You Don’t Know How To Be A Mother –
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You Don’t Know How To Be A Mother

He came to the relationship with a child, something that nearly broke us apart. I told him I wasn’t comfortable being with a man who already has a child due to baby mama drama in the future. He told me nothing of that sort would happen. Even when I told him I wanted to begin life from a clean slate, he told me a clean slate doesn’t guarantee anything, “What matters is what’s in our hearts,” He said. 

I thought deeply about it but I wasn’t feeling right in my soul about being with a man who has a child. I told myself, “It’s just a relationship. Maybe it wouldn’t even get to marriage so why am I even getting scared about something that may not happen?” I said yes to a relationship. 

When a year later he proposed marriage, I said, “No. “I’m too young to be thinking about marriage right now.” What I meant to say was, “I’m too young to have a husband who already has a son.” I was twenty-six and he said twenty-six wasn’t so young. He spoke to my mom about it; “Your daughter doesn’t want marriage. She says she’s too young.”

My mom called for a conversation. She realized my sense of disquietude was larger than just being young. She asked, “Or there’s another reason why you don’t want to marry? Tell me the truth so we see how to address it. Is it because of his son?” I nodded my head absent-mindedly but she knew it meant a lot more to me than the way I responded to it. She took her time to convince me.

“You see, good men don’t come all dressed up in chocolates. They are humans too so they come with certain imperfections, like having a child. He’s been good to you and you can attest to that. His son hasn’t come in the way of your relationship so you can trust that it will be like that when you marry,” My mom said.

“But mom, I’m going to live with that child. He’s only six years, that should tell you how I’m going to work to raise him until he finally leaves home as a man. It’s not easy.”

“You’ll have your own child too. You’ll raise both of them side by side so it wouldn’t feel like work. Trust me and give him a chance. It will work out just fine.”

Good men are humans too. They come with their own imperfections. That was the take-home for me so I agreed to marry him. It took a year for the marriage to happen but eventually, it happened. I woke up next to him one morning as his wife, wearing the ring he put on my finger. His son was living with us. He was no longer his son but our son. Once two come together, they become as one, inheriting each other’s troubles, even if that trouble is a child. 

The boy is Kofi. All my life, I’ve never seen an incorrigible boy like Kofi. “Sit here” and he’ll be jumping over there. “Sleep here” and he’ll be out there climbing trees. 

Boys are like that but he was raised by a grandmother so some bad behaviours were not corrected. They were swept under the carpet of, “Oh he’s just a child. When he grows up, he’ll stop.” Even his father said that often but it made me uncomfortable looking at how I and my brothers were raised up. 

Whenever he does something wrong and I talk, my husband will jump in his support. He was seven going to eight. He wasn’t a child like that. My husband didn’t see it that way. He expected me to treat him with a soft glove until he grows up. I could only shout at him when my husband wasn’t there but immediately my husband comes, he’ll go and report to him and even exaggerate it.

My husband always jumps to his defence. I remember one day he brought up my reluctance to marry him at the beginning as the reason why I hated his son. “I don’t hate him. If I did, I wouldn’t be here. Even on those days when I was reluctant about marriage, it wasn’t about him. It was about you and I and how we were going to manage our relationship with a child in the picture. It wasn’t about him. It was about us.” 

He didn’t believe me. He maintained I didn’t like his son and that brought some sort of tension between us whenever the boy was concerned. 

This boy sat on a remote while I was looking for it and told me he hadn’t seen the remote. He was watching cartoons and didn’t want me to change the channel. I went around the house looking for the remote. I even went to my husband to ask if he had seen the remote. I went to the fridge if mistakenly I’d left it in there. Several minutes later I asked him to get up and he screamed, “I said I haven’t seen it.” I held his hand and pulled him up and the remote fell from in between his thighs. I pulled his hand and slapped the back of his palm. 

My husband heard the sound of the slap and came to the hall asking what happened. This boy burst out crying as if I’d cut a piece of his skin. My husband asked, “What just happened? Before I could say a word, he threw his hand and I dodged. He threw it the second time and it landed. “I didn’t marry you to come and maltreat my child. If you can’t treat him as your own son, you can leave.” 

I was dazed. “What just happened? You slapped me?”

“Yes, I did. It’s a warning. You don’t know how to be a mother. This should make you learn. 

I went home recently at the invitation of my mom. Before I entered the door, I saw a lot of slippers at the door, signifying a lot of people were in the room. I didn’t know who I was going to meet but I entered boldly. I saw my husband and his parents with another man I didn’t know. My mom was there with her elder brother and one of the elders of my family. They were there to put our marriage back together. 

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“It was just an accident and he apologized so why won’t you just listen and go back to the marriage,” my mom said. 

“He had regretted and had been remorseful ever since the incident happened. He had come crying to us. We’ve reprimanded him but it’s not right for us to sit and watch as this young marriage breaks apart. Go back home. It will never happen again.” His dad added. 

I’m living with a friend now. I’m looking for a place to rent. To me, the marriage is over. My fears had been confirmed. I don’t need any more evidence. I should have trusted my gut but I didn’t. It won’t happen twice. I’ve changed my number so no one can call and pressure me. I wake up each day and watch the sunrise. It died the night before but it comes again with full energy. I want to be like that. I died in a silly marriage. I’m up again, shining on things that needed my attention but I ignored them because of marriage. Nothing will take me back. 

I visit my mom on weekends and she tries to shame me for being unforgiving. She tells me, “If you let this one go, it will be very difficult to get another one. The divorce will hang around your neck. Prospectives will ask why the first didn’t work out and you’ll tell them. They’ll know you’re unforgiving so they’ll leave and never come back.” 

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I understand why my mom is doing that. She feels ashamed that her daughter’s marriage didn’t work. She thinks of what people will say and it hurts her. What about me? Does it hurt me? No. What hurt was the slap. What hurt were the things he told me after the slap. That I don’t know how to be a mother. That’s what hurts and I won’t stay in a hurtful marriage just to make my mom happy. She’ll get over it. I’ll finalise the divorce someday and all parties will get over it. 

But I’ll never get over it if I continued to stay with a man who abuses me and tells me I don’t know how to be a mother. Does he know how to be a father? I doubt. 

— Maame Eunice

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