HOMETOWN / WHERE DO YOU LIVE NOW?
I live with my family in Lagos, Nigeria. We moved here from South Orange, NJ in November 2011.
ON THE WEB New Jersey to Nigeria
NUMBER OF CHILDREN Three
DAY JOB I am a stay at-home mom of two girls (ages 8 and 6) and a boy (age 4). I have a blog about our move abroad called, “New Jersey to Nigeria.” I’m also beginning to write for some ex-pat websites.
RELATIONSHIP STATUS Married
FAVORITE CHILDREN’S BOOK We love reading. We are currently on the fourth Harry Potter book. I started reading the series aloud to the kids a few years ago. Other family favorites include: Sylvester—I can’t get through it without crying—Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Series of Unfortunate Events books, Dr. Seuss’s Horton books, and anything involving the Berenstain Bears. Since my husband is Christian and I am Hindu, we’ve neglected organized religion and let the Berenstain Bears teach our children morality. Sad but true.
HOW DO YOU COMBINE WORK AND FAMILY?
When we became parents, I had just gotten an MA in fiction writing and was home finishing some short stories. My husband was working 100+ hour weeks at an investment bank. So without much debate, I became the primary caregiver and am entirely responsible for the kid(s).
Mike is always willing to pitch in when he’s around, which years ago meant changing diapers or taking the children for a walk in the stroller so I could get a break. But because of the nature of his job, I couldn’t count on him to spend time with us. He worked weekends, traveled, and stayed at the office until the middle of the night.
In many ways, I suppose we have a conventional relationship. He makes a living outside the home and I care for the kids.
HOW HAS PARENTING CHANGED YOU AS AN INDIVIDUAL?
I think if I could meet the pre-kids me, I would try to run her over with a car. I was awful: insecure, selfish, and immature.
Having kids made me grow up.
I am more anxious and paranoid now, though. In my defense, I spend an awful lot of time trying to keep my kids safe…in NIGERIA! Can you blame me? A car hit my son when we walked through the market. The children could get a terrible disease if they drink out of the tap. They could fall into the huge hole outside our building with live wires in it. Danger surrounds us and I have to be vigilant to protect them.
In the areas that matter, however, I have improved immeasurably. I am much more patient. I put the kids needs above my own. I try to lead by example and find myself achieving things I never would have attempted if I didn’t have three little sets of eyes watching my every move.
Having kids with the man I love was the BEST experience of my life. In fact, it gave me a life of such depth and richness I would never have believed it was possible.
HOW HAS PARENTING AFFECTED YOUR RELATIONSHIP?
Mike and I had a wonderful relationship before we became parents. We were best friends, lovers, and enjoyed each other’s company. Then came three kids in less than four years and it was HARD.
He was tired from work and I was tired from childcare. We didn’t get along as well as we had in the past. We weren’t able to fulfill each other’s needs. I wanted him to help me with the children. He wanted me to take better care of myself and look attractive for him.
Moving to Nigeria—strangely enough—has greatly improved our bond. We feel inseparable, like it’s us against the world. And we both are making an effort to nurture our emotional and romantic connection. It’s not hard, though. I like my husband more than anyone I’ve ever met. I want him to be happy and vice versa. Parenting has made our relationship stronger and deeper. It took a while, though.
WHAT ARE YOUR STRENGTHS AS A PARENT AND WHAT ARE YOUR WEAKNESSES?
I’m funny. And I’m fun. My kids would argue it’s a weakness because I think it’s fun to laugh at them.
I am creative and tell them silly stories they love.
I have never hit my children and try to respond to their misbehavior with understanding and kindness. My weakness is that I harbor a strong desire to pinch the heck out of them.
I am loving and affectionate. I help them with their homework. I spoil them when they’re sick. But I say no to them and set limits so they don’t grow up to be spoiled, entitled, crappy people. And I always send them to school with a yummy lunch and snacks.
I am adventurous and have traveled with the kids around the world. I am hoping they become global citizens who never stop learning and exploring.
My greatest weakness is that I’m LAZY. I can’t believe it when the kids ask me for dinner. They want it everyday! It’s relentless. And why is there always laundry in the hamper to wash? There is so much work involved in being a parent and I don’t want to do it.
WHAT ARE YOUR PARTNER’S STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES?
My husband is great. He is a very stable person. No matter how stressful the situation, he stays calm. He is hilarious and knowledgeable about the most random topics. He’s not afraid to take chances. That’s why we live in Nigeria. He found a wonderful job and had the courage to seize this opportunity. He is a patient father who is willing to play board games, kick a soccer ball, or do origami with the kids for hours. He always puts the kids and me first. He likes to travel and plans exciting vacations we all look forward to.
Weaknesses? How dare you imply my spouse has weaknesses? Remind me to destroy you.
WHO ELSE PROVIDES CHILDCARE FOR YOUR CHILDREN?
Right now I provide 100% of the childcare, which I wouldn’t wish on anyone. It’s terrible!
But one of the perks of living in Nigeria is that domestic help is readily available. We have hired a woman to live with us during the week. She will walk the kids home from school, give them snacks, and help me with the cleaning. She hasn’t started working for us yet but I am EXCITED.
I feel proud that I have shouldered all the childcare up until now but I am tired of the drudgery. I don’t want to do dishes. I am fed up with cleaning toys. I am tired of cancelling my infrequent plans, e.g., when they are sick or even now when school has been closed for three days because of a general strike in Nigeria.
I want to focus more on writing and I finally can because I will have support.
DO ANY OF YOUR CHILDREN HAVE SPECIAL NEEDS? AND IF SO, HOW DOES THIS AFFECT YOUR PARENTING?
None of the kids have special needs. On a somewhat related note, my husband calls me, “an idiot savant with poor impulse control,” so I suppose he believes I have special needs. I beg to differ. Plus what does it say about him if he married me? I can’t help myself. I was born this way. He had a choice.
WHAT IS YOUR WORST PARENTING MOMENT?
When the kids were 5, 3, and 1, we went to the beach with some friends. I saw Bala, my 3-year-old, playing in the rough surf and when I looked again she was GONE. My friends searched the water. I ran back to where our towels were. She was nowhere. I was certain that she had been swept away and drowned. I climbed the lifeguard tower to look for her, crying and trembling.
Mike had warned me not to take the children to the beach without him. He thought it would be dangerous. But I brushed him off.
As long minutes passed and I scanned the crowd, I KNEW that this was the defining moment of our lives. The last day we would ever be a happy family.
Then my friend, Elizabeth, came running up to me, yelling, and pulling Bala along with her. She had gotten lost and she was FINE. In fact, she had never been in any danger.
WHAT IS YOUR BEST PARENTING MOMENT?
Two way tie. The moment when my oldest emerged from my body, I looked into her black eyes and became a mama AND the moment when we learned Bala was a healthy child.
When Bala was born, she suffered two strokes and her brain was damaged. It was devastating. When she was in pre-school, she was old enough to undergo extensive neuro-psychological testing.
Not only is Bala normal in every respect, her intellect is considered in the “superior range.” For years we had been steeling ourselves for the special care our child would require. To find out that she was fine felt like the greatest blessing in the world.