After detesting her mother’s parenting methods for much of her growing-up years, Jess (31) had pretty much accepted that she’d never experience a mother-daughter relationship with her mum. But that’s changed since she had her own child.

As told to Boluwatife

Image by Freepik

I spent the better part of my childhood and teenage years detesting my mother. 

I’m an only child, and growing up, whenever I told someone I didn’t have siblings, they assumed that meant I was being spoiled silly at home. But that was far from my reality. My mum was a perfectionist. There was no room for “spoiling” in her house. 

There was hardly anything anyone could do to please my mum. She had a particular way of doing things, and I got a scolding if I didn’t sweep under the chairs or forgot to arrange the plates according to size.

One time, when I was 8 years old, I took a drink from the fridge at night and forgot to close the fridge all the way, so everything inside got warm by morning. A bowl of soup went bad, too. My mum beat me so much that my dad had to intervene.

My dad was the complete opposite of my mum. He tried his best to spoil me silly, but my mum never stood for it. He once bought me a bicycle in JSS 1 because I was upset about not getting picked to be the class captain. You know what my mum did? She waited for me to go to school, then she picked up the bicycle and donated it to an orphanage home. When I got home and began looking for it, she announced that she’d given it to children with real problems. I was so angry.

My mum also never let me leave her sight. I soon learned there was no need to ask her if I could stay over at my friends’ houses during the holidays or visit them to play on the weekends. Her answer was always no. If my friends didn’t come to my house, I might as well forget about seeing them till school resumed. 

Everyone I knew could play outside in the field close to our estate after school, but I was always stuck at home. I still don’t know how my mum caught me the one time I snuck out of the house to play. She came home from work that day and said, “Who gave you permission to go outside?” After that incident, she got us a live-in maid who ensured I never set foot outside unless I was out on an errand.

We had a maid, but I still did most of the house chores. The only thing our maid did was cook and watch my every move. By 12 years old, I’d started washing my parents’ clothes and mine. The maid left when I turned 14, and I took over the kitchen too. Some days, I wondered if I was actually my mother’s child. Maybe she adopted me because she just wanted a child to punish or something.

In SS 2, my mum found my diary where I wrote about my crush on the head boy of my secondary school. Strangely, she tried to talk to me about it instead of her usual beatings. It was the most awkward conversation ever. For almost two hours, she gave me story after story of young girls who got pregnant by kissing boys and either died after seeking abortions or giving birth to the children and becoming destined to lives of struggle. 

ALSO READ: I Had an Abortion All by Myself at 16

In the end, she burned my diary and made me swear not to crush on anybody again. The only thing I left that conversation with was an intense fear of kisses and the wisdom to never write my thoughts down where my mum could find them again.

When I entered the university, my mum developed a habit of coming to visit me unannounced. Probably in an attempt to catch me hiding one boy under my bed in the hostel I shared with two other female students. 

Even at university, I wasn’t free from her scrutiny and scolding. She once called to scream at me because I posted a picture on Facebook where a male classmate was holding me by the waist. 

In all this, my mum still expected me to confide in her. My dad constantly told me how my mum wasn’t happy that I only told him about things bothering me and never told her. She also didn’t like that my dad was the first person I called to give exciting news. I never understood it. Did she really think she offered a platform where I could come to her freely? 

If anything, realising she wanted me to talk to her made our relationship even worse. I was so determined to push her to the back of my mind. How dare she traumatise me so much growing up and suddenly want us to be best friends? It didn’t make any sense. 

As a result, I can almost count the number of times I visited or spoke to my mum after I left uni in 2015. She was the last person to meet my boyfriend (now husband), and I made sure to hire an events planner while preparing for my wedding in 2021 because I didn’t want to clash with her during the wedding prep or have to deal with her opinions on how she thought things should go.

I became a mother myself in 2023 after almost losing my life to childbirth complications, and let’s just say I’ve learned to be more forgiving of my mother’s antics. Actually, I’d say I now understand her. 

My change of mind happened when she came to help me with my newborn and stayed for two months. I didn’t want her to come at first, but my mother-in-law fell ill, and I had no other option.

I thought my mum and I would spend the entire time arguing, but I saw a different side of her. Gone was the judgemental perfectionist. She took care of me and assured me even when I thought I was doing things wrong when I initially had problems with breastfeeding. 

We also talked a lot during that period, and while she didn’t say it outrightly, I understood that she’d actually done most of what she did in my childhood out of fear. She’d only given birth to one child in a society like Nigeria’s that still considers people with only one child as almost childless. 

She was under pressure to train her girl child to be socially acceptable and without reproach while navigating fear that she’d make a parenting mistake and her only child would turn wayward. 

I can relate to that now, too. Half the time, I worry about whether I’m making the right decision for my child and if I should’ve done something better. Fortunately, my experience with my mum has taught me that it’s more important to work with your children and make sure they know why you make certain decisions rather than have them resent you for it. 

I’m just glad I can finally have the mother-daughter relationship I didn’t have all those years ago. We started late, but it’ll help forge a better one with my own child. I’m grateful for that.

NEXT READ: How My Mother’s Emotional Abuse Caused My Ghosting Problem



Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.