DON’T SAY IT!

Mimi, Efua and Omo have a chance meeting at an eatery where Mimi stopped by to pick up a takeaway pack for her hairdresser who would be rendering “home service”.  Just as she is catching up with Efua who just flew in from Ghana, she excitedly picks a call. “Oops it’s mum!”, she exclaims. Her two friends watch on in silence as she lapses into an exhilarating conversation interspersed with short bursts of laughter. As she concludes the call, Omo asks in a curious tone “En…en Mimi, but you lost your mum a couple of years back. Who is this that was tickling your fancy. Girl, you really must like the person because it was obvious”.

Mimi responds with a smile on her lips – “My mother like no other! She is first and foremost my mother before Desmond’s. (By the way Efua, Desmond is my significant other)”. She continues “We get along so well, in fact, even better than I did with my late mother. She is such a lovely spirit; she treats me as her very own daughter. She even has a pet name for me – Nneoma, which in her dialect means Good/Beautiful mother. That is not to say we do not have our differences but she handles them with mature understanding and we move above them. I could go on and on about her but …let’s get back to our previous discussion…what’s up with you Efua? It’s been ages?”

Efua responds “Things are going great in Ghana, but I am back to inform my family here about my upcoming wedding in Ghana. I only hope my mother-in-law-to-be is as nice to me and bonds with me as yours does. I really have heard too many unnerving stories about mothers-in-law and have been dreading any confrontation. So far, she seems fine though”.

Mimi counsels – “Let me start by summarising Marriage Counselling 101 into 2 principles:

  1. Never refer to your spouse’s mother as Mother-in-law. Don’t say it! Don’t even think it! Instead, refer to her as Mother or evolve a pet name for her. That way she starts to envision you as her daughter, not her son’s wife, or a strange lady he brought home.
  2. See your relationship as a symbiotic relationship between mother and daughter. Treat her like your biological mother extending love to her”.

She continues – “You know, shortly before my marriage, mum (my mother-in-law) told me something I have since held on to. She interpreted her understanding of a mother-in-law role to me and this is a summary of what she said”.

“A Mother-in-law is bound by rules and regulations to act as a MOTHER. She is a mother by virtue of Law and acquires all the rights, duties and responsibilities of a mother. She acquires a daughter or son through the marriage of her child and is duty-bound to treat the acquired child as a biological child. She is accountable to God regarding this huge responsibility and it will be unfortunate if she fails”.

Omo reacts with a spontaneous – “Wow, that is profound! No wonder you guys are having a swell time together as mother and daughter. I wish most women would understand the relationship the way she envisages it. It would make things a lot easier for wives and intending brides”.

Efua caps the discourse with a parting advice – “True, ladies. We must not forget that we all desire to see our children married someday and automatically assume the role of mothers to their spouses as well. May the Lord help us to discover the beauty in each other”.

Havilah is of the opinion that the views and admonition expressed herein are indeed germane to the theme of engendering healthy relationships among women.

Love

Havilah

SENIORS AND “THE OTHER ROOM”.

Four friends in their sixties usually schedule a day each week to have a Ladies’ day out for the purpose of de-stressing and catching up. Today, Prinye, Eno, Hauwa and Bimbo have decided to sample the services of the newly opened spa at the shopping mall close to them. As they approach the entrance to the mall, Prinye exclaims pointing excitedly “Oh my gosh…that is the store with the latest sex toys in town. I’ve read rave reviews about them! I need to check them out to pick up some new toys for myself and Diete (my husband)”.

The other ladies gasp and Bimbo is the first to find her voice. She exclaims in shock – “ Wait a minute Prinye, you can’t be serious. What would you be doing with sex toys at our age? Surely the desire for sex has waned with menopause”.

“No way”, Eno quickly responds. She then continues – “ Libido or sex drive has very little to do with age or menopause. It has a lot more to do with the individual make – up and dynamics. Both Femi and I are still very sexually active. Now that I have fewer distractions, we spend a lot more time together and invariably, I enjoy our lovemaking”. She then throws a banter at Bimbo – “Sweetheart, it’s time to find a companion to keep you warm in old age, afterall, Rex passed on a while ago and the children are all grown up now”.

Hauwa in her quiet voice clears her throat and declares – “Sisters since we are discussing this topic, it is one on which I  need advice. In recent times there has been a decline in sexual activity between Buba and myself, both in terms of frequency and quality. We are both enthusiastic about sex but I observe he tends to ejaculate prematurely. It’s like I am gearing up for the climax and suddenly it is over. I have often been tempted to complete the process by masturbating but don’t just feel good about it. We’ve run medical tests, and tried counseling but… it’s always over for him before it started for me”.

Prinye responds “Trust me, our sexual health is an important part of aging gracefully. Bimbo dear, I don’t believe the myth that the sex drive declines as a result of menopause. Undoubtedly, some physiological changes occur but these can be managed clinically with medication and exercise. That shouldn’t affect how you feel about your partner and a healthy sex appetite can still be maintained. I observe that sex toys add a certain novelty and excitement to the act and help with the stimulation of the organs. This is more so when both partners use them together”.

Hauwa exclaims “ Sounds like a possible solution to my problem with Buba, Prinye, which ones do you recommend?”

Prinye advises that Hauwa seek the services of a Sex Therapist in conjunction with Buba, for professional advice in handling their challenges and for possible consultation on sex toys if and when advised. She insists that Sexual dissatisfaction in marriage can precipitate disloyalty/unfaithfulness in marriage and could culminate in a direct or indirect reason for divorce.

Bimbo ends the conversation with the last word – “My tuppence contribution to this topic is this. Is there a distinction between masturbation and the use of sex toys? I think not. If the answer is no, then I feel morally and spiritually uncomfortable with any form of masturbation by whatever name it is called”.

Prinye picks her desired toy in silence and they all move on to a relaxing time at the spa with Hauwa urgently surfing the internet for a credible sex therapist to discuss her sexual issues with.

Havilah: Undoubtedly, sex toys are fast gaining ground in our societies and are no longer discussed in hushed tones. The questions begging for answers are:

Can the use of sex toys be considered a panacea or a placebo for libido issues?  

Is the use of Sex toys tantamount to Masturbation?

What views are expressed by the major religions on this?

Your feedback will be much appreciated.

P.S. The term – “the Other room” is borrowed from the vocabulary of the Head of State of a prominent nation in Africa, who upon interrogation regarding the role of his wife in the scheme of things, relegated her role to the kitchen and suggestively, “the other room”.

Love

Havilah

IT’S ABOUT GRACE!

Without the “G” (God) in Grace, life becomes a mere race!

Toru dashes in to see her mother – Emi, earphones in place. She navigates her zoom meeting as she quickly hands over mom’s prescription drugs to her. She is on her way to pick up the twins from school and as mum tries to recount her experience for the day, she responds with a sharp “not now mom. We will catch up when I come over on Saturday”. With that Toru sails out the door and contemplates the fastest route to the twins’ school to avoid traffic.

Come Saturday, Emi eagerly awaits the visit of her only daughter – Toru and prepares Onunu, the favorite meal of the twins. After a hearty lunch, the children run off to play with the neighbour’s children while mother and daughter settle down to their usual weekly tete-a-tete.

Toru begins “Mom, you look exquisite. So natural, fresh and relaxed. Was it not for your strands of grey hair you could easily pass for my elder sister? In fact, my friends are always teasing me and commending your looks. The stress of the times just doesn’t seem to leave its mark on you, meanwhile, I remember when we were growing up, you were always so busy with the shop, I determined never to grow up running a shop. It just seemed so stressful”.

Emi responds “Baby girl, the years between 20 and 50 constitute the “Hustle phase of life”. You feel you must make it or break it especially as you look forward to a stable life by age 50. At the same time as you are building a career/ business, you are juggling home, and investing for the future, while keeping up with the Joneses. Life is a whirlwind at that phase. Believe me, when I say, I can identify with you.”

She continues: “However, given that the average life expectancy is 70-80 years, the phase between the ages of 50 and 80 should be spent in quiet repose enjoying the simple things of life. The tranquility and serenity with which you face life at this point emanates from within and exudes a radiance that gives a youthful glow to the skin. This, my dear daughter, is what can be referred to as graceful aging”.

Toru too responds “Mom…mom and her rhetoric. “I guess the real question is – what do you need to do to achieve graceful aging”?

Emi looks at her daughter and says “Grace enables you to focus on three things which help you achieve tranquility and serenity. What is Grace? G-R-A-C-E. The race of life must have God (G) in the forefront, to achieve success and ease the race. Grace can therefore be achieved by taking the following steps:

  • Godliness. Devote your time, service, talents and substance to God. Give back to him that which he has blessed you with and Grace shall be multiplied. Walk in obedience to him and live above anger, hatred, envy, bitterness, covetousness and the like. Keep your heart clean and pure.
  • Rejuvenation: Spend quality time on things that renew and reinvigorate your body. Eat healthily. Exercise, spend time on recreation and do things that put a smile on your face and fill you with joy. Leave past accomplishments and mistakes in the past where they belong and enjoy the simple things of life. Be content with your current state. Remember, the saying – Godliness with Contentment is great gain.
  • Community Service: Give back to society. Impact lives with your talents, and your resources, positively touch lives as inspired by God and do things to and for people that you will be remembered for e.g., kindness, showing love, meeting some needs, etc.

Lastly, dear, my mantra comes from the words of the songwriter, Horatius Bonnar and I quote “…Thus would we pass from the earth and its toiling; Only remembered by what we have done…”.

Never forget that all we have talked about can be summarised as God’s grace being primarily responsible for the external features of peace, calm and serenity which results in the look of wellness that you see. May his grace always be sufficient for us.

Love

Havilah

NUPTIAL ECONOMICS – HOW IT PLAYS OUT

Doyin walks into the home of the Thomas’s to hear the tail end of a marital row between her childhood friend Millie and her husband Osaro. Osaro is yelling “I will damn well do what I want with my money, after all…I work for it”! Millie and Doyin were scheduled to visit a mutual friend Vero and Doyin had stopped by to pick her up. She manages to calm both parties and suggests calmly to Osaro that she take Millie on a drive out to calm the situation, to which Osaro agrees. In the car, Doyin inquires from her friend about the cause of the argument.

Millie explains: “My dear, I am sick and tired of having arguments over the allocation of our finances. Osaro is a spendthrift who squanders resources on irrelevancies” she ranted. “You know, I discovered early into our marriage that he advised we kept separate accounts for selfish reasons. At the time, he earned way more than I did, though the tables have since turned. He would starve us of funds for mundane things like housekeeping, maintenance for the children, school fees, etc. while splurging on irrelevancies like fancy restaurants, parties, exotic foods, cars and the like. I was therefore forced to take the tab for housekeeping, maintenance and school fees. In spite of protests over time, the pattern has not changed and it is so frustrating that every penny I earn goes toward giving the family a decent life. These expenses are on the increase with the double-digit inflation in the country and especially as the children grow older. I do not have any savings or funds to spend on enhancing our environment, acquiring revenue generating assets, etc”. The other day I walked into your foyer and fell in love with your console and mirror arrangement, I cannot replicate it at home, meanwhile, we are on the same salary level at work”.

Doyin responds: “Millie, you should not compare because you don’t know my husband’s pay or if there are other sources of income available to us. Don’t forget that I advised you some years back, that you have a joint account which enables both you and Osaro to contribute a portion of your account to cover the everyday expenses. What we do is have a joint account into which we contribute agreed portions of our salary (80%) and retain the balance (20%) for our peculiar fancies. From the joint account, we handle everyday expenses – Housekeeping, maintenance, fees, bills, etc. We also comingle funds from other sources e.g., bonuses, inheritance, allowances (non-salary income), etc. and use them for capital expenditure. At the beginning of the year, we draw up a list of proposed projects and asset acquisitions for the year and prioritise them. As the funds become available, we implement. It is quite simple once it is pre-agreed. If an emergency comes up, we address it and go back to our list after”.

As they walk into Vero’s home deep in the conversation, Vero listens a while then clears her throat. She volunteers her advice “If I may come in sisters, I agree that financial interdependence should be encouraged in marriages because it facilitates bonding and proper alignment as both parties are carried along in the pattern of expenditure. A joint account allows for ease of financial administration in the event of the death of either party. It serves to check the excesses of either party but it also has its cons, especially where one of the parties is prone to debts and incurring liabilities. I prefer to advise that while maintaining a joint account for expenses to which they have agreed to be mutually responsible, the couple should maintain its individuality by running separate accounts from which they can fuel their idiosyncrasies. For me, I contribute 40% of my salary while Dike does 60% of his. This ratio works for our joint account and takes care of the basic needs of the family, capital expenditure and emergencies among others. That way I get to spend on my vacations, artwork and other things that interest me. Mind you, the ratios are reviewed from time to time based on the dynamics of our income”.

All three agree that the issue of Financial Management is fundamental to sustaining a marriage and is one of the key issues to be resolved by couples prior to marriage. It is one of the top causes of divorce. They further agree that the couple must do the following things:

  1. Align their financial goals and possible timelines where relevant.
  2. Agree on their priorities and set parameters for a review e.g., when their incomes increase or decrease.
  3. Determine how expenditure on items that affect the family, in general, will be handled. E.g., using a Joint account.
  4. Agree as to whether both signatories are required for every withdrawal or whether limits will be set as to what each individual can withdraw.

Millie, makes a mental note to reinvent the wheel by having the necessary discussion on financial management with Osaro but needs advice on how best to approach it. What would you advise?

Love

Havilah

THE ART OF BALANCING

Room B6, Obasa Hall housed four girls who had been newly admitted into the university to pursue their chosen courses. Four young adults from different schools and different backgrounds thrown together into a common pool to navigate their future.

First in the room was Aliya, a pretty, quiet and well-brought-up girl of 18, from a strict Muslim background. Aliya, the last of four children in her family, exuded deep respect for anyone older than her and was very impressionable. She had been a day student throughout her primary and secondary education (High school) and her routine had always been – home-school and back home. She had very few friends as she was not allowed to visit or socialise outside of the family. She was indeed naïve.

Aliya was shortly joined by Chantal. Chantal, on the other hand, had lived all her life on the other side of the divide. A day student as well, she however had experienced unbridled freedom as both her parents spent their time furthering their thriving careers, barely having time for this only child. Instead, she was spoilt with gifts and excessive money. Chantal was therefore left to the whims and caprices of nannies and governesses as a child. A highly intelligent child, Chantal scaled exams and achieved required grades with minimal effort. She was a party freak, ardent clubber and frequent traveler both within the country and without, often without the knowledge of her parents. She was very popular with the opposite sex and could easily win a popularity contest on campus. She was 19 going on 20.

Taba, the third occupant, was 17 and an introvert who enjoyed her own company. She had zero interpersonal skills and could be described as antisocial. She was a nerd who enjoyed the company of her books and music. She saw no need to mix and would barely raise her head or say “Hello” if anyone came into the room. For her, it was the library – laboratory – class and room.

Gbubemi, the same age as Chantal, was the last to join the room. Gbubemi, displayed maturity in handling life issues. She never skipped classes and studied hard but also spent time on sports where she socialised, was a Rotaractor (junior Rotarian) and also attended a few social events like drama, movies and parties. She would often come back to the room to find Taba in her solitary confinement while Chantal and Aliya would be gone to return in the early hours of the morning or sometimes …days later. At the end of the first semester, as they prepared to go home the following conversation ensued.

Aliya: “My grades are so poor…what will I tell my parents? They will kill me! Ah…this has never happened in all my life. In fact, I am dead already” she moaned. “Chantal, you said your grades are OK, how did you manage it?

Chantal: “I don’t know. As you well know, I didn’t do anything differently from you. Maybe my course is just easier”. “Madam bookworm, how did you fare”? she asked, addressing Taba.

Gbubemi cut in: “Chantal please leave Taba alone. You know, I just think we should talk some sense into one another. You know Taba you can’t continue to bury your head in your books and shut yourself to the world outside of you. To be a rounded individual you must hone interpersonal skills and develop relationships. You can’t live as an island.  You must work with people in the future and must learn to interact and relate. It helps the career and even stabilises you. The proverb “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” is so true. Snap out of it, it may even enhance your grades”. As Chantal and Aliyu chuckle at the lecture, Gbubemi turns her antenna on them: “You are the converse. “All play and no work makes Jack a mere toy”. When you live your life like it’s a circus, you get stuck in a rut like you just did Aliya. Don’t follow blindly, rather you must learn to be your own person. Establish your identity. Let people know what you stand for. Dare to be different. Remember that no two persons are the same, even identical twins, and Chantal’s lifestyle may not suit you.

I would also wish to sound a note of encouragement to us all. These are hard financial times for even the wealthiest of parents and we can’t afford to waste our parents’ resources. We must learn to balance our academics with social skills and begin to cultivate financial independence by identifying our strengths and putting them to use in generating income. Let us make room B6 the envy of all our Hall mates”.

Gbubemi noted with satisfaction the look on her roommates faces which signified an alignment with her advice. They each committed to a more balanced lifestyle and introspection as to how to improve their net worth going forward. The next semester saw a reformed B6 with improved cohesion and alignment, better grades and thriving small scale businesses.

A NOTE FROM HAVILAH – It is never too early to teach our children that success in life is predicated on hitting the right balance and financial independence is a fundamental to success.

Love

Havilah