Convener, All Ladies Affairs, Business and Career Forum, Dr. Shade Toyin-Kehinde, speaks on challenges married women face in balancing their homes and careers in this interview with Bosede Olusola-Obasa
How true is the saying that it takes a tough woman to break even in the business world?
It takes an ordinary woman to achieve the unachievable in whatever industry. But the difference between her and other ordinary women is that she is one backed by God and her spouse. It actually takes vision to excel. She is a focused woman, who brings business before pleasure. She is shrewd and organised. She pays herself rather than touch her capital. She lives within her means, she respects the core principles of business excellence and above all, she is socially responsible to her immediate environment and beyond. For instance, we give revolving loans to poor widows for business and take them through skills acquisition. I encourage women to go all out; there is no limitation at all.
But people say that women are the worst bosses to have?
That is a wrong notion. Women have this milk of kindness which comes to play from time to time. Men who complain about female bosses are perhaps those who want to take undue advantage of a prevailing situation. They feel they can get away with about anything; that is where the woman’s ‘hardness’ shows up. She puts her feet down and gets the results she set out to get. Some men think that the average woman doesn’t understand the game in the corporate world or that she is dull.
Is it ideal for women to resign to look after their homes?
If there is an agreement between her and her spouse, well. But I will not advise a woman to take that step; at the same time, I won’t say that a woman should disobey her husband. But I would plead with such men to note that her being employed may soon pay off. When perhaps the burden of running the home becomes too heavy on the man and it may be too late for the woman to return to the corporate world, she has become rusty – he has rendered her inadequate and handicapped in that area. That can eventually create tension at home. He starts putting up acts that show the woman that she is too domestic. I encourage that men who insist that their wives stay at home should pay her monthly as if she is going to the office. The amount should be close to what she was earning in her last job. For the woman, she should do things that will multiple that income and save for the rainy days. Engage in something profitable that still gives you good time for keeping the home. Frankly, these are days when it requires both spouses to work to keep the home running, especially when the children get to higher institutions and bills are rising. So people should look into tomorrow and empower their wives financially. In the real sense of the word, I don’t think there are still full-time housewives in Nigeria today. You don’t have to abandon your home to work, spend time with your family members and build healthy family units.
You are a career woman, how often do you cook?
Oh, I go to the kitchen everyday to cook. I celebrated my 20th wedding anniversary in February and for those 20 years, I have not had any other person cook for my husband or children. That is not because I can’t afford a house maid, but because I believe in managing my kitchen personally. I cook every day, breakfast, lunch, dinner. As a matter of fact, I have a day in the week dedicated to the kitchen. On that day, I overhaul my freezer; check my fridge to see what I need to restock. I do it on my own. Even as a banker, I did that in a way that it did not affect my job. I did it at the weekends. Currently, my weekends are the busiest, so I chose a day in the week when my schedule enables me to do so. I stay in the kitchen and fix as many things as possible such that I realise that I am good to go for the rest of the week. I can cook anything without visiting the market. I do that weekly. And I do another monthly overhaul of the freezer. The monthly schedule helps me stock the freezer with meat of all kinds of things in large quantities. My husband can call for any kind of meal and you are sure I have it. Many women need to be tutored in this area. Don’t leave your responsibility to the housemaid, nannies, grandma. It is easier for me now because I could do it as a banker. Those days, I did my large cooking at the weekend; packed them in plastic packs. It is not every day that people love to eat foods stored in the fridge, so sometimes on my way from work, I park my car and do some shopping. A woman should never be tired of the kitchen.
Which part of your house are you fond of?
Wow, wow, I am most fond of my bedroom.
That is where I enjoy the best fellowship that gives me the tonic to keep going. That is where I meet with a man to whom I can pour all my heart. That is where I get the best counsel, encouragement and prayer. I attach the most importance to my bedroom and of course I don’t joke with my sex life – it is an integral part of the fellowship that I am talking about. I know that marital bliss cannot be without sex. I tell business and career women not to joke with their sex life; and I practice what I preach.
As a banker, how receptive were you to sex?
Oh, let me set the records strait; I am busier now than when I was a banker; as a counsellor, pastor and one in a social responsibility sector. Then, as a banker, I had resumption and closing time, and when I had to call it a day and go home. But now, I could get calls at 3am on my duty as a pastor. Sometimes, I am at my desk here in the office till midnight, attending meetings. Sometimes, because of my busy schedule, I don’t have good sleep for three consecutive days. If I could manage my sex life then, it should be difficult now; but no, it is not. I have set things right. I tell married women at all kinds of fora that it is better not to marry than come into it and claim to be tied and unable to enjoy sex – you are courting trouble. There are so many mistresses out there willing to give it to your husband. Let me share a personal secret: when you are tired, that is the time to have sex. It will cool you down, that is the design of sex. It puts your body back when it is about to give way. That is the best sleeping pill – the right sex, with the right man – your husband. When you feel really tired, have a good shower, relax in your bed beside your husband, let him rub your back, you rub his and before you know it, you are there and you will feel really refreshed. I have practised it and I know it. It also cements relationships and settles quarrels.
Are you saying that in 20 years you have never said no to your husband?
Hmmm, there has been no time that my no was outright. I have had to say no only to find out that I have yielded. Before I had this understanding, I, like other women, had the erroneous belief that sex further drains you when you are already tired. I have since learned not to say no; it doesn’t mean that I have sex every day. But on whatever platform I stand to teach around the world, I do say that for a healthy marriage, that a couple should not have any week without sex. When I see couples who quarrel on every little issue, I find out how their sexual life is; then I discover that they have not been there for two weeks, one month, two months. So not a week without sex please.
You talk as if it is automatic?
Well, there are factors that aid good sex. There shouldn’t be pressure. Some African men love to leave the roof burning and pretend nothing is happening. He knows the bills have not been paid, yet he wants to sleep with his wife whose mind is naturally on the unpaid bills. The woman is not in the right frame of mind for sex. So it is easy for her to say, ‘don’t touch me; let’s talk about the bills instead.’ If the man is not ready to talk about it, they stay off sex for as long as the issue is unresolved. This is for the men, ‘it is not the time that you want to go to bed with your wife that you remember your wife exists. Pay the bills; make life comfortable for your wife.’ That is why I can’t say no to my husband. He makes life comfortable for me, he doesn’t give me a headache about bills being paid, he pays attention to every detail and makes sure they are fixed, he gives me hope. In such a man, I can relax; he doesn’t wait till bedtime to tell me he loves me. Even in the midst of his schedule as prayer director of Lagos Chapter, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, among others, he still minds little details. He calls just to say, ‘I love you’; he knows I love ice cream and he buys it often. There is nothing he can’t do to help me, especially when I get home late at night – in the kitchen, in the shower, in the bedroom, we help each other. When a man is as good as that, he will enjoy his wife in every sense of the word. Some men say their wives don’t help them meet needs at home, but they don’t open up to their wives. I spoke to a widow who said she didn’t know her husband’s office address while he was alive.
How do you cope with office romance, sharing the same office apartment with your husband?
It is not affecting our work; rather, it helps us to work better. When we are at work, we should be focused. Office romance doesn’t have to be physical today. Social media has made the world absolutely without barriers and borders, but work hours should be given to working.
What can’t you resist?
The cry of a widow. I can give everything that I have to them. I love to look good but I don’t spend too much on those. I have carried this heart and commitment so hard that my children are also following me in it. I have had to sell off some expensive things I have to meet needs of the widow, missionaries and the less-privileged.
Your forum deals with issues about women balancing the demands of their homes and careers. Can you tell us more about it?
It is a forum where we spur women to become the best that they can be in their respective fields and endeavours and in turn, impact their world positively. I have come to discover that women have a lot to offer their homes, immediate environments, countries and the world. There is no limit to getting this done except in the African setting where their roles are played down. It is also interesting to note that apart from being looked down on by the public and the men, some women look down on themselves. Our role is to help such women in all sectors to get rid of that grasshopper mentality. That is the focus of the Business and Career Forum, which hosts women from all walks of life yearly. This year’s event comes up on March 9. The forum is hosted in March deliberately in commemoration of the International Day of Women.
What are the limitations women face?
From counselling, I realise that women set no-go areas for themselves. There is the phobia that the core business sectors cannot be taken over by women. The average woman with her level of education would rather run a massive departmental store, deal in jewellery or other accessories than think of going into manufacturing, for instance. And the men are not helping matters, because when they see a woman who dares to come close to the places otherwise thought to be the preserve of men, they are jolted. They put up an attitude that says, “We’ll rather have your husband here.” But I ask, “If a man falls into a river and the only person around to throw him a life jacket is a woman, will he prefer to die than take it from her?” The interesting point to add is that women who have dared to go there, excelled. Some women have the challenge of husbands who cannot bear to have them in public light. But that shouldn’t be, provided it doesn’t reduce commitment to the home front. So the women only need to be encouraged to strike a balance. Another challenge is that women can be impediments in the track of fellow women. Such attitudes should stop; we should be willing to serve as ladders for other women to rise.