IF WISHES WERE HORSES…..
“Mama, please leave me alone, am old enough to know what I want. How can you tell me what to do? I’ll get married when the right man comes along. Mama, if you have nothing else to discuss, I will talk to you later. I’ve got to go now, Bye Mama….” That was Me Chinwe, alas Chichi, a few years ago. I was in charge. I knew it all. No one could tell me what to do, how dare they? Who do they think they are? I had a master’s degree, an amazing job, earned good money and was on top of my game.
My name is Chinwe, and this is my story…..
I grew up knowing I would be the best at what I do; I would work hard, get a great job, and earn and save loads of money, no man would put me in his house and turn me into a slave. I and I alone would determine what I do and don’t do. That was exactly what I got.
I lost my father when I was 15. My mum, God bless her, took up the responsibility of raising my sister and me. I was the eldest. To send my sister and me to school, my mother sold everything from food to drinks to clothes. She raised us to be respectful, hardworking and God-fearing. She always reminded us that if we worked hard, we could achieve anything we put our minds to, with God’s Help.
I finished my first degree and got a job immediately. The company paid for me to do my master’s. As soon as I finished, I rose rapidly in the company and by the age of 27, I was on top of the world when I was promoted to manager. Which meant a fat paycheck, a company car, a driver, a luxurious apartment and loads of allowances. It was great. Almost great I should say, But my mum kept asking when I would bring home a nice man.
Every time she brought up this discussion, it broke my heart. She behaved as if I intentionally didn’t want to get married. Several times I tried telling her I wasn’t God and that at his appointed time, the right man would come, but she wasn’t hearing me. So I just resigned to saying, “Mama, give me time, soon”.
Years went by, and I focused on my career, had two relationships, but they broke off. It wasn’t for lack of interest, I just didn’t see them as men I could settle down with and before I knew it, I turned 34. By now my mum had become persistent. She would ask me every time I called her, “Chinwe, when are you going to get married?” I would ignore her question and just say, “Mama, speak to you later”. That year my sister got married, she was 28. She would have gotten married 6 years earlier when she met her husband. After graduation, he proposed, but she told him she wanted to wait for her sister to get married first. 6 years later when it seemed like I was never going to get married, she had to move on with her life.
Immediately after that, I stopped calling my mum regularly, because of the long lecture she would give me about a woman without a crown being useless, a crown in this context, being a husband. Then a few months later everything changed when I met Akinola.
I had gone to represent my company at a conference in Atlanta. On my flight back, I sat next to this gentleman and didn’t notice him at first. Later, as the flight progressed, he woke me up as lunch was being served. From there, we picked up a conversation. He was 37, an entrepreneur, and single. That’s the introduction he gave. I said I was 35, In charge of a company and single. He said, cool and asked if he could have my business card. I gave it to him; he said he ran out of cards. Later he excused himself and said he wanted to watch a movie. I found that odd; I wanted to talk to him.
He was fine, tall, dark and handsome, spoke extremely well, dressed superbly and smelled great, but he didn’t want to talk to me. I tried twice to start a conversation, but he just said I should give him a few minutes to finish the movie; I got frustrated, finished my lunch and went to sleep.
By the time I woke up, we were just about to land in Lagos. We parted with a “Nice to meet you” and he said he will be in touch. That night for the first time in a long time, I was lonely, I hardly slept a wink, and I couldn’t get Akinola out of my mind. The worst thing was, I didn’t have his contact details and didn’t know where he worked or lived, I was so upset.
The next morning was Friday, I shook it off and got on with work; it wasn’t easy. Three months went by, and I heard nothing from Akinola; I thought about him all the time, but I tried to not let that impede my work. But I couldn’t stop thinking about him, and it got to a point where I was becoming obsessed with the idea of being his woman. I imagined a life with him, what pet name he would call me, how many children we would have and what names we would call them. The thought of him was driving me crazy. At this point, a friend of mine, Shola, noticed how withdrawn I had become and constantly asked me what was going on with me.
One weekend, she came over to spend some time with me and insisted I tell her what caused the sudden change in me. I blotted it out but didn’t mention the guy’s name. She found it surprising, laughed so hard, but then apologized when she saw how hurt I was. She couldn’t believe ‘I don’t need a man’ Chichi, was longing for a guy she barely knew. Anyway, on Saturday, Shola dragged me to a party on the beach her boyfriend invited her to. I didn’t feel like going, but she insisted. The dress code was beachwear. So I put on shorts and a T-shirt and went with her.
When we got to the beach, there was a hand full of people milling around. Shola’s boyfriend wasn’t there yet, so we picked a spot on the mats provided and sat down sipping Chapman. Just then, her boyfriend turned up with a friend. He said to me ‘’Hello Chi, I want you to meet a friend of mine,” I turned around and my jaw dropped, behold, it was Akinola, the same guy I met on the plane and had been fantasizing about. I just stared at him. trying to not show how excited I was to see him.
Akinola broke the ice and said “We’ve met”, Shola looked at me with a questionable expression, as if to ask, is he the guy? But I ignored her. Akinola gave me a hug and said,” Lovely to see you again, I apologize for not calling, I’ve been busy with a merger”. We settled down to enjoy the party, Shola and Bode went riding and Akinola and I went for a walk, to cut the long story short, by the end of that picnic, Akinola and I were an item.
On our second date, I quickly found out a few things about Akinola. He was rich; he co-owned a commercial airline with his father, was a partner in several companies and his father was one of the wealthiest lawyers in the country. He was also a real traditional man; he told me on our second date that he wanted to marry me; he said if that wasn’t on my agenda, then we should stop our relationship now. I surprised myself when I instantly agreed to his proposal, to which he produced an amazing engagement ring. We got married four months later and everything had started off great.
One year into our marriage, he came into our bedroom and said we need to talk about phase two of our lives. I laughed and asked, “What’s phase 2?”, He looked at me and said, “Starting a family,” and waited to see my reaction before he continued. I didn’t react, just said, Go on baby, am listening. So looking into my eyes, he said, “My darling, I would want you to stop working once we have children. I have more than enough money to take care of you and our children for life. My mum raised me and my 2 brothers while staying at home. That’s why we all turned out responsible young men that you see today.”
As soon as he said that, my heart skipped a beat, until that moment we had never had an argument, that day everything changed. We went to bed not talking to each other. When I woke up the next morning, he had left a note for me saying, “My sweet, I hope you reconsider your stand. My children will be brought up by their mother, not a stranger. Have a lovely day my sweet”. I read the note repeatedly. And all I kept saying to myself was, “God forbid, give up my career? Impossible”.
Months went by, and Akinola didn’t speak about it again. When I got pregnant, he was so happy and he celebrated it by getting me a new car and taking me on a weekend break to Dubai. While we were there, he asked me again, if I had thought about what he said regarding stopping work once the baby arrived. At this point, we were having such a splendid time; I wanted nothing to spoil it, so I said yes, I had reconsidered it. He was so happy. That afternoon, he promised to make me happy and that I would lack nothing. Little did he know I had no intention of stopping work.
Anyway, 6 months into the pregnancy, I stopped working. Actually, I took all my accumulated leave and maternity leave together, which came to about 8 months. The company valued my services and as a manager; I was efficient, so they will wait and allow my assistant to act on my behalf in the interim. I still hadn’t told Akinola I had no intention of stopping work.
When the baby was born, Akinola and his parents and my mum were happy. My mum spent time with me. Both parents had a new grandchild they were ecstatic. A month later, I informed Akinola I intended to get a nanny to help with the baby once my mum left. He was fine with that; I arranged with my friend Shola and we got a young woman of about 20; she was clean and had the experience of taking care of new babies. So she was perfect.
Earlier, I mentioned Akinola was a very traditional man. As soon as we got married, he wouldn’t allow anyone else to cook his food except me. So while the nanny looked after the baby, I went food shopping and cooked. Two weeks before my resumption date back at work, I went to see Akinola’s mother. She was a sweet lady and popped in to see us once in a while after she came for the christening of our son. When I arrived at her house, she was sitting on the sofa reading a book. I immediately knelt down in front of her and started to cry. This surprised her, and she asked me to tell her what the matter was. But I refused to tell her and just kept crying.
Stubbornly, I continued to kneel in front of her and refused to sit down as she asked. And then I went into a lengthy story about how my mum suffered all her life to raise me, dreaming of the day her joy will be full and see me go to work every day. I noticed my story was having the effect I wanted. I could see she had pity and concern written all over her face. So I continued by saying that my mum always tells me if I want her to live long, all she wants is to see me go to work every day and rise to the top of my career. By the time I finished my story, I begged her to speak to Akinola to let me keep working because I valued my mother’s life.
The next evening Akinola came home looking deflated, he just said, I manipulated his mother and him, and he can never go against his mother’s wishes, so I was free to go back to work. From then on he wasn’t the same, he still loved me, did what a husband should do, and we made love as often as before, but something was missing from him, I should have found out or at least tried, but I was too busy with work to bother.
I was happy; I got his blessing, though forcefully. I convinced myself as far as I was concerned, he said I could work, so I didn’t feel guilty. Truthfully, am not sure I would have stayed married to him if he insisted I could not go back to work. As soon as I resumed, I plunged myself into my work. Nothing else mattered, not my newborn son or Akinola. I had a goal and that was to become a partner in the company. I knew I had to keep proving myself and become indispensable. That will do the trick, I thought to myself. Besides that, I also started taking birth control pills, knowing fully well Akinola wanted several children and it would devastate him if he knew I was preventing myself from getting pregnant, but I couldn’t afford to, my career will be on the line if I did. In the meantime, my maid raised my child. I stopped cooking Akinola’s meals; the maid did everything for me, and to me, she was God sent.
One evening, my friend Shola came to see me, she was now married with 2 children. I hadn’t seen her for a while because she went to the United States to spend some time with her in-laws. As soon as we exchanged pleasantries, she reached out, held my hands and said “Babes, I need to talk to you.” What’s the matter? I asked, “Well, I don’t know how to tell you Chichi, but you are losing Akinola”. What? Why would you say that?” I asked. She sighed, looking up at me and continued, “Well, I’ve known him for years, he and my husband grew up together and since then he has always said, his mum told him that the woman he would marry and spend the rest of his life with, would be a humble, loving woman, who will stay at home like her and put him and their children first”.
That is interesting, I looked at her, smiled and said, “If wishes were horses, beggars will ride, that was his mum’s wish then and besides, she supports my decision to go back to work, maybe she’s changed her opinion about who makes a good wife for her son”. Shola looked at me with pleading eyes and explained that Akinola was not happy. He misses me and he has become a shadow of himself. But I wasn’t listening. I told her it was impossible for me to be a stay-at-home parent or homemaker, as some called it. I was a working mother. Akinola needs to deal with that. I asked her not to worry about us. Everything was fine, Akinola wasn’t lacking anything and my maid was amazing filling in where I couldn’t, what else did he want? Poor Shola, she didn’t know what else to say to convince me I was losing my husband, so we just changed the topic to something else and later she left.
About a month later, my mum also came to see me. She arrived to meet the maid and my son at home. The maid told her I was not back from work. This surprised her. As soon as I walked in, she asked why I was back at work. She thought I told her Akinola didn’t want me working once we had children. “Mama, let me settle down first, am just coming in from work. How are you? When did you get here? You didn’t inform me you were coming, have you eaten?” My mum completely ignored all my questions and said: “Who is talking to you about food? I asked you a question. Why are you still working when your husband said you should stop?”
I had no choice but to explain things to her, so I sat down beside her and told her the entire story of how I convinced Akinola’s mother to talk him out of that decision. My mum was very upset that I lied by making up something she didn’t say. She demanded that I stop working and put my family first. She went into this long story of a woman who didn’t listen to her hubby and regretted it. I told my mum that would never happen to me and besides Akinola accepted me working. My mum ignored me and picked up her bag as she walked towards the guestroom. Repeating that I must listen to my husband and do what he wants. I asked her to leave me alone and let me handle my marriage. She didn’t. As soon as she got back home a few days later she kept calling, when I stopped picking up her calls, she would come over to my office, I would keep her waiting for so long, she would have to leave most times and even when I saw her, it will be for 2 minutes then I would excuse myself to go to a meeting.
One Saturday, Akinola and I went to see my sister. She had just given birth to her 2nd child. Her husband was praising his wife for being a wonderful mum, he said she runs her business and makes sure she’s at home in time to pick up their daughter from school, but now that the second one is here she will take a break from work and let her manager run the business. Akinola just looked at me as if to say, see your life, even your younger sister, as more sense than you do, she knows her priorities. I ignored the look and gave him a peck and said my Akinola is the best; he got me a fantastic maid who looks after our son when I am at work. At that point, Akinola got up and said we had to leave. On the way home, he didn’t speak to me and I feigned ignorance. What I don’t hear doesn’t bug me. Whatever was eating him up, he didn’t say, and I too pretended I didn’t know what it was.
Throughout this, Akinola still made love to me until one day, he just moved all his things into another bedroom and stopped making love to me. I didn’t really care, although I asked, all he said was he had a lot of work to do at night and didn’t want to disturb me when he has to put on the reading light. Also, my clothes were squashing him out of the wardrobe, so he needed more space and as for sex, not having it with me? All he said, was our busy schedule made us both tired. He was right. Most days I got back from work so late, all I did was have a shower and go to bed. These days, Akinola locked himself in his room or came back late from work.
Then one weekend I came back from a 4-day retreat organized at work and Akinola had replaced my nanny with a strange woman. When I asked Akinola, he just said the nanny had to go take care of her mother and wasn’t sure if she was coming back. That upset me because I had gotten used to her, but this recent one was more mature and seemed to know what she was doing, so I thought no more of it.
After that, Akinola and I continued our relationship. Soon 5 years went by, I was now a partner in my firm and our son was 7 and an only child. One Sunday evening, Akinola came to my room and said his company was signing a new deal with their American partners, so he would be away for two months and our son was coming along with him since he was on his summer holiday. I said it was great; I didn’t mind anyway, more time for me to work and not worry about either of them.
Exactly 2 months later, one evening, I get a call from Akinola’s mum; she asked me to come over to their house. When I get there, it shocked me to see my mum and that Akinola was back from his trip. I looked around, but I didn’t see our son anywhere, thinking maybe he was somewhere in the house. My father-in-law started off, “Chinwe, Our son has something to say to you.” Akinola got up and talked, “My dear wife, I am so sorry, I didn’t inform you I was back, even sorrier I wasted your time all these years, married for 8 years now and all this time I believe we only had joy in our first year of marriage. After that, I became a clog in your wheel, a burden, an inconvenience. Our son and I were stumbling blocks, which, if not properly avoided, would derail your much-cherished career. So I am setting you free.
The saying goes, if you love something so much you will let it go. Chichi, you made it clear you wanted nothing else to do with me when I found the birth control pills you had been taking,” Akinola watched my reaction when he was sure his speech was sinking in he continued. “I moved out of our bedroom, stopped making love to you, and you didn’t even care. That’s when I realized this marriage is an inconvenience to you, so I am doing the only thing I feel is fair to both of us, I am setting you free. Chichi my dear, I am not upset. God had been good to me and I have you to thank for that. Your nanny, who took care of our son and me, is now my wife. She has twins for me. She got pregnant, and that’s why I sent her to America to have the babies. And 2 months ago, we formalized our relationship. Our son was a witness. She is now my wife and the mother of our child and my 2 other children, our son is in America with his twin sisters. You can keep the house we live in and all the cars there and choose 2 other houses. I have transferred a huge sum of money into your account, please sign the divorce papers. I have moved to America and will run my businesses from there. I wish you all the best in your career, bye my love,”.
That was the last thing I heard. I woke up in the hospital the next day, with my sister and her husband standing over me.
Today, I am 48 years old, a frustrated company director, unmarried and unhappy. My son calls me once in a while, my mum hardly speaks to me and all those men who wanted to date me when I was young, beautiful, proud and full of myself are now all happily married. I have lost all that zeal to be the boss and control everyone and everything around me. I am now desperate to get married, but no one is asking. All the money, careers, houses, clothes and jewellery. I would gladly give up, just to get it right the second time, I wish. If wishes were horses, now applies to me.
Image by Drazen Zigic (Freepik)