Last week I had a three day stint as a “single mother.” Jeremy went to Lusaka to pick up chickens and since I was busy with a Home Based Care program, I decided to stay in the village. I don’t think I realized how much of a routine Jeremy and I had established together. I watch Bronwyn while Jeremy does ABC, he watches her while I do XYZ. As harried and random as I feel most of the time, it finally occurred to me that we actually have figured a few things out. So Jeremy’s leaving for 3 full days meant that a serious wrench was thrown into my daily functioning! The first night, I called Jeremy and said, “I haven’t eaten dinner, and its getting dark, and Bronwyn’s asleep, but I haven’t closed up the house, and I don’t know how to do any of this by myself! GAH!” (Yes, I minored in melodrama at Cornell). I got better by day two, and was on my way to fabulous by day three (brazier top eggplant parm anyone?) just in time to receive Jeremy back home, give that boy a smooch and tell him how much I need him.
|Jeremy, Bronwyn and Precious|
I know that there are many, many actual single mothers out there who are well adjusted and have happy, healthy children. I’m sure that if I were to find myself in a single-mother situation for a longer period of time, I too would figure out how to make it work.
But being alone and without my helper made me actually think a lot about the women around me who are, in many ways, single mothers. Culturally, it is the woman’s job to care for the children and the home. All cooking, washing, feeding, bathing, sweeping, educating etc. falls on the shoulders of the hard-working women of the village. Their husbands come back from the field/friends/bars and expect supper and entertainment from a brood of already cared for children. There is little to no collaboration amongst spouses. No joint decision making. He does his jobs, she does hers. Equity is not highly valued. The foreign brought “women’s rights” movement has meant that women have the “right” to do all of the man’s jobs in addition to her own. The marriage is functional above relational. And while there are exceptions (as always), these have been my observations, which, in recent days, have become all the more poignant.
|Bana Bo and Charity|
Sometimes when I give women advice regarding feeding of their children, or household sanitation, or raising funds for education, I see the look in their eyes that communicates a single word: “myself?” Oh, ladies, I wish it weren’t by yourself at all.
|Bana Enoch with Impundu, Enoch and Alan|
I’m thankful that a simple chicken buying excursion has helped rekindle my commitment to a group of women who work so hard – who do what I do, every day, on a much larger scale, and with much less help.
|BYOB (bring your own box) party|
To all the mamas around the world who, for the love of their babies, try their very best in all things, I thank you.
|a whole slew of "making it work" mamas|
And to my partner in life, hubster and friend, I deeply respect you.
|Jeremy, Bronwyn and Gift|