In February, 2013, Nkem gave up her job as the Acting Executive Director of a foremost NGO to stay home with her two children. Intelligent, hardworking and passionate, it must have taken a deep conviction and rare courage to take that step. Naija Housewives hooks up with her as she shares her story.
Could you tell us a little about yourself? Who is Nkem Odewunmi?
I am simple person who believes in being true and committed to anything I am involved in. I am passionate by nature and very determined when I set my mind to something. My life till this point has been an incredible journey of trials and triumphs. Through the difficult times, I stood firm in my faith and rode the storm; the victory and lessons from these experiences have made me strong, compassionate and balanced. I am married to a very loving and supportive man and we have two gorgeous children.
You mentioned some experiences you’ve been through that have made you stronger; would you be interested in sharing some of those?
Well as you can imagine most of these experiences are deeply personal but I can share a few of them:
When I was 9 years old by parents separated. My sister and I were left with my dad and immediately I had to assume the role of “big” sister being the older of the two of us. With that role came responsibilities that I was ill prepared for but had to quickly adjust to. By the time I was 12, I was running the home, going to the market and cooking meals for the house. As well as cleaning and whatever other domestic chore needed seeing to. I did this wherever we lived in the world. I remember once, after hosting some of my dad’s guests one of the wives asked for the recipe; I was amused to say the least! My sister helped but the burden of the work lay on me and if things didn’t get done I was held responsible.
The real difficulty wasn’t really the fact that I had to do all these things, It was the fact that I missed my mum and that I never really had an opportunity to come to terms with her absence nor did I have ready access to other women to turn to as I grew up and needed some motherly input. My dad did as great a job as any serious-minded single dad in that time could possibly have but with a full time job and all other matters he was dealing with, he couldn’t be there for me the way I craved. As God would have it I pulled through, school work did not suffer too much and I matured quickly. I ran the house until I got married and in many ways still do (by proxy) (neither of my parents ever remarried so my dad still needs help from time to time).
Despite the fractured family setting I am extremely close to my father and mother. With time, God’s grace and forgiveness wounds have been healed.
Another trying time in my life was preparing for my wedding and life after the wedding. Now, I KNOW that everyone has a wedding story but mine knocked me sideways and I really wouldn’t want to relive it. First of all my parents never took issue with my choice to marry my husband but the moment he proposed and preparations commenced, it was as if the devil put a spotlight on me and was determined to crush our plans.
From in-laws displeasure at traveling down to my state (Delta) for the preliminary traditional steps to not having a wedding dress 7 days to my wedding to Lagos state shutting down my venue (Liberty Gardens, Ikeja, GRA) a week to the wedding to our chosen home in Agungi, Lekki being so flooded that it was inaccessible, the list goes on! For a full account of my wedding dress fiasco read my post, To be or knot to be.
[one_fourth last=”no”]The fact that we faced such trials together and I never complained to my husband but stood firm and supportive has made our bond stronger.[/one_fourth]
With some last minute scrambling and with extra financial support from our parents we were able secure a new wedding venue 4 days to the wedding. We then proceeded to redirect all guests to the new venue at Yard 158 in Oregun; this was a feat all by itself. The pressure was so much that a few days to the wedding hubby and I had a heated argument that saw us questioning our decision to proceed because everything seemed to be collapsing around us. I began to wonder if it was a sign not to go ahead…..fast forward to post honeymoon. We came back to meet a river where our estate was located. I am not exaggerating, a near by canal was blocked and the rainfall filled it till it over flowed into our water logged estate.
For 5 months after we moved in we had to park in a remote location, don on rain boots and wade through thigh high water every single day! Even our furniture and personal effects were carried by porters on their heads as they waded to the house. Now if you consider the fact that ALL my life I had lived in fully serviced homes with well run amenities and minimum inconveniences, you can imagine the culture shock for me. But we braved the storm together and after two years we moved to a much more structured estate where such issues do not arise.
The fact that we faced such trials together and I never complained to my husband but stood firm and supportive has made our bond stronger. He would often tell anyone who cares to listen that he took me from ikoyi to Agungi and I never complained; he really appreciates it.
The birth of our first child was a massive trial since he came early but again with God on our side, we prevailed.
The period after a couple just has their first child is usually one of adjustment and tension in the home. How did that work out for you? Did having children radically change your life and how did that affect the relationship dynamics with your husband?
Is there a enough time in the world to answer this question??!! Where do I start? Well first of all childbirth has strengthened my relationship with God. You see, in the labour room, it is you and God and no one can convince me that God is not almighty. My first child was born preterm; a complete surprise. I went into spontaneous labour at 32 weeks. The miracles God worked in this child’s life cannot be put into words. Despite all the Doctors said, our child is a healthy, energetic and super intelligent little tyke.
My life has taken on new meaning since the children, watching them grow and develop is a blessing I don’t take for granted. I also do not take my duty as a mother for granted and strive each day to see that I am bringing them up as God wills.
My relationship with my husband has also undergone some evolution. We argued a lot during the early days of both births. The pressure and stress of the preterm birth rocked us a bit until we found some stability and united in the fight for our child’s life. The second baby’s birth also brought some strain on our relationship because he was born the year following our first so we were faced with caring for two demanding babies and at the time we didn’t always agree on the ways in which to do that. However, after the initial hitches we have now developed a mutual respect for each other as parents and we are both fully involved and generally united in all aspects of our children’s upbringing and well being.
So tell us why you gave up your career to become a stay at home mum and how do you feel about it?
I chose to be a stay at home mum, when it became glaringly clear that my work was encroaching on my family in a manner I considered to be unacceptable. You see, in my opinion, there will always be work opportunities but my family and my young children need my NOW to nurture and groom them. I had no choice but to answer the call to be a mother the way I know how.
What are you most passionate about?
This is a tricky question but I’ll try to answer it. I am most passionate about being true and being real and this manifests in my work, my role as a mum, as a wife and as a person. You see, I believe that when we are true in all that we do, we are able to apply the tenets of God’s ways and only then can we manifest in the way He intended, thereby fulfilling our destiny.
How do you tie your passion in with family and work?
I never apply myself to something I don’t care about. My passion must shine through or else whatever I do will be a chore and a tedium. I strive to be the best at what I do and God’s grace gives me the boost I need to be all I can be to my family, friends and in my work.
You are a niche caterer; could you tell us a bit about your business?
Food and Fashion Fusion started out as a blog where I shared my love for healthy, beautifully presented food and personal style challenges and triumphs. Slowly, what seemed to be a hubby is evolving into a business and I now offer niche small scale catering services, recipe development services, food styling, food and fashion consultancy and I also moonlight as a food writer, who would have thought!?
I have a Facebook page where I share my exploits in my food lab, respond to inquiries and guide people as they go into various gastronomical adventures. My blog address is foodandfashionfusion.wordpress.com and you can also find me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/foodfashionfusion.
Wow, combining being a house wife and an entrepreneur must take a lot from you. Could you run through your typical day with us, starting from when you wake up to when you finally go to sleep?
Where do I start? When I open my eyes between 5.30 and 6am I go and prepare the children’s breakfast which they take as soon as they get out of bed around 7am. I proceed to start packing their bags for crèche. Then it’s bath time. Depending on how preoccupied he is my husband will usually offer to bath the older one. Once they are fed, bathed and dressed, We get dressed and bundle everyone out of the house. (I started volunteering at the crèche about 2 months ago so I head out with them).
I stay at the crèche until 7pm when it closes. Then hubby comes to pick us up. We usually get home at about 8ish depending on traffic. I unpack all bags, wash up all the feeding utensils they take to crèche, bath and dress them for bed. Bedtime is between 8.30 pm and 9pm. When I am done with that, if hubby is hungry I fix a meal for him, prep my older son’s lunch for the next day and pack it away. Then I do some laundry (if not there’ll be a monster pile by the end of the week).
If I have a banana bread order, I’ll prep it and stick it in the oven and wait for it to bake. On a good day, I could be in bed with all chores done by midnight on other days I am not so lucky. This routine may vary depending on what I have to do etc. If you noticed that I didn’t mention anything about praying or quiet time, well the truth is I pray on the go and sometimes I don’t even do that. I haven’t been able to carve out ample time to spend with God the way I used to but I am striving to establish that again.
That sounds like your day is completely full. As you go through your day and your week, what coping devise do you use? There are some women who lock themselves in the toilet for 5 minutes just to get a breather. Some Naija Housewives use music to wind down. What escapism mechanism do you employ?
Before I started volunteering at the crèche I was home alone with my youngest and I had a routine for his nap and feeding times. This allowed me to have fairly predictable down times and when I got too overwhelmed I would dispatch him to the crèche for the day so that I could regroup.
My bestie who is more like a sister would also organize spa days for me. Sometimes they would come to the house or she would pick me up and take me to the spa. Now with my stint at the crèche, when I need some me-time at home, I simply walk away and go lie down while hubby minds them. If I am home alone with them, I put them in their cots or strap them into their seats while I take a 3 minute breather. Of course if they are asleep it’s all the better.
How did you meet your husband?
That is a very long tale but I’ll try to be brief. We met on May 21, 2007 through a senior friend who happened to be his cousin. I had met her in church while I was in the UK studying for my Masters. When she relocated to Nigeria she asked to meet up and her designated”driver” was her cousin (now my husband). We got on quite well and on July 1, 2007 he asked me, through a very romantic SMS, to be his girlfriend, the rest, as they say, is history.
Tell us something about you that not very many people know
Most people don’t know that the first language I spoke was Dutch and that I had to relearn English when I returned to Nigeria.
We’re really curious about this; how can one be a foodie and still stay fit and healthy?
This is probably the easiest question; my answer is apply moderation. Be disciplined in your choices and keep a balance. Food is to be enjoyed but I advise that you watch your portions and consumption.
Finally, what advice do you have for women who are thinking of quitting their jobs to become stay at home moms?
Before you take the plunge to ditch the ball and chain….haha….I mean your job, I would strongly recommend that you have a candid chat with your spouse. This is crucial because often times, the drop in monthly income can be strenuous (to put it mildly) and you want to minimize any resentment.
Then I would also recommend that you pray and have peace about the decision. Don’t rush into this, it is life changing and it can take a lot out of you so you need to ensure that it is a decision you can live with. If you do take the bold step, have a structure and plan that will guide you daily. It is easy to fall into the trap of caring for the home and children and neglecting yourself. This is not sustainable so there must be a plan that allows you to do something for yourself.