“The strength of a woman is ...
“The strength of a woman is not measured by the impact that all her hardships in life have had on her; but the strength of a woman is measured by the extent of her refusal to allow those hardships to dictate her and who she becomes.” ― C. JoyBell C.
“So how do I look,” Martha asked her husband, Okoro. “You look scintillating,” Okoro answered. “The dress fits you perfectly and your braids are faultlessly beautiful. I am sure you will be the star of the staff party tonight,” Okoro added. “Awww!!! That is very kind of you,” Martha quipped. She took one more look at herself in the mirror and then walked towards her husband. “Can we leave now?” Okoro asked. “Yes, my love.” They left for the year’s Christmas party organized by Okoro’s place of work in Port Harcourt, Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Limited (NLNGL). The party was already buzzing by the time they arrived. Most of the staffers came with their better halves. Okoro went around introducing Martha to everyone. Soon, it was time to eat. They settled into their table where two of Okoro’s colleagues in the same office were also seated with their wives. “So, what sort of work do you do?” Magnus, one of Okoro’s colleagues asked Martha. She carefully processed the question as she searched for the right answer to give him. “Oh, she does not work. She is a stay-at-home mother,” Okoro jumped in and answered.
Magnus nodded. Prior to his question, Magus’ wife, Adaora had effusively described her job as a lawyer, while Atinuke, Kunle’s wife talked excitedly about her boutique in town. She quickly passed her business cards to Martha and Adaora, inviting them over to the shop. Martha smiled gently, but her fists were clenched under the table. She wanted to reach out and smack Okoro across the face. As the party progressed, she felt angrier as Okoro went on to tell everyone that she did not work. When she finally got the opportunity, she dragged him outside. “What is wrong with you? Can’t you let me introduce myself? You disgust me, Okoro!!!” She said in palpable anger. “But I simply told the truth. I was not trying to put you down!!!” Okoro protested. “I am not asking you to lie for me. I am asking you to let me speak for myself since you have no idea what I do!!! I am leaving. Please drive me home or hand me the keys.” “But the party is just getting started,” Okoro protested. “I don’t care. I don’t want to be here for one more second. Hand me the keys please. You can ride home with one of your colleagues.” Reluctantly, Okoro got in the car and drove home in silence.
“Martha changed and went to the children’s room to make certain that their youngest children a set of twins were fine. Then she checked in on the older children, Okoro Junior and Chidimma. They too were sleeping peacefully. Their house girl was snoring away in the adjoining room. Then, Martha went to the guest room and slept, refusing to open the door for Okoro who wanted to iron out their differences. The next day was a Saturday. Martha was up early as she did every day to fix breakfast for her family. After breakfast, the twins, Anuli and Arinze went to their room to play with their toys under the watchful eyes of their house girl. Okoro Jr. and Chidimma went outside to play. They set out building a house with sand. “I did not mean to be rude last night, honey,” Okoro apologized. “I want to explain my position to you. Could you please listen to me,” Martha pleaded. They were both in their room. Okoro was seated on the bed while Martha sat at the reading table. She had a piece of paper in hand. She had made some notes the previous night. “I am all ears,” replied Okoro. “How could say that I did not work? How would you feel if I said that the work you put in at the office every day was useless; inconsequential? Maybe you have the impression that I stay at home and watch TV every day while you work hard at the office. I did not need you to lie for me; instead, I needed you to be more respectful and thoughtful in describing what I really do.
“You could have told them that I left my career as a pharmacist after so many years of grueling education in the university to stay home for now and look after our children while they are young. Obviously, that is not a sacrifice worthy of your description. Do you know how much I crave to go back to work each day? Have you any idea how much I love to work with medical drugs? Helping patients and following the trends in the industry? Have you any idea how difficult it was for me to quit my job and stay home? I did that for the love I have for you and our children. I would move mountains to take care of them and support you. I wake up very early in the morning almost every day while you are still sleeping to fix your breakfast and run your bath. I have had to stay up almost all night when the children did not sleep well after they were born. I still managed to get your breakfast and bath ready. I have been close to having an accident while driving to the market because of lack of sleep from the previous night. I still mop the floors, do the laundry and plan our meals for days ahead. Even when I am sick, the children continue to ask for my attention non-stop. And when they are sick, I am in hospital with them, so that you can focus on your job.
“I have little or no time for social activities. I have given up all that for the good of our family, yet you describe me as someone who does nothing? When was the last time you washed or ironed your clothes? With joy and love, I do that for you. I polish your shoes and make lunch that you take to the office with you. Some days, I am overwhelmed by the children…completely exhausted and drained, and then when you return late from work, you are all over me in the bedroom. Despite my fatigue, I strive to please you because I want to be there for you all the way. Did you know that Anuli had a serious diarrhea last two weeks? Did I mention that I have driven through the whole city looking for the best preschool for the twins? Because I don’t have a designated office or title at home does not mean I don’t work. I wish you would appreciate my efforts and sacrifice. We are a team! I put in my best at home too. While you are busy laboring at the office, I am busy working and putting out fires at home.
“Several times the kids were stricken with cold. Their nostrils were clogged with mucus, preventing from breathing well through their nostrils, I had to suck out their mucus with my mouth…I can tell you this, that it is not the most pleasant experience, but a mother does not pick and choose pleasant things. She does all she can for her family. What of when Okoro Jr. fell off the terrace and nearly broke his leg? I was there to pick him up and dash to the hospital. After breakfast, I drop Okoro Jr. and Chidimma off to school. Then, I come home to do the dishes while the house girl watches the twins. Then I clean up the children’s mess and soon, I am making lunch. The next hour, I am dashing to school to pick up Okoro Jr, and Chidimma. When they are back, the house girl leaves for afternoon school, while I watch all four kids. I stitch your clothes that may need stitching among other things at the same time, even though the children bombard me with a million things. Soon, I am thinking of dinner. Have you any idea how many times I climb the stairs in a day? Sometimes I think of running away, but I love you and the kids far too much. I quietly bear my cross at home so that you can excel. I would think that my role deserves a bit of recognition and respect. Please never…never tell people that I don’t do anything!!!”
By now, the corridors of Martha’s eyes were dotted with specks of tears as she placed the sheet of paper on the table. Okoro walked to her and wrapped her arms around her. “I am sorry, honey. I never meant to put you down.” “I know you did not mean to put me down, but you never really took time to appreciate what I do at home…what I go through for us!!! If you did, you would not have spoken like that in the first place.” “You are right. I never did. I guess I felt that was what mothers did, so I never really gained a deeper and honest appreciation of it, and for that I am very sorry. Please forgive me.” “It is okay!!! I just need you to support me at home…to appreciate what I do. After all, you and I are a team.” “I will from now on,” Okoro promised.
A few weeks later, Okoro returned from work and made an announcement. “I have made a weekend long reservation for you at Hotel Presidential, honey!!!” “Just for me or for all of us?” Martha asked. “Just for you sweetheart. I want you to take a break. Get massaged all weekend, get in the pool, sit by the pool and just unwind. You can have your friends over too. Everything is covered my love.” “But what of the kids? And you? How are you all going to feed?” She asked with a look of concern on her face. “Don’t worry about us. I will be home all week to take care of things with the house help.” “Are you sure? You have not done any chores in a long while. What am I saying? I should not even consider this. I am staying home. I can’t do this. I need to be here for you and the children.” “No, you are not!!! You are going to take a break,” Okoro insisted. “Go mom…take a break,” Okoro Jr. shouted. “Take me with you mom,” Chidimma added. “No Dimma, you will spend a wonderful weekend with daddy. We’ll go to the zoo!” Okoro lobbied for Chidimma’s support. “The zoo? Yea!!!” She shouted.
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