My first brush with gender role crises was very early. My father was a nurse you see, and as a 3 or 4 year old philosopher, I hypothesised that doctors are the male version of nurses, kind of like how there are actors and there are actresses. As i grew older, I came to learn definitively that doctors and nurses are two different professions and my dad was not a doctor but a nurse. The little philosopher I was then was pretty disappointed, how can my dad be a ‘nurse’? For so many years I was sort of ashamed of my dad’s profession and struggled hard to explain to friends what he does for a living.
Looking back now, I am ashamed to admit that there are times i let my friends assume he is a doctor, sometimes I wished he will just get a medical degree and save me from the embarrassing situation of having a ‘nurse dad’. Well, he just did more advanced courses in nursing! Never changed his profession till he died and even when he got promoted to a more ‘manly’ management position, he turned it down! I was too young to understand that decision but I thought it was stupid of him not to have taken the first chance out of that hideously unmanly profession. The drawings in all the books depicted nurses in cute dresses and fancy hats and none of them looked like my dad.
All these years,I never knew why I was ashamed of my dad being a nurse. I get it now. As an adult, self acclaimed philosopher, i discovered the society pitted me against my father who by the way was a great nurse with awesome bedside manners. The society defined who does what based on preconceived notions of strength and ability. I understand now that my father was a nurse at heart; he was passionate and dedicated his life to making people feel better in and out of office.
People always took advantage of him, but he did not care, he had a soothing personality and was not afraid to show it in his era where gender roles were so powerful it was almost palpable. My perception of the nurse dad changed when I grew and discovered my sister was birthed at home in the dark of the night with my father as midwife! He never missed an opportunity to brag to my sister about cutting her umbilical cord and how her perfect navel was his handiwork. Heroic.
Looking back at my life, I understood the meaning of positive discrimination, because I have lived it. My father did it so consciously; he believed he had to get his girls ready for the complexities of the real world. My mum worried that he spoiled us of course, because freedom of expression was permitted for both sons and daughters.
As a little girl, I sit at his feet (quite literally) to question everything, “why do you eat so early in the morning (my conclusion “you are now the baby of the house”) you have so many kids, what were you thinking? (His conclusion: be grateful otherwise you would have been in my loins!) Why are you a democratic dictator (denies), “Why do you love my sister more?” (Denies) “Why are you bald like that?” (haha), “why do you not have tribal marks?” (Ha! Be grateful for that! If i did, i would have designed your face!), he was funny like that.
I imagine him knitting and laying the foundations of my mind in those formative years. For boarding house, he will challenge me to “defend” every item on my shopping list since my aspiration was to be a lawyer (and i did become a lawyer). He was not perfect of course, but he was dedicated to consciously building my confidence and expanding my mind and imaginations!
Now i remember we read novels together. He strangely never set boundaries; he instead influenced you to set it for yourself and It is unimaginable the kind of confidence and wisdom that gives you. When I became a weird teenager, he was patient with that phase of my life; I can only imagine how difficult it was for him. My mum is priceless and I celebrate her every day, but my dad takes all the accolades for instilling in me the confidence to be fearless and limitless.
I know we all have different realities, some may not get the unspoken influence societal norms play to make or mar us but I have come to understand it easily because of this experience with my father. I was influenced even at a young age to think that it was wrong for him to choose his profession. Now i know better and I say thank you to the likes of my dad (men and women) who braved societal norms and walked a different path, you have proven again and again that humans can be anything they want. Your shining light is the reason the narrative is changing, slowly but surely the lines are becoming blurred, we are attaining new heights on all sides, it’s a brave new world!
Many years has passed and so has my dad, it would have been great to hear his response to my confessions about him being a nurse; he would probably have proudly retorted “nurses save lives, you remember that new wig!”
Thanks dad, you are missed.
Written by Hyelni for Diaryofanaijagirl.ng