By Frank Ofili
Anyone who has been following the on-going story about the kidnap of Mr. and Mrs. Adebisi Orekoya’s three children would not find it difficult to blame them for sourcing a nanny through an online sales portal.
Like many Nigerians, the Orekoyas are regular everyday people eking out a living in Lagos as salaried employees. The story has it that they had been on leave from work and were due to resume duty on 6th April 2015 but had not yet found a nanny or house-help to help out with their 3 children, Aderomola (11 months old), Adedamola (4 years old), and Demola (6 years old). Out of desperation, they placed an advert for the services of a nanny on OLX, an online sales portal.
In no time, 23-year-old Mary Akinloye responded to the advert and gave the Orekoyas the contacts of two people who she said were her relatives. Without conducting due diligence, the Orekoyas engaged Mary Akinloye with a promise to formalize documentation with the purported relatives before the weekend 11th April 2015.
That decision turned out to be a costly one. The 23-year-old Mary Akinloye resumed work on Tuesday, 7th April 2015, took the children to ‘’school’ and never came back. She simply vanished into thin air along with the kids. The next they heard of her was an N15 million ransom demand for the release of the children. Till date, the Orekoyas have no idea how to raise the money, and the kids are still held, hostage. It is not difficult to imagine what the kids and their parents are going through. No doubt it is a traumatic experience.
Anyone would consider the Orekoyas as stupid for going through a faceless online sales portal to get a nanny. But that is probably because the deal turned sour. The truth, however, is that millions of deals are struck every day through such portals, though one may argue with the benefit of hindsight that this kind of deal shouldn’t have been conducted through such channel.
Be that as it may, the reality today, however, is that nanny has become a remunerated job and a profession requiring skill like any other, especially in the contemporary world where parents have to work extra-hard to make ends meet.
In Africa, the nanny is a relatively recent phenomenon. A young male or female unremunerated house-helps, often sourced from friends, relatives and family members in the local communities used to be the norm, with some obligations on the side of the guidance of course. But with everyone migrating to the cities in search of the good life, this practice has become nearly extinct. Everything is now commercialized.
It is for this reason that it has become imperative today for working parents to strike a balance between work and family life if their family is not to suffer the effect of the contemporary changing world. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is today a critical decision working parents must make because ultimately whatever they do is for the family. It will be stupid therefore to place work over family. It should, in fact, be the other way round.
But how can a healthy work-life balance be achieved in a world of prohibitive costs where parents practically spend more than they earn, and order to close the gap spend much of their time at work so as to earn extra? In the process, they end up spending less and less time with their family thereby leaving their children in the care of nannies or house-helps. The cumulative effect of this, of course, is that such parents end up not really knowing their children, and their children also end up not learning anything from them. Well, here are a few tips to achieving a healthy work-life balance.
- IDENTIFY WHAT TRULY MATTERS TO YOU
The first thing every working parent needs to do is to identify what truly matters to them and takes priority over every other thing. Is it work, family, social life or some other endeavour? Which would you rather spend more time on? For me, it is family. This means that everything I do, every decision I make, is woven around my family and how it will impact and impart them. I would sacrifice work time within reasonable limits of course for my family, unless in some circumstances beyond my control. These conditions, however, must be a rarity otherwise, I would altogether quit whatever it is taking my family time. For me, the family takes priority over work or social life because while I can replace or change the last two, I cannot replace or change my family.
I do admit though that some working parents would prefer to spend more time with their family but cannot achieve this because the reality of their job is beyond their control. I once found myself in this kind of situation some years back. What I did was to seek an understanding with my boss then about not having to put in more than one extra hour beyond normal work time, especially giving the crazy Lagos traffic. Much to my surprise, he understood. Different jobs require different approaches, but everyone can benefit from having an open and honest conversation about what balance means. It all depends on how you approach the issue
- MAKE A DECISION
The next thing working parents need to know is that they can never really achieve a healthy work-life balance unless they deliberately make a decision to. This means they have to make a deliberate choice about the kind of job offer they accept. This may be difficult, especially if a mouth-watering job offer is involved. However, you should know that your family may be the opportunity cost of such offers. The choice is yours.
And if you are an entrepreneur, do not be afraid to say no if an individual business proposal puts you in a situation you have little control. Saying no is much harder than it seems, especially when you are in a decision-making position. When a client demands a near-impossible deadline, you may feel obliged to say yes to keep their business, but think carefully about how it will affect you as well as your business. Don’t be afraid to say no if it doesn’t make sense to say yes.
- RESPECT YOUR DECISION
You cannot achieve your balance if you do not comply with the decision you have made concerning the kind of job you do. It will be hard in the beginning, but you need to stick with it, so you develop a routine and drive a culture and lifestyle of predictability.
- TAKE BREAKS
If you an entrepreneur or a top-level corporate executive, you are in charge of how much or how little you work. Most entrepreneurs or corporate executives are so driven to see their ideas come to fruition that they never want to stop working. At the risk of their physical and mental health, they will work 100 hour weeks, sometimes sleep overnight at the office or a hotel, and do whatever it takes to get more and more tasks completed. Some take their work home. Wanting to work hard is an admirable and necessary mentality, but everyone has a limit. Do not be afraid to take a break, take a leave or a vacation, if you can afford it. It reinvigorates you and gives you fresh perspectives. It is also good for your physical and mental health.
- PRIORITIZE YOUR TIME
Having so many things requiring your attention can sometimes sap your energy even before you get started. What to do is to give priority to the tasks into four categories in the following order:
- Urgent and important
- Important but not urgent
- Urgent but not important
- Neither urgent nor important
A to-do list like this can help guide you through your daily work schedule
At some point, you need to evaluate and ask yourself if you really need to be doing all the tasks you are doing. If not, all you need to is delegate where you can. Or where necessary, ask for help from your colleagues or team members.
- CHECK YOUR TIME, FRIENDS AND PERSONAL HABITS
It will also be helpful to track how, or with whom you spend your time. How much time do you spend doing things that do not matter, or add value to you, or do not align with your priorities? Eliminating these things from your life and drastically reduce the amount of time you spend with such friends will help you in achieving healthy work-life balance.
No doubt the plight of the Orekoyas today is a veritable eye-opener for us on this part of the globe. There are other consequences of the contemporary urban work life including but not limited to parents and their children not really living an intimate life because of the demands of their work. However, with the deliberate effort made by parents to achieve a balanced work-life, these undesirable outcomes can be eliminated. The starting point is to decide in favour of what is best for the family because ultimately family is the essence of our being.