If there’s anything Penny Akwenye is not, is an ordinary mother; at least by modern standards.
The all-round mother of two boys, Tuyeni (25) and Jason (22), has juggled life, work and motherhood, to be one of the most covered corporate women in the Namibian media. When Penny has something to say, people listen. And when former Minister of Finance, and current Prime Minister, Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila appointed her as the chairperson of the Development Bank of Namibia (DBN) at the beginning of the year, the local media painted the town red with praise and reservations alike.
However, undeterred, even with her former roles as the CEO of the Millennium Challenge Account – Namibia (MCA-N), Penny delivers, delivers, and delivers.
Penny took over the DBN chairmanship reigns from Elize Angula and I remember reading her speech after her appointment and thinking, “This woman!”
She pledged to consolidate the three principles of banking: To ensure teamwork and to see the bank fulfill its mandate of fostering economic growth and social empowerment, as well as that the bank becomes a leading financial institution in advocating, implementing and sustaining both public and private development efforts. Aware of her corporate profile, you’d have known she wasn’t making empty pledges. She gets the job done!
With an impeccable corporate reputation like hers, you have to wonder what kind of mother she is, or better yet, what motherhood truly means to her.
During these interviews, I’ve heard a lot about how working mothers manage to cope with the entire concept of balancing motherhood and career life. But not Penny.
According to her, olden-day mothers would have so much to do in one lifetime besides nurturing their children, and yet they managed to do it all so perfectly well, without a single complaint. So what makes the modern-day mother so special that she cannot do it all without complaining, Penny wonders?
“Motherhood is a blessing; the greatest for all mankind, in fact. I say that because there are so many women who wait all their lives to conceive their first pregnancy, while others conceive so many pregnancies and lose them in miscarriages or forced abortions, yet there are those who abuse motherhood. Such women run all over the show indulging in premarital sex, conceiving and then aborting. Others in that same category give birth to babies and then abuse them or leave them with abusive guardians, etcetera. That, whichever way you look at it, is abuse to the most precious gift God gave to us, mothers; motherhood.”
Given the fact that she’s been around for longer years than most of the women I interviewed for this edition, every word she had to say sounded more important than the previous one. It was like listening to a very wise grandma.
In Penny’s opinion, you don’t have to have a husband to lay the foundation for your children.
“Yes, being a mother is a huge responsibility whether you’re married or not. The roles have been the same since time immemorial, except now they have been modified into something else, especially with women seeking ‘equal rights’.”
She’s old-school too, and doesn’t apologize for it.
“Don’t get me wrong; I support equal rights between men and women 100%, but a home cannot be headed by two leaders. One of the two have to be subtle in their roles, in order to sustain a healthy balance within the home. In the olden days, women raised the children. It was their duty. They would be the ones to wake up in the middle of the night to tend to their crying babies and suck snort out of their babies’ stuffy noses and the list is endless. Today, mothers hire maids, buy nasal drops and wake their husbands in the middle of the night to tend to their babies. Or better yet, they even have timetables for household chores and who should tend to the baby on which night, etcetera.”
According to Penny, the modern-day mom wants to be like the “TV moms” who have their work all cut out for them. Even the single mothers look for shortcuts these days.
“Look, motherhood has nothing to with single-motherhood or family-unit motherhood. Within the African culture, there’s no room for mistake. If the child turns out great, it is all praise to the mother. Should the opposite happen, the mother takes the slap. Therefore, as mothers, we are wired to nurture our kids into greatness. Even the not-so-perfect mothers have something to offer their kids at the end of the day.”
So is there any such thing as a perfect mother? “Hell no. A single mother may not know what it’s like to bring up a child in a two-parent environment, but there are just the basics of nurturing that do not have to be taught. Married mothers also have it rough, but they keep it all inside their bedroom walls. A married mother could be dealing with a half-hearted husband or rebellious children, but because she knows the basic concept of motherhood, she does whatever it takes to ‘glue’ her home in place. The world’s watching. The single mothers need inspiration and the children need an emotionally stable mom. Do you think there’s any room for mistakes for such a mom?”
As African mothers, culture does not allow us to blub about our adversities. No matter what a mother may go through, she must ensure that her child(ren)’s nurturing environment is as normal as it can be. Normal environment, according to Penny, is where there’s zero abuse, plenty of love, kindness, more love and of course discipline, because whether we realize it or not, Penny adds, “Parents’ relationships impact the outcome of good or bad parenting.”
Let’s not be impractical, however, when it comes to certain glitches that may affect the “normal environment” in which a child is nurtured, because as Penny puts it, “Abuse has existed since time immemorial. It has just been aggravated with the power of money, drug-usage, etcetera.
“Government should actually reinforce more legal frameworks to deal every single form of abuse within the domestic space, so that women and children are not subjected to it. Unfortunately, those who are usually mentally or emotionally abused are usually unaware that they’re even going through it. They may realize that is not the way things should be, but they may never know how to seek better lives, without the help of those who know better. Such support systems can come from government personnel or even compassionate relatives.”
As with lessons we learn throughout life’s journey, Penny has learnt her own. The first lesson is to love and be compassionate, especially where children are concerned.
“Love that child. Do not deny that child any positive emotional resource you may have, because motherhood goes beyond the four walls of a home. I once watched a United Nations television program in which they asked different people why they loved Africa. One of them said they liked Africa, because it is the only place where it takes a village to raise a child.”
But that sentiment has changed overtime, especially with modern-day parents relying more on “how-to” versions of raising a child, which they get from TV shows, magazines or “how-to” books, cries Penny.
“Today, you can see a child misbehave in urban areas and you wouldn’t be able to do anything about it, because he/she is not yours. However, it is different in the rural areas where it still takes a village to raise a child.
“Women made it work as far as motherhood, marital and work responsibilities were concerned. Today, women think it’s too much. What went wrong? We fly now, we drive cars, we use built-in stoves and even pay people to help us around the house and yet ‘it’s still too much?’ What’s too much? Even with my boys out of the house now, it is still full of children under my care and yet I don’t keep house-helps. I do all the house chores by myself.”
Who knew! You would think a woman in her position, even though a retiree now, would have a house full of help. But oh well.
So what kind of legacy would a phenomenal mother like Penny want to leave for her children?
“As a mother, always create an environment where your children don’t see a bad side of life. They don’t get over it. No mother wants that for her child. Biblically, provide them with a proper foundation and all shall fall into place; you’ll see how your kids strive for success without your trying too much.
“I didn’t even have to try too hard to raise my kids the proper way. All I did was pray and do what my Bible taught me about child-bearing. That’s all. Either way, boys are easier to raise; the fears you have when raising daughters are not the same that you would have while raising sons.”
Having been raised in a staunch Christian home, Penny was taught the positive side of life. One of the lessons in that regard was that one’s luck in life is a result of others’ blessings. The more cruel you are to others, the more heaps of curses you place upon your head, Penny says. “Unfortunately, the world has now tailor-made the Gospel to suit its preferences so that very little truth is preached anymore.”
To every mother out there, Penny has this to say; “Do things at the right time, because your children won’t be children for much longer and they will not wait for you to be ready to start becoming the kind of parent they need for proper upbringing. Kids can feel when their mothers are not emotionally in-sync with them. They will eventually shut themselves out emotionally to protect themselves from you, because you scare them. Your facial expressions speak volumes. So please, mother dearest, behave in a way that will result in the proper upbringing of your child.
“Don’t plant potatoes and expect to reap tomatoes. That’s just the basic principle of life – you reap what you sow.”