Advertising professional, Steve Babaeko, shares his fatherhood experience with MOTUNRAYO JOEL
Can you recall your most memorable experience as a father?
It was the day my first child, Louis, was born. He was born in Germany. It was an incredible day for me. I was there in the labour ward with my wife. My wife is a fiercely independent person. When labour started, she was able to take charge. Despite being a first-time mother, she was able to comport herself. I still recall her waking me up and telling me that she was about to put to bed. We tried to leave the house quietly and head straight to the hospital but my mother-in-law woke up. She drove us to the hospital and wanted to come in with us, but we told her to stay back. When the nurse checked my wife, they said she was experiencing the first signs of labour. I stayed in the labour room for close to 13 hours before our baby finally came out.
How did you see your child?
Nothing in this world can describe the joy one feels. I encourage every father to be present when their baby is born. It would make you respect your wife more. Childbirth is not an easy task. I felt so excited. I went back the next day and I couldn’t stop thinking about that moment. I was present at the birth of all my children. There is a tradition in Germany, once a baby is born, the nurses use two pegs to hold the umbilical cord and then they give the father a pair of scissor to cut the umbilical cord. I had to cut my son’s umbilical cord.
What are the things you learnt from that experience?
My wife said that all throughout the time she was in labour, and as she began to push the baby out, she didn’t hear the doctor’s voice. It was all that I was saying that she heard. Meanwhile, I was repeating all that the doctor was telling her to do. She stayed focused on my voice. I must say, my wife is a brave woman. You learn how brave a woman is during childbirth.
How many children do you have?
I have three sons – all boys. The first son is 13 years old, the second is 10 and the third is nine.
What activity, believed to be for women, did you take up when your children were much younger?
I didn’t really change diapers to be honest, but my wife is an extraordinary woman. I must celebrate her for that. I see myself as the guard dog of the house. Whenever my wife asks any of our kids to do something and they refuse, once she brings me into the scene and I give the child a look, they get up to do it. That is my role in the house – I give them a bad look.
How do you discipline your children?
I talk to them; I don’t hit my children. That is the last resort for me. I can’t remember the last time I beat any of my kids. I don’t think beating kids makes much of a difference. I talk to my children as if they are adults. Before I beat any child, I must have warned the child about three or six months.
What do people say about your children when they meet them?
I think my children are well behaved. They are also sociable; we try to encourage them to be more courteous and respectful. My wife and I believe that such values would play an important role in their lives.
How has fatherhood changed you?
It has made me a lot more patient. Kids will always behave like kids – they will make a noise and misbehave. One has to be tolerant with them. Fatherhood has made me more tolerant and understanding. I give uttermost attention to my kids. I do school runs with my wife. Whenever I’m home with them, I help them with their homework.
Does your wife engage your boys in the kitchen?
They are learning to bake and cook. I always have fun recording them.
What would you have loved to do differently as a father?
I think I would have loved to be ‘more’ present. My father, till he died, never told me he loves me. Most of us weren’t raised that way. My father worried only about our feeding; he made sure we had food to eat. It took my wife a lot of time to make me see reasons why I should be ‘present’ in the life of my children. I had this mentality that once I met the financial needs of my children; I was done for the day. But she constantly encouraged me to spend more time with my children.
She said spending time with one’s children is like depositing money in the bank. Instead of money this case, it is memories. Someday, you would need to withdraw money, but if you never deposited money, you would have nothing to withdraw. And if you never deposited memories, someday, you would be old and you would want to spend time with the children. If I knew what I know now, I would have spent more time with my children.
How do you balance fatherhood and your career?
Sometimes, I take my boys along with me if I have a conference and they are on holiday. I do my meetings and still get to spend time with my children. I try to make time for them.
Have you been able to study the personalities of your children?
My first boy is like a geek, he is into his books. We call him professor; he is on the quiet side. My second son loves football, he is obsessed with football. He is sociable and playful. My last boy is extremely sociable. He is very friendly. They are all different.
Are you conservative in giving your children pocket money?
I give them money but I make them work for it. It may be that they have to wash plates or the car before I give them money. We make them understand the concept of earning money.
What is the highest pocket money you gave them?
It is not more than N500.
How do you keep your children away from the spotlight?
I try as much as possible to make them understand that I worked had to be known. It has nothing to do with them. Each of them would need to earn their own reputation and build their name. Most of the time, I try also to keep them away from social media. I have to respect their privacy.
What ideals did you learn from your father that you have passed on to your children?
My father was a disciplinarian. He was a teacher and in the army. He was the king of ‘mind your business’. I think I inherited that from him. He was always punctual. I am time conscious. I passed all these to my children.
How tough was the task of raising children?
To be honest, I am blessed with a wonderful wife. She did most of the heavy lifting while raising our kids. I celebrate her for that. It is a tough task; there is no manual that teaches one how to raise kids. Every parent learns on the job. Each child is different; one has to study what works for each child. I feel my boys need motivation, I was born poor. I grew up in one of the poorest homes in the country. The things that motivated me to become who I am today are hunger and deprivation. I wanted to run away from hunger which was why I kept developing myself and being excellent at what I do.
The story of my children is different. I’m constantly looking for how to motivate them in sync with their own reality. My goal is to motivate them. My wife and I went as far as buying a trophy. The child with the highest number of distinctions wins the trophy. If the child wins it for three consecutive times, his name is inscribed on the trophy and we buy another trophy. Little things like this motivate children and get them to perform better.
What challenges did you face in your life?
It is a long story, I’m writing a book. I grew in a compound with 60/70 people; it was a face-me-I-face-you type of house setting. There were two pit toilets. You judged the financial status of every house if they cooked dinner. Most of the time, my family couldn’t afford to eat dinner.
During Christmas, I take my children to Kabba (Kogi State). Once, I took my children to the place and one of them kept complaining of flies buzzing round his ears. I told him that some of the boys rearing cattle are slightly younger than him.
I worked to pay my school fees and I sent my siblings to school. We are six in my family. I am the first child. I lost my father in 1990. I basically fought my way out of poverty.
What are your success tips?
One must be disciplined and focused. Another advice is faith in God and yourself. People will constantly tell you that you can’t achieve something; you have to prove them wrong. Getting my first job in Lagos was very difficult. I came to Lagos June 8, 1995. I squatted in a hotel with a chef. I couldn’t get a job for two months. Those months of being jobless were traumatic.
What other profession would you have ended up with if not advertising?
I probably would have been a journalist.
Do you help your wife with house chores?
I wish I could say yes, but I try my best to help.
How do you appreciate her?
I will choose my wife over all the gold in the world. She is a very special woman. I support her and her dreams. She is a kind woman.
What is your advice to persons without father figures?
We are the CEO of our lives. We must be self-disciplined and focused. Self-belief is also important. You can achieve a lot for yourself without a father.
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