My life is that of an average Nigerian woman or probably a little more than that. It’s as normal and comfortable as it gets. I am a married woman in my mid-thirties. I have two lovely daughters that I am raising, 9 and 6 years old. My husband is an absolute sweetheart and we get along really well. But there’s something that’s missing, a little secret that I can never tell my loving family because I’m scared they’ll get hurt.
I don’t know any better way of telling them what I feel.
Seriously. I have a family, have a job and my work-life balance is pretty decent. And just as every other working woman in this rushed phase of life, my day starts with me multi-tasking in a rush to get things done in the morning — wake up the children and get them ready for school, pack lunch for my dear husband and the little munchkins, speed through plaiting my hair, make sure my bindi is not off-centre and apply eye-liner, get in the car to drive for 50 minutes through Lagos heavy traffic and be at work by 9 am (or that’s what I diligently aim for). In the office, the first round of coffee comes as a blessing.
I spend fifteen guiltless minutes in kick-starting my brain. Then I work, I chat with my colleagues and keep checking the clock from late afternoon so that I don’t miss making it home by 5 pm to my hungry monkeys. The evening routine starts again — I race through the traffic smiling widely every time I make it through a signal, get home, cook, clean, help my kids with their homework and then go to bed.
I have a wonderful husband who helps me out with chores and kids who are doing very well at school. The cherry on top is that they are extremely well-behaved. I am able to do all of this and still feel happy by the end of the day and not tired, because this is what I wanted all my life.
My family is so perfect, we’re ideal for shooting stock images.
We go out over the weekends to have lunch outside and shop for a little while. I feel I am lucky to be able to have everything needed in life. Sure, I’m not a Disney Princess, but I am living a comfortable life.
But, the real story is a bit different. I have something missing in my life. I wonder if every girl feels this way — I always ask this question to myself — is it just me?
I mean, one minute I have the perfect life, and the next minute, I think about them and I fall into that deep abyss. It’s a void that I cannot fill even with all the love in my family. Sometimes, the feeling is vague and it nags me at the back of my mind. And then it hits me hard —
I know what I’m missing. It’s Mama and Daddy — they live so far away. I can never get used to their absence in my life, I just can’t. It scares me every second that I’m not around them and what if they need me. I think about them every day, every moment of my life. I resent myself for not being a part of their everyday life, not being able to help them, not taking care of them.
My achievements, my sorrows and every little thing in my life — I love sharing it with them. I want them to be a part of everything I am doing! But why am I not next to them when they actually need me the most? Am I a terrible daughter for abandoning them in their retired life? Even though I have this wonderful family that I’m living with, and despite how they are totally in love with me… a part of me is with my parents. I do not feel complete.
I get this feeling every day, from all these miles away as I show my love to my daughters — Who is going to pat me on the head when I’m feeling low? Whom will I cry to? Whom will I go running to with the child-like excitement when I achieve something small or big? I have been married for 12 years now but there is no single day that I do not miss them.
Sometimes, when I drive back home from work, I take that final right turn and I expect to drive up the road to my parents’ house. Sometimes, when I walk out of my bedroom, I expect to walk into my mother’s kitchen and look at her waiting for the milk to boil up. Am I the only girl who calls up her parents on most nights and ask them “So, have you eaten?”, all the while struggling to really say “I love you. I miss you. I want to come back!” Funny, isn’t it?
I mean, I’m a fully grown woman with my own family and I feel like such a little girl sometimes. What was I thinking? I can NEVER live without my mother! Did she also feel this way? Does she STILL feel this way? All I can think of when I remember her is how she has always been my pillar of support. She was always so efficient in running the house and raising me. She never betrayed anybody or anything. And today, I understand.
Today, I know what she meant when she said “When you become a mother, no? You’ll understand.”
I finally understand Mama. I do. And I hope I’m not letting you down.