Umi Spotlight: Florence Polit

A mum in Bauchi, Nigeria

With Umi Spotlight, we are sharing the best of what other mothers have figured out both in their motherhood journey and in life.

On this edition, we dug into the well of wisdom that is Florence Polit as she shares insights from her journey of parenting. She did not hold back as she talks about all her tactics of discipline, her most cherished memories as a child, her struggles still and what the values she hope that her kids would uphold, among other things. Find out more about her here

Going back to the way you were raised, are there any styles of parenting or traditions your parents raised you with that you now also do with your kid(s)?One of the tradition from my own upbringing that I've carried on with my children is the importance of bedtime stories. Just like my parents used to read to me before bedtime, I now read to my kids every night. It's a wonderful way to bond, stimulate their imagination, and instill a love for reading that I hope they'll pass on to their own children someday.
Secondly, I focus on maintaining a clean and safe environment for them. Just like my mum will always say, 'when your environment is clean, it becomes friendly and accommodating; but when it's unkept it, becomes unfriendly and can end up hurting you.' So like my parents did, I make sure to regularly clean and disinfect their nursery, keep their toys sanitized, and establish a routine for feeding, napping, and diaper changes. It's crucial to create a healthy and hygienic space for their well-being. This I hope they will pass unto their children.

What about your upbringing would you prefer not to repeat with your own journey as a parent?
As a parent, there are aspects of my own upbringing that I would prefer not to repeat with my own children. One thing I'd like to avoid is the overly strict and authoritarian parenting style that I experienced as a child. Instead, I aim to strike a balance between setting boundaries and allowing my children more autonomy, fostering open communication, and ensuring they feel heard and valued in our family. This approach will hopefully create a more nurturing and supportive environment for my kids.

What attributes of yours or that of your husband have you began to see in your kids?
I have noticed our children, especially the eldest child, have inherited strong intellectual skills from their father. They exhibit a natural curiosity and a love for learning, just like him. Whether it's asking thoughtful questions, showing an interest in various subjects, or problem-solving with enthusiasm, it's clear that they share his intellectual curiosity and aptitude. It's a trait that we encourage and nurture to help them thrive academically and in life.
I have also noticed some wonderful attributes of strong sense of empathy and compassion. They always show kindness and concern for others, just like me and my husband. From me, they seem to have inherited a love for creativity and a curiosity about the world around them. It's heartwarming to see these qualities blossoming in our kids as they grow and develop their unique personalities.

What was postpartum like for you? Did you have help? Were there any complications with your mental and physical health? And if there was, how did you deal with it?
Postpartum was a challenging time for me, as I didn't have much help. As a first time mum. I experienced both physical and mental complications. Physically, I had some postpartum pain and discomfort, which made caring for my baby even more exhausting. Mentally, I struggled with feelings of loneliness and I was overwhelmed. But having a caring and loving husband was my saving grace during my postpartum period . He was my anchor, offering unwavering support and a comforting presence. He not only shared in the baby's care but also took on household responsibilities with enthusiasm. His help allowed me the precious gift of rest and recovery. He'd soothe our little one during late-night, giving me the chance to catch up on much-needed sleep. His emotional support was equally vital. When I felt overwhelmed, he'd listen patiently and provide reassurance.
His involvement didn't just make the postpartum journey smoother, but it also deepened our connection as a couple and as new parents. His loving assistance was a beacon of light during a challenging time.

How do you relax? What is self care for you?
As a mother of two, finding moments to relax and practice self-care is essential for my well-being. Although it wasn't easy to balance my busy schedule and resting time, but when I finally did, I learned to appreciate the little things. Sometimes, it's as simple as enjoying a quiet cup of tea or stealing a few minutes to read a book. I also make it a point to schedule some "me time" when my husband or a trusted family member can watch the kids. During these breaks, I might take a nap, watch a movie to clear my mind and rejuvenate. When I can, I take advantage of family and friends gatherings to relax and enjoy some much-needed time with relatives.
Getting a good night's sleep is crucial, and I try to ensure I get enough rest, even though the little ones can be quite active during the day. I often unwind by listening to soothing music as well. But, I must admit, my greatest moments of relaxation come when I see my children happy and healthy. Their joy and laughter are the best self-care I could ever ask for.
Self-care, for me, is all about recharging so I can continue to be the best mom for my two little ones.

What do you miss most about your life before kids?
Well, I can't help but feel nostalgic about life before having kids. One thing I miss dearly is the spontaneity and freedom to go out and socialize with friends and family without too much planning. Before kids, I enjoyed traveling which is one of my hobby, attend events, and visit loved ones more easily. I also miss the luxury of uninterrupted sleep and the ability to have some "me time" whenever I wanted. Parenthood is incredibly rewarding, but it does come with certain adjustments. While I cherish the moments with my children, I sometimes find myself reminiscing about the simplicity of life before kids.

What was the best advice you got about being a mother to your kids?
As a mother, the best advice I received about being a mother to my kids was to trust my instincts. Other mothers and well-meaning individuals may offer advice, but ultimately, I know my children best. The advice encouraged me to listen to my heart, be patient, and adapt to the unique needs and personalities of each of my children.
Additionally, I was advised to be present in the moment and savor the precious time with my kids because they grow up so fast. This reminder to cherish every moment and create lasting memories has been invaluable on my journey as a mother. I don't take the sacrifice of my time for my kids as punishment. Instead, I take it as a life time investment.

How would you describe your parenting style?
As a mother, my parenting style is a mix of nurturing and structured guidance. Though I am not perfect, but I believe in providing a loving and supportive environment for my children while also setting clear boundaries and expectations. I aim to be responsive to their needs and emotions, fostering open communication so they feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and concerns.
I encourage their independence and help them explore their interests, while also teaching them values, respect, and responsibility. It's important for me to strike a balance between allowing them to make choices and guiding them to make informed decisions.
Above all, I strive to lead by example, showing them the importance of empathy, kindness, and a strong work ethic. My goal is to help them grow into confident, compassionate individuals while providing a stable and nurturing home.

What about motherhood and parenting do you still struggle with?
Hnmmmย ๐Ÿค”๐Ÿค”ย As a mother, I must admit that there are still aspects of motherhood and parenting that I struggle with. One of the ongoing challenges is finding the right balance between work, family, and personal time. Juggling all these responsibilities can be demanding, and it's sometimes difficult to prioritize self-care.
I also struggle with the constant worry and desire to provide the best for my children. Parenting comes with its share of uncertainties, and I often find myself questioning if I'm making the right decisions for their well-being.
Moreover, maintaining patience, especially during challenging moments, is a continual effort. Children can be demanding, and staying calm and patient can be a struggle at times. But, through it all, I remind myself that it's okay to have these struggles and that being a loving and caring mother is what truly matters.

How do you discipline your kids (instead of beating them)?
Smiles...... ๐Ÿ˜ƒ๐Ÿ˜ƒ๐Ÿ˜ƒ๐Ÿ˜ƒ๐Ÿ˜ƒ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜ƒAs a mother, I believe in using positive and non-violent discipline strategies to teach my children right from wrong and help them develop into responsible individuals. Here are some of the discipline methods I employ:
Clear Communication:ย I explain the rules and expectations to my children calmly and clearly. They need to understand the reasons behind the rules.
Time-Outs: Time-outs are an effective way to give children a break and a chance to think about their behavior. I could tell them, 'ok, baby. Because you did this and that, you have to go to your room and lay on your bed and think. You won't come out until I say so. Remember, it's not a house arrest. I use this method when they need to calm down and reflect on their actions.
Positive Reinforcement: I praise and reward good behavior to encourage positive actions. This can be in the form of verbal praise, small rewards, just to encourage good behaviour.
Modeling Behavior: I try to be a positive role model by demonstrating the behavior I want to see in them.
Consistency: Consistency is key in discipline. I make sure to enforce the rules and consequences consistently so that my children understand the expectations.
Limiting Screen Time: I limit their screen time and encourage other activities that promote physical, social, and intellectual development.
By using these methods, I aim to discipline my children while also nurturing their emotional and social well-being. It's important to teach them how to make responsible choices and learn from their experiences.

Whatโ€™s one of the hardest choices you've had to make?
One of the hardest choices I've had to make was deciding to return to work after maternity leave. It was a difficult decision because it meant leaving my baby in the care of others and adjusting to a new routine. Truly it wasn't funny. I felt torn between my professional responsibilities and my role as a mother. Ultimately, I chose to return to work to provide financial stability and support for my family, but it was a challenging and emotional transition. Balancing career and motherhood continues to be a complex and demanding choice, but it's one I've made with the best interests of my family in mind.

What's your happiest childhood memory?
One of my most happiest and cherished childhood memories is celebrating Christmas with my family. I remember waking up early to wear my Christmas clothes, going to the church for prayers, going out with my friends to relatives and friends houses and then returning home to a feast of delicious dishes like jollof rice, pepper soup and one of our local food called 'Ukodo' The atmosphere was filled with joy, togetherness, and the spirit of giving. It's a memory that has left a profound impact on me and one I look forward to recreating with my own children.

What would you prefer your childrenโ€™s memory of their childhood be?
As a mother living in the northern region, I would prefer my children's memories of their childhood to be filled with a deep appreciation for our rich cultural heritage and a strong sense of unity. I would want them to remember the warm and welcoming community that embraces various traditions and languages.
I would also hope that their memories include experiences of celebrating diverse cultural and understanding the importance of tolerance and respect for people of different backgrounds and faiths. The memories of our shared traditions and values would be the cornerstone of their upbringing, fostering a sense of belonging and pride in their Nigerian identity.
Additionally, I would want them to remember the love and support of their family, the delicious flavors of Northern Nigerian cuisine, and the beauty of the landscapes, such as the Sahel and the rich history of the region. These memories would help shape them into individuals who carry their cultural heritage with them as they navigate the world.

What is your proudest moment so far as a mum?
My proudest moment as a mom is not only witnessing my children's acts of kindness but also seeing their intellectual growth and achievements. When they excel in their studies, ask insightful questions, or share their creative ideas, it's a source of immense pride.
These moments of intellectual growth, be it a good grade, or their curiosity for learning, reaffirm that I and my husband, God helping us, are providing a strong foundation for their education. It's a reminder that they are developing not only into kind and compassionate individuals but also into bright, inquisitive, and capable young minds.

Who are you, aside being a mum?
Aside from being a mother, I am an individual with my own unique identity, interests, and experiences. I have a career or personal pursuits, whether it's a job, hobbies, or a passion that defines a part of who I am.
I have a profession, such as a teacher, A Public Health Personnel, and baker, through which I contribute to society and pursue personal goals. Additionally, I have hobbies or interests that bring me joy, like reading, sports, travelling, cooking, designing or volunteering. These aspects of my life contribute to my multifaceted identity beyond the role of a mother.

What was your experience with healthcare when you were pregnant and during the delivery of your kid(s)?
My experience with healthcare during pregnancy and childbirth was a mix of both hopeful and challenging moments. Nigeria's healthcare system, especially in some regions, can be under-resourced, understaffed and strained. I am talking about the long hours of waiting under unconducive environment waiting for the doctor to attend to you. Ante Natal care was essential, and I did my best to receive regular check-ups, even though the accessibility and quality of care varied depending on the area I lived in.
One beautiful thing about delivery and care is that it is affordable where I reside.
I faced delayed labour when I had my first baby but it was all good with the help of family and friends as well as the doctors and nurses. The birth of my firstborn, although marked by difficulties, was a moment of immense joy and relief. With my second born, it was a smooth sail right from pregnancy to delivery.

What are your thoughts on family planning? Did you plan your kids or did you just go with the flow?
Personally, I believe that family planning is an important and personal decision. It's essential for individuals and couples to have the autonomy to make choices that align with their circumstances and desires.
In my own experience, all my pregnancies were carefully planned. I didn't just enjoyed the flow and letting life take its course. No, it was a planned decision between I and my hubby.
Family planning can provide a sense of control over the timing and number of children, which can be beneficial for managing resources, ensuring the well-being of the family, and pursuing personal and career goals. It's a choice that should be made based on individual circumstances, family values, and what feels right for each family.
In Nigeria, family planning services have become increasingly accessible, and I believe it's essential for parents to be informed about their options and make choices that best suit their unique situations and aspirations.

If you could do something different about your choice of career and family life, what would it be?
As a mother, if I could do something different about my choice of career and family life, I would aim to strike an even more harmonious balance between the two. I would focus on achieving a career path that offers flexibility and allows me to be present for my family while pursuing my professional goals.
I would also prioritize open and effective communication with my partner, aligning our career and family aspirations to ensure we're both actively involved in parenting and household responsibilities. This would create a more equitable partnership and enhance the quality of family life.
In addition, I would take steps to ensure that I have a strong support network in place, including family, friends, and potential childcare assistance, to help navigate the demands of both career and family.
Ultimately, the goal would be to create a fulfilling and balanced life that allows me to excel in both my career and as a loving, present, and involved mother to my children.

What advice(s) do you have for new mums in Africa?
My advice for new moms in Africa are :
Seek Support: Don't hesitate to ask for help and lean on your support network. In African communities, family and friends often play a significant role in childcare. Embrace the assistance and advice from experienced mothers and loved ones.
Prioritize Self-Care: It's essential to take care of yourself, both physically and mentally. Being a mother is demanding, so find moments for self-care; whether it's a few minutes of relaxation, pursuing a hobby, or spending time with friends.
Breastfeeding Support: If you choose to breastfeed, seek support and guidance. There are often community health workers and lactation consultants who can assist you.
Healthcare: Ensure regular check-ups for both you and your baby. Access to proper healthcare is vital for the well-being of both mother and child.ย 
Parenting Styles: Remember that there's no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting. Trust your instincts and find a parenting style that works for your family.
Balancing Work and Family: If you're working, find a balance that allows you to excel in your career while also being present for your family. It may involve seeking family-friendly work arrangements or discussing your needs with your employer.
Be Patient: Parenting can be challenging, and there will be difficult moments. Stay patient and forgiving of yourself. It's a journey of learning and growth for both you and your child.
Join Support Groups: Consider joining local parenting support groups or online communities to connect with other moms who share your experiences and can offer advice and encouragement.
Celebrate Milestones: Cherish the small and big moments with your child. Create lasting memories that will strengthen the bond with your little one. Give yourself some accolades (smiles.... No dulling moment)
Remember that every family's journey is unique, and there's no right or wrong way to be a great mom. Trust yourself, love your child, and cherish the incredible experience of motherhood in Africa.

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