“Being a mother is a full-time job” – Mai Chisamba
As Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world in celebrating Mother’s Day today, our reporter Veronica Gwaze tracked down revered social commentator Dr Rebecca Chisamba, better known as Mai Chisamba, for a sit-down. The frank-talking lady has literally saved many individuals and families through her sound advice on various media platforms, The Sunday Mail Society included. Mai Chisamba assumes different titles — mother, aunt, daughter-in-law, etcetera, to different people. Here, she shares interesting views on how she has created a “healthy” balance between her professional and private life.
Q: How do you balance between being a mother and a public figure?
A: God will never give you responsibilities that you cannot handle. He gave me the wisdom to handle everything; therefore, I don’t consider it a lot of work. It just needs to be properly managed. I have five children, who are all adults, and five grandchildren. With time, I learnt to accept that I have to be a mother for my family, relatives and fans, which means knowing what to do at what time because a mix-up will always result in disaster.
Q: What strategies do you employ to lessen the burden of your demanding job?
A: I have shared my work with family and delegated some to employees. Too much burden means you are overstepping. You just need to know what to do, and at what time. If you fail to plan and manage your time well, then your programmes will clash. When I started this journey, I was constantly under pressure and at times I would double book. I then realised the need for a personal manager for Mai Chisamba brand. As for Chisamba Productions and the shows, I do the managing together with Baba Chisamba.
My manager plans all my personal programmes, schedules, meetings, among other things, but not the Chisamba productions. I opted for a very young manager so as to be able to understand the generation gap better. Being old school, I believe we were brought up in a different way from the current generation. My manager ensures that I have one booking on any given day. For field events, I either go with her or with baba but for overnight events, I make sure I travel with baba. This makes life easy for me because he gets to understand what I am doing at any particular time. Whenever we are around, we make sure we always have time for family.
Q: What challenges have you encountered in this field?
A: The pressure of trying to make a name often creates problems in most homes. Realising that most marriages crumble because of these issues, together with baba, we felt it was better to work as a couple. He is the director of Chisamba Productions. He deals with the purchasing and ferrying of equipment while I focus on the production side, making life easy for both of us. If I was doing all that alone, I would be constantly under pressure. He would not understand that and it would create problems. Our children are also part of the team; one of them is a graphic designer. They love our job.
Q: Do you have a similar approach when dealing with your family or the public?
A: ‘It takes a community to raise a child’. Thus, when I am dealing with whoever, I consider them as my children and I guide accordingly. Similarly, when I give advice, I do not consider whether we have a history together or not. I guide with a level head. When it comes to my biological kids, I guide as a biological mother. However, they at times laugh at me because I tell them ‘I am now helping you as Mai Chisamba or I am now going to be hard on you as a parent’. Sometimes they actually address me as Mai Chisamba. I am happy because we get on so well. But there always comes a time when I have to stamp my authority as a parent. As a parent, I respect my children and their preferences in life, sometimes I even have to ask for their permission on certain things.
Q: What inspired Mai Chisamba Show and The Sunday Mail column?
A: I never thought I would become a broadcaster one day. I was a teacher and my headmaster, the late Douglas Sanyahungwe, selected me for some auditions at ZBC. I was very upset! I had no intentions of being on television. I thought TV was a white people’s preserve but he insisted. Surprisingly, I made it into the top two and eventually won the race out of scores of teachers. To date, I still feel that he never lived long enough for me to thank him for that push. Later, I had to make a certificate and with an assortment of goods, I delivered to his family to posthumously thank him. My task at ZBC was to promote our 16 local languages and uphold our progressive cultural values, not to be on air. I was not happy, feeling that they had unfairly rated me. I went to my superiors and asked why I could not be on air because I could speak fluent English. That day, I made up my mind to quit and I told my brother (now late). Surprisingly, he just said, “Go and make Shona interesting.” That was my turning point. I am happy that I have even coined some words that have become common in the streets. Now I realise this was my calling. As for the column, a former Sunday Mail Editor who was a fan of Mai Chisamba Show talked me into it. At first, I did not think I would go this far, but now I receive a lot of letters and it makes me happy assisting and responding to them. I enjoy my work, I love helping people and, above all, both sides of my family are always supporting me.
Q: Advice to other mothers.
A: I feel we now have a young generation of mothers that get into these unions without knowing what they are signing for. I advise girls to become mothers when they are grown up because this is a full-time job. Most of the time you have to make painful sacrifices and these sacrifices either make or break your marriage. Teen mothers are still very young and need parental love, which is why they often fail to survive long in marriage. Being a mother, you need to carry your family’s burdens on your shoulders. You have to multi-task, so it all takes maturity. A mother is never reckless in her speech: You need to unite the family. Let us celebrate all mothers and those in making.
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