When Did They Stop Seeing Me?

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March 2015

The washing machine broke down; so this morning, I addressed the pile of washing old school style.  I am trying to remember the last time I washed more than a couple of intimate items by hand. Before I got married, I had a Washman, who came by weekly to pick up my laundry and would deliver them washed and ironed a few days later. Everything else, I dry-cleaned, except of course for intimate items such as lingerie. Growing up, my Mum used to say to me: ‘A woman needs to know how to do house work. Even if your husband is able to employ Stewards and help, one day they might not turn up for work. What do you do then?” I used to think: “You leave it until they resume work! What else?”. Hmmm…


Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it! About four or five years ago, I was pondering all the life experiences I have had: I had lived the life of a single career girl, traveled around the world at my own expense and to exotic places at the behest of my employers; I had worked in the cut-throat world of profit, in best-in-class local and international organizations; worked with the Church and traveled on evangelism mission to a country where I did not speak the local language; and I had worked with government officials at all levels representing international agencies and relating with diverse groups of stakeholders to deliver aid programmes to various states in the country; and I had been an international student in a foreign country. In all of this, I realized that the only experience I had never embraced or fully immersed myself into was being a Mother and a home maker. Before I got married, I had domestic help in addition to the Laundry man who picked up my clothes every week. For a very brief period after marriage, I had no help because my husband felt we did not need the intrusion. As soon as I got pregnant, that isolation became impractical, so we got help. When my baby was about 8 months old, I left for the UK to study for my Masters. There were two house-helps when I left. When I returned from the programme, courtesy of my commuting husband, I was pregnant and a few months after my second child arrived, we were blessed with a Nanny-Housekeeper who was with us for 13 years. I therefore had never had to actually care for my children myself and I honestly did not feel that I had missed on anything, after all I had the best of both worlds: I was a Mother and I had a career.  Some years after we moved to the administrative capital, I felt very strongly that I needed to focus more on my family so I took early retirement from my international development career.


Being a stay-at-home Mum did not change much for me domestically: I essentially supervised the Nanny-housekeeper whom I gave a free hand to run things once I had trained her.  Within six months of my early retirement, I had given up on trying to live the life of leisure: going to the gym and pool, having a weekly sauna and massage at the club, early lunch by the pool just before heading out to do school run. As my husband had suspected, the allure of the life of a kept woman did not last very long. I was bored beyond my mind. So I headed out to the UK to embark on a long-desired doctorate.  Visa difficulties for our older children truncated that plan. I had promised not to leave anyone behind so I returned to Nigeria.  Back home, I launched a website to provide an outlet for my writing. After two years of being distracted by that, the niggling thought came back: “Why do you keep running away from taking care of your own home?”. "I take care of my own home", I contended with my inner voice, "or more appropriately, I have ‘people’ to do that.  I don’t have to be the one who mops, shops and cooks for my home to work. There are ‘people’ who are great at that". Deep inside though, I was beginning to face up to the fact that I was terrified to do house chores. Perhaps I felt it would mark my eventual decline into the type of married life I had told myself I would never have: the bargain hunting, always harassed, market-trudging house-wife I hated to see women become.  “That would never be me”, I had told my fiancé just before we  got married. “In fact, to be perfectly honest, I hate going to the market and would sooner buy something from the corner shop for a few Naira more rather than spend the time and energy to go the market where I will be shoved and prodded just to save a few bucks. So if you are the type of man who thinks I will not be a good wife except I go to Mile 12 market every week to drag through the mud in rented boots, now is the time to let me know”. In all fairness to him, it did not seem to be a deal-breaker. So a life with house-helps and Nanny-Housekeepers it was and the chief of all their tasks was going to the market! The one chore I could not BEAR to do myself.


On the day in question when I told my dear friend about my desire to become a domestic diva and conquer my loathing for household chores, I was sort of thinking out loud.  I had not quite figured out how I was going to do it but I was articulating my deep desire to challenge and stare down this fear of mine.  My fear of domestic work did not come from not knowing how to do it. I think it stemmed from a deeper place. A place of wanting  to prove my Mother wrong for all her domestic drilling. I was determined to prove to her that she had been unnecessarily over-emphatic about the value of chores and sure that she had expended a disproportionate amount of her energy in making sure I got that part about being a woman down perfectly. The reason for my aversion to domestic chores was summarized in one statement: "I do not want my Mother to be right!"


Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 April 2015 12:10
Written by Ovie Farraday

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