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 34-year-old Nigerian woman who grew up getting everything she asked for. She talks about constantly pursuing enjoyment, and how that led to her leaving her cheating husband and raising her two children independently.
What was it like growing up?
I had a pretty happy childhood. I am the 12th child out of 21 and was the last girl till I was 12 years old, so I was kind of everyone’s favourite. I grew up with a lot of people in the house: cousins and aunts inclusive. I was never short of people to play with.
The earliest memory of my childhood is from when I was about four years old. My daddy’s important friends came, and they gave me two bundles of five naira notes. I made my mum take me to the shopping complex to buy a red spaghetti strap dress with a fancy bolero jacket.
Your mother did not “hold” the money for you? Must be nice.
Whenever I got money like that, I sometimes gave my parents to keep it for me, but I have always loved being responsible for my own money.
The downside to being responsible for your own money is that sometimes you’re deprived of things other people have. If I protested, my parents told me those people used their savings to buy it. There was a year I almost did not get Sallah clothes because I had used all my savings at the snack woman’s place. After crying for hours, they finally gave me the clothes.
The thing is, I was adorable, smart and liked. I was everyone’s little bride at their wedding, always the house princess for inter-house sports, and always represented the school at primary school events. I was spoilt, overindulged and was used to having my way with almost everything. I loved it, and it did a lot for my self-confidence and self-esteem.
What’s it like being a confident adult?
I look at people who don’t like me like they don’t have good taste.
When I was younger, I did not handle being rejected well. There was a time a guy said he liked me but didn’t want to date me. I was stunned. Like how dare he? Why would he allow common sense to derail him from enjoyment? I am a big believer in enjoyment, so this did not make any sense to me.
LOL. What do you consider enjoyment?
Food is my kind of enjoyment, but I despise cooking. I love food cooked by other people. That was why when I started making money, the first thing I did was hire a cook. After a few months, I sent him away because he was doing nonsense. Now, I have someone that does well and cooks for the house.
The house includes me, my children’s minder, the help, my two children, and my nieces.
Tell me about your kids.
They’re amazing children, and I love them very much, but I don’t recommend children to anybody. They take your body, your energy and your money. All for small hugs and kisses? The return on investment is poor.
But then you have not just one, but two. Why?
I was 23 and so very young and foolish. I felt that having children was expected of me after getting married, so I did just that. I got married and pushed out two children without putting much thought into it.
I had my first child for my ex-husband and the second for my first child because I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life entertaining her. Now they can entertain themselves and be friends.
Did that work?
Yes. They do everything together and love one another so much it gets me upset sometimes. The boy who is two years older than his sister said to me the other day: “I get upset when I see my sister crying, and I feel like slapping someone, but since you are the one making her cry, I will just go and tell her sorry.”
She was crying because I scolded her for finishing some paper in the house and not letting me know to replace it.
The thought of them gaining power and throwing me out of the house has crossed my mind, but I know they love me too much. They also understand that sometimes I love one child more than the other, and they don’t mind.
One day, my children told me, “You can’t love two people the same way at the same time. There are times when you love my sister more, and times you love me more, but we don’t care. We know you love both of us and will always take care of us.”
Stuff like this makes me feel like I’m winning in the parent department.
Definitely. What about your ex-husband? Where is he in this picture?
Even when we were together, I was the children’s primary caregiver, so it’s not like he knows what to do with them.
Why did the marriage end though?
We wanted different things out of life, and it was leading to constant conflict. He was 32 years old when we got married, and until then, he had never been responsible for anyone, not even himself. So, he struggled.
He also seemed unable to wrap his head around the fact that I didn’t want a mediocre life. So, he did not understand my drive to work, to make money. I want a BeachFront mansion, and I don’t mind working for it. Meanwhile, he’s satisfied with a bungalow in the village. He also cheated on me with close friends and associates and took advantage of people living with us.
I once got a call around 4 a.m. from him while I was on a work trip. He was demanding the kids’ nanny leave because she woke the children up too early. I told him that was not possible, and it was too early in the morning. Then I went back to bed.
When I woke up, I found out he had already sent her away. I asked her what happened, and she said ever since I left, he had been trying to sleep with her. She said she woke the children up because she wanted protection. It was at that moment I knew I could not do it anymore.
I got home, asked him what happened, and he said it’s his house, and he could do whatever he wanted. He told me anyone who had a problem with that could leave, so I carried my children and left.
Damn, that must suck.
Yeah. After that, different women started coming to me with various allegations from pregnancy to rape. It was a whole mess. In fact, in the first year of our marriage, he got my friend pregnant.
I should have left then, but I felt like I had something to prove. When I got married, people told me that the marriage would not last long. I was desperate to make it work.
Was there a reason they thought it would not work?
My motto is, if he is giving you a headache, let him go. God did not put me on earth to be dealing with headaches from men. I am a very beautiful woman, and there are always men and women who want to be with me, so why will I be with someone who is stressing me? My response to stress is flight, and I am very happy and content with being on my own.
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