Jomo Hope is a busy attorney who spends long hours at the office, but not long enough to prevent him from getting home at the end of the day in time to see his six-year-old son Kyei (pronounced Chay) and three-year-old daughter Adai to bed.
From his two children he gets a heavy double dose of joy every day. Fatherhood is an experience he relishes.
“Fatherhood makes you a more considerate, responsible and loving person. You spend your time growing up thinking what you want to do, and when a wife comes into the picture you think about her as your partner as well.
“But it is an old cliché that is really true – children really do change your life, every facet of your life, from your employment, from your work; you start thinking about your work and the length of time you spend at work . . . you start to think about your quality of life more.”
Jomo had been married to Valerie, a Ghanaian living in Barbados, for some time before the couple discovered he was about to become a father. It was news that brought “a real sense of elation”, but there was also trepidation.
“You are elated that you are about to become a father but then it begins to dawn on you the responsibility that that word fatherhood entails.
“I was curious to discover how this latest stage of my life would pan out, and there was no manual to guide me, but you hope that the experiences of your life, the experiences that you can draw on from your own upbringing will help,” Jomo said.
As with all new parents, the birth of Kyei changed Jomo’s life. When it was just him and Valerie, they were able to share a lot of time together, enjoying special evenings out, socialising, indulging in shared pastimes: “You could do things at the drop of a hat. You could schedule things easier.”
“Prior to children you basically thought about yourself. If you wanted to go out, you went out. You could make plans without any regard to anybody else. Now a lot more planning has to go into it. If you are going out you have to think about babysitting,” Jomo said.
The scheduling is structured around Kyei and Adai, Ghanaian names chosen because of their parents’ close links with Africa. Kyei means “man of substance” while Adai means “joyful; morning glory.”
Valerie and Jomo chose these African names in the same way Jomo’s dad had also adopted the African names Jomo and Molara for his children on his return to Scotland where his children were born, after he had completed a teaching stint in Africa.
Jomo has patterned his parenting style after his own bringing.
“I was extremely fortunate. I have a fantastic father,” he said. Though he admits thinking otherwise when he was growing up, now age and wisdom prompts him to say on reflection, “I find now that I am probably more like him in my role as a father than I would probably like to admit. Subconsciously all the time even though I would have tried to rail against some of the things he would try to instil while I was growing up, I am now adopting some of the same views and trying to instil the same sort of values that he tried to instil in me.”
He added, “My father was ever present in my upbringing and I have tried my best to be ever present in the lives of my two children. I try to attend as much as I can the extracurricular activities and I enjoy very much taking them to the various activities they do at present, particularly my son.
“He does football, swimming; he is taking piano lessons and judo. I enjoy seeing him partake in these activities.”
He is deriving a lot of pleasure from the simple things – from engaging in all the activities that make his children happy; from seeing them laugh, seeing them play. “Call it simple pleasures, but just watching them grow up right in front of your eyes is a pleasure in itself.”
However he does admit life has become “a lot harder” having to work around his children’s schedules, ferrying them about to various activities, trying to maintain the work/life balance.
“Your life has been changed in that way but
I suppose enhanced in that way as well. You now face the greatest responsibility that anyone can ever have.”
But he says fatherhood for him is still a work in progress “and I am trying my level best. Whether I succeed all the time I don’t know but I suppose when they get 17 or 18 I will be able to tell.”
“I have to try to be a better person for them,” Jomo said and acknowledged that any lingering issues of selfishness on his part have dissipated.
“You are now looking after two small human beings and having to bring them up and nurture them. I have to be conscious of how I act in front of them so that they don’t pick up any bad habits.
“It means I have to try to be a better person for them. Also I have to be a lot more selfless and more considerate.”
His focus is on rearing happy children, because happiness is one of the foremost things he wants for Kyei and Adai.
“I hope that they will both grow up happy and content and they will both find their niche in life and end up doing something that they enjoy.
“Hopefully they will be guided by the values that Valerie and I instilled, to treat everybody based on the strength of their character as opposed to the pigment of their skin, their creed or religion.”