Sunken Ships is a Zikoko series that explores the how and why of the end of all relationships — familial, romantic or just good old friendships.

The subject of this week’s Sunken Ships, Chris* (23), tells us about his relationship with his mother. How she never wanted him to be born nor showed any emotional affection towards him and what it’s like watching her start a new life without him

Tell me about your earlier memories of your mum 

Chris: For as long as I can remember, my mum never wanted me. She got pregnant by a man she didn’t know had a wife and child in another country. When she found out, she was devastated. I think she carried all of that resentment and hatred to me. 

She worked in a bank and was very busy so various nannies raised me. My mum would have left before I woke up and would come back by the time I’d gone to sleep. I remember not seeing her for a whole month. It’s not like she travelled. We lived in the same house, but during weekends and holidays, she’d stay in her room and I’d stay in mine. That was my normal. 

When did you realise it wasn’t normal? 

Chris: School. In primary school, I interacted with other children that actually spent time with their mothers. One of my classmates even said that when he’s ill, he goes to his parents’ room and lays on their bed because it makes him feel much better. I had never been allowed to stay in my mother’s room without her permission, talk less of laying on her bed. I was in awe. 

When I was 9 years old and a bit under the weather, I crept into her room while she was at work and slept on her bed. I just wanted to see what it was like. When she came back, she beat me so hard she removed a milk tooth. She told me never to try that again, and I didn’t. 

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I’m so sorry 

Chris: My mother was never emotionally present, and her room felt like the only space in the house where she could forget I existed. Seeing me there must have spoilt that. 

When she sent me to boarding school when I was 11 years old, it was the happiest she’d been. She never came for my visiting days or PTA meetings. I made a friend whose parents basically adopted me as their own. They tried to make me feel less alone and I appreciated it. 

I wish my mum were more involved, but I realised she needed to provide for us. I just wish she showed me a bit more emotion. Do you know she only told me she loved me once? 

Can you explain? 

Chris: I was 18 years old and had just graduated from secondary school. When the ceremony was over, she hugged me and told me she was proud of me and loved me. She’d never mentioned it again since then. 

Do you love her? 

Chris: I do. The older I got, the more I realised that she’d never love me, but it didn’t stop me from loving her. Now I love her out of fear and I no longer try to do things to please her. If I have to decide between something that’ll make me happy or something that’ll make her happy, I’ll choose myself. 

She never failed to remind me that the only reason she worked so hard to provide me with all the chances life has to offer was so nobody could ever use it to insult her. She provided and cared for me, so asking for love was too much. I got the memo, but I wish it didn’t take so long. 

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How did her words make you feel? 

Chris: It made me aware of my place in her life. As I said, my love for her changed the more she told me those things. I also felt bad for her. Imagine having this much hate in your heart for someone who never did you anything wrong. It must be difficult. 

What’s your relationship with her like now? 

Chris: I moved out of her house in 2020. So, we hardly see each other. She also remarried in 2021 and I had no idea till the wedding day. 

How come you didn’t know? 

Chris:  She never bothered to reach out to me except she needed something, and she didn’t feel like including me in her new life. The only reason I knew about the wedding was that I saw it on her WhatsApp status. I knew she was dating the guy, but I didn’t know anything else. 

God abeg. I’m so sorry.

Chris: It’s okay. I’m pretty happy with where I am now. She’s making a conscious effort to have a child with this new man she married and I hope it works out. Maybe she’d treat this one differently than me. At least she’d finally have a child she wanted. 

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