Mothers’ Day is an honourary day set aside to celebrate mothers in different forms throughout the world. The day’s arrival to Africa remains of no importance today but its significance has served a great reason to stay. Mothers around the world have been celebrated for their full-time duties to raise generations. Their roles in society have been impeccable regardless of the setting. The question about how mothers raise their children has been under public scrutiny and many continue to debate the outcome. In the long run there is no school of parenting. Every mother uses what suits them to bring about the best child and be the champion mother. In Africa, given the nature of our environments and upbringingwhich often present a clash between western and traditional mothers, mothers are often conflicted in regards to which model to use. A purist view leaning to your upbringing or a mix of two worlds.
The way mothers raise their children has changed recently with influences from the modern and Western ideology. However, raising a child in the olden days was different and traditional mothers made sure the package had it all. “We came from an era where your mother was your role model. You simply saw yourself through her and that was it. She taught you almost everything you needed to survive the world after and at the same time to be responsible. I was beaten whenever I fought with a girl or for stealing money,” narrated 40-year old Titus Nghipangelwa.
Titus says that while mothers these days take it easy on their children, they learnt ife lessons the hard way. “I was taught how to use my hands and help out with house chores from a very young age. At the age of around 5, my mother would take me with to fetch water with a 5 litres container. And already then too, I would be sent to look after a big herd of goats.”
Traditional mothers are known to have raised their children by the whip and today, they celebrate some of the benefits to this method. A mother to five is 79-years old Ndapandula Sheefeni, better known by her elderly clan name ‘Mukwaanime.’ Mukwaanime says her children are who they are because of what she taught them since day one. “As a mother, children are in their best state to shape when they are young and that is the time one really needs to be the right mother. I raised my sons and daughters in a different way but the key component was to be respectful and independence.”
Mukwaanime explained that her lessons as a mother were holistic and encapsulated every aspect of life. “I taught my children to realise the importance of being respectful from a young age. By this, they are able to see other people as equals and respect them the same way they wish to be respected. In addition to this, I also taught them how to share with others and grasp the fact that life is a cycle and we all need each other at some stage.”
In a traditional setting devoid of many modern luxuries, Mukwaanime says the rural life has the best setting to be a good and hard mother. “It is embarrassing when your children cannot cook good food so it was my duty to teach my girls how to prepare a good meal. It is deemed a taboo when a girl cannot cook because her marriage will not last. A woman who can cook and is complemented by other wife-material attachments is the best. I also taught my boys how to cook because they may find themselves in situations where they need to do it for themselves. In addition, they should all know how to clean, wash their clothes and be independent”
While it may be seen as harsh in today’s world, traditional parents lived with the whip for discipline. Mukwaanime says that the reason many young people are so disrespectful and irresponsible is because they never got the teaching to realise the bad in it. “If my children did something wrong, I would take the pleasure of wiping out the idea to repeat the same mistake and then have a talk with them later. As a mother, you had to make the child understand why it is bad to do wrong and for them to realise the consequences. You have to make them understand this concept at a very young age because as they grow, life will not always forgive them. I do not want my children to be corrected by the prisons, hospital and the mortuary.”
Sha adds that being a mother is a full time duty and society will always point a finger to the mother if her offspring do not come out right. Mukwaanime today celebrates the life of her well-raised children who are family men and women passing on their mother’s lessons to their families too.
While culture may not be static, the same is applicable to life and way of doing things. The modern mother is considered to be influenced by the book. The way and manner in which they take on motherhood may slightly be different from the traditional mother but the primary objectives remain the same.
The modern mother is more of a teacher, distant from the child but equally influential. Twenty year old James Hendricks is a typical example of a modern mother product. “I grew up in a house where we had a nanny because mommy was never really around. The only time I saw mom was in the evenings when she came from work, otherwise, it was all about the nanny. We did not have to wash our clothes, cook or wash dishes – all that was done by the nanny. She taught us a few things here and there but it was up to us to learn if we wanted to. However, mom came if for school supervisions and now and then she taught us how to do a few things. When it comes to discipline, I think my mom only beat me twice. The rest of the times she would sit me down and have an open conversations about what I was doing wrong,” said Hendricks.
Unlike traditional mothers, modern mothers are not always there. They leave their children in the care of either the care taker or the husband, if he is available. This however does not take them away from motherly duties as they make ways to manoeuvre between the daily job and their responsibilities as a mother.
“I leave home in the mornings and only get to see my children in the evening. However, I think I communicate with my children more than any other person. In the morning, I leave notes on the fridge with a few tasks I want them to do and the rest happens in the evening,” said 45-year old Lee-Anne Strauss who is a mother of two.
Lee-Anne says her duties as a mother, parent, and educator are of first priority before anything else. As such, she makes sure everything is provided for her children. “I am a role model for the few hours that I am home and I have to make sure that my children are indeed on the right path with school and life at large.”
Unlike the traditional mother, many modern mothers are against the idea of using the belt to discipline their children. Lee-Anne believes inflicting violence on a child does not necessarily equate to disciplining a child. “Even if there are days when my children really made me angry, I would perhaps give them a butt spank but that’s it. It does not go far as taking the belt to whip them. I believe talking openly to your child is the only way to mature them,” said Lee-Anne.
With a tight schedule, Lee-Anne says weekends and holidays are most favourable for her to be the mother her children need. She take time to teach them the basics such as cleaning the house, how to wash dishes and sometime their clothes. All this amounts to spending quality time with their children.
Regardless of the method mothers use to nurture their children, their role in society remains of paramount importance in determining the strength of generations to come. In many people’s lives, their present living and desire to be whoever traces back to the backbone of their dreams- the mother. Happy Mothers’ Day.