It started as a conversation with my friend. We were talking about topics we’d love to read about and I said I wished someone would write a manual on how to not disappoint your mom.
Mothers…bless their souls, we love them but there’s something about knowing you’ve disappointed your mother that leaves an indelible mark on your consciousness. A mark you’ll continue trying to obliterate or make amends for -both exercises in futility really because how do you fix what you didn’t set out to ruin?
See I’m 26 and I’m a single girl living and working in Lagos, far away from the comfort of my family. That on its own is enough to cause most parents to worry, my parents don’t live in Nigeria.
Thus the responsibility of parenting me has been outsourced to a gaggle of well-intentioned, if incredibly parochial, aunts whose reports about my actions are the only things my parents have going for them right now.
This unfortunately means that over the last year and a half since arriving in Nigeria, every other phone call to my mother has been an episode of ‘New Ways to Break a Mom’s Heart’. Often due to one aunt or the other complaining about something I’ve done to her.
By all accounts, the aunties have valid cases against me. My job means that I work long days that often become longer nights; and on days when I simply can’t go home, I stay in hotels.
When you factor in that according to Nigerian aunties, only a certain type of lady regularly patronizes hotels, you begin to understand why my innocuous actions are an affront to their quiet sensibilities. By focusing on work, I disappoint their expectations of proper Nigerian womanhood.
I get it, I don’t agree with it but I get it.
I used to obsess about my work-life balance and how I was not fulfilling some arbitrary Nigerian ideas I believed I had to satisfy. But now I step away from it all. It’s really just BS. I came across an article once that argued there shouldn’t be anything like work-life balance.
The writer stated that this way of thinking doomed us into thinking it was a zero sum game. They instead chose to think of work and life as a delicate relationship that although might sometimes appear to be skewed, are in reality both being satisfied in different ways. This helped me understand that I do not disappoint, and neither do you.
I’m still not sure how to balance my work with my life or perhaps more importantly how to ensure my mother doesn’t get disappointed with me (everyday). Yet if there’s one thing I know, it’s the inevitability of mistakes.
Sometimes, your work will appear to take precedence for months on end and you won’t always do what’s right by mom. So, maybe don’t obsess over assumed failures?
These days, when I get to steal time away from work to gossip with mom over phone about bosses or new opportunities, I can hear her pride. I feel how proud she is of my ability to make things work in my career despite not being the daughter she might have wanted me to be. That’s really all there is to it at the end of the day.