Navigating life as a woman in the world today is interesting. From Nigeria to Timbuktu, it’ll amaze you how similar all our experiences are. Every Wednesday, women the world over will share their experiences on everything from sex to politics right here. This is Zikoko’s What She Said.
The subject of today’s What She Said is a 22-year-old woman who is really close to hating her dad. She talks about him making her mother’s life difficult, being uncaring, and being denied basic things because he’s petty.
What’s the earliest memory of your childhood?
It was this time when my dad yelled at my mum. They had a fight and I saw her crying so I went to meet him, told him I was upset and he should apologise to my mum. He did. I was really young then. Like 5.
My dad has multiple POS stalls run by people he employed. Before he started the POS business, he had a cow farm, ice block and concrete block industry, a small restaurant, and still had a corporate job. These are the things I could remember. They were way more. He gives money to outsiders, it’s just when it comes to me, my mum and four younger siblings that there is a problem. It would be a different thing if I wasn’t old enough to witness what it was like when my mum’s business was doing well and she fully had it covered. She wasn’t rich, but nobody could say we didn’t have what we needed amongst our peers, but that was so long ago. Her shops got robbed twice, so it was back to square one.
Why do you think he listened to you and apologised?
My dad likes his kids when they’re super young. It’s when you start to having a mind of your own and challenging him that the fighting begins. Like now, the last two kids are the ones currently enjoying his attention. I won’t say I started rebelling against my dad at a particular time. I had a sharp mouth, so from the beginning, I got reprimanded a lot.
But this was okay. People liked me, and I was a smart child, so he used to boast about me. My contact with him increased in SS3 because then I had to start asking for all my shit directly and from then it’s been hell.
Why did you have to start asking him for things?
I used to ask my mum, but the friction between me and my dad is nothing compared to the one between him and my mama. I’m sure she has high blood pressure because of him. So I honestly would rather ask him directly than have her begging him on my behalf for anything. It’s too stressful.
So how did asking him for things work out for you?
You prepare a speech sort of. Then, you prepare yourself to hear any and everything. Ranging from him telling me to ask my mother, to the fact that I have siblings and should be considerate. If he then gives you, it might be half of what you asked for after you’ve cried into your pillow for like three days and maybe once to his face.
It’s exhausting, this ass-kissing. So I try not to ask him for things. I tell him every time I have to that he should know I’m coming to him as a last resort because I don’t like how he’ll talk. It doesn’t mean anything to him that he’s always my last resort. I actually don’t get that bit. It’s weird that it doesn’t bother him. My mum says we should be used to it by now, but it’s a lot to get used to.
He’s also very petty, so he might not give you what you’re asking before because you might have done something to him in the past.
How do you cope?
I don’t. I have a job, so I don’t have to ask him for things often. I pay for small things at home too if I get frustrated. Like buy fuel, pay bills etc.
My siblings are not so lucky. So it’s somehow. I want to save, but I feel guilty for doing it because my siblings need assistance. Thank God for friends. They help me emotionally, mentally and financially to be honest.
So you work for your siblings as well?
No, it’s for me. I’m trying not to make it out to be like I’m working for them. I’m a child too. I don’t want to grow up and regret not doing right by myself or feel like it’s their fault I deprived myself of things because somebody had more kids than they could handle. It’s for me.
I just want to be able to buy what I want, buy meds when I need them and eat what I crave once in a while.
What’ll make life easier for you?
I don’t know. A miracle? My mum somehow getting to actually start a business without my dad making her spend her capital and consequently failing? Me figuring out what I can learn that’ll earn me significant money? Or the system in Nigeria suddenly working? I don’t know. Every day I want to have a shit load of money because I know it’ll solve half my problems, but almost every other day I simply don’t want to exist so I don’t have to think about any of these things at all. I want to either figure shit out or stop this life thing. There’s no part of this that isn’t exhausting: I’m doing a lot, but it’s not enough.
Your mum’s capital; why does she spend it?
It’s long. She used to work in a different city and when her transfer to the city we lived in was taking too long, my dad made her quit because he couldn’t take care of us alone. Then she heard two of my siblings were admitted to the hospital because they fell sick. She didn’t need much convincing after that. After her shops got robbed twice, she had to start from the bottom again.
He wants her to carry her own bit, pay for stuff and all that but business will not have started and he’s already shedding bills. Whenever she starts a business, my dad stops paying bills at home so she ends up spending her capital. One time, on the day she started a new business, he asked her which responsibility she wanted to handle.
What’s your relationship with him like now?
I haven’t spoken to him in two weeks, and I prefer it like this. It’ll cause problems when we eventually talk, but he’s not a person you should be around often if you want to be healthy. I can’t be around him for two days and not cry, and I’m not a crier. Not even when Yoruba men break my heart.
My mum used to hide to cry because she didn’t want to influence how we saw our dad or treated him, but I have eyes. There was a time my dad’s friend accused her of influencing how we acted with him, but I cleared him so I know we wouldn’t be hearing from him any time soon. My mum is far from perfect, but I won’t let anyone say rubbish about her.
I don’t even think my dad realises we don’t like him. He compares himself to fathers who don’t do anything for their kids and wants us to think we’re lucky because he paid our school fees after we’ve cried and cried.
I don’t think I hate my dad, but I’m slowly getting there.