Young women and marriage: 3 conversations we keep having

She Hive Accra

Some days ago on a road trip to IITA Ibadan for my company’s annual retreat, there was this huge debate between what I have chosen to call the new school modern family values enthusiasts and the old school traditional family values enthusiasts, over married women and their career choices/decisions.

It was a long and interesting conversation, voices were raised, opinions flew back and forth, words were exchanged (although with no ill intents), feelings and sentiments were bruised, perspectives were vehemently challenged and even faith was questioned. At the end of the trip (and as such the conversation), there was no victor and no vanquished, proving (yet again) that:

Opinions are formed over time, experiences and the accumulation of a body of knowledge and it takes more than one heated conversation to get people to change those opinions.

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Back to the reason we are all gathered here today, I think that because of my age, most of the conversations I have with family, friends, acquaintances and even colleagues are pivoted around, you-guessed-right! Marriage. So, while we talk business, entrepreneurship, career and our shared ambition to take over the world, we should also take a moment to address the pink elephant in the room.

So, tag along while I attempt to dissect some of the concerns we  young women have when it comes to the institution of marriage.

The validity of aspiring to marriage

With Chimamanda Adichie’s 2013 TED talk (made even popular by Beyonce’s inclusion in the song, Flawless) finding its way into mainstream culture and conversations, we women are gradually being liberated from that flawed conviction that marriage is the gold standard and a ‘mark of success in life’.

While this can be called progress in some ways, it also has its downsides. Hold on, let me explain. The feminist-driven academic and journalistic culture celebrating today’s “liberated” women, also in some ways, seeks to suppress a natural need for family that most women have.

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In recent times, there has been a blizzard of anti-marriage sentiments shared vocally among the female folks especially across social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. And this is largely because most of them do not want to be seen as aspiring to marriage but hand on heart – and this is quite controversial. I do not know of one woman who does not want to have her own husband and possibly children to come home to after a long day at work.

When discussing the issue in an open and public platform, most young women would be quick to put up an air of indifference with respect to marriage but get her alone and the story would be entirely different. There, I’ve said it! (But let’s not forget that this is an entirely unscientific view based only on my circle of friends, acquaintances and interactions with random people).

Therefore, my take on this issue is rather simple: as much as marriage is not the holy grail of womanhood, I think wanting to be married and subsequently aspiring to it, is valid! As such, you are allowed to be intentional about it, as you are with work/business. (For more on this please try reading this from Dr. Meg Jay). 

The dichotomy between marriage and work

In 2011, the COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg made a statement that went viral;

The most important career choice you’ll make is who you marry.”

I only came across this statement last year and it was insightful for me because it reaffirmed a conviction that I have always held and still hold; that the man I marry would take me one step closer to my biggest dreams. Before going further, I should clearly state that I have nothing against stay-at-home mums.  On the contrary, any woman who readily gives up the fancy skirt suits and board meetings for house cleaning and grocery shopping has my respect.
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However, I do not think that marriage and even motherhood has to be a stumbling block on a woman’s pathway to progress. Society typically expects the woman to lean back and make only those career moves that are convenient for her status as a married woman but that does not always have to be the case. Family is a collective and shared responsibility placed equally on both the man and the woman even though both have to function in different capacities. With proper planning, communication and understanding between partners, I believe it is possible for both to raise a decent family without anyone’s dreams or goals suffering for it.

This is where Sheryl’s statement becomes important. Because for this to happen and for this system to work, you need a man who acknowledges the validity of your dreams, believes in the weight of your ambitions and is ready and willing to support you towards reaching your goals regardless of what that ‘support’ might involve.

So yes, married or single, you are allowed to aspire to heights unimaginable in your personal and professional life and marriage if done right, would serve as a catalyst and not a distraction.

Knowing when enough is enough!

There are reports that say that every fourth Nigerian woman suffers some form of domestic violence in her life time. The worst forms of these are usually battering, trafficking, rape and homicide. And it seems only sensible that I lend my voice to this recurring social menace that is plaguing our society, the institution of marriage and women in particular. This is however not to say that men do not suffer domestic abuse or to disregard that possibility.

On this issue, there really isn’t so much I have to say that would be entirely new to you but this, LEAVE! If you unfortunately find yourself in an abusive relationship, before you consider any other solution or any form of therapy, get yourself out of that situation and environment. No man is allowed to hit you out of love or in an attempt to discipline you or for any other reason that you may want to let yourself believe.

Run A Way CampaignSo, for the young woman whose boyfriend angrily shoved her aside and slammed the door on his way out after she informed him of her decision to enroll for another master’s program, for the mother of 2 who got slapped because she scolded her son for spilling fruit juice all over his school uniform, my advice to you is simple. LEAVE!

I have to admit that this is definitely not the easiest thing to do especially with cultural and religious beliefs that advocate total submission and endurance of whatever treatment a woman gets from a man or her husband, as the case may be. But understand that submission as admirable as it is, should also not put you in danger or harm’s way. Many lives and dreams have been lost to domestic violence and yours should definitely not be one of those. Because if he hits you once he would hit you again, if he ever does hit you, please LEAVE!

I’d conclude by saying that as women, we cannot avoid all of the conversations around marriage but what we can do is carefully moderate that conversation in a way that encourages an exchange of perspectives that is beneficial to us all.

So what is your narrative?

  • Single and conflicted as to whether or not you should be actively seeking out a life partner?
  • Married and tempted to quit your job because someone thinks you are not capable of making both work?
  • In a relationship where your partner would rather dialogue with his fists than words?

This is my counsel to you

It is OK to want to be married.

Your dreams are valid.

And if he hits you, even one time, please leave!

So, what about you? What are the concerns you have with respect to women and the almighty marriage? Share your perspective and let’s get talking!

 

10 inspirational quotes from women leaders for when the going gets tough

Ellen Sirleaf Johnson

Starting and running a business, nonprofit, or working towards being in a position of leadership can be frustrating and onerous over time. We usually start out excited, ready to take on the next challenge of actualizing a vision, only to lose that spark over time. Besides getting external moral support, an important factor is learning how to constantly motivate yourself. If you’re finding it difficult to stay inspired and keep the vision alive, you are not alone!

Read the following advice from these inspirational women that have made or are making waves in various fields of leadership that also understand your plight.

1. “The size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them. If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough”- Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Sirleaf is the current president of Liberia and the first female head of state in Africa. After being forced into exile during the 1980 military coup, she returned to speak against the regime, then later contested for the presidency in 2005. In 2011, she was part of trio of inspirational women awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for her work with women’s safety and rights.

2. “Take criticism seriously, but not personally. If there is truth or merit in the criticism, try to learn from it. Otherwise, let it roll right off you” – Hillary Clinton.

Clinton served as the 67th U.S. secretary of state in from 2009- 2013. She is the leading Democratic Presidential nominee for the upcoming American 2016 election.

3. “When we speak, we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.” Audre Lorde.

 Lorde was a Caribbean-American poet, civil rights activist, and feminist. Her writings addressed racial prejudices, homophobia, and male privilege, amongst other things. She empowered her readers to address prejudice they were faced with and also celebrate differences in race and class.

4. “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself” – Eleanor Roosevelt.

Roosevelt was the first chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights and played an active role in American politics as First lady.

5. “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain” – Maya Angelou.

Angelou is an award winning poet and author of seven published autobiographies, numerous essay collections and poetry. She is internationally acclaimed for her memoir, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.

6. “Normal is not something to aspire to, it’s something to get away from” – Jodie Foster.

Foster is an American actor, director, and producer who has worked in films and on television. A recipient of several awards, she is often been cited as one of the best actresses of her generation. Her latest work involve directing episodes for Netflix original, Orange Is the New Black & House Of Cards.

7. “Don’t wait around for other people to be happy for you. Any happiness you get you’ve got to make yourself.” – Alice Walker

Walker  is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American author and activist, she wrote the critically acclaimed novel The Color Purple.

8. “If you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing.” – Margaret Thatcher

Thatcher was Britain’s first female prime minister serving three consecutive terms in office. A dominant figure of conservative ideology during her time in her office, Thatcher created a conducive environment for entrepreneurs to thrive. By cutting taxes and regulation, she empowered people financially, and ultimately helped revitalize the British economy.

9. “You’re not obligated to win. You’re obligated to keep trying to do the best you can every day” – Marian Wright Edelman.

Edelman is an American activist for children’s rights and is the president and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund. She has been an advocate for disadvantaged Americans her entire professional life advocating for causes like pregnancy prevention, parental responsibility for educational values, and reducing the level of violence presented to children etc.

10. “As a girl, you should not be someone who tries to fit into a glass slipper. You should shatter the glass ceiling”  – Priyanka Chopra.

Chopra is an Indian film actress, singer and a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador amongst other things. A former Miss World (2000), she is has advanced tremendously in her acting career and is the first Bollywood actor to play a lead-role in an American TV show (Quantico).

How about those words of inspiration? These Moguls clearly have things on lockdown – maybe not yet, as learning in life is a continual process. Nonetheless, they have been there, (or are still in the process) done that, and understand your plight, just as much. So pick yourself up, dust off the discouragement and take another shot at your goals.

To be most effective, grab a post-it note, or whatever medium is most convenient and visibly write down the most essential quote for your current success roadblock. The key is to have this quote ingrained in your memory through repeated exposure instead of trying to retain all the information at a go. Repeat this as often as is needed and see it make a difference. 

3 reasons you are your only competition

Every day, we are surrounded by images and individuals that remind us that we need more, need to have more and do more. In business, this pressure often comes from our competition.

Sometimes our competition can be intimidating. They can make us feel as though our ideas are too small or that we will never be as good.

However,  it is not really our competition that is the issue here. It is our fear of reaching heights of greatness that we never thought of as possible.

Over-analyzing our competition can distract us from what we should be doing and where we should be going. We become accustomed to the falsehood that because someone else is winning, we must be losing.

Use competition to inspire and enlighten rather than disenchant yourself. Often those who see the most successful competitors in their industries as inspiration strive to do better in their own businesses.

Use your competitors as catalysts for change and sources of motivation. They are not there to limit your success. There are enough opportunities to succeed for all of us. At the end of the day, you need to compete with yourself and here are three reasons why it’s important.

1. It will stop you from comparing yourself to others

Naomi Campbell

I think sometimes the anxiety that comes from seeing your competitors excel makes you  question whether you are doing better than other people or not. What really matters is that you’re doing what’s best for you.

Do you feel like you are succeeding? Have you determined what success means to you?

2. It will keep you focused on your goalsCreed

If you stay focused on what you are doing, and your own journey, you will inevitably keep improving. Focus on your business goals will result in growing success.

The minute you take your eyes off your goal, you lose sight of why you started it all in the first place!

3. It will give your business the attention it deserves

Chrissy Teigen

Your competitors can be a great source of information. You can learn from them, but limit the time spent researching their movements and give your business your full attention.

Treat it as you would a romantic partner. If you give it all your love and attention, you will reap the rewards of a great business life!

Stay focused on what you want to accomplish in life, and strive to do better than the goals you have set for yourself.

Be your own best competition.

According to science, don’t make new year resolutions, do this instead!

With 2016 finally here, we see many Facebook & Whatsapp “New Year, New Me”. A new year is a fresh start, and a chance to set a new goals, which is why so many people make New Year resolutions. Still…

Most people find New Year’s resolutions difficult to keep

Local gyms are most crowded early January when people are most committed to their resolutions. But by February, people start dropping out that by December, they are either back to where they started before the resolution or are worse off.

Psychologist, Peter Herman and his colleagues looked into the success rates of New Year resolutions, and it turns out that most people fail at sticking to their New Year’s resolutions.

She Leads Africa

They found out that people underestimated the difficulty of their goals and selected tasks that were overly ambitious. They named the habit of  making self-improvement goals but failing to fulfill them the “False Hope Syndrome.

Essentially, we try to do tasks that are too hard, too quickly when it comes to New Year Resolutions.

Do the pre-work the goal demands

Successfully sticking to resolutions that are easy to make but hard to maintain, researchers say, requires taking actionable steps to change a behavior, rather than making drastic changes. In a study that looked at the success rates of 200 people trying to stick to their resolutions, another psychologist, John Norcross, found that those who prepared for the lifestyle changes they wanted to make were successful at accomplishing their goals.

For example, if losing weight is your New Year resolution this year, develop a meal plan with a trainer, participate in a bootcamp, or walk more. Do not set drastic goals, like running a marathon, and do not look for shortcuts. Liking Instagram pictures on a fitness page or buying the latest “detox tea” is not going to cut it either.

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Learn from failure

How you react to failure along the way is another key part of being successful with your New Year’s resolutions this year. Alan Marlatt, a former Psychology Professor at University of Washington DC, found that those who do not turn setbacks into full relapses are more likely to succeed with their resolutions. Those who want to quit smoking, for example, might end up smoking a cigarette or two in their cessation journey. If they continue with their progress and do not see this moment of weakness as a complete failure, they have a better chance of quitting smoking.

How to win this year

She Leads Africa

Here’s a recap of steps to prevent the “false hope syndrome”.

  1. Break your big goals into smaller, attainable ones.
  2. Tackle one goal at a time.
  3. Ask for help and talk about your goals with friends.
  4. Celebrate small wins.
  5. Don’t wait another year to make goals. Nothing is stopping you from making those changes now.