Being a man can be difficult. It’s not hidden that society expects so much from men as providers, and many men are doing the best they can to meet up to the standards. While these responsibilities come easy to some, it’s not so easy for some others.
We spoke with a few men about their struggles taking care of their families and here’s what they had to say.
1. Fred, late 20s
I started fending for my family three years ago, during NYSC. I’m not married and I don’t have kids yet so it’s just my parents and my siblings. At that point, I was using my NYSC alawee and my PPA salary to take care of the family. After some time, I rechannelled some of the money that was leaving my account into making sure my siblings got some skills. Modern skills. They need to be able to go on their own ASAP, I can’t keep doing this forever. My parents are old, so I don’t mind taking care of them.
I can’t lie and say that I’m not struggling. I’m constantly searching for editing jobs on Twitter, Upwork and Fiverr, just to make ends meet. I’m a Lawyer, so I’m also constantly looking for more briefs. I want to settle down and I want to start my own family.
2. James, mid 30s
I started taking care of my mom just after law school, before NYSC. I had seen all the sacrifices she had made all the time I was in school and I just knew that I had to man up at the earliest possible time. A few years down the line and now I’m taking care of my mom, my dad, and my expectant wife. It would definitely have been better if I had a good job and more money, but I must say it’s quite a fulfilling experience.
I’m not saying it’s easy though. It’s hard. I’m struggling. The thoughts of the people that depend on me for survival are what wake me up and keep me on my toes all day. My needs are no longer valid to me. I can’t even remember the last time I bought something for myself. But I get joy doing what I do. For me, the feeling is like I’m spending money on my hobby and it brings me joy.
3. Ahmed, mid 40s
These responsibilities started out a year after my father retired from active work in 2002. Coincidentally, that’s was a year after I finished my NYSC. My dad’s last two children became my responsibilities.
In taking care of my wife and kids, I have a philosophy: my wife’s income is hers. I pay all bills to ease the pressure of “contribution” away from my wife. It’s not so easy to bear all the cost alone, but if I can’t give her all she wants, taking pressure of expenses off her goes a long way.
I can say that I’ve been a bit lucky to have good means to take care of my family. At some point when I got broke, I had to resort to borrowing to meet up. At that point, I focused only on my immediate family and dad. My siblings and extended family were left to bear their cross. But I returned to taking care of things when the situation improved.
When I reflect, I feel like I’ve left myself out in most cases. Until recently when I started making conscious efforts at doing things for my self, I have always put others 100% above me. My wife and children always comes first. But I realized they also need to learn opportunity cost.
4. Charles, 31
For me, it all started eight years ago. I’ve been married for four years. I used to be an assistant to some big shot talent manager before I was married, but when I got married, I went into the transport business and then opened a car park and an event centre.
Everyone always expects you to forget about your pains and struggles and just provide for them. The pressure is just constant. It’s been crazy for me this year because the government’s ban on keke really hindered my transport business. I had to create other sources of income to keep me afloat.
I wouldn’t say I’m happy to bear all of this responsibility, to be honest. I do it because I have to, and because I love my family. I always feel like I need to do more.
In the past two years, I’ve gotten myself a car, a piece of land and a PS4, and that’s all. Every other thing I do is for other people. I wish I could just go on a vacation alone. No wife, no kids, just me and my FIFA 20 with Orijin and peppered snails.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my daughters. But fuck them kids.
5. Samson, 33
When I started working seven years ago, I was 26. That’s when I started taking care of my family. I wasn’t the sole provider though. My dad and sister were doing their bits but then my contribution fraction just jumped from zero to half. I was in charge of paying rent and giving my little brother pocket money.
Now, its gotten a lot worse in terms of fraction. I’m the only one working among us, so it’s mostly me. So even though I am abroad now and the wages are a lot better, I still have to support 3 adults on two continents. But it’s only for a while. My sister will get a job and a lot of things will change. Then I’ll sort my bro and my dad will be left.
The expectations can be overbearing, but I am an Igbo man. We are born to just take responsibility without complaining. So maybe I am not happy, but what do I do?
6. Thomas, late 50s
I got my first job as a lab assistant in 1982. I earned ₦300. From that money, I would give my mom ₦10, and all my siblings ₦5. I’m the firstborn. I have six younger siblings. As the years went by and I earned more, I became more responsible for my siblings. I put all my younger siblings through University.
When I got married, my focus shifted to my immediate family, but my wife saw that my siblings weren’t doing great and she pushed me to start taking care of them again. So my children didn’t get the best life they could have because I had to house and feed my siblings and cater to their needs. And my parents were still very much alive. I was everyone’s provider.
In Yorubaland, it’s just one of those things you have to do as the first born. You’re olori ebi.
There were so many times when I didn’t know where the next meal was coming from but because I was destined to take care of these people, something would just come up and we wouldn’t go hungry.
A few days ago I was talking with my friend and we talked about how being a man means you have to push your own needs aside and cater for others first. That’s the reality I live.
Names of subjects have been changed to protect their identities.
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