plan to care for the baby at the early stages, it can easily snowball into a big problem. After the maternity leave of the wife what happens?
That is why it is very important for young people, who are going into marriage, to take into consideration the upbringing of their children, especially in the early stages of the children’s development. This is because the standard of care for children is highest at birth and reduces as they grow older. In addition, the first 10 years of a child’s life are the most important. If you lay a solid foundation, it will withstand any kind of superstructure that is built on it later, but lay a defective foundation for your children, either by commission or omission, and you have serious parenting to do sometimes for the rest of your life, with attendant heartaches and regrets. So what options do young parents have?
One, some couples decide that the woman should be a full-time housewife and give the children maximum attention. While the children need a good dose of attention, I am not apostle of this thinking. Every young adult should engage in some form of economic activity. I will be very sad to see my daughters, whom I have invested so much in and with all their enormous potentials, rot away at home as full-time housewives. Such families can also run into financial problems if the husband loses his job or his capacity to earn a living.
Two, some couples decide that the business-inclined spouse should leave paid employment for self employment. This gives him/her the flexibility of time to care for the children. Fortunately, with advancement in technology, many parents can now work from home and earn very good income. For me, this is a win/win. Also, some young women also take some time off to “fire” all their children within a short period and spend some more years parenting them at the early stages before getting back to work. During this period, they learn new skills, hone their existing skills or acquire more certificates.
Three, some couples are lucky to have a retired mother coming around to live with them. This is another wonderful arrangement, especially if it is the wife’s mother. The Obamas did it while in the White House. The home actually belongs to the wife and she and her mother would have been used to each other over time. Such a mother must, however, know her boundaries. Mothers-in-law have been known to break their children’s marriages. If your mother (-in-law) is bossy or nosy, she is bad news; do not allow her live under the same roof with you; keep her at bay.
Four, some couples bring in their younger siblings to live with them and help out with the children. This is also okay, provided their lives are not sacrificed on the altar of your children’s upbringing. Your younger siblings are like your older children; treat them as such. But they must inculcate the right values in your children. Some of the terrible cases of paedophilia have been committed by relatives. Not every relative can live with you; use your filter.
Five, some couples are lucky to get good and experienced nannies and caregivers, who help out in taking care of the children, especially when they are at work. Wonderful, but parents must always remember that, while the school, church, nannies and caregivers help out in molding the children, parenting must never be outsourced or relinquished.
Six, some young parents opt for crèches. Sometimes, as early as 6am, you see young parents packaging children, some barely three months, for the crèche. While I do not blame the parents, because that is what circumstances have thrust on them, my heart bleeds. I will never get used to the sight. Thoroughly investigate a crèche before you take your toddler there. Ensure the standard of care and level of hygiene are high. It should not also be overcrowded and understaffed.
I have deliberately left out house-helps because I do not consider them an option. To start with, there is really no word in English like “house-help.” It is a Nigerian creation, but the meaning, as the name connotes, is somebody who helps out in the house in cleaning, doing dishes and washing, etc., in the house. A house-help’s responsibility does not include parenting your children. Many of them in Nigeria are also children anyway and cannot give what they do not have. This brings me to another issue, which is child labour.
It is wrong to employ somebody less than 18 years as house-help. That is child labour. If you are bringing somebody under 18 to help out in the house, as your own children at that age will also do, do for them what you will also do for your children at that age: education, acquisition of skills, parenting and mentoring. But to put another child’s future on hold for your own children’s is inhuman. Their’s God o! Some times when things go wrong in families, especially with the children, accusing fingers are pointed at witches, wizards and other evil forces; it might just be the past catching up with those concerned. You never know where the arrows come from.
Anyway, whatever formula you apply, the upbringing of your children is supreme and should guide the choices you make.