Talk Africa: “Afro-reality: Ain’t I A Woman”
“African women are so domestic, they know how to treat a man. They are so sweet and soft-spoken.” This is what an elderly white man told me after learning that I am a Nigerian immigrant. I gathered from his tone, and soft smile that he intended the words to be a compliment, that I should take heart that I was desired for my exceptionally feminine features. Little did he know that I am my mother’s daughter: opinionated, and outspoken, passionate, and unrelenting, dogged, with a boisterous deep-bellied laugh.
I grew up in a family where my mother, not my father, always worked at least two jobs. In our household my mother was quite literally our super hero. She began life as a midwife, in a little hospital in Owerri, Nigeria. Then immigrated, with my father, to the US and became a registered nurse. My mother has gone back to school to finish her Bachelors of Science in Nursing (BSN), and is now, in her fifties, pursuing her Masters in Nursing. My mother has always made more than my father and spent many hours out of the house working, but at the end of the day, if you ask this woman who the head of the household is, she will tell you that it is my father.
When you ask my father why he married my mother, he will tell you two things: 1) she has beautiful hands (which she does) and 2) she had a very neat desk (which is a bald faced lie, my mother is the messiest person I know). My mother married my father because she loved the conversations they had, and he treated her like an equal. Every time he would get his paycheck he would bring it back to my mother and ask her what they would do with the money. This was all before the ring, the vows, and children.
After immigrating to the US, however, my father discovered just how messy my mother is and assumed all household chores. I learned to clean the house, do laundry, and organize my room from my father. I learned to cook from my mother, and I learned to treat all people with dignity from them both. There was never a time that I questioned my mother’s autonomy, or my father’s power. I knew that together they were my parents, and together they were raising me. Neither was necessarily superior, but inhabited different spaces.