Our Community of Pious Mothers is Ada Agina-Ude’s introspective look at the enablers and consequences of after- Christmas teenage pregnancies.
Ada Agina-Ude is one of Nigeria’s most respected rights activists with numerous footprints in multimedia advocacy of gender rights in her country.
At last Christmas is here, and before we realise it, the festive season will be over, along with the frenzy that comes with it. Shortly, children will go back to school, and their inevitable demands will be, for many parents, the ultimate reminder that indeed, the holiday is over.
The first lady of a South Eastern State recently called out mothers over the rising incidents of girls dropping out of school because of unwanted pregnancies which come on the heels of the Christmas and New Year celebrations.
However, there are some things about Christmas that are not so easily forgotten, because the Yuletide can bring lasting memories, and sometimes, life changing experiences. For those who are affected by the latter, it could take more than a little while for normalcy to fully return in their lives.
But with or without any happenstance, the season is known to possess a certain magical air that seems to linger after the celebrations are over. If there is no sad event to dampen the spirit, the distinct euphoria takes a little bit of time to fade away, especially among the younger generations.
Indeed, there is so much anecdotal evidence that children actually wish that Christmas came more often and lasted longer, but for most adults, the end of the festive season is essentially the beginning of a new yearly cycle. Firstly, it is an appropriate time to count the cost of living, Secondly, it is the time when people who practise the annual ritual of New Year resolutions begin to make them. For some others, it is time to draw up a financial plan for the year and especially for surviving the proverbial extra days in the month of January.
The first month of the year may seem unusually long depending on the extent of one’s indulgence and spending during the festivities. With the majority of people, and in particular persons on a monthly income, being broke at the beginning of the year is as normal as waking up in the morning. However, as bad as it may be, lack of money is not the worst possible problem to deal with, after Christmas in Nigeria.
In recent years, the activities of assassins, kidnappers and unknown gunmen seem to escalate around the festive period, and anyone who has lost a loved one in their hands would envy the relative peace of mind seemingly enjoyed by persons whose only problem is an empty purse. It’s common knowledge that the risk of being shot at, or being suddenly bereaved during the holiday season, gets higher every year, especially as our once peaceful and serene villages, which used to be the place to rest and unwind, are no longer safe.
While the issue of security cannot be over emphasised, there are other afflictions which could turn the sweetness of the holiday season into a bitter pill. One of such situations recently caught the attention of a Governor’s wife.
The first lady of a South Eastern State recently called out mothers over the rising incidents of girls dropping out of school because of unwanted pregnancies which come on the heels of the Christmas and New Year celebrations. Apparently, the pregnancies are the handiwork of returnees from foreign countries. These lover boys go back to their foreign bases after the festivities, leaving behind them several broken hearts and shattered dreams. Usually, mothers are complicit in this hit and run game.
Ambitious mothers tend to see the mass return of eligible young men at Christmas, as an opening for the realisation of their dreams of befitting husbands for their daughters, and possibly, influential in-laws for themselves. Often, by their actions or negligence, they drive their daughters into the embrace of heartless holiday makers who have no plans for marriage or any form of commitment, but do not mind taking advantage of the girls anyway. A lot of the guys come home just to have fun, flaunt their material acquisitions, and without qualms, take whatever bonus that comes their way.
Given the wide range of calamities that can befall any Nigerian family these days, an unwanted pregnancy may seem a lesser evil, but it is no less agonising for those affected because it is an affliction which attracts little or no sympathy. Whereas families that have been visited by the marauding agents of death receive condolences, the families of girls carrying the seeds of runaway lovers only get the cold shoulder, even from those who are expected to empathise with them. They therefore just lick their wounds privately and quietly.
The holier than thou attitude of friends and relatives to the unfortunate girls and their parents highlights the so called eleventh commandment: ‘Thou shalt not be found out’, which means that the only sin that matters is the one that shows. Ironically, the worst critics in this situation are other mothers whose daughters have also been scammed but luckily for them, without any pregnancy to expose their folly.
It’s an open secret that a good number of mothers are usually in competition to catch Diasporeans as sons-in-law. The contest is usually so fierce that mothers who wrongfully thought that their rivals had won, hardly disguise their gloating over what eventually turns out to be the Pyrric victory of their competitors.
Moreover, there is an unwritten rule among the community of pious mothers that anyone among them who soils their image by being involved, directly or indirectly, with any form of scandal, must be ostracised and stigmatised. It doesn’t matter that they had all equally pushed their daughters one way or another, into the arms of the so called “husband materials,” but the girl who is with child and no husband, is the one adjudged to be morally lose.
Practically no one seems to care that the girl is a victim of the society which still believes that marriage is the most important achievement for a girl. In the end, when a mother’s efforts at match making fails, it can leave her daughter broken in more ways than one. An unwanted pregnancy may translate into the end of her schooling or at best, an unnecessary interruption to it. She may, in a cruel irony of fate, remain unmarried, unloved and unloving ever after, or for a considerable length of time.
The Governor’s wife who penned her concern to women’s groups did so based the influence mothers on the life choices of their children. A mother who encourages her daughter to prioritize catching a husband over other achievements could inadvertently be setting the girl up for unwanted pregnancy and its sour consequences.
Many women don’t hide their desires for wealthy inlaws and cute grandchildren to dote on. They can go to any length to make their dreams come true, not minding that something could go irredeemably wrong. A mother who eggs on her daughter into an unwanted pregnancy or loveless marriage, may have unknowingly eaten the Biblical sour grapes which would eventually set her child’s teeth on edge.
Obviously, a girl cannot get pregnant by remote control, but her mother can create for her, through misguided action or ibaction, what may turn out to be a literally a mine field.
Societal expectations may not be the only underlying reason for some mothers’ excessive interference in their children’s lives. It may come from a wrong sense of entitlement, or a need to vicariously enjoy through them, the excitement or sense of fulfilment that may be lacking in her own life.
It’s also a truism that one of the joys of motherhood is to see one’s daughter married and settled happily in her own home, also giving her grandchildren to dote on, but when such expectations are obsessive they may become disastrous.
In any case, whatever are the root causes of the disturbing trend, the States affected by need to go beyond admonitions. They need to set up committees to thoroughly investigate the problem and make necessary recommendations on how to address it. The committee’s report can also be a basis for including the issue on the agenda for subsequent
Women’s August Meetings.