Succesful parents are producing wayward children because nannies are in charge- Engineer Charles Osezua

2010-05-08
THE PUNCH Newspaper- Comfort Osaghale


How IWFI was born

There was this conference that I attended in New York, the United Nations special congress on the family; that was in 2004. There was a lot of discussion on societal problems, such as juvenile delinquency, drugs and crime and so on, that developed nations were grappling with. The conclusion was that these problems were on the increase because parents were spending less time with their families. It was an eye opener for me on the correlation between work, family and societal problems. It was clear that the problems being experienced in mega cities and rapidly developing countries were also here with us in Nigeria. So I decided alongside some friends of mine to establish an NGO that would address such problems and seek lasting solutions to them. That is how the Institute for Work and Family Life Integration started.

Need to strike a balance between the place of work and the home

In a typical Lagos family, the husband and wife go to work. They wake up early in the morning, perhaps before the kids, and rush off to work, leaving the kids in the care of their nannies. After school, the kids are handed over to their lesson teacher and so it continues. As a result, the kids never get to know their parents well enough. Our children are not brought up by their parents. The role models are now the nannies. A successful man delegates his children‘s formation to some untrained, unprepared surrogate. The society then produces successful parents with wayward children. There is a problem here.

A parent who gets a phone call from the nanny about his children will be distracted from work. We are not as productive at work as we could be and we are not as successful at home as we could be. It takes someone from a happy home to work cheerfully. But you can‘t be cheerful or happy if you have a problem. So everything comes down to organization; how well we organize and make use of our time.

What most people don‘t understand is that there are many ways to encourage employee productivity. Take for example, since having a baby is hard on working mothers, employers can decide to establish crèches. I know Guaranty Trust Bank has crèches in place for their female staff. UAC properties should have theirs in place by now. There is also the controversial issue of paternity leave. It takes two, after all, to make a child. During those first few weeks, a new mother needs her husband around to help relieve some of the stress with the baby. Even if it is just a week of paternity leave, it helps to allow the father be with his wife and child soon after birth. Another policy that can be used is the flexible work time hours. There are states in the United States where employees are allowed to work from their home once a week. It might be difficult to implement that here because of poor power supply and insufficient access to the internet. You find certain corporate organizations allowing flexible time for their employees. You can go off and pick your children from school, as long as you clock in the mandatory 8 hours. So when you are at work, you are at work and when you are at home, you are at home. There is equally the matter of annual leave. Not all companies allow their staff to take an annual leave, but the reality is that, if you don‘t have vacation time to rest, you wouldn‘t be in the frame of mind to continue working.

Challenges

The real

challenge in

achieving a

balance

between work and family life is the implementation of family friendly policies. However, the response to these issues has been encouraging. The first seminar we did was in 2006 and it was very well attended. We had quite a number of corporate organizations and international participants in attendance. It was captured under corporate social responsibility and lots of corporate entities gave testimonies of their experience with their staff and what they were doing.

We take so many family-friendly policies in this country for granted. They might have been included in the company policy or handbook, but it is possible that nothing is being done about the implementation. Under the general order of government, a woman can have 3 months maternity leave before actually putting to bed and another 3 months after. When she resumes work, she can also take breastfeeding break to attend to her baby or close earlier than usual. These are very good policies, very family friendly. But in reality, how many corporate entities have adopted such policies? Going beyond policies, is there a mechanism for supporting such policy in the private sector either by tax incentive or whatever?

There is also the problem of work ethics in Nigeria. Those who are at work are not conscious of the fact that someone is paying for their time. It is not impossible that somebody goes for lunch and decides to do some shopping, comes back, and spends the next 30 minutes conversing with his/her friends. In reality, this person has just stolen some money from the company because the time is paid for. In the end, he finally realizes that he has a report to submit, by this time it might be 4.30pm. Now he has to work till 8.30pm to submit the report. There are several ways of checking this attitude; some companies have gone as far as telling employees to go home when it is closing time, using subtle means like shutting down the generator at that time. I am aware that Diamond bank precisely shuts down their generators at 7pm. The management discovered soon after, that productivity actually increased and their employees used their time better.

My experience as a family man and entrepreneur

It is still a struggle too for me to maintain that balance because there is always the tendency to spend more time on the things that I enjoy. So some of us are consumed by our professional goals and desires. Luckily for me, after that conference I attended in the UN, it gave birth to that consciousness, the implication of what I was doing. You start to look at your life. The fact too that my wife and I dialogued a lot also helped. Then, she worked with NITEL, designing computer programmes and installing the billing system all over the country. She was really doing well, she was a star. Here was I also, a successful professional and terribly busy. That is a typical family. Then I had my kids in Lagos. There was a day I called her frantically. She was in Calabar and I was in Abuja, the kids were in Lagos. I told her we needed to talk. She was supposed to be back that weekend and she wasn‘t and I had to travelled with the hope that she would be. We had always tried to schedule ourselves in a manner that we would not be too far from home, but it didn‘t always work out. It was getting harder and harder so we both decided she should resign her job. Presently, my kids are all grown up and I am a grandfather, so if I missed it in some instances, at least I would ensure now that they don‘t miss it. Even as a self employed man, I have also tried to program my family into my work life because it is important to always have them around you whenever it is possible.

 

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