Are our children still our security for old age? Is it time to review our beliefs, hopes, aspirations and expectations of our children? .
Traditionally and culturally Africans will die for children because we do not have secure pension or gratuity systems and therefore rely heavily on support from our children in old age. Our strong belief in this system was evident in the reaction of many Nigerians to the recent anti-gay law. Many decried the law on moral, spiritual, traditional and cultural grounds wondering if legalising gay marriage will not impede procreation. Some asked where their grandchildren are going to come from. Although I am totally opposed to the new law, this resonated greatly as I also wondered if Africa remains a safe place for gay people who will not have children and who unlike gays in the west who can adopt children can never think of adopting any child or children. I am sure that they will never think about it because even the parents and relatives of such children will be ostracised and possibly lynched.
I felt that way because I know that due to lack of social security system in Africa, we depend heavily on children and friendly extended families for support and survival in old age. Apart from a few people who may manage to invest in properties with appreciating values many people do not have savings either. This is a big question for the conscience of our leaders and time for African gay men and lesbians to fight harder for their liberty or possibly relocate like I hear one of our gay pastors has already done. He is said to have set up a church in the UK. In my opinion this is a big issue for reflection.
Turning away from the gay law issue, I was dismayed to learn that some of our elders are dying alone or living like rats in their cold and vermin infested homes. I spoke to a friend last night who informed me that she ran into a mutual old friend a few weeks ago. He looked well but complained of loneliness stating that although he loves her four children and still supports them the best way he can from his pension whenever they ask for support, they do not seem to care about him anymore. His ailing wife has been in a mental home for a long time and he has been devotedly been visiting and spending time with her. He is always in tears when talking about her especially on days she is in her worst and cannot recognise him. The children have not seen their mum in years as all claim to be busy.
As they spoke another old man who was with him interjected telling my friend that she must go and see his house. He says that the state of hygiene and cleanliness is deplorable and he needs help to avoid dying of some disease as a result of the mess he lives in. Our friend echoed him saying that there was little he can do because he is not strong enough to lift things or bend and clean his surroundings because his back and limbs freeze and become stiff due to various ailments.
I used to cook and take him food but have been really lack in doing so due to various demands on my time and sometimes tiredness too. What used to annoy me then was that although these kids are the same age as mine and he adores them more than life, they rarely check on him and whenever they did, he was the one going to posh shops to buy things and cooked for them? If there was any left -over African food from food I cooked him or from other friends, they will eat them up and sometimes took them away for themselves. He talks about nothing but his love for them and his wife. He refuses to sell his house and go into care because he does not want the care system to gulp up his potential inheritance for his daughters. I find this quite sad and wonder what has happened to us.
He often talks about going back home to settle into his palatial house which no one lives in but he cannot think about leaving his wife and children behind and knows that it will be good bye forever because the children will not visit him and he may die without seeing them again. He is also worried about the security situation at home and also wonders if people at home will be kind to him since he does not have a lot of money and does not have any blood relatives there. He is the only child of his late parents.
At a recent meeting of our women’s group this matter was raised and we were all touched. I used to believe that there is this inseparable tie between African parents and their children and can proudly say that I am a beneficial of that amazing child parents love from my gran who raised me and I was there until the last minute. She felt very proud of me and her wish was always my command. My relationship with my birth parents was not as close as it should have been because we were separated after birth and I knew little about them until later in my life. Nonetheless I showed respect within the limits I was allowed especially to my father whose late wife took over and tried to alienate us. I got to a point when I felt that the stress of balancing our family ship was getting too heavy for my father and that may sink the ship. I had no choice than to step aside but never failed to support him the best way I could. He had and showed so much love trying to catch up for lost times but had to choose between a young wife and us. It was difficult but I had to find a way of encouraging him albeit indirectly to live his life well. He was always proud of me. The story about my birth mum and I was quite different but I will save that for the book of my life.
Looking at the attitude of the current Nigeria Diaspora generation of Africa children can we still look up to them for support when we get older? Are the children being fair on parents many of who made unbelievable sacrifices to give them life and support them through the challenges of living in Diaspora?
Hoping that I am not living in a fool’s paradise, I love my children to bits and know that they will travel round the world to look for me if I become old and need their support.
This now brings me to the question of settling older people in care homes. Many of us consider this practice abominable. I use to feel that way but given my experience of volunteering for an old people’s charity for about eighteen years I am beginning to feel that it is the best option for many ailing parents. Many people will of course disagree with me but I have made clear to my children that if I should become too old and unwell to look after myself to such an extent that I will become a burden on them and their families, then they should do me a favour and send me to a nice care home. Once a month visits here and there would be more than enough.
I have lived my life and would like them to be able to live theirs and give my grandchildren the life I managed to give them. Additionally, the care homes are better equipped to deal with old age problems without anyone compromising my dignity or modesty. This is my opinion but I will respect everyone’s opinion.
May be the time has come for those of us in Diaspora to revaluate our relationships with our children, balance investment in them and our future with or without them when we get older. It might be that we are still living in the past and need to get to grip with changes in our ever evolving modern society.
A friend’s son said that he is in love with an Oyibo and wants to marry her. His mother blackmailed him saying that no one in their family has ever married Oyibo and she will commit suicide if he ever tried. He felt really sad because he loves his mum who herself I consider a very enlightened woman and expected not to think that way at all. The young man asked her, if you do not like Oyibos or the multicultural free world we live in, why on earth did you come to the West and why did you raise me here instead of Africa. I thought that this was a very strong valid moral challenge. I thought what a damning castigation and exposition of our inherent prejudices and the hypocrisy of the African man who is always conveniently and selectively judgmental.
Time for a big review and change may be.