Just like Mariah, I met Asanempoka in Ghana. She was supposed to be my house-mate. But as all volunteers know, things don’t exactly pan out as planned. So she ended up in Bolgatanga, a town located at the upper east region of Ghana and I was left in Tamale (the largest city in the Northern Region). The distance however, didn’t stop us from visiting each other. Feeling adventurous, Asanempoka and I travelled from Ghana through Togo to get to Benin where we spent Christmas ’07. Yes, you could say it was a bit mad for us to travel through two French-speaking countries when neither of us could understand nor speak a word of French. But we managed.
That was almost six years ago. Today, she is a mother of a beautiful and smart four-year old and I too have my own daughter and the best bit is that we are still friends.
Tell us something about yourself, your little one (age & sex).
I am a teacher and performing artist who is moving into Public Health. I have lived in a small, remote town in northern Australia on and off for 10 years, in between my trips to Africa, specifically now Ghana. My daughter has just turned four. She was born in Ghana, as that is where my husband is from, and lived there for the first 2 years of her life before we all moved to Australia 2 years ago. We try and return to Ghana every year or two. Both places are our home. We are a bi-lingual cross-continental family who embrace both cultures but mostly hold Africa in our heart of hearts.
Your child’s birth story: What was it like giving birth away from family and home country?
I chose to give birth in Ghana and wanted a home birth in my husband’s traditional house. When that looked unsuitable I looked at clinics in our town but they were awful blue-tiled, silver metal-bedded rooms with high windows, so I went with my Obgyn in the capital and gave birth at his clinic. We travelled 850km to give birth and stayed in a guest house in the capital until she was a week old before heading back up north. I wanted a natural birth but found out a few days after we arrived she was breech. I argued with my Obgyn but he explained the layout of Accra and the traffic situation: – ‘I live here, the anaesthetist lives here, and the matron lives here so if there was an emergency it would be problematic’. I caved and said okay and that tomorrow would be good like he’d mentioned. He said, ‘Nope, I can fit you in today.’
That was the day the President was inaugurated in the capital so imagine the bad traffic times 10! My husband had about 3 hours to go back to our guest house and return with things for the baby and for me. He just made it as I was being wheeled into theatre. I had been about to jump off the bed with my legs crossed.
I had an epidural whilst we all listened to Salsa music and joked about Mugabe. Then before I knew there she was. I looked over at her and… I knew her.
(Wow, I’ve never told that story in only 3 paragraphs before =)
What you wish you knew about being a mother before becoming one
To be honest I kind of took it as it came. I chose to raise her in our town Bolgatanga when she was a baby because I knew that I would be left alone to figure it all myself and if I did need to ask something there were plenty of women around to give me advice which I could take or leave.
If I must choose something I wish I’d known just how much patience I’d require. I would have practiced a lot more beforehand.
How do you manage your “me-time”?
Hmmm…. What is that? I don’t really get ‘me-time’. Well, I didn’t for years. I took time out when I could see an opportunity and I guess it’s still like that. I had to work from when my daughter was 8 months and that was extremely difficult. Since then I took time when we came to Australia and didn’t work for a while to be with her and last year I took a school term at 3 days a week instead of 5 so I could spend time with her before she went off to school this year.
I count special time with my daughter as ‘me-time’.
I don’t look for time off as such. If I am feeling like I need some space I may go to the café before I pick her from day-care or I may go there on the weekend. I may go into my room and write or relax. I usually inform my husband I am going out and he should stay with her. I take time when I can and as she grows older it’s easier because she will engage herself in certain things for longer but can be difficult because at present she is an only child and demands a lot of attention. I am a homebody and I like my time around my family. I don’t always want to be alone.
Any favourite anecdote about your child?
My daughter is hilarious! We knew from 5 months of age that she had a sense of humour. I sometimes have to remember to not cut her off with impatience and let her be funny so she doesn’t lose that carefree spirit. She is also a story teller and loves to make up stories as if they are fact. I don’t often correct her on what we all know she is making up because it may squash her creativity and really she is connecting her knowledge and memories in threads that can make sense to her. She is a child that needs to do that. She is a very rational creature, always has been. If she can rationalize it to herself then she can accept it. I like that about her because she doesn’t just believe anything she hears.
She constantly amazes me, especially on our recent trip to Ghana, how resilient she is, how accepting and open-minded. She reminds me how to view things simplistically and see them from ‘the mind of a child’.
I think the funniest things are when she says things to me and I realize that she is giving back to me what I give to her. It totally keeps me in check.
What is it about motherhood you simply love about?
The unconditional love. The affection. The hugs. The kisses. The softness. The gentleness.
I became myself the day I became a mother. I know it’s not that way for everyone but it was for me. I found my confidence and I found something worth standing up and fighting for. I had the family I’d always yearned for. It was worth waiting until I was a bit older (only 30) so I could appreciate what it is to be single and then what it is to have what I have today.
If there’s something about motherhood you dislike, what would it be?
The constant demands. I have a book I’ve been writing for over 3 years but with full-time work, part-time study and motherhood… and wifehood, it is the one thing that keeps getting put on the back burner and I wish I could put more time into it. It’s hard to completely stop and clear my head of the things I have to do so I can re-focus on something else entirely. Lists of things I must do, want to do, really should do constantly run through my head. I feel good as I go through them but with a family it is never-ending.
What’s a typical day like for you and your little one?
Workdays and weekends are very different. Workdays this year are me up at 6.30am getting ready for work. I will wake my daughter at about 6.45am and she will have breakfast and I’ll make her lunch. I will go off to work and my husband gets up and takes her to school. In the afternoon I’ll finish work anywhere from 3.30 to 4.30pm and go and pick her from her day care and come home. I’ll make dinner and we all have dinner together. Ideally she is in bed by 7.30pm but this never happens.
On the weekends we get up as we do. Eat breakfast and hang around, visit friends, do jobs around the house and generally hang about at home all together. We live in a town that is very transient and a lot of our close friends moved on at the end of last year so the beginning of this year is quiet and family-focused. It’s nice.
Best advice you’ve ever received about motherhood or mothering
My mother said when I was young that she always gave me more information than I needed to know when I asked questions. When my daughter asks me questions I speak honestly and I don’t treat her like a child and have never talked to her like a baby. As I said she is a rationalist so this suits her. It can be exhausting though as it does take time and energy but the results are that she really understands things around her – from objects and how they work to people’s relationships to us, where they come from and who they are, etc.
If you could give yourself advice long before you became a mother, what would it be?
Motherhood is a gift and is not a given in life just because you are a woman.
If I’d known this I may not have suffered so much when I miscarried twins last year. But I know it now because I have one beautiful daughter. Whatever comes after her I cannot force it to come just because I want it. When it does though I will know what a gift it is and just how blessed I am. If I could have clicked my fingers for the family I wanted it would look very different to what it is now but life throws things at you in ways you do not expect and when I do step back and look at what I have been given it is wonderful.
How do you balance your time between work and mothering?
Day by day.
Do check out her blog here.