Adesuwa Onyenokwe is a veteran journalist and broadcaster. We all remember her from her days in NTA, most notably as part of the golden era of the news magazine show, Newsline. Today, she is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Today’s Woman, a glossy women’s magazine that expertly combines life changing content, with lifestyle and high fashion! She is also back on the small screen, with her talk-show Seriously Speaking.
When The Fertile Chick was still an idea on a piece of paper, I approached this wonderful woman, for a chance to have a column in her magazine, the awesome Today’s Woman. She didn’t know me from Adam, and took a liking to me, first of all because we are namesakes, and secondly, because she was moved by what I was trying to do. That first meeting, we chatted for hours, and I couldn’t believe how warm and down-to-earth she was…and still is! That was almost 2 years ago, and we have remained close ever since. It was therefore a no-brainer, when we started the TFC Chats With…series, that she would be one of the first people we would love to introduce to our Community Members!
As TW Magazine gears up for its 9th anniversary this year, we would like to thank you for such an amazing platform for women. It is one of the few media platforms that have given a voice to infertility issues, and we applaud you for it. Why is the subject of infertility so dear to your heart, considering that you are the poster girl for super-fertility?
Lol at ‘poster girl’! Anyway, as I work towards my 9th year of publishing, I am grateful to God that my aim remains the same, and that you ‘get’ it gives my joy. Today’s Woman is primarily a platform to raise issues concerning women, even as experiences are shared through my life, and the stories we present. Therefore we deal with, and have always dealt with, anything that concerns women. We also aim to build them up; body, mind and spirit. So it was inevitable that anything I find women are dealing with, I get involved in. As far as fertility goes, what many don’t realise is that, the number of kids I have is directly tied to my decision to be open to life. I threw away my contraception, because I was praying for a sister to have her baby. I was into my third child (which really should have been the last, going by my husband and I’s plan), when my brother was two years into marriage without a child, and I started to pray for his wife. What the spirit clearly told me then was “If you can trust me with your finances, why not with your fertility?” So it was that I said “Ok. I will do that, but you have to give my sister a child in exchange for my staying open to life.” and I went further to say, “I will stay open until you give her a child”. It therefore became a covenant of sorts because it was only after my 6th child that she ended up bearing two babies from natural conception, even though they had been trying the IVF route. Today my brother is late, but he is survived by those twins, a boy and girl, who are now 13. So in all things, God sees the end from the beginning. Now you see why fertility issues are dear to me. God is the ultimate designer. He often sees all through, we only have to accede to do His will always… No matter how much pain it brings or how unclear it may seem. Being open to life meant I would have more kids than I could probably care for, and I was sacred. But that didn’t stop me, and I thank God for every single child I have. It was, and has been, tough, but who am I to complain when there are many who would probably ‘kill’ for just one?
So 6 was not an intentional number?
It turned out I had six, because that’s how long it took to get my wish! And guess what. By the time number six came, my womb literally collapsed, and I thought God had disappointed me… But then I didn’t know my sister was already pregnant. She didn’t know either, because they had then missed out on their next IVF routine. It turns out her twins were due on my birthday, nine months after, but they arrived earlier anyway. So you see that God was totally in control, even though it became only clearer over time.
Did you face any challenges, especially in the early stage?
Besides finance, time management is one thing a working mother has to deal with, while raising her children. Truth is though, I managed my ‘wants’, when it came to material things, always hoping for the best. In terms of care, with many kids, they often look out for themselves. By the time I was on to number 4, number one was old enough to help, and that’s how we coped. Still, as a working mum, I had to ensure there was always capable and dependable help, and my way around that was to always have two nannies at a time. Eventually I quit my paid job though, to start my own business, simply because I wanted more control of my time.
Is it much easier, now that they are older?
Certainly! My last is 14, and the oldest is a 27 year old graduate, who I am hoping will make me a Grandma soon :-). Right now, I dread when they will all leave, because I am down to my last two, as every one else is away in school.
What is the most rewarding aspect of motherhood for you?
Seeing them grown up, and living the true to the values you have taught them! It more than pays for all the pain and sacrifice.
How is motherhood different now, from when you were raised?
I would say kids are more indulged today. This is because more mums are working outside the home, and they find themselves having to ‘ease off’ their kids, out of guilt. Again, it could also be because many more mums are financially capable of taking care of their kids’ needs, and can therefore are ‘freer’ with money, without having to make any recourse to daddy, who already has a LOT on his plate! In my days, the provision list went to daddy, who would scrutinise everything, before dolling out money. And, many a time, canceling what he thought I didn’t need!
What do you think are the challenges of raising a child in this 21st century?
Those would be peer pressure and the World Wide Web. With everything real time now, your children have access to the latest toys, as well as pornography, at the click of a button, so you are under pressure to manage their needs, as well as the information available to them. If friend B has a phone and the latest toy, yours will know fast and barrage you with requests to be on that ‘level’. I don’t envy mums today, and would advise that they begin with the end in mind. What kind of adults do you want to bequeath to the world? Self centered materialistic ones, who do not respect others, or any constituted authority? Or caring ones, who manage their needs and have respect for others, and constituted authority? If the second is the case, then you must show them who is in charge always!
For a lot of years, you were able to effectively juggle your successful TV career with motherhood. What tips do you have for women, with respect to achieving a good work-life balance?
Define your priorities, and seek the best way to achieve them. Career or family. In my opinion, they inter-switch. When kids are young, mums often have to sacrifice a lot more on the career end to keep the home front running, even with a supportive husband! You remain the person with the primary responsibility, and so demands on you are higher. I survived because I always had two helps, so I was never ‘surprised’, and being ever ready to ‘change’ when it didn’t work made it easier to manage the high turnover in the early years. So if you must be out of the home, make sure you ‘pay’ for capable help.
Also know that, because you may not be as readily available as your male colleagues who never go on maternity leave or do school runs, promotions may pass you by. Except you are lucky that it’s targets people are judged by in your work environment, and in those cases it’s less about how available you are, and more about what you deliver. This, of course, is still rare.
Parenting has been known to put a strain on some marriages. What has your marriage of almost 30 years taught you about managing relationships alongside parenting?
The biggest strain on marriage, I have found, is managing your differences! If people recognize that your spouse is an individual with idiosyncrasies that differ from yours, on occasion, then you will be fine.
You will find that it’s what you admire most about your spouse that gives you the most grief, and therefore that becomes the common area of challenge. I, for example, have a husband who is as intelligent as he is practical. Those are some of the qualities I admire in him. But, match that to my spontaneity and people-don’t-necessarily-have-
Back to the subject of infertility, thanks to the TW platform, you have had cause to interact with a lot of women in God’s waiting room. Do you think the incidence of infertility is higher now, than it was in the past?
When I read the book In God’s Waiting Room, written by Yewande Zacchaeus, I found the term ‘waiting room’ so apt in describing what happens when one is desirous of the fruit of the womb, and it seems like it just would never happen. As all waiting rooms go, time can be slow and impatience can set it. At such times you can decide what you do as you wait. Fret, chat with others there, plan what you are going to say to the One you are waiting to see, when He calls you in… It’s your choice because wait you will, some longer than others.
What advice do you always give to these women, who are still waiting on God for their bundles of joy?
What I will tell every one in God’s Waiting Room is that they should rest in the consciousness that God has the ultimate control. He may put you on the path to finding help, but please be sure that you are ready and able to take whatever answer He gives you when you do ask, once He calls you to His presence out of the waiting room. The answer you get may not be be the one you want. It could well be wait a little longer… I can’t pretend to know how it feels, given my circumstances, but I think adoption is one option I may have taken, because I believe that you can chose to love anyone, blood or not. Actually, some of the world’s closest ties are not blood connections. At least, while you wait, you can get busy caring for someone else. Selfless love often has great emotional rewards!
Every year, TW magazine focuses on certain elements of women’s health and wellbeing, from infertility, to cancer, etc. As it enters its 9th year, what is in the pipeline for 2016?
This year is one of consolidation, as we work towards our tenth anniversary in 2017. However, we shall still plan activities around the three pillars on which we stand; body, mind and spirit, albeit on a small scale. For the body, yearly we have a fitness challenge, to get women on the path to a lifestyle change for physical wellbeing, and that’s ongoing. For the mind, we shall have one ‘TW Presents’, our inspiring woman brunch series; for the soul, a charity fundraiser event in October, for children with developmental challenges. This activity is calling us to connect to our compassionate side.
Of course these are not mutually exclusive, as the year will be interspersed with interesting activities, as always. Just stay connected to TW. We got you covered.
With a successful magazine and talk show, what more can we expect from the lovely Mrs. Onyenokwe?
That Today’s Woman will have her own lifestyle TV and radio platforms is no doubt, and it’s coming sooner than you think!
In the immediate term, TW is getting more interactive with a soon to be released ‘TW On The Go’. It will allow women have real-time interaction, in bite size pieces, that will lead them to the wealth of information on our website. That debuts in March, the international women’s month.
What lessons has life taught you?
Several, and I am still a work in progress. However, three stand out for now:
- You are a sum of your thoughts, because they guide your attitude which forms your character. So, guard the thoughts you let through. You have more control than you think.
- The second is trite but true. Change is the only constant thing in life. If you keep this in mind, you can be patient and remain proactive, as you chase your dreams, because you know it’s never over till you stop breathing. It makes you open to learning everyday.
- Success is more about the ‘how’ than the ‘when’ so focus on enjoying the process/journey, rather than being bogged down by the fact that you are not ‘there’ yet!
© The Fertile Chick