The family unit is the corner stone of civilisation. A lot of responsibility is thrown on the shoulders of the woman and she is expected to ensure that her family is well taken care of, wherever in the world she might find herself she is expected to be a wife, mother, lover, manager, financier, driver, daughter in law, sister in law and anything else life, work, her family and extended family may expect of her.
One thing that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the people of this country is the hard working Black woman I remember a colleague praising her employees work ethic.
She is the first in and the last to leave. I know she has to get the children to school, and I also know she is a school Governor and goes to her church during the weekdays. I don’t know how she does it?
I don’t know how she does it either?
You see in Nigeria, there is a good chance that she would not be doing it all alone. She might have a house help or a relative living with her to help look after the children, pander to her mother in law who is on an extended holiday or help her prepare pounded yam for her husband Not the type that comes from powder, no the good old fashioned type that has been thoroughly pounded in a pestle.
Expectations that seem quite normal back in Nigeria can lead to matrimonial disputes if they are not discussed and compromises reached. Some women have tried to meet these demands by getting female ‘relatives’ over to ‘help’ them with household chores in return for providing bed and board and maybe some meagre stipend. While the relatives of such a person may hail them for their ‘humanitarian’ act of liberating their daughter from Naija into England, such an activity will not be seen as favourably by the authorities here. House helps are for the landed gentry, royalty and not for Mr and Mrs Average. There have been cases where Nigerians have been arrested on child slavery charges for this kind of thing. So generally most women have themselves to rely on for running their households, unless they have supportive husbands.
A woman who has to get up around 5 or 6 am, wake up the children, bath them and get them ready for school, prepare breakfast, drive them to school, go off to work to put in 8 to 9 hours, pick the children up from their different schools, take them home, prepare their food, go through their homework and do the laundry might not be ready to cook stew from stratch for Ogas evening meal. She might occasionally put some chips and sausages in the oven or prepare salad for him or expect him to help her out.
If this suggestion happens to coincide with the time Mama or any of her husbands relatives are visiting from Naija one can imagine that it will not probably not be seen in a good light and could lead to in-law problems. I have seen some woman have breakdowns trying to juggle so many responsibilities all at once, in order to conform to societal expectations and values.
Modern society makes its demands. Many women are joint breadwinners for their families. Others are sole breadwinners of one parent families. Modern society has moved faster than our cultural perceptions.
This is a society where individualism is treasured. The goal is to have children and assist them to be as independent as possible so they can go and start their own family of independent individuals. The State is their mother and father on who they can rely on, to look after them if they fall sick, lose their job or get old.
It is a society where your Boss will not understand if you get to work late because you had to prepare your mother in laws breakfast and dinner before you went to work or could not complete your rent or mortgage payments because you had to send money home to support your nephew in university.
Women in the Diaspora are the nurses, the cleaners, the office workers, the managers, accountants, lawyers that form a small but significant proportion of the UK workforce.
They are the women that boost their income by hairdressing, dressmaking, cake baking and other hobbies which they have turned into businesses on the side. They will get back home from their 9-5 job, sort out dinner for their families and get on the internet – looking for ways to make money or start an internet business, or blog or online business.
These activities are not limited to women in the Diaspora. In Nigeria there are women doing exactly the same thing; supporting their husbands in building tomorrow’s generation despite the many challenges they might face.
Women not only hold up their families. They hold up their world and I do not think society gives them enough credit for the often thankless job that they do.
Tell a woman you know, that she is doing a good job. You don’t know how much she needs to hear that.