By Bunmi Sofola
FOR most women, introducing another woman into the marital home would be unthinkable in spite of the polygamous marriages that are almost the norm in the society. Fatima grew up in a polygamous setting in which she said was a happy one. When she got .married 14 years ago, she wasn’t under any illusion she would be the only wife.
She described the early years of her marriage as ‘fairytale’. “My husband and I were so completely in love you don’t think it can get any better, but it did,” she said. The reason for her increased happiness may come as a surprise. For while the couple were blessed with children, what really ‘enhanced’ the relationship, according to her, was the arrival of another woman.
After being married for eight years, Gbade, her husband, took another wife, Jemilat – a pretty young ex-banker nine years her junior. And he did so with Fatima’s blessings. “She just seemed the right fit,” she said. “There was something special about her. The average person thinks desperate women who fear being left on the shelf resort to polygamy. But today’s ‘second’ wives are not only modern-looking and charismatic, but the wives in a polygamous setting strengthen the marriage.
“When you put energy into something that doesn’t come naturally and stop thinking only about yourself, you can get something beautiful back. We’re not these quiet, submissive women. We live a normal life – we have mobile phones and laptops and we care about how we look. True you go home to a husband and other wives, but we do it by choice, not because we were led into it. Generally, since Jemilat’s arrival, we take it in turns to have children. Since jobs were a bit thin on the ground, Jemilat helps Gbade in the insurance brokerage firm he set up a couple of years after we got married. Her banking experience helped. As for the children, we are both seen as their mothers. We don’t differentiate. Any of the moms take care of the children whenever she’s at home with them.
“Let’s face it, the idea of your husband living married life to the full with another woman in another part of your house would be hard for most wives to stomach. But like I said, I was raised in a polygamous home and even though Gbade came from a polygamous home, his perspective was that he was open to the idea but it had to be something I chose. And as the years went by, I saw something of my dad in Gbade and I felt myself opening up. My dad was fantastic and handled polygamy effortlessly. So when it came to a second wife, I saw it as something from my heart – not a religious thing.”
Risikat’s marriage to her husband is what she referred to as an ‘arrangee’ marriage. “I came from a very party lifestyle,” she said. “My parents entertained a lot and I started drinking when I was 12. But by age 16, I already knew I wasn’t happy and that 1 was looking for another way to live. It was around this time that an uncle brought Jamiu to the family house with Kola, his friend. “Kola was already married but he was really affluent. It was obvious he was on the look-out for a second wife and I fit the bill.
“As our courtship progressed, he assured me we had his wife’s blessings but that didn’t rule out jealous moments. These moments were heightened six years into my marriage when Kola started wooing a third prospective wife. While the arrival of a new wife must be a collective decision – meaning all wives and children must agree on welcoming her into the family – this is hardly the case in real life. 1 struggled watching ‘our’ husband fall in love with another woman, particularly one who was young and beautiful – with a figure unspoiled by childbirth. Someone can tell you all day long that having a baby the natural way is really painful, but until you experience it for the first time, you can’t really know how it feels, that’s how it felt for me with this new wife.
“I’m not going to lie, there are times it really hurts, but that’s one of the reasons I chose polygamy. It gives me the opportunity to grow past my own little demons to become a better person. I was pregnant when they were courting and my second child was only a couple of months old when they married, so of course you feel a bit replaced. It also made me realise how hard it must have been for the first wife when I came into the relationship. “
A lot of people will think that polygamous set-ups exemplify a man having his cake and eating it. Yet the concept amuses Fatima. “Believe me, it is the opposite. I think a lot of people think it’s about the sex – ‘Oh, he can have sex with all these women!’. Well, any man could go out and do that anyway without any commitment. Trust me, that has very little to do with anything. Can you imagine having to deal with not one, but possibly two or three women, with all their complications and emotions? It’s a sacrifice and a huge labour on the man’s part.
“The men in this lifestyle give so much. Gbade is committed to these relationships, to his children and building his family. Having said that, choosing life as a second or third wife remains a lifestyle many will struggle to understand. I know some people think it’s selfish on the man’a part. But all I can say is, I’m very content with my life. Ultimately, I would much rather have a piece of a good man than a whole man who wasn’t as good.”
How To Be The Strict Parent Your Children Need
Treating your child like an adult can be harmful to them, says psychologist Leonard Sax in a book titled: The Collapse of Parenting. According to him, “Teenagers now often see their parents neither as parents nor as friends, but a clueless, pathetic morons who are useful only in an instrumental sense, as providers of money or clothes. If, on the other hand, you set out to be an authoritative parent, you may have wonderful fun with your child along the way, sometimes when you’re not even looking for it.”
He then set out these guidelines to improve on your parenting technique.
You can’t always be liked: It’s important to remember that parenting isn’t about being constantly liked by your children. When you tell them they can’t have pizza (or fried plantain?) for dinner every night, they’re not going to be happy about it. They’ll try to push the boundaries. But as parents, we must stand firm and do what’s best for them in the long run – for example, not having pizza for dinner every day!
Don’t Give Unlimited Choices: Dr. Sax recommends avoiding giving children too many unconstrained choices such as “What do you want to eat?” Kids don’t have minds as rational as adults and that’s fine. But unconstrained choices always lead to a bad outcome – they either get what they want, which is often damaging, or you have to say ‘no’, which
leaves them feeling betrayed.
Don’t Plead: Begging your child to ‘please go to bed’ undermines your authority. So instead of asking them to go to bed, use a declarative sentence such as ‘it’s bedtime now’, or ‘it’s time for you to go to bed.’
Enforce Bedtime: Children of all ages are not getting the levels of sleep they need, says Dr. Sax. He believes it’s because parents have lost authority in determining bed times. If smart-phones and computers are keeping your children up late, confiscate all devises after 9 pm and never allow them to be taken to bed.
Encourage Respect: Dr. Sax says that parents should come down hard on disrespectful language – don’t view it as an attempt to be independent if your child tells you to shut up or uses bad language. He explains: “Encourage dinner time debates about current affairs or music, listen respectfully to your child’s opinion, and then say why you disagree. This will teach them the skill of disagreeing respectfully.
Make Time For Fun: Prioritise meals, holidays and outings as a family, because having fun together is the foundation of family life. Your kids need to value time with you, and they can’t do that if the family rarely spends any time doing enjoyable stuffs together. But don’t mistake having fun with letting them have their own way. You can enjoy family activities while still being in control.
Set Boundaries: Rules like ‘no cakes until you finish eating your food,’ or ‘no social media until you’ve done your homework’ are important. Be strict but also warm and responsive, rather than cold and aloof.