Keeping up with the initiative of guest blogging, this is a write-up by the extraordinary Ma’rufah Adeola Olorunnisola. Ma’rufah is an Early Childhood Education specialist with her undergraduate and Masters degrees, both in the same discipline from the University of Lagos. With over 16 years of experience, four of which she acquired in the capacity of special educator, she has also participated in a number of community-based research projects in Nigeria.
Currently, Olorunnisola serves as an Adjunct Lecturer in University of Lagos and Federal College of Education (Technical), Akoka, Lagos, Nigeria. Weekdays, she can be found supervising schools for the EkoExcel project. She is also experienced in creating, implementing and monitoring developmentally appropriate educational program practices specific to the individual’s learning needs.
Ma’rufah also counsels youths and children with behavioral issues.
Olorunnisola’s integrity, hard work and dedication to children and parents led her to start blogging at:
Do visit, go through the wealth of information she has chosen to share, and leave your thoughts on her page.
I am grateful for her contribution to my blog. The piece she has chosen to submit talks about ‘providing a space to love a child with tidbits of advice on how to help them grow optimally.’
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Have a good read!
She was married at 22, happily so, to the calmest man there ever was. It was a blissful union for 6 years. Together, they established an elementary school where they enrolled their 3 children; the fourth in the womb.
8 months into the pregnancy, complications arose which landed her in the ICU of a teaching hospital. Here, she’d stay for the next 3 months before she finally went to meet her Lord. This calm man had to care for a toddler, 2 young children and an infant. But he had help. This help translated to the infant being taken to another state by her paternal aunt; the toddler with a maternal aunt in yet another state; and finally the 2 oldest children with him.
How was he to cope? He had his own work to attend to but his children were paramount; he wanted all his children under his roof. There and then began the search – the search for a mother for his children.
At 19, she was engaged to be married to a promising Hafidh-al-Qur’an (a scholar-in-making of Qur’an). The engagement ended when he got married to someone else – he didn’t bother breaking his engagement with her. (Don’t worry, that childless marriage ended in divorce after 8 years).
She continued her studies and met another amazing man. His family accepted her but only half of hers accepted him. The engagement was dragged on for 4 years. In the end, they had to go their separate ways to avoid a sinful relationship. As one of 10 orphans, she was basically responsible for herself, but her eldest brother was is in charge. After 3 years of being single again, this eldest brother was on her neck to find a man. How was she to cope in a marriage when she was established as a single person already?
She had just clocked 32 when some matchmakers had the idea that she could fill the gap in Mr. Calmest Man’s life. So, the process began. She was told about him and he, about her. He liked what he heard – what was not to like? She was a childhood educator, a psychologist, an experienced child-minder, a radio presenter who practiced the same religion and shared similar ideologies. What’s more, they had mutual friends. She would fill the gap nicely, maybe better than the late wife did. Maybe…
However, she was not as optimistic as him. The expectations were high. This was a man who was looking for a replacement wife, primarily a mother to his children. That was much more than looking for a companion/friend!
How was she to cope in taking care of 5 individuals?
Who would take care of her?
This was a lady with her own expectations of being loved (used to the love ideals of hollywood/bollywood and in works of Johanna Lindsey and co). She said a loud emphatic ‘no’ almost immediately; this was far from her dream of combination of good marriage and successful career.
Being a mother on the exact day of nikah?
No! No! No! This ‘travel companion’ comes with a big heavy baggage she wasn’t willing to take on.
The man was calmly persistent though. He let her be for a few months and resurfaced in February. After a lot of pressure and plea, they had only one chance to meet and he insisted they take it. At the point of meeting, he convinced her that her fears were valid but everything would be at her pace, with Allaah as their Guide. She was SURPRISED!
This is Nigeria – the man is in charge here, not the other way round. So, this was too good to be true. But she was hopeful.
Then the process began!
The man wanted a quick marriage. But he wanted a quicker relationship between the lady and his children. She, on the other hand, didn’t think being introduced to the children was a good idea since it had not been decided that she would marry him. The standstill held.
Then he met her family, Alhamdulillaah. A small gathering was agreed upon…she wasn’t big on events. Only after this did she start talking to the children via technological means (skype, whatsapp video, etc). Soon, the cracks opened up. Talk about pressure. Filling a gap is not a child’s play.
This is how their late mother used to do things. She even ran a school successfully. These on different occasions from the Calm man.
They said you’re not mummy, when is she coming back? – This from the 8 year old eldest boy.
I like your smile but I don’t see it often. – This from the 6 year old girl.
Can I have a hug, please? – This from the 3 year old.
The challenge was on; new for everyone. The children whose thirst for a mother’s love was unquantifiable; the man who misses his first wife; then the new bride who has suddenly become a mother. Not just that, she was his rebound girl. She was also a home administrator. The rebound part was the worst for her as she came to realise.
Quenching the thirst for the children was easier since she is trained to do just that. ‘How not to get sucked in via emotions’ is the quirk part of the journey.
An uneasy journey, it seems. But she learned to be fulfilled in it.
Foremost, she is falling in love with all members of her new family slowly. Infatuation and chemical reaction, the early jitters at the beginning of a new relationship isn’t useful here. She is relating with all 5 of them with understanding; learning them. This way, a seed is planted and nurtured; she is investing in their emotional bank accounts. When love does happen, it will last. And she will be accepted as her, not as someone to fill a gap. She will be needed, not just wanted.
Having fun together, implementing effective communication, being compassionate – these three are her watch-word in her relationship with her family.
How she is getting through?
EVERYTHING is in servitude to Allaah. With this motto, she knows she will be rewarded for the privilege to have the daunting responsibility and task of raising great members of the Ummah. Subhanallaah! The stress of having to cope with “filling another’s shoes” are basically investments in preparation for her place in Jannah. So, Allaah’s pleasure is her goal. She is becoming content with Allaah’s decree in her life and learning to know her Lord.
Secondly, she is learning from the real heroines – Muslimahs of the past like Um Sulaym, Khawla, Jameelah and so on. The way they faced their challenges and won propelled her to be better, despite her tests (I mean, Allaah has promised every believer tests!).
She decided to be proactive rather than complain. She also founded a support system for females in marriages they’d rather not be in. She used her super-power positively, rather than feeding the negativity around her. She invested and worked on herself, found her own space and is helping others to do same.
When you respect yourself, loving you and others will come easy. Even if you do not like a part of you and some parts of others, still respect that person.