In-laws and Outlaws

“It takes a village to raise a child.” – African Proverb.

This Igbo and Yoruba (Nigeria) proverb exists in different forms in many African languages. The basic meaning is that child upbringing is a communal effort. The responsibility for raising a child is shared with the larger family (sometimes called the extended family). Everyone in the family participates especially the older children, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and even cousins. It is not unusual for African children to stay for long periods with their grandparents or aunts or uncles. Even the wider community gets involved such as neighbors and friends. Children are considered a blessing from God for the whole community. This communal responsibility in raising children is also seen in the Sukuma (Tanzania) proverb “One knee does not bring up a child” and in the Swahili (East and Central Africa) proverb “One hand does not nurse a child.” Read more here.

extended family

As a working mom, this African proverb rings true. I rely heavily on the support system of my family and in-laws to look after my child while I’m at my day job. Parents working in manila are blessed that the Philippine culture allows for child care support with the extended family. Without the grandparents or close relatives, child care is left with the yayas and whichever day care is available. The latter set-up spells security problems, and I myself am not comfortable leaving my daughter in the arms of a total stranger.

Though we are extremely grateful to have both sets of lolos and lolas extending their support, their way of rearing children in the most traditional sense often clashes with our own modern ways. Take for example, going out to malls: while the oldies believe that children should be safely home before sundown, my husband and I are still ok to bring the kid with us at dinnertime, especially during weekend bonding. Therein lies the conflict–should we follow the parents’ ways because we ask this huge favor of them to look after the children? Whose “law” should be the standard rule?

I think that there is no right or wrong answer to this. Safe to say, each scenario would beget its own solution. Parents like us should weigh which of the “suggested” ways are best for the children–this should be of the utmost concern. Political correctness and sensitivity should be employed as well in communicating each one’s thoughts, so as not to overstep boundaries and hurt the other’s pride or feelings.

In the end, it should not matter whose advice “won” or which is the “better” way of raising the child. What matters most is the child’s upbringing, in that he or she feels that the whole family works together to raise him or her as a responsible, loving and God-fearing person.

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