Memoirs of a Naijamerican Bride VI: I Am Not Just My Mrs.
This article was first published in October 2015.
One of the best parts of my wedding was what came afterwards: getting to open our presents and cards. Having friends and family show up from far and near to support us was such a blessing. Getting gifts and kind cards on top of that was a treat.
While sorting through the cards though, I began to notice a trend: quite a few of our cards were addressed to Mr. & Mrs. David Soremekun. Now, I had no qualms with the cards addressed to Mr. & Mrs. Soremekun. But when first names were used, I couldn’t help but wonder why mine was absent. Of course, every single card we received was well intentioned and most appreciated. And yes, there has been a growing trend over the past few decades in Nigeria, for women to take both their husband’s first and last names. Still, a part of me felt frustrated by the assumption. To ease my frustration, I jokingly started writing my name on a few of the envelopes, which made the people around me burst out in laughter. The removal of my name made me wonder: Is this how the erasure starts? Is this how women start to lose themselves in a marriage, till they no longer remember who they were before it, and no longer have a self that exists outside it?
In the months leading up to my wedding, I got a lot of varied advice. One of things someone told me: “Once you get married, you need to put your dreams on hold and focus on your husband and your children. When your children are grown up, you can focus on your career aspirations again.” Another thing I have heard: “Being a wife and a mother are a woman’s highest calling.” There are so many problematic notions in these statements that unpacking them all would take a much higher word count than this blog permits. But let’s unpack a few.
First, many women, by choice or circumstance, will never be wives or mothers. To say a woman’s most important purpose can only be realized at the wedding aisle or in a delivery room is to trivialize the significance of millions of lives. Second, for economic and other reasons, there are millions of wives and mothers who must work outside the home. Moreover, these husband-dependent ideologies have tangible implications for widows, divorcees, and single mothers, who are far too often pushed to societal sidelines and marginalized. On the other hand, I believe being a wife, and being a mother are sacred roles. I have the utmost respect for women who choose these paths as their sole callings. Indeed, there are also millions of women who for various reasons, such as the disability of a child, cannot work outside the home. Considering these disparate realities, how can we continue to blanket half of the world’s population with one narrative? How can we say there is only one right way to be a woman?
I believe God’s purposes and plans are wide enough to make room for every woman, and dynamic enough to apply to different lives and different seasons of life. I believe that all human beings, regardless of religious inclinations (or lack thereof), have been given specific talents, personalities, desires, and passions for a reason. I believe there is enough room in the world for our varied narratives and dreams: from the leaders to the preachers, the housewives to the midwives, the consultants to the cooks, and the bankers to the bakers.
I am enjoying this new season of being wife, and I look forward to being a mother in the future. But these things are only a part of my identity. I cannot be checked into a “Mrs.” box and left there. I am also a daughter, a sister, a friend, a bibliophile, a wanderluster, and a dreamer, amongst other things. Pre-marriage, I brought my whole self to the table. When I got married, I wasn’t seeking a “better half,” but the divine mystery of two becoming one. I am blessed to be married to a man who celebrates my authentic self, and who 100% supports not just my down-the-road dreams, but my here-and-now dreams. I hope for a world with more men like him. There are so many things I hope for.
I hope for a world where a woman does not have to dumb herself down, or subterfuge her assets to be “wife material” or to be likable. I hope for a world where a woman will not be punished or shamed for choosing to pursue her passions; a world where the sacrifices that marriage and child rearing necessitate will not rest squarely on a woman’s shoulders. I hope for a world where a woman does not have to dim her lights in order to let a man shine—I want a world with enough fuel for all of our lights. I hope for a world where good women can be found beside successful men—not just behind them. I hope for a world, where the “what” and the “when” of a woman’s highest calling, can be a matter of personal choice and conviction.
And as a Christian, I yearn for God’s kingdom to come: that place where “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male or female…”(Galatians 3:28). That place where we are all one. I told you I am a dreamer—and I’m okay with that. Many of the world’s greatest social movements and solutions, began not with skeptics or cynics, but with dreamers. And so, even as I remain cognizant of the many political, social, economic, cultural, religious and legal limitations women all over the world face today, and will face tomorrow, I will continue to hope.
The Memoirs of a Naijamerican Bride series is available HERE.