Any young Nigerian who still lives with their parents must know that their definition of “We miss you” is really they miss the free unpaid labour and they miss stressing you.

It took several “Na me fuck up” moments for Gbemisola* to figure out her family’s game, but when she finally did, it was over for them. She opens up on how she avoids domestic labour by going anywhere but home during short breaks.

As Told To Adeyinka

As the third of five children (two boys and three girls), I never understood why my older siblings never came home during short breaks. I’ll hear my parents say the FG has declared a public holiday for Easter, Sallah etc., and a part of me would get excited about reuniting with my siblings. But they never showed up. I didn’t understand why until I also got into uni.

I school in Osun state, and it’s not exactly an exciting place to be, especially when school isn’t in session. At first, I was always eager to return home. I was one of those students who’d make sure I travelled back to Lagos even if it was just a one-day public holiday. I just wanted to be at home and enjoy good food, light and all the comfort that came with being at home. I didn’t mind the extra chores as long as I was sha at home.

But during one of those breaks, I started to notice a pattern.

My younger brother and sister relaxed whenever I was around. They just stopped doing things around the house. They’ll stay in their rooms, visit friends and return late… basically make themselves scarce. If my parents needed something, I’d always end up attending to them since I was there. My mum also did less cooking when I was around. She’ll say, “(Gbemisola* mo ti miss spaghetti bolognese ati sandwich to ma nse yen”. (I’ve missed your spaghetti bolognese and sandwich recipes).

As someone who’s been described by my friends as a nurturer, I didn’t feel any way about all these. But anytime I went back to school, it never felt like I just got back from home. No memories of enjoyment, just flashes of what I cooked, errands I ran, and I was always tired AF.

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My friends would share how they went to the cinemas, all the fun things they got up to, and I’ll just have stories of what I cooked at home. It was during one of these trips that I had an epiphany and realised why my older siblings never came home for short breaks. They were running from my parents’ stress.

Omo, nobody told me to wise up.

In 2023, I think the only short break that took me home was Sallah and that was because I had a mission to steal meat. Even then, I only got to Lagos on the morning of Eid. My mum blew up my phone with calls the entire time, but I lied that I had stuff to do in school.

This year, I’ve not gone home since I got back from the Christmas/New Year break. When the FG declared Thursday a three-day public holiday, my mum was the first to break the news. “Gbemisola*, it’s three days, won’t you come home?” I told her we had a test on Friday and I needed to study.

It’s not like I enjoy staying in school during these breaks, but I’d rather be in my hostel watching films and reading novels than go home to do hard labour.

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