Mothers And Economic Roles In A Dwindling Situation

This piece looks into the versatility of women in taking up many roles that are underlying in home management.

All my life, I have seen mothers who, at the slightest and minutest provocation, cease the stage to remind their children of the dire economic recession rocking the country. I have seen mothers who scream at children, little children who barely understand when the price of petrol has been subsidized, and when subsidies are lifted, that night meal was unguaranteed. So, when we begin to define the economic roles of mothers in a fluctuating economy, what eye do we see them with?

The economy keeps draining, and mothers keep yelling. Mothers yell, not because they are overburdened by their children, but because of the unsureness of the next day. Who knows, the cost of a de rica of rice might double up tomorrow, and the mother has to tone down her purchase to put every other thing in the bag.

I think, with each worsening situation, the men assume a more unseen role in the family where they personally accept the part of dropping crisps of naira notes on the table and growling the next day if the egusi soup competes with River Niger in-depth and width yet no fish substantiates the wateriness of the soup. To be fair, I must say, “Some men.” But then, regrettably, we do not say some women. We are not even supposed to have a woman who grumbles that her child eats what she is supposed to eat or ignores her children when they blubber out of hunger. We may have women who do not work at all, but we rarely have women who do not manage, and when we say rarely, we mean one out every 40 forty women ( see the margin).

The role of women in a sickening economic situation is one that calls for the versatility and diversity of every woman. Women do different things at the same time now. We now have mothers who wake by 3 am to prepare the breakfast of a child lost in the dreamland. She rouses the child by 5:30 am to have a quick bath because Uncle Taiwo, the truck driver, whose office is close to the child’s school, is brushing his teeth. The child eats quickly and jumps into his uniform. Clenching his lunchbox, he waits for Uncle Taiwo at the gate. The mother runs off to the bakery to buy bread because it is always #20 off the normal price at the shops. She treks to the market to buy foodstuff for lunch because the prices of things are way lower at the market than they are in retail shops. The center of our woman’s restlessness from 3 am management. She saves the money for the school bus – Uncle Taiwo has solved that. She gets enough bread and rice at a cheaper rate. So, how else do we define the economic role of women?

To speak of women who now take the breadwinner role in the family is to speak of an already sour issue, a trite topic. We dare not overemphasize that because the obviousness is as clear as the moon on a clear night. We have women whose shuffling or sauntering means to break into a run, whose rest means to support the chin on palms and visualize the next day in a few minutes, whose comfort comes when they hear the clattering of the spoons against the plate and immerse themselves in a bathtub (if any) to wash off the pungent smell of tomatoes which drenched their body during the day. We also have women who bear the tray like the king’s cupbearer to serve an old wrapper-tying man with a browned singlet, who will still never acknowledge the richness of the soup, a richness he couldn’t afford with his staying at home and drooling at little girls that passed the compound. This woman does not complain because she believes everyone believes that things will be all right.

Tomorrow the economy skids to the highest mountain, school fees increases, bus fare skyrockets because subsidy on petrol has been lifted. Father leaves his car at home, grumbles when he drops the crispy notes on the table even when he knows it is now barely enough and turns the woman into an unsolicited statistician. And the worse? Abuja does not care who starves when the papers are signed. Papers keep coming in; subsidies keep escaping from where they are placed, and people keep yelling. So, when we define the economic role of a mother now, we mustn’t see her as one thing but as an all-rounder. Being a breadwinner now is never enough; management is key. 

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