- The age of agency and autonomy over one’s body and life, rages on for women.
There is an increasing freedom in Nigeria, regarding the way women express love and maintain relationships. Age-old traditions, religious and societal expectations and pressures for women to get married and have children are being adjusted or altogether dumped for more personal convictions- and rightly so.
The following story is told from the perspective of a woman who has chosen to remain anonymous.
I did not start my life not wanting to get married or have kids nor did I make a conscious effort not to. I am fortunate to have been born into a family where both parents preached and exemplified the meaning of true, unadulterated love; I never saw my parents fight or argue for one day. Looking back now, I realise that there were times when my parents left us in the sitting room to go ‘talk’ in their room, but they always came out smiling, having resolved whatever issues they had to talk about. And although we were not given all that we wanted, we were never made to feel unwanted or unloved.
That was until the late 90s when the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) laid off some of its staff, including my Uncle Mark, causing his entire family to move in with us pending when they could afford to get their own house. This arrangement was welcomed by my siblings and I who were excited about my cousins coming to live with us. I was more excited about Aunt Chizzy (Uncle Mark’s wife and my mother’s sister), whose presence was always a breath of fresh air like her sister, my mother.
I respect the idea of marriage but I choose not to do it the way people expect me to. I can’t justify having children just because that is what is expected of me.
Aunt Chizzy was fun to be around. She always had something to teach me and lovely stories about how my mother met my father. “It was love at first sight”, she always said with a dreamy glint in her eyes. She made me want that kind of love. But whenever I asked her how she met Uncle Mark, her smile would wane and she would say “Some loves happen, but some are to be worked for.” Young as I was at 14, I didn’t understand that but I knew that I didn’t want the kind of love that’s worked for. I knew that she was not happy with Uncle Mark because I had seen my parents go into the room to ‘talk’ to Uncle Mark several times and he always came out angry at everyone. And I was the one who paid for every time Uncle Mark got angry.
It started a few months after he moved into our house with his family and continued long after then. I hated him for it but could not tell my parents or Aunt Chizzy what Uncle Mark was doing to me as I did not want to cause any trouble. That was when my irritation for the institution called marriage began. And the fact that later on in life, I saw people cheat on their ‘soulmates’ and other people get cheated on didn’t help boost my confidence or interest in getting married. I wasn’t thrilled by the idea of getting married, neither did the thought of bringing kids into this world and risk them going through any abuse appeal to me.
I have grown from the little girl who made decisions because of what she went through as a victim of sexual abuse, to a woman who is learning to live and love.
I have grown from the little girl who made decisions because of what she went through as a victim of sexual abuse, to a woman who is learning to live and love. Even though I’m now married to a man I truly adore, I am still not interested in having children and I’m happy my husband respects and supports that. I respect the idea of marriage but I choose not to do it the way people expect me to. I can’t justify having children just because that is what is expected of me. I love the man I’m married to and I take my role as the mother figure to his children from his previous marriage whenever they come visiting, very seriously. But I know that having more children with me won’t make us more intimate or fall more in love so why do it?
This article was first published in Genevieve Magazine December Issue, DOWNLOAD the digital to to get all the scoop on our exclusive interview with the Idibias (Annie Idibia and Innocent “2Baba” Idibia) as they open up on their journey through marriage, the difficulty in adjusting to marital life, insecurity and the gift of finding each other.
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