Happy World Book Day.
The first Thursday in March is World Book Day in England and Ireland.
Last March, as my three little children dressed up in their favorite book characters in preparation for some of the events they had lined up for the day, I couldn’t help but reminisce about my childhood.
My love for books
I fell in love with books even before I could spell the word.
I would play with the colorful Atlas meant for my big brother.
I also loved to play with My book of Bible Stories and other children picture books and magazines, making my own stories of the pictures as I flipped on.
When I started reading at about age four, I spared no book.
With books, I watched and questioned the world around me, travelled to other worlds, made new friends and ate foreign food.
I actually “tasted” Pizza for the first time in books.
The longing I would have for Pizza in the real world is a story for another day.
At 10, I had read nearly the entire collection of Pace Setters.
I remember not dropping Sisi and Evbu my Love until far into the night when I had read every page.
Not a week went by without me reading Tell and Hints Magazines.
I will read everything from the Editorials to the Obituaries, Adverts to Change of Names.
However, Dare Babarinsa’s column in Tell Magazine and Fatherhood with Ibe by Dr Ibe Kachukwu, Nigeria’s current Minister of State for Petroleum in Hints Magazine were some of my favorite columns.
The struggles of the girl-child
Sadly, my lovely affair with books got a raw deal when I got into secondary (boarding) school.
I had become old enough to be taught how to take care of the home front and how to be a good house wife to my future husband.
So during the holidays, my reading time got cut by more than half.
As the only female in a house of eight children, “tradition” demanded I had to do the domestic chores.
With tonnes of dishes to wash, food to make, rooms to clean, and many more, I found it extremely difficult indulging in my pastime.
By this time, I had started reading James Hardley Chase and Mills and Boon series.
I had also fallen in love with Biographies and Autobiographies.
Of course, my love for Newspapers and Magazines never dwindled too.
Sadly, time to read became the scarcest thing on planet earth.
Many times, I would sneak to the local library and drown myself in books only to have to rush home just a few minutes to hurriedly do my domestic chores before mum returned from work.
She was a college principal and entrepreneur.
While mum applauded and encouraged my reading habits, as custom dictates, she desired a traditionally “well-groomed” young lady too.
Indeed, mum wanted me to be the best in the two worlds.
On the other hand, I found it exasperating striking the balance.
The situation was very frustrating, to say the least.
I regretted being a girl-child.
I couldn’t help but wish I were my brothers who had less domestic chores and more time for their pastime, football.
As I watched the world, I would often ponder over the baggage that comes with being a girl-child.
I wondered why chores were shared based on gender rather than ability.
My only consolation was that I was unlike Kate (not her real name) our neighbour, who woke up by 4am much before the rest of her male cousins did.
She lived with her aunt.
Kate would be the last to go to bed and was also the last to go to school because she had to cater to the needs of the entire family.
Needless to say, half of Kate’s day at school were spent sleeping.
She would be nicknamed Kate the sleeper at school.
Kate would repeat every class in Junior Secondary School.
She was married off at 18!
My parenting style
Upon becoming a mum, I chose to raise my children differently.
Time is shared proportionately amongst my children.
Chores are based on ability, never on gender.
My son does the dishes, so do my daughters.
They take turns in doing all chores together.
Never will my daughter make food for her brother merely because he is a boy.
As a beautiful writer once said, I am beyond convinced that culinary skills do not come pre-installed in a vagina.
Similarly, extra curricular activities are based on interest and ability.
My daughters do Judo and are members of the Football club in school while my son (and daughters as well) is an enthusiastic gymnast and ballet dancer.
I don’t set higher standards for my daughters and expect lower standards from my boys.
They are all treated fairly.
Importantly, I make deliberate efforts to expose all my children to books.
I set reading challenges at home, gifting them awards when they read a certain number of books.
Treats as little as chocolate bars are often the inspiration they need.
In all that I do, I am guided by fairness and equality.
As I try to change our tradition of inequality between the girl-child and the boy-child in my little home, I urge my contemporaries to do the same in theirs.
Together, we can change our collective attitude to gender equality in our society.
Ann Mossley is regular woman who is trying to live a legacy that will outlive her. Ann has taken it upon herself to help share the real stories of the silent women in the society. If you want her to share your story on the platform, send it to: [email protected]