My father is a northerner and a Muslim but he does not fit into the stereotype of either northern or Muslim men. He is one of the most liberal people I know. He acknowledges the power that women have, and often encouraged women around him to wield that power. One of the things he often told me when I was growing up was, “Nafa, speak up! Use your voice. The world is interested in what you have to say.” He treated his sons and daughters equally. Everyone did the same chores – cooking, laundry, washing his car, and serving his meals. There was nothing like, “boys don’t do this” or “girls don’t do that.”
His liberal principles extended to my mother too. He never sought to keep her under his thumb or pull the ‘wives must be submissive’ card when they couldn’t agree on something together. After I was born, my mum decided to convert from Islam to Christianity. My dad didn’t oppose the idea. He didn’t mind when she took us to church either. He was a Muslim man with a Christian wife and kids and that never caused problems in their marriage. What caused problems was my dad’s womanizing habit.
All the men in my family were like that. I watched my mother and my uncles’ wives complain about the different women their husbands were going out with. When one was talking about Asana, the other would be talking about a certain Memuna who was coming between her and her husband. This made me perceive marriage as something to dread. Even though I saw my father as a great man, I did not aspire to marry a man like him.
I remember when I was in my early twenties, I said to my mum and my sister: “I will never get married. God forbid!” My mum was the first to respond: “Nafa. Be careful what you say with your mouth. Do you want it to come to pass?” My sister followed: “What made you say such a thing?” I explained: “Look at the way dad and his brothers go about chasing everything in skirts and impregnating women who are not their wives. How can I desire marriage when the ones under my nose are nothing to write home about?”
I remember my mum saying: “Your father and your uncles are like that because of how they were raised. To them, it’s normal. We can’t teach old dogs new tricks. What we can do is pray that you marry a man who is not like them.” “If you don’t get married, you’ll grow old in this house. Dad will never let you live on your own,” my sister teased.
That conversation helped me re-evaluate my stance on marriage. I didn’t want to grow old in my father’s house and continue seeing him and his brothers disrespect women. I wanted my independence. That’s how I opened up my mind to the prospect of a husband. Along the line, I met someone I liked. He liked me too, but we took our time getting to know each other. I prayed about him. I asked God to show me a sign if he was the one for me. It didn’t take long for him to make his move. I hadn’t received an answer from God yet, but I accepted his proposal.
A week later we went to church for a prayer and fasting revival. No one knew my boyfriend. We had started dating not too long ago so no one had a hint of it. We chose to keep it to ourselves until we got a sure sign from God. At the revival, the visiting prophet called me to come forward. “I saw a vision of you in a wedding gown. Where is your boyfriend?” He said it only to my hearing. I pointed in my boyfriend’s direction and he came forward to join me.
The prophet took both our hands and blessed us. The look on my mother’s face and that of my pastor was utter confusion. About a year and a half later, we tied the knot. I was two years older than him but you wouldn’t know by watching us. He is very mature and even looks older than me. Just like my father, my husband encouraged me to speak up. And I always did. I’m all about championing the cause of women, empowering them, and serving as the voice of the ones who were unable to speak for themselves. I know that that’s my purpose in life. And I am thankful that my father raised me to fulfill this purpose. I am more thankful to have a husband who supports me in every way I need him to.
At the time I decided to pursue my master’s degree, he hadn’t done his. The one question he asked was: “Will you be able to handle studies, work and house chores?” I said I’d need all the help I can get. He took over the house chores until I finished my course. It was then he also pursued his master’s degree.
When we had our first child, he didn’t leave me to do the parenting alone. When we woke up, he would make the bed while I bathed our child. When I was done, he would feed the child while I took my bath. Then he would also get ready for us to leave the house for work and drop our child off at school. Along the line when he quit his job and started his own business, our routine changed. I would wake up early and cook lunch for him and the child, and then leave for work, leaving him to prepare the child for school. That was one thing I appreciated about him. When it came to bills, we both contributed. We believed it was our home and we must all put in our efforts to make it work. My husband couldn’t cook to save his life and I was okay with that. I didn’t mind cooking all our meals. In return, he washed the dishes. This created a perfect balance when it came to our roles.
There was an incident that happened during the Covid-19 pandemic. I was working from home. And my husband was also home. One morning I had an important virtual meeting. When I woke up, I figured I’d attend the meeting before I do any chores. While I was getting ready my husband asked: “Won’t you at least sweep the compound?”
I was angry at his question. I felt if I responded to him, we would argue. So, I quietly went to sweep and ended up being late for my meeting. A few days later when I was no longer angry, I asked him: “Why didn’t you sweep the compound when you saw that I was busy?” He explained he used to do it before we got married. “So why did you stop?” He didn’t respond. After that day, he swept it whenever he saw that I was busy.
He was not perfect and neither was I, but we strove to complement each other. He encouraged me to start a blog for my advocacy projects. He is always happy when I am doing something influential that is outside our marriage. He doesn’t mind that I speak my mother tongue to our child. People, especially women often ask: “Why does your husband allow you to speak your language to your child?” My usual response is: “He wouldn’t have married me if he had a problem with my language.” I don’t understand how that is even anyone’s concern.
My husband is a man who knows his worth. He doesn’t need to put me down to feel like a man. That is what I love about him. One thing I try not to do is speak to him while I’m angry. He learned that from me as well. We wait till our anger had died before we address issues. This helps us maintain the respect we have for each other. We’ve been married for five years now and our home is as peaceful as when we first got married. A lot of the things I do, I learned from my father. If you take out his cheating, he would be a great husband. And I’m glad that I didn’t allow his flaws to discourage me from getting married. I am sharing my story because I want to inspire others to understand that not all marriages are horror stories. It’s all about willingness to learn and adapt to change.
Courtesy Beads Media