First, thumbs up all you single working class mums, house wives and grand mums. You seriously rock!!!!
OK a sneak preview into my weird world before I go into the real truth about what inspired me to write this.
I was born averagely rich, raised poor, married into what I jokingly describe as an illusion of wealth and therefore lived rich and poor, then was booted out or ran away to eke it out all on my own but not complaining. I am still on that journey. Sometimes I am rich and happy and other times poor and happy too. So I cannot complain.
Growing up from about the age of 7 my day started at about 5.00am with morning devotion which I read just on my lips because I had to. I loathed this like hell because as a young child I should be sleeping like many children of the rich and powerful who I secretly admired and envied instead of reciting Holy Jesus and holy Mary which then I resented and did not understand why I had to. But I am glad my Gran forced me to do that. It has nurtured me well into the real woman i have become.
Then this was followed by the next almost holy ritual of a regime, running to the farm to empty rubbish which was supposed to decay as manure for my beautiful grandma’s farm. Then from there I ran back home to eat akara (bean balls) and akamu (corn meal or custard) or whatever was available for breakfast, wash and proudly put on my school uniform complimented with my Bata, savannah sandals and white but now brown socks which had suffered because of constant washing with dirty water from a dam close by. But it was fine because not many children could afford them.
The only time for recreation was at school which sadly did not take time to finish. Lunch was may be Ukwa (bread fruit) with kernel or bread and peanuts. I did not complain because I did not know the difference and not many children could afford that either. So I was considered rich and blessed to have them and most times enough to share with other children who loved me for my generosity. I loved them too because I only had a brother then and longed to have more siblings just like many other neighbours and school friends. So hanging around them and feeding them gave me that illusion of a big family and self-importance. I was a rough strong headed and extremely territorial child who feared nothing and loved starting physical fights to control my presumed powerful enclave. I was an epitome of fear to some and protection for the seemingly weak and fearful. So we had things to share. They made me feel loved like I had a big family. In return I provided the much needed protection by creating the fear of the devil in anyone who tried my “bought” family. I would have been canned if gran ever found out what I got up to at school. I was a little brighter than many other equally disadvantaged children so many of the teachers excused my madness.
From school next stop was my gran’s farm where we changed into our farm clothes, ate roast yam with palm oil, drank water and got on with helping at the farm. I hated being there and often got away with pretending to be reading and doing homework which made my gran very happy and proud. She was illiterate and could not work out that I was sometimes reading the famous “Ikebe super” magazine, James Hardley Chase etc. There was no room for Mills and Boons. I would have gotten the whipping of my life if only she knew what I was up to. Then the next step at dawn was ridding home in truckloads of cassava which we peeled at the farm and left the skins at the farm to be used as manure. On arrival at home we supervised waiting grinder operators who ground them for garri (an African staple food). We put them in bags and tied them on garri beds to dry. Others will do the sieving and frying if next day was school. Otherwise we had to do the sieving and when gran was not looking I tried my hand on the frying too. We also took them to the market to sell. The only free day was Sunday when again I had to go to church not sure if I wanted to be there but I loved showing off my London dresses and shoes which everyone admired. School and church teachers and leaders always put me forward to represent them at events because I had nice clothes and my gran was always careful to make sure that I looked my best.
Then primary school was over. Oh I forgot to tell how I was hidden in the back of a lorry and smuggled home when the Biafra war started and how my industrious grandma sold nearly everything she had to feed and keep us alive. Her husband was very poorly with TB and died in 1970. We loved him and sat with him in the cold bunker covered with leaves while the enemy planes dropped bombs and Biafra soldiers raided homes to conscript young men as soldiers. I remember. It was hell on earth but I am not sure how we survived and did not catch the TB inside that bunker.
Now I went to secondary school where I had freedom at last but missed my garn and only brother. That was my first time of leaving home and not living with family. It was a big shock but I survived. The worse happened when in 1975 soon after I arrived at school we were called to an assembly and told that there was a coup and we may have to go home. I was not sure what this was but I was frightened that I might never see my family again if as many older girls told us it was another Biafra war type of situation. Thankfully we did not have to as I am not sure what I would have done. I do not think that I would have been able to travel home alone or knew how to do so it if I had to.
Then I finished secondary school. Passed jamb but WAEC was seized so I took up an auxiliary teaching job while waiting for the results. I could not take up my place to study at University and was disappointed that I could not go to University like other girls. Mind you my Principal put in a strong case for our school and the results were released. To my delight I had a grade one which sadly was of no use to me because others had gone to University for that year so I had to wait.
This is the beginning of the troubled years because I had fallen out with my kind dad who remarried after divorcing my mum in London. I never met my mum anyway (another big sore point in my life) His young wife would not accept us. So there was always a battle. For not respecting his wife I was told that I could not go to University even if the results were out. Moments of fear and despair followed. I was introduced to a gentleman who offered to marry me on the promise of education. I jumped at it not knowing what was ahead. My gran approved but my dad did not. She was afraid that if I was forced to return to England I might never come back because she never met my mum and thought that she would seize me.
The marriage did not work because although he promised to pay for me to go to University he changed his mind and wanted me to be a house wife breeding kids. This was arcane to my understanding of life.
My gran was a hard working woman who looked after her husband and other dependant relatives. She raised me to understand and accept that being the first child and daughter I had responsibility for everyone around me and must work hard to discharge my duties. So it was unusual for me to sit and home doing nothing.
I rebelled and of course was kicked out. I was supposed to be afraid but I was somehow happy because now I could go to school and be a working class babe just like some of the women I saw on the telly then. I wanted to speak grammar and dress like them.(Full story of that turbulent marriage may one day be told in the pages of a book).
Freedom at last. I became a single mum at 26 but I had no fear. I worked and studied to survive. There were times that I cried wondering why there was no one to turn to. The many people that came along only saw my pancake (make up) which covered my pains and offered me the obvious; adulterous sex. Do not forget that I am catholic and brought up to believe that sex is only in marriage. So these men were devils looking to send me to hell sooner than I wished and I would have disappointed my very religious grandma. So it was a no no. I had to do it the hard way. We survived and all the children became professionals doing their own things. I remember one day telling off my daughter for working long hours. My first son laughed and said: I wonder who she is like. The penny dropped and I realised that like I took after my grandma, she has taken after me and possibly sees no life outside working and looking after family. Thank God that she has a gem of a husband because I am not sure what I would have done if she also have to fend for herself and children all alone.
Then all the children left home. I joyously craved the freedom I never had because I was raising children all on my own. That was not to be because I found a passion and had to follow that passion. My passion is being a voice for the voiceless especially women like me who need moral support which was not available for me and which if it was, I was too proud and secretive to accept that I needed it. That is another big story. Fast forward!
This year I had no holiday because I was saving it for “omugwo” Igbo tradition of going to stay with daughters to help them learn how to look after their children after child birth. I had to save this holiday because my daughter once jokingly told me that she was not dreaming of me being able to deliver on this as she believed that I would possibly be busy campaigning about one thing or another somewhere in the world when the babies start arriving. It was a moral challenge so I had to be save that holiday. Little did I know that looking after babies and not working round the clock is a bigger job in itself. Therefore it is more than a full holiday and not a holiday at all.
I have been with her and her husband since the arrival of the baby in November. At first I thought that it would be an excellent opportunity to rest but I was deluding myself. It is simply not easy being a woman. I stay awake to look after baby so that she can get some rest from the 9 months of pregnancy and labour. Her first son is boisterous and perhaps thinks that I am some play mate. So if the baby is asleep he will engage me in some play duel. Even when I fall asleep he would find a way to wake me up.
Since arriving here it has been going to the hospital for the delivery, immunization or looking after everyone. I am not sure how I did it then in Nigerian. Mind you I had maids etc. So it was perhaps easier. I suddenly realised that although I am always happy to do the best to help I am gradually going on a meltdown. My computer having connectivity problems has not helped either because the little times I get, I could not do what makes me happy, reading, writing, listening to news and firing off comments to news houses etc. I have a very short attention span and cannot watch films without getting bored. I can only manage social media from my handset when some rogues are not blocking me and asking for some penalty for breaching some non-existent USA law. At this time I realised that I might be suffering from a mild depression again. (I know that people feel ashamed to say that they suffer from depression but I feel obliged to say this so that no one ever feels alone when they are feeling low) I cannot use my brain. I like to do everything for myself and do not like people helping me at their own time but sometimes I have to wait until they wake up for my laptop to be fixed. That is very very frustrating and enough to drive me mad.
On Saturday, knowing her mum too well, my daughter obviously suspected that I was on a melt down and insisted that I went shopping which is a therapy I respond to quite quickly. I am sure that many women understand this. I could not believe the difference this could make. I came back happy and spritely ready to take on my first grandchild and play until he was tired. Today, I returned to the gym and had a good run. I feel totally renewed.
On my way back I thought ‘my God how do housewives, many single mums, grandmas who have to work or cannot work because they have to look after kids all day do it? I became secretly angry with my ex whose only duty is simply to call, ask after his grandchild and have a laugh with his daughter while I do everything. I got over it and thought that I should shout out to supper women out there because they all rock big time.
Thank God that the crooks who hacked into Sony data revealing all the wickedness in the minds of the owners about some stars, cannot hack into my mind to find out and publish what I thought about many housewives in the past. It would have been disastrous.
Many people who know me very well can tell that I like to be truthful about things and would rather not speak than lie about many things. The little lies I tell these days include that if I can’t stand you I keep away from you to avoid saying it and upsetting you but I will never say it. Just joking. The truth is that before finding myself here, I used to loathe housewives and some women who should be working but choose to be at home because they are single parents and wear that badge as one of honour by constantly reminding people that they are single parents. I used to think what a whole load of Rubbish. You are simply lazy. Being a single parent is not a disability so get up and go do something to help yourself and stop milking your husband of the system.
Gosh! I was simply wrong. It takes a very strong woman to be a house wife, home mum or grandma just looking after children without engaging in any profession or work. I simply cannot do it. I will go mad and possibly end up in an asylum if I do it for longer than I am doing it now without getting real breaks when I can enjoy shopping, writing and reading. I often get angry wondering why even men expect me to give them money and wondering why no one cares to give me. I always envied those house wives who spend every penny on goodies while hubbies work and wish that I can be them.
If the truth be told, I do not want to be them and cannot be them. They deserve awards because people like me would have gone bunkers speaking to ourselves and getting the attention of men in white coats.
Now I can understand why the poor EX could not put up with me and no one could since then. I am not complaining. I recently had a little survey on social media and realised that men do not like big mouth independent minded crazy women like me. I can now understand it further. I can imagine getting into silly arguments with a husband if I have to be a housewife because my head needs a bit of challenge or action to keep sane. He would obviously mistake it for being challenged. I am from a working class background and can never cope with just being a house wife who may have to simply stay home, look after kids, dresses up nice to impress the hubby and smile when indeed I am unhappy because my brains are rotting up.
So to conclude, KUDOS to all of you ladies out there doing what I cannot do. You rock! Your hubbies’ children and grandchildren must give you big thumbs up too. You deserve all the money and love you get in return. I simply can’t do it.
TOTAL RESPECT LADIES.