It Takes a Village
There are no two ways about it, parenting in Africa is a unique experience. Here, we have our own customs, traditions and ways of raising the next generation of individuals that will carry the torch for Africa. We searched the continent to see how communities in African countries raise their children, and how similar we all are.
How Africans Embrace Nannies and Second Mammas
Raising children is not for the faint-hearted, you need hair on your chest and a strong sense of humour. We Africans understand that it takes a village to raise a child, which is why hiring a nanny isn’t all that uncommon. In fact, a lot of families who live on our shores for a while will comment on how it is a lifesaver for new (and seasoned) parents to have the extra help. And keeping a nanny is not only for the superrich either, Congolese families who aren’t all that well off often hire or ask someone to help with a new baby.
How Africans Carry Babies
These days, it’s all de rigueur to ‘wear’ your baby all over the West, but Africans have been doing it since time immemorial. Admit it, your mom, gogo and anyone else in your reach had you on her back at some point in your childhood while she carried on with her daily tasks. This tradition is convenient for moms while being super-comfortable for baby and all you need is a long enough towel, sarong or blanket. This custom is only started once baby is around 3 months old and goes on every day until they are around the age of two or three. It’s practical, simple and safe!
How Africans Deal with Gripes
There is nothing worse than a niggly baby who is in pain from a bout of colic or teething woes. New parents understand this all too well. But, do you think Gripe Water’s only a South African thing? Here’s something surprising: this magical cure for every gripe baby has, has spread throughout the continent. It is used to treat colic, teething and everything in between. It is also now a firm favourite amongst foreigners who have discovered its magic powers for baby niggles.
Africans are Serious about Respect
While our customs are unique, useful and extremely helpful, our traditions are serious. On our continent, it is discouraged that you address an elder by his or her first name. Many countries like Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo address women by the name of their first-born child. So I would be known as “Mama Riley” in the Congo because that is the name of my first-born. It is a sign of respect and a tradition that should never die.
How Africans Deal with Pregnancy
We take pregnancy really seriously on the African continent: some nations go so far as to treat new mothers and pregnant women like goddesses. In Kenya, you can’t stand in a line, you never wait for a seat and you will never have to carry anything, if you are an obviously pregnant woman. Complete strangers will offer to help you and every woman starts fussing over you.
It’s that sense of community that sets Africans apart from the rest of the world and what instils the adage that it takes a village to raise a child to heart.