The motherhood chronicles: “Don’t be quick to judge”

Most mothers will be familiar with this, “judging a mother or father consciously or unconsciously before you became infected by the parenthood bug.” When I take a look at myself now compared to the era of BK ( Before kids), I see a significant change in my perception to life and I have had to let go of certain habits to be a better mum and person.

Before………….

In the BK era, I couldn’t stand seeing disgusting things like people spitting, soiled washrooms and any disgusting image you can imagine. Almost everyone cannot stand these sights but mine was on a different level. The mere sight of any disgusting thing meant I had to brush my teeth or rinse my mouth plus psychologically get my mind to erase the picture. That would take hours before even daring to touch anything or eat. I could even stay hungry till the brainwash process was complete. I used to say that whenever I had a kid, I would hire someone to do that job (changing of diapers) for me. That was how bad it was.

After……….

You should see me now. Those things still disgust me though. People should be sanctioned for indiscriminate spitting, that really gets on my nerves. I remember the first stinky poop after the meconium (black sticky poop), I was about eating some red red (fried ripe plantain with beans stew) and had to change her diaper. I was torn between eating first (satisfying my selfish self) or changing her diaper (satisfying her at the risk of losing my appetite).  Was that even an option? We brought them into this world when they were sitting their somewhere (direct translation from twi). It  also actually looked similar to the beans stew. The BK me would have let the food pass but I went straight to chowing (eating) after changing her diaper and washing my hands.

You know the bible verse: Matthew 7:1 ‘Judge not that you be not judged.’ I used to wonder how people handled their phones to end up with scratches and looking like the cat had a scratch fight with it. I considered them careless because I could really keep a phone and it would still look almost new. Apologies to anyone I misjudged. You should see my phone in the AK era, the phone is really suffering. In fact if you find a phone with no cracks in my house then it’s probably brand new and yet to go through the initiation rites. Little boss lady drops it in water (don’t know what scientific hypothesis she wants to test) and throws it away in a fit of tantrum like she has been hired by the manufacturer to test its strength and durability.

I used to wonder what could make families consistently late to church. My idealist mind just couldn’t decipher this. I get it now. I am usually late to church about 10 to 30 minutes. One time we got to church and mass had almost ended, we just drove through the church and went back home. You wake up early though, but getting a kid ready for work or school is a difficult task. Imagine packing up for a 2 to 3 days trip, yup…..now that’s similar to packing your kids stuff just for a few hours away from home. I try packing a day before but the funny thing that still beats my mind is that I still end up spending the same time. Your CHILD might also keep you awake all night and you would end up waking up late to church. As for alarms forget it! Sometimes if it wasn’t for the snooze I would have concluded that my alarm was faulty. I probably need one of those slapping alarm devices to wake me up.

The BK me had time to go shopping for clothes or shoes for occasions but now even managing to look good is a luxury. Not forgetting getting to the office or church with food or dirt stains. Wig caps and crochet braids are now my best hair pals. No long Rasta things. Oh and before I forget, am still wearing old clothes and I keep lying to myself that a wardrobe change was needed about 2 years ago. I still tell myself this and never act on it. I however manage to miraculously make time to shop for my kids. 🙂

I like things to be perfect but I realised in the kingdom of children you should let your guard down, have fun and be perfectly imperfect.

OMT

Through all this, I have learnt not to prematurely form conclusions and judge others (not only parents) if I haven’t yet taken a step in their shoes.

What’s your story? What habits have you had to change for your kids sake? We would love to hear from you.

Also check out our post on Daily Struggles of a Mother: My Top 5 on the hubpages!

Ibrahim, the self-taught artist

I came across Ibrahim on LinkedIn when he dropped a message in my inbox advertising his works and inquiring if I was interested in acquiring some of his pieces for my home or office. I decided to inquire further about his works and requested for his brochure. Although am yet to get one I felt, why not share his story with others?

Here is a short piece of the interview I had with him mainly through email interactions.

Why art?

Art, because for me it’s the only thing on earth as old as man that doesn’t discriminate or judge, and I believe with it I can make a difference.

What drives you?

First and foremost God and secondly, my doubters.

God, because I see everything He has created as a piece of art from which I derive my inspirations from.
When I say I have a lot of doubters to prove wrong, I mean it in a positive sense. Not everyone will believe in what you do. In the past I’ve had people say I will not get anywhere with my art career and because of that I never gave up. It was this desire to prove them wrong that has helped me to come this far.

” Everyone has what it takes to paint the world just as an artist paints on his canvas.”

Ibrahim

What are the challenges you encountered and how did you manage to overcome them?

As a self-taught artist, raising money for art supplies was my greatest challenge and in the past, I have always neglected my love for art in search of jobs in factories. These experiences have had both positive and negative impact on my art career.

The talent has always been there but nurturing it required a lot of dedication. After my secondary education at O’Reilly senior high I wanted to learn how to paint since what I was taught was mostly theoretical. Unfortunately, the artist who was to teach me told me an artist I know had informed him to turn me down whenever I came over. It was a surprise to me since I had not discussed these plans with any other person. Irrespective of this, he was still ready to take me on but I didn’t return as I felt discouraged. It was at this point that I decided to learn on my own by practicing.

I was able to finally raise money for my art supplies by doing pencil portraits for friends online via Facebook.

How do you use your art for charitable purposes?

I live in a rural area in the central region of Ghana, where I see lots of children of school going age that due to no fault of theirs don’t have formal education. So what I do is to bring them together to teach them how to draw and paint. I use part of the money I get from my art sales to buy art supplies for them.

I believe working with children is like planting a seed.

Artist for Humanity_kids sample

Art piece completed by one of the kid’s under his tutelage

Word of advice or motivation

” Everyone has what it takes to paint the world just as an artist paints on his canvas.” It means that everything in life is beautiful depending on who is looking at it.

 

Samples of his artwork

art 1art 2art 3art 4art 5

 He currently has two kids under this tutelage and his paintings cost between GHS500 to GHS5,000. If you are interested in purchasing any or supporting any of the kids you can contact him directly through a phone call or email.

Contact details

Phone number:  +233 547 115 079
Email: myartmirrorkoncept@gmail.com

 

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/artistsforhumanityint/

Maternity leave in Ghana (#6monthsmaternityleave)

I had this topic saved as a draft as far back as 10 October 2015 but never got around to completing it.The motivation to finally sit down to get it completed was after I saw an online petition requesting parliament’s approval for 6 months maternity leave. Just in case you are not aware yet, kindly check out the link to the petition and don’t forget to share. The greater the number of people talking about this, the better.

Days after seeing this petition circulating on social media, I received a call from a friend asking if it was true that parliament had finally approved the 6 months period of leave. Thoughts running through my mind were, if this turns out to be true would it have a prospective or retrospective effect? Would employers buy into this extension? I quickly googled and checked with my HR but sadly that was not the case. My excitement quickly died down, I was really looking forward to an extension as I am currently on maternity leave and coming to the less shocking realisation that the 3 months period is just too short!!

So I decided to do a brief write-up on this and possibly suggest some potential win-win alternatives.

What is maternity leave?

Maternity leave according to the Oxford dictionary, is defined as a period of absence from work granted to a mother prior to and post childbirth.

The hustle with planning one’s leave can be likened to balancing a scale where weights on either sides are uneven. You wish for rest for your exhausted self prior to delivery but that also eats into your already insufficient 3 months (12 weeks). There are situations where ladies go into labour at work…….no worries they always drive to and from work with their hospital bag in the boot,so just like the boys’ scouts and girl guides, they are always prepared!

Why is maternity leave considered essential?

Paid parental leave (this includes paternity leave which some companies have started granting to fathers) based on research can have substantial positive effects on both the mother and child.

It gives the mother some time to readjust plus allow parents some time to bond with the baby. The most important is to give the baby the opportunity to be exclusively breastfed for 6 months.

We currently have day care centres that enroll kids as early as 3 months so the argument would be why not just pack some milk and bundle the little one to daycare. That should be easy! It’s not that easy breezy, pumping of breast milk is no small task and not all working mothers are endowed with abundant milk supply like others and the hours spent at work with no place to extract milk might eventually deplete the already scanty baby chopbox. Our 6 months exclusivity KPI then goes down the drain!

What research reveals……………….

In a study by Chatterji and Markowitz (2012) on the impact of family leave after birth on the maternal health, it was concluded that having more than 8 or 12 weeks of maternity leave resulted in a lower likelihood of depression occurring and improves the maternal health with a positive impact on the child’s health and well-being.

According to the study, there is however limited research on the impact of paternity leave on the health of the mother and the baby.

My wish is for more research to be conducted on the impact of paternity leave on the family. Should you find any relevant article kindly do share with me (omtsdigest@gmail.com).

What the Labour act states

According to the Ghana Labour Act 2003 (Act 651) the following are entitlements of nursing mothers:

  • At least 12 weeks of maternity paid leave after which annual leave days could be added;
  • Additional 2 weeks for abnormal (eg. Is birth via c-section) confinements or multiple births;
  • Any other medical reasons attested to by a medical practitioner resulting from the confinement;
  • An hour a day to nurse the baby.

Note the underlined and boldened text. The Act states a minimum of 12 weeks paid, there is however no limitation on an employer to make this their maximum as is mostly the case. Employers can change the status quo without waiting on parliament’s approval especially if their values includes work-life balance and maximising contributions of women in the work place.

Views on maternity leave

The Ghana Medical Association (GMA) has been advocating for some time now on the below:

  • extension of maternity leave from the current 3 months to 6 months to encourage working mothers to exclusively breastfeed for the 6 months period
  • mandatory nurseries set up in both public and private institutions

It is the view that although this would be costly to the employer, in terms of the overall impact employers should see the benefits from the long-term perspective in terms of human resource development (ie. Allowing mothers time to effectively raise well-trained and healthy children who would be the future workforce of the country) (Awadzi, 2013).

Others view maternity leave as a form of discrimination. What is their argument? They are of the opinion that having a child is a personal decision and  an employer is not obligated to pay you for charting this course.

What can I say? Sadly I have come to the realisation that one cannot have it all. You either excel at work at the expense of your family and vice versa. A colleague once confided in me on how devastated she felt when she did not get promoted. Mind you, this is a very hardworking person but due to her absence from being on maternity leave, she lost out. But as I always tell my friends, its your choice on whether you prefer work or family to suffer.

Examples from other countries

 Maternity leave days range from as low as 12 weeks to as high as 420 days. Will not delve into details but if you have the time, you can access details on maternity leave by countries from the International Labour Organisation’s website.

My views

 

I am strongly for 6 months of paid maternity leave, which mother would not want this? In as much as we would wish for this the best option would be to reach a common ground where employers do not feel it’s a cost to pay an employee on maternity leave for 6  months. Granting this might in the long-term result in discrimination towards ladies in the workplace and especially in the quest to search for a job.

Based on the above, I would suggest the following:

  • How about an employee setting the pace in Ghana by granting 6 months paid leave, after all the 3 months is just the minimum so why go low when you can go high?
  • Employers could have options available to enable an employee to decide bearing in mind the minimum 3 months period. Examples could be 3 months (full salary) + next 3 months (50% or whatever percentage is agreed on), 3 months (full salary) + 3 months (full salary to work from home) this is dependent on the nature of the work
  • Incorporating flexible working hours for nursing mothers
  • Maintain the minimum 3 months and set up a nursery within the vicinity of the workplace, with payments to be deducted from source. This would enable mothers have the peace of mind and also succeed with exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months. Before this option is punched down because of costs, the other alternative would be to partner with a day care close to the workplace (employer can even negotiate a discount).

What are your thoughts and experiences? What are other companies doing that others could emulate or learn from?

Just in case you forgot to sign the petition with the link I provided earlier. No need to scroll up, you can access it: change.org (petition for maternity leave in Ghana to be extended to 6 months)

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Further reading
Anon., n.d. Section – 57 – Maternity, Annual and Sick Leave.. [Online]
Available at: http://laws.ghanalegal.com/acts/id/162/section/57/Maternity,_Annual_And_Sick_Leave
[Accessed 16 April 2017].
Awadzi, H., 2013. Six months maternity leave is a must. [Online]
Available at: https://www.ghanabusinessnews.com/2013/07/15/six-months-maternity-leave-is-a-must/
[Accessed 23 March 2017].
Chatterji, P. & Markowitz, S., 2012. Family Leave After Childbirth and the Mental Health of New Mothers. The Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics, Volume 15, pp. 61-76.
Oxford University Press, 2017. Definition of maternity leave in English. [Online]
Available at: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/maternity_leave
[Accessed 18 March 2017].
Women&&Tech, 2017. Paid maternity leave. [Online]
Available at: http://womenandtech.com/infographic-paid-maternity-leave/
[Accessed 17 April 2017].

 

The shattered joy of parenthood

This short piece is specially dedicated to all parents who have either lost their kids at a young age or the expectant parents who did not get the opportunity to meet their precious angels. May God continue to grant you strength and may the beautiful and precious souls of these little angels rest in perfect piece.

I WONDER

Sometimes I sit in deep thoughts and wonder, what would have been the best;

For you to have never given me any hope of your possible existence, my dearest.

Or the thought of knowing that although you left too early,  I was blessed with the opportunity of knowing how it feels to be a mother,

It hurts that I never experienced the opportunity to know how you were going to be a sweet bother,

For you to grow within and feel your kicks as the days go by,

Only for you to leave without a proper goodbye;

At least I caught a glimpse of you, but would have loved to touch and cradle you for a little longer,

Sometimes I try to picture how you would look growing up but since you are gone, does it really matter?

Sometimes I feel sorry and saddened especially for those who left too early in the developmental stage,

How could their parents even create beautiful memories to fill their minds pages;

What of those who bonded well but got devastated as you spent a shorter time with them on earth,

That could potentially stop a mothers’ breath,

No amount of words, what ifs or had I known would bring you back,

How I wish I got the opportunity to hold you more and spend time with you,

But I hear it’s best this way because if we had bonded, it would have been difficult to easily let go of you,

Sometimes I wonder which is best: to have spent a short time with you on earth after the long nine months or to have you leave without completing your full sentence of nine-months.

However, am grateful you left. 

Because of you I started a journey of positive self discovery,

I discovered talents I never knew existed,

I discovered an inner strength that I knew not of,

I began to reset my priorities,

I became a motivation and mentor for other mothers,

I discovered new passions,

Your absence brought us closer and forged an unbreakable bond,

And most importantly I knew God hadn’t failed me yet, he needed to reposition us on the correct path before blessing us with another,

MOST IMPORTANTLY!!!

Value what you have and make time for the things you value. You never know when it will be too late to go back.

Piece is inspired by Jordan and Jayden who never experienced life on earth and Jesse who lived for a short while. You are eternally etched in our memories. Lots of love from mom, dad and Janessa.

FOREVER GRATEFUL TO GOD!

Homework or Stresswork?

 

What was one thing you detested in your primary school days?

For me, it was the thought of having multiple homeworks to complete at home and worst was when each teacher expected us to submit  ALL the assignments the very next day! If you are reading this post am completely sure you had your own ingenious ways of getting your homework done. I realised no teacher was perturbed by all our groans and moans about the number of assignments already given by other teachers, who also expected us to complete and submit the next day.

What did you do in your primary school days to prevent those painful lashes from your failure to complete your home assignments?

I used to start the assignments in class and pray that a teacher misses his or her teaching period to enable the class complete their home assignments, of course with peer collaboration. It was really important especially if you are a slow learner and still yet to get a total grasp of the topic that was just taught in class and for which you are magically expected to understand with the expectation of completing an assignment and even submitting the next day.

My school required, a parent’s signature underneath the completed assignment or that was an automatic zero for you. I guess that was to ensure that parents had inputs in guiding their kids with their homework. I used to estimate the number of pages needed to complete the assignment if I mistakenly forgot about it, then make my mother sign with the promise I would complete it before the start of lessons for the day. My dad was certainly out of the question, he won’t be an accessory to “homework crime”.

I had a colleague who was also gifted with the skill of generating different dissimilar signatures. For those of us who genuinely forgot to complete our assignments, we would just complete them first thing in the morning in class and line our books up for her to sign. I guess no teacher found out.

Recently, a friend who is a bank worker with 3 kids told me of how tired she gets after work each day and the constant challenge of getting the kids to do their homework has resulted in she completing the assignments for them. She uses her left-hand because she is right-handed and intentionally answers some questions wrongly to make the assignment more believable to have been completed by a 4 or 5 year old. Another colleague also told me of how she had to wake up her 5 year old son up at 11pm just to get him to complete his homework.

One in six parents do all their kids homework.

Jasper Copping (The Telegraph, UK)

Is it all worth it? What is the essence of these homeworks and are they being achieved especially with both parents working full-time jobs? Are kids supposed to be blamed for their parent’s inability to get the time to guide them? These are the questions running through my mind now and am 100% sure most parents especially of very young kids have been grumbling about this for a while. Don’t get me wrong, am not against homeworks am just against how it is administered and the sort of limited time gien which I believe is a big deterrent to achieving its good purpose.

Why are homeworks given to kids?

According to Goldstein and Zentall on “The importance of homework in your child’s education”, the six purposes of homeworks are: 1) opportunity for kids to practice what has been taught in class, 2) opportunity to participate in learning tasks to improve their academic skills ie. reading, writing, spelling etc, 3) develop a child’s personal skills such as time management, 4) improve on parent-child relationship, 5) provide parent’s with insight into what their kids are studying at school and finally 6) assisting the school with achieving their goals to improve students’ achievement.

Homework is obviously very key not just for the child but also for the parents.

A quarter of those taking part in the survey said they considered the tasks their children were sent home with were too hard, while nearly two thirds admitted there have been times when they were unable to help because it was too taxing.

Jasper Copping (The Telegraph, UK)

In a 2007 research by Centre for Public Education in Edvantia, on the value of homework, very important results which are particularly useful for all parties involved revealed the following:

  • Homework provides more academic benefits to older students that to younger ones. The essence for young kids is not the number but the structure of the assignment. Just one assignment could be more beneficial than having multiples which might eventually stress the child out.
  • The essence of homework is defeated especially for kids from low-income backgrounds. Imagine parents who have little or no education, how are they expected to guide their kids? Answer might be to hire a study teacher but will they be able to afford it? What if they don’t have educated older siblings to assist?
  • Homeworks are also beneficial for kids with learning disabilities. Extra support and practice is needed to improve their academic skills.
  • They help prepare students prepare in advance for lessons yet to be taught in class.

Problems/ Challenges

Researchers from Stanford run a survey in 2014 on 4,317 students from high-performing schools in the upper-middle class and concluded on the following with regards to the impact of too much homework on students: it resulted in greater stress, poor health associated with sleep deprivations and reduction in time spent with family and friends and on extra curricular activities which are equally important for their development.

Personally, the question is how much homework is enough? What can be done to ensure that maximum benefits is achieved from homeworks?

Conclusion

We could go on and on debating on the positive and negative impacts of homeworks on kids. In my opinion, there is no blanket answer to all this but key to this is to consider the context and environment before reaching an effective solution.

In Ghana, due to the current economic conditions most couples find themselves employed in full time jobs and have to rely on home tutors, grandparents, older siblings, nannies etc to assist with their kids. On a typical day, a child has to wake up as early 4am or 5am depending on the traffic situation just for their parents to be able to beat traffic and also report to work in time at 8am. I don’t know what time school closes these days but let’s assume because of traffic and distance, child gets home around 7pm. They have to get some rest, eat supper, get their homework done and prepare for school the next day. Kids these days are operating on the same time schedule as their parents. Why won’t they be stressed?

Kids these days are operating on the same time schedule as their parents. Why won’t they be stressed?

OMT

In my opinion to be able to reap maximum benefits, I would proffer the below suggestions and hopefully the education experts can delve deeper and come out with solutions especially for the ghanaian educational system which already has its own issues:

Schools Should have a homework policy with time-tables made available to parents in advance for ease of planning. The ability of schools to have a schedule and shared with parents ahead of the school term might not totally solve the problem but would also be equally useful. Parents and guardians can plan ahead and also get the opportunity to make time for their kids.

Parents can also research on topics they have no knowledge of ahead of time to be adequately armed with information to guide their kids to get their homework done and not end up being tutored by their kids. It is the responsibility of the parents to differentiate between assisting and spoonfeeding a child to get his or her homework done.

Schools should be able to design individualised homeworks for each student and these should not form more than 10% of the child’s continuous assessment……..just my thoughts…………. Homeworks should ideally be a guide for the parents and teachers to know the kid’s strengths and weaknesses to be able to decide whether extra hours of tutoring is needed or special attention is needed. The argument is the current overloaded ghanaian syllabus would not permit this, but this would be a good opportunity to consider revising the syllabus to be more specific to encourage more outside the box thinking rather than the status quo of being rewarded for high marks which just encourages “chew, pour, pass and forget”.

Lastly less homework should be given to younger kids especially when the period to turn it over is short. I heard of a school that gives homework to kids and they are given a week for submission, won’t that be great if most schools adopted this practice?

The important point to note is that the child’s academic and personal development is not the sole responsibility of the educational system but parents are also equally to blame should anything go wrong.

Share your thoughts on how this current practice of overloading kids with assignments can be improved. What’s your opinion on homeworks given to young kids?

First published: 11 October 2016