Today the amazing Emem Molokwu, who is one of the leading stylists in the FCT is sharing her motherhood story ! Sit back and enjoy as we get up close and personal with this beautiful mother of three.
Emem we know you have three beautiful children, how old are they?
I have three children. My two daughter’s are 10 and 1 while my son is 7 .
Of all your experiences what prepared you the most for being a mother?
I would love to say a situation beyond my control. I had my first child almost 2 years before my wedding, and we know how much of a taboo it is to be an unwed mum in these parts. I had to grow light years beyond my age and I told myself I would be the the best mother any child could wish for. To prepare myself I bought as many books as I could on parenting , my husband who was at that point a friend also bought me some books. I also spent time having intimate discussions with my parents and aunts .
Another thing that I think helped me prepare was the fact that I was the families chief baby sitter from the age of twelve. I looked after cousins and family friends children, so sometimes I found myself looking after as many as five children aged between 3 and 5. Having to play that role early in life prepared me for motherhood.
As a busy working mum how do you handle life?
Well when the kids were younger it was just us, so I had to get up as early as 4.30am to do all the house cleaning and while I prepare their breakfast and lunch packs my husband will bath and dress them up. Sometimes we dropped them off to visit with my parents for a week which give us respite. As they grew older we have had family members that assist us and then we got a house cleaner to come in on a timely basis. Now that my first two kids are much older and don’t require as much attention as their baby sister it’s much easier. The most important thing is that my husband and I discuss our day to day activities with each other so if there are any sudden work demands we can step in to support each other the best way we can. My younger sister has also been heaven sent as she assists with the kids and is also one of my assistants at work.
I know one of your children has albinism which is another thing a lot of people don’t understand. What has been your experience as his mum?
When my son was born and placed in my hands I saw his skin color, and the first thing that came to my mind was ” Emem see what your mouth has caused”. Prior to his birthing my husband and I kept bantering over the baby’s skin tone as our first daughter is caramel toned and is his exact replica, so I told him the baby was going to be fair and look exactly like me. Well, he was fair alright , in fact he was almost white , but did not look in any way like me.
At first, I will admit that I was in denial because when some extended family members saw his picture and began to ask questions like; “is he an albino? Hope you did not give birth to afin* ? Ha! What happened?” and the likes I kept responding with ”my baby is very fair, he is not an albino”. I remember an incident in the hospital when my husband’s uncle came to see the baby and saw his skin color, he went closer and spent about 5 minutes observing his features and then finally turned to me and said “this is Molokwu blood, I can tell from his features. If you had traveled out prior to your pregnancy I would have suspected you”, I just shook my head in disbelief.
My denial phase lasted for the first 3 months of his life, during which an albino lady in our church walked up to me one day smiling, asked to hold my baby, and turned to me to promptly announce that my baby is an albino and will need sunscreen to protect his skin. I remember looking at her with annoyance, taking my baby back from her and sitting through the rest of the service coming to terms with my new reality. After that my husband and I started buying books on albinism, reading them, assimilating all the information gathered and applying them. After we had gotten some information we registered our son with the Albino Foundation.
Tell us more about the Albino foundation, did registering help and have you been able to help other parents with children living with albinism?
Oh yes indeed! It definitely helped as they gave all registered parents some materials to read that focused on the state of Albinism in Nigeria and Africa at large. It really helped because they weren’t using case studies from the Western world to typify our own cases here. It may not have been a vast number of resources but I believe it helped with equipping us with the knowledge we needed to better handle our son’s condition.
Going forward we had a totally new approach to a lot of things regarding him and when people made snide comments about him, at first I would get so infuriated but later on I realized it was simply their poor level of understanding. We have found ways overtime to educate people about albinism and debunk the myths that have existed regarding albinism. Most people might not know but there are different types of albinism, but it will take up too much time going into technicalities. The most important information is to note that it is a skin condition that stems from little to no melanin production. And can be quite catastrophic due to the skins sensitivity to the sun which could lead to skin cancer. Regarding awareness, we purchase a lot of sunscreen especially when we travel and give out to parents with albinos. The sunscreens are a bit pricey over here and they are required to use one with a minimum of 50 SPF . Regarding helping others I am still contemplating starting a support group for Mother’s of children with albinism. We also walk up to parent’s we see with an albino child, introduce ourselves and mention that we have an albino son, show his picture to ease any form of tension and go ahead to talk about the protective measures employed for their child to thrive, that way we form an alliance of sorts with the parents.
As someone who has always understood albinism, the ignorance I have heard people display when referring to it has surprised me, what are some ignorant remarks you have heard?
On a particular day when my son was still a baby, we had taken him to get his vaccines and we needed to get some groceries after that so we stopped at a shopping center, on our way out I bumped into an old secondary school mate of mine and we exchanged pleasantries during which she asked if she could see my baby, immediately she noticed his skin color she screamed “Eya, sorry oh. Your baby is an albino? Kai, what happened now? I remember looking at her and replying “yes he is an albino but he is a perfectly normal child that’s healthy and sound. I ended my response to her with “don’t worry just wait a little by the time my son is older people will look at how incredibly amazing he is and wish they had their very own albino”and then I walked away with a smile.
I remember this particular scenario vividly because at this point I was fed up of hearing pitiful remarks when people realized he was an albino and I had to take it to God. Quite frankly, the ignorance is an African problem and not Nigerian. In many African countries it is believed that an albinos blood brings wealth and gives males sexual potency e.g Tanzania so albinos are kidnapped on a daily basis and used for ritual purposes which is so sad indeed. I don’t even know what the peddlers of this manner of falsity derive from carrying out such evil acts. So a lot of albinos are forced to live together and marry themselves which of course only produces more albinos in these communities.
Well done Mum! how has he been able to handle such remarks now that he is older?
Part of my prayer points was to ask God to endow him with uncommon confidence and understanding as well as make him an epitome of excellence and great wisdom to the extent that people will begin to pray to him to have albino children that are exactly like him. As he grows older I see him portray all I have prayed for on a daily basis. From his toddler years he has surpassed his peers in his level of understanding and assimilation, even of complex concepts that left we his parents and the school authority in awe. He never gets offended when people address him in a condescending manner rather he will correct them and explain who he is and what he stands for. We have also ensured that he doesn’t feel different and isn’t treated different from his siblings so they on the other hand stand up for him when the situation arises.
Do you have any advice for parents dealing with ignorant remarks whether regarding albinism or anything else?
My advice for parents of an albino child or children dealing with any other condition; you did not do anything wrong, you have a perfectly formed and normal child that has albinism also referred to as congenital hypopigmentary disorder which is caused by a lack of pigment/melanin in the child’s hair, skin and eyes. All you need is to equip your self with the right information concerning protecting and managing your child’s condition as they are prone to skin cancer due to their sensitivity to sunlight. Also depending on your child’s specific albino type, they will contend with one eye condition or the other, the most popular being “Nystagmus and Astigmatism”. The root cause of most of this is the lack of pigment in the irises preventing them from completely blocking light from entering the eyes. It can be alarming as the eyes keep flickering from side to side trying to focus on an object or subject. Ensure that your child visits with an optometrist as early as possible even in their toddler years so that you can get a diagnosis to begin treatments to curb the situation in record time. What ever your child may be dealing with get the right information and focus on your child.
Thanks Emem, now let’s talk about young mothers in particular. What advice do you have for them as they deal with career and motherhood?
Firstly, set up a structure with your partner if you have one or your support system made up of family, friends or benefactors. This makes it possible for you to have assistance as regularly as possible so you do not become overwhelmed and loose yourself in the process. You are a key player in the lives and future of your family therefore you need to take care of you so that you don’t fall critically ill or become depressed and resentful of others,
Secondly ensure you find a balance. Find out what system works for you and stick to it. Do not ever compare yourself to anyone you deem picture perfect because at the end what really matters is that you raise children that grow up to be adults that can impact their society positively, fulfill their God ordained purpose and achieve greatness in life.
Thirdly, ensure that any habit you want the children to imbibe, you must portray yourself. You have to walk the talk. They watch every single thing you do whether you are aware or not. Do you want them to have great reading skills? If yes, then they have to see you read. In my case I buy books for them while I am pregnant. And read to them in my belly. And when they reach the stage of developing fine motor skills I start placing the books all around them, I make sure the books are age appropriate in every way including durability so that they can not be torn. I have found that books expose them to new worlds and words, they also expand their minds far beyond their years and deepen their thought process. They can also serve as communication boosters between you and your kids. Plus when you need your quiet time all you need to do is hand them a book and it works like magic. Now my older kids read to their baby sister while I get some rest.
*Afin is a term for a white person in Yoruba
Awesome now on a final note how do you get some me time?
There are several ways I relax unwind and have some much needed me time but will mention a few. I enjoy reading autobiographies or novels with mythical, historic war fiction, murder mystery or conspiracy fiction themes . I love to travel and explore different tourist sights and also shop. I find shopping quite therapeutic. I also enjoy watching a good action, epic, mythical or murder mystery movie. I also enjoy taking the weekend off to relax with my husband and enjoy being thoroughly pampered.
Awesome, its been nice talking to you.