Do African Women See Western Moms As Ideal?

African women

African women have come from so far. We live in a continent that is a high patriarchial system, that is hard as a rock to break. Adding to that, our experiences are always diminished, and we often have to view ourselves as being less than others. One of those diminished experiences is that of moms.

This is under Stories of Africa for the Afrobloggers WinterABC festival. I wrote this post under Africaniwa’s theme, “Until the Lion begins to write, the stories would glorify the hunter.”

Are African Women Manipulated to Think Western Moms as Ideal Moms?

When I was pregnant, one thing I loved to do was read. I read about pregnancy, motherhood, parenting, and more. My aim was to be informed of the life I was living. During that time, I made one discovery, a lot of these materials are filled with images of the western moms. Specifically, white moms.

I started questioning if African women are deeply manipulated to consider white moms as the ideal moms compared to African moms. When I did some further reading, I discovered an article by ART UK. This part stood out:

“Through the centuries, motherhood has been linked to an idealised white birth, as depicted in the painting The Virgin and Child with Two Angels by Liberale de Verona. In art, white motherhood was put on a pedestal and worshipped as a position of purity, self-sacrifice, and virtue.”

Already, this indicated to me that African women are downvoted as moms. Our experiences as seen as way less than that of white women. Another article by a white volunteer visiting Malawi showed how appalled she was to learn that the new things being advocated for in the western world have been a norm in Africa.

Our Culture

She shared how the western world currently asks women to wear their babies, something we have been doing for a while. How women are advised to breastfeed their babies till they are two years, is another thing that our cultures already taught us. And guess what, when these “discoveries” are made, they are pushed on African women as if we never knew better.

This is something so system that started ages ago during the days of slavery. Having African women as slaves who would be forced to leave their babies starving while they breastfed the masters’ children is still horrific. However, from that time, they pushed the narrative that African women were uncaring of their own babies. A narrative that has not been left behind yet.

I decided to ask some of my mommy friends what they thought about it. Here are their thoughts:

Thoughts from African Women on Ideal Moms

Thoughts from African Women: Tikia

African Women: Tikia with Grace

Growing up my perceived version of the western mom, was a mom who is best friends with her children. This mom loves her kids so much she cannot bring herself to physically discipline her child. She openly communicates her love to the kids and actually listens to them when they talk. She was my role model. As an adult and a mum now I have come to realize there are two sides to that coin. I do all these things for my child.

On the good days. I am the typical African mum after my child has called my name 100 times and I have said yes 100 times and I am starting to develop a migraine. I am the African mum when I forget that children regress and my child pees on her clothing when she has been being a good girl for weeks. And on my African mum days, I often wonder does the western mum have African mom days? I presume the African mum is the discipline now understand later kind of woman.

For our generation I don’t think it’s about manipulation I think it’s about what is best for my child. How do they come out as model citizens? We are all African and western mums depending on which side of the bed we wake up. Also, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

I will admit they are mums who take it up a notch. But after having a taste of motherhood I can’t even judge them. We are all trying. There is no manual for this game. I think parenting is the ghetto.

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Olivia Byemera

African Women: Olivia Byemera

I wouldn’t say forced per se but yes, society today has formed the notion that the western version is way cooler. With the current generation of children we are raising, you will find that there is so much pressure around whether the children can use gadgets, go for sleepovers, have social media accounts, dress however they please, I could go on.

For some reason, we seem to hold the western culture in a superior light as compared to African culture, and yet African culture is our heritage, it is who we are and where we come from. It is okay for the children to experience the western culture but they need the African culture as the foundation of their beliefs.

Past vs Present

I was having a conversation with colleagues at work and they said that we used to judge our parents on how they raised us but knowing what we know now and the fact that we are parents now, we are glad they did what they did. For example; breastfeeding and how crucial it is in creating a bond between a mother and her child, choosing the kids over the career until they are grown a bit, allowing the kids to get messy while playing, and teaching us those traditional games that helped us learn to interact with each other while learning how to deal with the different temperaments…

For me, African mums are heroes; being able to be a hands-on mother, get the chores done, and still be an awesome wife is golden. Now all we know as mums are to allow the internet to help us raise our children and have households or machines to do the chores, leaving the kids to enjoy their play station while they wait on food to be brought to them.

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Thoughts from African Women: Onyiye Udeh (Tory Teller)

African women: Tory Teller

I don’t think African women are manipulated to model the western version of moms. Our African culture seems to have a strong hold on us affecting our orientation and in the long run influencing the decisions we make especially when it comes to parenting. Although we cannot deny the fact that a good number of women have started tilting toward the western version. I believe that it is mainly done intentionally. Most of them now have an open mind and are using the opportunity to unlearn certain things as well as relearn new ways of parenting.

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Sue Nyakubaya-Nhevera

African Women: Sue Nyaku

This is a yes and no response type of question. Yes, because we are all influenced by the media to an extent and by virtue of the world becoming a global village Western values are making it to our shores at a faster rate than before. We all want to have the latest gadgets, and the latest ideologies (the best of everything).

I would also say no, because a lot of young mothers like myself still practice some of our cultural traditions, for example, in my culture we are told to warm our hands when a child is still a newborn and mold their head into whatever shape we would like the child’s head to be shaped. The list of traditions is much longer and the practices are still strong

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Thoughts from African Women: Wezi NyaNeba Sosola

Firstly it would be good to define what the African version of mom is (looks like) and what the Western version is (looks like). The term ‘African women’ / ‘Western women’ is too broad to describe women from Africa.

There so many factor that may affect/inform the behaviour of women/ moms in the world Africa included. Some of them are; individual’s character, culture and traditions, religious beliefs e.t.c and some of these goes across boundary of nationalities.

Within Africa, cultures may differ based on so many factors including patrilineal or matrilineal family set up, this may inform the kind of parenting and control that a woman/mom may have on children. Across cultures and nationalities (African/American) women/moms could have similarities depending on religious beliefs. Those who hold more traditional values vs those who are more libertarian. Therefore there are clearly differences and also unifying factors.

It is important to point out that even though there are different parenting styles, as said above, no version is superior to the other as long as it is working. Cultures and traditions have thrived in different parts of the world from time immemorial. 

Nevertheless, the notion of influence/manipulation cannot be entirely ruled out. Human beings across the board may be manipulated by money, seeming happiness, superiority complex e.t.c. Outward signs that may signal success, however, sustainability and benefits of the influence/manipulation in that society, whatever it is can only be measured with time by the success/failures of the generation that was raised by the influenced moms.

Before you remove a landmark, ask why it was put there in the first place.

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What are your thoughts on the matter? Share your thoughts in the comment section below

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  1. Thank you for sharing and this was insightful hearing from different mothers.

    Heard the saying it is hard to take the village out of a villager it’s how I see is hard to drown out Africanism in our way of parenting, some things will stand for a longer while

  2. Looks like most African mothers are intentionally embracing the aspect of the Western culture that suits them.

  3. Thanks Louisa, enjoyed reading the different perspectives, we keep on learning

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