A Week In The Life” is a weekly Zikoko series that explores the working-class struggles of Nigerians. It captures the very spirit of what it means to hustle in Nigeria and puts you in the shoes of the subject for a week.
The subject of today’s “A Week In The Life” is a full-time housewife. She walks us through the struggles of taking care of three kids, the difficulty of her routine, and how she has accepted her role in the grand scheme of things.
I’m up at 5 a.m. because I have to prepare my three children for school. My eldest child bathes herself while I focus on cooking and bathing her younger siblings. After I’m done, I start to dress them but I can’t seem to find their socks. God. I hate looking for socks. It’s a tough cycle because after searching for socks, the next thing I look for is their shoes.
It’s 7 a.m. by the time my children are all packed to leave the house. I sigh a little with relief because they won’t get flogged for late-coming today.
Once the children are gone, my day begins — I sweep the compound, I sweep and mop inside the house, I dust the TV stand, shelf and standing fan. Around 9 a.m., I pack all the dirty clothes from yesterday and sit down to wash.
It’s mid-afternoon by the time I’m done washing. I’m tired and haven’t had a single meal all day. I try to quickly eat something because I have to go to the market and cook lunch before the children come back from school.
It’s 4 p.m. by the time I’m done with market runs and the children are home. The first thing my children shout when they see me is, “Mummy, our teacher said you should help us do homework.”
I drop my market bag and go over to help, grudgingly. In my head I’m calculating my to-do list:
- Help the young kids with homework.
- Google the answers to the questions for the older kid.
- Prepare dinner.
- Give the young kids a night bath.
Give or take I know that whatever happens, I’ll be in bed by 11 p.m. or latest at midnight.
Being a full-time housewife is not easy because we do so much without receiving a salary. If you have a regular job, you can rest after work or during the weekend. As a housewife, you don’t have that luxury because you work from morning to night taking care of the house and children. When you try to sleep during the day, your mind will keep disturbing you that there’s work to be done that no one will do for you. Especially for people like me who don’t have paid or voluntary help.
There’s also the part where everyone blames the housewife for everything that happens while they are away. If the kids get injured, they’ll blame you. If the kids become sick, you’ll be blamed. If food is not ready by the time your husband comes home, you’ll also be blamed. And the blame always ends with: “Were you not at home, what were you doing?”
I spend today thinking about how unhappy I am as a full-time housewife. For someone like me who once had a business selling akara, staying at home is hard. It’s even harder because my husband is the one who ordered me not to work. With how expensive things are in present-day Nigeria, money from only one source in a marriage is extremely tight. The allowance for food for a month can no longer buy anything. All I can do is watch helplessly as things become expensive without being able to do anything about it.
I’m fed up with everything. I wish I could disappear for a while.
Today I’m trying to remember the last time I wasn’t taking care of someone or doing one chore or the other and I can’t.
The only place in this world where I can rest is my mum’s house outside Lagos. However, if I tell my husband that I want to travel, he’ll pick a fight. And I don’t like wahala or getting annoyed. If I get annoyed, it means I don’t want the best for my children because getting annoyed can lead to a couple’s separation. My husband may ask me to go with the children or leave the children and go. Guess who’ll suffer? The children. So anytime there’s friction, I turn to prayer and leave my troubles with God.
You can’t fight someone when you’ve not gotten what you want from them. It’s when you’re stable enough and independent that you can damn the consequences. For now, I’ll endure because he’s paying the school fees of my children and training them. After all, there are working-class people facing worse situations where the husband doesn’t drop money at all.
There’s no enjoyment in marriage. Before you get married these men will tell you, “I love you.” In the marriage, you’ll see changes that will confuse you. And since you’re from different backgrounds, one person must cool down for the other person. I’ve decided to be the one to cool down and endure. I’m kuku the one that wants something.
My husband is at home for the first time in over three weeks today. I asked him to kindly assist me with some tasks since I was overwhelmed with washing and cleaning after everybody. He told me that he went away for three weeks to do his own job, so I should face my own job. He then proceeded to sleep. I felt bad, but for peace to reign, I just unlooked.
As a housewife, you’re at the mercy of another person. You have to take whatever is given to you. No one asks if you have clothes or pant and bra, or how you even buy sanitary products. That’s why you have to be wise about these things. When my husband sends me to buy something, I use his remaining change to sort all these little things. Yorubas will say: “You must not eat with all your ten fingers.”
Every day I stay at home is an unending repetition of washing, cooking, cleaning. And before you know it, the day has finished and you’ve started another one again.
I prefer to go out to work so that if my husband says why didn’t I do x and y chore, I can just say it’s because I went to work. Unlike when I’m at home all day and he’ll say what’s my excuse for not doing the chores.
There are no days off — no sick days, no public holidays, no weekends. It’s work, work, work. I’ve just accepted that it’s my cross to bear and I have no grudges against the father of my children. If people don’t forgive him, I forgive him. I have no choice but to play my part. I’m just praying for a miracle in form of a job or a shop so I can have something of my own.
Until then, we go over and over again. Tomorrow is another day of washing, cooking and cleaning.