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Every Man For Himself

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I grew up in a family compound.

Until a couple of years ago, I had no clue what life was like without being constantly surrounded by cousins, distant relatives and even family friends. My house was open to anyone and everyone. No-one who needed a place to stay was ever turned away by my parents.

They believed in family and considered it a taboo to shut their doors in the face of a homeless family member or even stranger.

However, opening the door to relatives also opened the door to all sorts of abuses to the vulnerable children who lived within those doors.

Not everyone, as I’m sure we all know, responds to kindness with kindness. Needless to say, my nuclear family realized at some point that it was imperative for us to experience life as a small family unit, without the extension of an extended family.

The advantages of that decision far surpass the disadvantages, as it’s only in this time we have actually been able to bond on many different levels as a family unit.

Recently, a relative showed up on our doorstep unannounced, prepared to spend time in our home. My response to this was immediate suspicion and resistance as a result of what I know we’ve been through in the past.

Shortly after, I felt slightly guilty about my reaction because I know that it’s not a far-fetched idea for one’s relative to imagine that he’d always be welcome in the home of another family member.

It’s only normal in our Nigerian society to have communal family expectations. I wondered if apart from the past experiences of living with relatives, there were any other reasons as to why I was not very welcoming to the idea of living with yet another relative.

Have I been affected by the Western influences which are so prevalent in our Media?

Have we become Individualistic in our thinking as opposed to the community which our parents are more prone to?

A lot of us modern women will experience a shudder through our spines if we imagine that we will have to live in our husband’s houses with his family present. I wonder about this because there was never a time when my Mother did not have at least one member of my father’s family (as well as from her own family) in her home.

Has something changed about the structure of our family dynamics?

Gone are the days where, like we see in Nollywood movies, Mama or Papa can just come from the village to spend time in their children’s homes whenever they like. Or a big Sister or Brother is expected to harbor all his or her younger ones in the home to support them.

These days, it’s more ‘Me and Mine’ or ‘All man for himself’. Economic factors might be blamed for this way of thinking, and that’s a valid point.

Yet I ask: Is this the way forward?

Photo Credit: http://images.inmagine.com/

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Tari’s blog is www.tariere.blogspot.com also follow TariEkiyor on Twitter

51 Comments

  1. adenike

    September 22, 2010 at 11:36 am

    People have different reasons for acting coldly towards family members. Some people are not just accommodating and you can easily tell (one way or the other,we sure have them),while some have been back-stabbed by those so-called relatives. But to the accommodating ones;i don’t envy them because once bitten,twice bold! Lol

  2. Debbie Ikwang

    September 22, 2010 at 11:54 am

    my family has a similar believe like yours,and till date we haven’t changed…..truly people now care about themselves alone,i guess it is due to what they experienced with the people they once helped…….as for me i believe we should do our best and leave the rest for God to judge…it is NOT ‘every man to himself ‘please accommodate and help people if you can.for it is written ‘the poor you will always have with you’……

  3. QueenJaga

    September 22, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    it certainly is the way forward.however open ur doors but there should be a time limit for thier stay n this must be made clear from the word go.

  4. jennifer

    September 22, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    hmmmm. Much as i am an advocate of goodwill towards all and sundry.i love and cherish my privacy and most women would agree with me.i have no problems with a man taking good care of his family but i think we should have limits to the extent to which we do things

  5. Ginika

    September 22, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    Serious questions raised Tari… I share the same sentiment. In my family, we also have our doors open to everyone. My parents have helped alot and in return we have also recieved far more than we have given from the people that were helped by my parents. In some sense, it is the way forward because more often than usual when your doors are open to people and you help them in that particular stage and phase of their lives when they needed it, as they become stable and more successful they usually do the same. It is a form of empowerment that we Africans use to empower our immediate family, extended and even strangers. However because things are slightly ‘ perverted ‘ it does work as well as it used to. You find people bitting the same hand that fed you, being selfish and greedy by refusing to extend the same kind of help they recieved to others, jealousy, pride etc. Thanks to the western way of life (I do agree they brought us alot but also messed up alot of things) things are changing for the worse. thatsmytwocents!

  6. onthesubject

    September 22, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    The way forward – let every person/family do what works for them and allows them sleep well at nite. End of story

    • DaBreeze

      September 22, 2010 at 3:14 pm

      WORD!!!

  7. jennifer

    September 22, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    @ on the subject i agree with you………..

  8. CC

    September 22, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    It is irresponsible for parents to have an open door policy in their homes IMO. Once you create your own family, you need to realize that your primary responsibility is to the new unit you have created. Part of that responsibility is making sure they live in a safe, loving, supportive and nurturing environment. In most marriages, you know that your spouse wants the same for your family and you can trust that they will do everything to accomplish that. You do not have that same assurance with extended family members.

    Some family members have killed their extended families, it is widely known that a large number of these kidnappings in the East are orchestrated by “family” members. How many women (and men) had their first sexual experience involuntarily at the hands of an uncle/aunt/househelp/driver? What about mean cousins who just like to pick on younger/smaller kids? That mischievous tart of a cousin, flashing her panties at your husband nko? That rogue uncle making sexually suggestive comments to your wife? That know it all in law, who insists that your spouse simply isn’t treating you right? Ke maka their friends that visit them who steal? When you start an open door policy, this is what you open your family to. It is not wise to share living space. What about when you can vouch for your own siblings? I know I can vouch for every one of them, after all we all came from the same womb. But what about their spouses/friends… I don’t really know them like that.

    It’s not a matter of being greedy or selfish, it’s safety and peace of mind. Keep your home closed, in this day and age you cannot vouch for anyone. There are other ways to help family members in need, you do not need to give them free access to yourself or your children in order to meet their needs.

    I grew up in a home, where periodically relatives would visit. Personally I hated the liberties they took in our home, the one week stay, turning into a 3 month vacation) and how they would criticize my mother for us being too clingy (i.e. they thought it was abnormal for us to run everything by our mom first). I hated the wedge that different people would try to drive between my parents, between our unit, who knows what their motives were? I guess their misery wanted company.

    After one period in my teens when we had 3 different extended family units stay in our home at the same time, I resolved to never put my family through the same stress and the way some of these relatives act, I’m pretty sure I will have no problem sticking to it. From greedy azz cousins eating up all the food, or taking my favorite chicken thighs (that my mom always reserved for me) to not being able to watch what I wanted on TV for weeks, to the mean spirited miserable b!tch of my uncle’s wife who made every effort to chip at my self esteem when I was rapidly developing hips and boobs by calling me an overgrown fatty bombom, every time she was out of my mother’s earshot. Nope I simply won’t do it.

    • Omada

      September 22, 2010 at 9:27 pm

      i agree with you 100%!!!! most of the time the extended family wahala is just not worth it!
      they just interfere in your affairs and go about spreading false tales about you!

    • omo-yankee

      September 23, 2010 at 6:29 pm

      I truly agree with u!! everything u said is on POINT!!!

    • tbn

      September 24, 2010 at 4:29 pm

      I totally agree with you CC. I cant even start talking about my own experience with relations staying with us while I was young and my hubby’s relations coming over after I got married. I still remember waking up one morning to find a male cousin of mine fondling my boobs! Now that I’m married and my husband’s relations started making our home their vacation spot, I had to prayerfully as well as put my feet down to have them stop coming. I cannot imagine a so called cousin, uncle or whatever they are to start touching my kids’ privates. I dont want to commit murder. The peace of mind I have now with my nuclear family unit is just amazing. Their wahala is just too much abeg.

  9. WaleAdeniji

    September 22, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    Helping is not even the only issue here. There are family members who if you allow them, are only out to create disaffection between one’s family and the rest. Those you call your younger ones who will one day become family men and women will alway be on the neck of your wife and you. They see your wife as someone who has come to stop the money making machine (YOU) from further printing and minting.You can never satisfy them no matter how hard you try. They care less whether you even pay your own bills. All they care about is for you to satisfy their cravings. They care less if all they see in your surrounding is built on a heap of debt which you’re monthly paying back through your nose. All they want is for you to continue to be father Xmas. Won’t you get frustrated sometime, i ask? I beg, in that aspect, i think western life-style is better o.

  10. OlucciArmani

    September 22, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    i don’t know how it is for the other tribes but i’m igbo and i think the idea of lending a helping hand to the extended family will still be there at least for a loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong time….because of our culture.
    no matter how much we wish it, its not that easy at all.

    (not trying to being tribalistic or anything….the truth remains,Nigeria is a land with vast culture)

  11. anjay

    September 22, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    The western style is definitely better. I am getting married soon and my fiance have agreed……….no extended family staying with us for more than a week.

    The best thing is to make it clear from the beginning, yes you may not be the favourite aunt/inlaw but you have peace of mind when you are in your home.

  12. Benny

    September 22, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    I honestly think it is naive to say that the western lifestyle is better…there are rough edges on both sides of the fence. Aside from the accommodation lifestyles, the general lifestyles in the West and Africa are really different. When last did you pay for a housesitter when your nuclear family was heading out of town for any period of time, probably never, or you paid your landlord for a background check on your relative before they could “stay” at yours, or how many “family compounds” were still paying mortgages? Most Western homeowners are still paying mortgages (and some not too comfortably) so it is hard to take someone in that isn’t paying anything, and if anyone was asked to pay for anything, they would rather pay for their privacy than pay to live without privacy. Anyways my point is that it is not a forward/backward situation, both systems can work well in their different worlds…

    • almost 30

      July 3, 2011 at 11:44 pm

      POINT..

  13. uchechi

    September 22, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    Just as onthesubject said, the way forward is do what works for you so you can sleep well at night o!

    Personally, i grew up in this setting and I’m used to it. Despite the little drama here and there..lol, it does keep my extended family united which is very important.

  14. Uzo

    September 22, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    I too grew up in a family that had an open door policy, even though it brought only grief to my mum. There some rewards but the minuses far out weighed the pluses. We started accommodating extended family members when I turned 5. That was probably one of my most scaring experiences to date. The family member we first had in was my mum’s half brother. He was about 16 then, not long after he came to live with us did he start molesting me…sexually. This really affected me growing up especially when I reached my teens and began to understand fully what had gone on. I was always curious to find out if he had disvirgined me (for peace of mind) but was also scared of getting too close to men/guys. Anyway I finally met someone when I was 21 and gave myself to him. I was a virgin but was still not happy and felt robbed because I know for certain that my HALF UNCLE touched me in my most intimate area and if not for that nasty experience I probably would have stayed a virgin until I got married (my personal choice).

    I am married now and will not have any one stay with us even though all my kids are boys. When ever the discussion comes up with my husband I just say give them the money instead.

    • mimi

      September 23, 2010 at 11:30 am

      @ Uzo Wayy too much information dear.

    • cdot

      September 23, 2010 at 2:24 pm

      Abeg allow her oo!

    • Lola

      September 23, 2010 at 2:37 pm

      WHATS WAY TOO MUCH INFO?
      DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW MANY OF US HAD TO GO THROUGH THIS?
      GOD KNOWS NOBODY CAN STAY OVER IN MY HOME—I DO NOT CARE WHO YOU ARE OR WHAT YOUR SITUATION IS.

      MY PARENTS TOOK IN EVERYONE,EVEN STRAY CHICKENS AND GOATS.

      THE END RESULT WAHALA CONSTANTLY INMY PARENST MARRIAGE.

      THEN I WAS CONSTANTLY TOUCHED BY SICK TWISTED UNCLES,COUSINS ETC THAT I HAVE VOWED NEVER EVER TO TALK TO—

      ALL THAT OPEN DOOR POLICY IS JUST NOT FOR ME AND WILL NEVER BE.

    • Bukky

      September 24, 2010 at 3:15 am

      @ You typed this comment and decided it was a good idea to post it?????Somebody is letting it out and you are telling her “too much info”? Some people who comment here do not even think at all.You think because it is anonymous you are at liberty to drop thoughtless and insensitive comments.Do you know that many people have gone through that experience?Do you know how therapeutic sharing this may have been for Uzo ?Kai, i give up on people on this website!

    • Bukky

      September 24, 2010 at 3:30 am

      @ Mimi

    • Bukky

      September 24, 2010 at 3:31 am

      I was referring to Mimi

    • tbn

      September 24, 2010 at 4:39 pm

      @ Mimi Its not way too much info, she’s sharing her experience with us here and its not like we even know who she is, if you;re thinking of the embarrasment it might cause her. Its people like you who would prefer that victims hide their abusers and rapists all in the name of “its too much information” . There are mothers whoo have shut their kids up and beaten them up when they report an uncle touching them or raping them. I hope you’re not going to turn out to be one of them. pchewww

    • Kofo....

      October 20, 2010 at 5:10 pm

      @ mimi…. u own ur mouth but God help u to use it wisely….. Uzo’s experience is d experience of a large no of Nigerian children, myself included…..so yes…how dare u??? i pray ur kids dont have a similar tale to tell, cos if u had any sense the best thing would be to understand from other people’s experiences that these things happen n think of how to prevent them…..Nonsense!

      I rather choose to let it go n forgive my abuser but it wont stop me from protecting my family in all ways necessary n if it requires keeping people out…den so be it…If God gives me other options then i might be open to it… but till den!!!

    • Ngozi

      October 29, 2010 at 4:40 pm

      Abeg leave Uzo o! Not too much information, cos what she said is something soo many people experienced and haven’t had the opportunity to talk about…soo pls allow her..God will PUNISH every person who should have known better and taken advantage of an innocent child!

    • Viking '93

      October 29, 2010 at 7:26 pm

      wow!! I grew up in naija but i have been in nyc for 14 years…i usually tell yankee girls that this sort of thing doesnt happen in naija…how wrong and naive i have been…sometimes sharing your story can bring you the necessary healing…back in the day in OAU ife as a young man i never knew my actions hurt a lot of girls…i see a lot of them on facebook and have apologised to all of em….sorry to digress jare

  15. Catwalq

    September 22, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    The Western Model works for those it works for for two reasons: the western ideology focuses on personal efforts and so people are more inclined to “do-it-yourself” lifestyles. And second, the cost of living is high and so family units tend to be smaller to ensure that resources can go round. Where as, the Nigerian model (or at least the one I have experienced with Yoruba people) is community-centric with people pitching in (in an ideal world) for the resources to go round.
    In both cultures, there are people who would prefer the other model. I prefer the Western style of living because my personality just does not merge well with having to be around people for long periods of time. I used to live with a relative that would get constantly frustrated with me because I would go the whole day without speaking to anyone, holed up in my room. She thought it was unhealthy that I was not buzzing from one gathering to the other or that my phone bill was not blowing up for anything other than academic reasons. Me, if I had nothing to say, I kept quiet. That was strange to her, and she would be in my face trying to make me “confess what was wrong”….a western relative would have just left me alone. If my relative had been in my position and had been “left alone”, she would have felt abandoned and unloved.
    Both systems work for the needs of the people….

  16. Nuella

    September 22, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    keep the extended family out pls!!!! they bring too much wahala. b4 you know it, jealousy will start then envy, then malice added with hatred the end product is witchcraft attack. speaking from experience, not all extended family should be invited into one’s home simple!

  17. tamiz

    September 23, 2010 at 11:08 am

    Benny, I think ”Western lifestyle” in this context does not refer to living in Europe or the US. It refers to the lifestyle u adopt whether u are in Naija or Togo…. So I dont see how adopting a western lifestyle if i live in naija would result to my landlord in Aja coming to do credit check for my siter who wants to stay with me….

    Please lets be realistic… As the others said different methods work for different people…
    and of course experience is always the best teacher!!

  18. tamiz

    September 23, 2010 at 11:09 am

    Apologies…I meant SISTER.

  19. kehnie

    September 23, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    I really dont appreciate accomaodating extended family cos dey poke nose alot into family affairs,spread false tales,consume alot of foods and also molest the younger people in the family.

  20. Ty

    September 23, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    wateva works 4 u,do it.As 4 me, u can’t exceed a wk in my crib & it wont be an occasional thing shikenah!

    NB:wat u can’t finish don’t start.

  21. gbeborun

    September 23, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    Abeg everybodi answer him papa name n mind him business.

  22. Mary

    September 23, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    NEVER!!! Let everybody stay in their houses. If you have experienced any spiritual attacks or afflictions, you will not even think of writing this article.

    Some people are extremely extremely wicked no matter how ell you treat them. NO WAY

  23. jennifer

    September 23, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    @MIMI i disagree with you.its not like ahe gave us her full profile.its just a lesson to families out there.
    @UZO u are right on point joor

  24. jennifer

    September 23, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    as for me no relatives permanently living with me.end of story…………

  25. misstee

    September 23, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    no extended family fr me..they cn visit occassionally but nothing permanent.my hubby believes dat we young married women of nowadays just like to chase evryone away..i can’t be bothered..he knows my stance.that’s all that matters.
    p.s..am sure abt 90% of us grew up in homes with the open door policy…so don’t even get me started.

  26. Friday

    September 23, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    There is nothing wrong with the western culture and individualism can be a good thing. Our african culture is good; how, it does have its negative aspect. Families have the tendency of taking advantage of each other. For example, If i start business South africa, all my relatives and friends will want everything for free or reduced price.

  27. lala

    September 24, 2010 at 1:05 am

    We also had extended family members living with us. I must say it was a nightmare and it is still a nightmare. My parents marriage almost broke down this summer because of a distance cousin that stays with us. If not that i was at home for the summer, God knows what would have happened. To make the matters worse, she has refused to leave until she gets married. Now my mother and I are praying for someone to marrying this girl out of our house. It is really sad. I am sorry i will not allow any extended family into my home. Its just not worth it.

    • Bebe

      September 24, 2010 at 3:42 pm

      Refused to leave ke?Cant they just kick her ass to the curbs, change the locks?Tell her parents to come get her?

  28. Anyi Takem

    September 24, 2010 at 11:44 am

    I think this article is really true.Imean gone are those days when family members could just pop up at anytime to come and pay a visit!Some of these relatives abuse the hospitlities they are shown and it makes one wonder if it is absolutely necessary to be kind and charitable towardds them.

  29. Straight talk

    September 25, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    True talk..I was had similar experience and share the same sentiment, living then with two or more of my cousins..Im an only child of my Mum and it was alsways fun to have my cousins come live at our house for short visits and some even come and stay shortly after their secondary education..I dont think is western influence that has change the idea of having family memebers come live at your house…The tide is changing towards the right direction now, even in Nigeria you dont just show up to people houses without notice.

  30. fm

    September 26, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    Lol all d comments r very insightful… Well except @mimi’s of course…wait o where do ppl even get d space n resources to practice communal livin dese days?? N who says I hav to accommodate u to help u??

  31. Babyshambles

    September 26, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    The subject of every man for himself is a wierd one being that Nigeria is a communual society. It is hard to seperate oneself from extended family but there should be a balance. We must always make sure we extend a helping hand, even if we dont have them live with us.

    http://www.woahnigeria.wordpress.com

  32. mii2

    December 2, 2010 at 7:41 am

    Every family has it’s own dynamics. Once u know ur dynamics, u pick ur sides.

    Am not married but I would love to have my sisters and parents come over to my house from time to time. Some member of my extended families. As I say once u know ur dynamics and U LAY DOWN THE LAW in ur house/home.

  33. Omoyele

    December 29, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    Extended family = extended problem. Like its said in the Yoruba adage “Okere ni omo iys ti n dun”

  34. hauwa

    July 30, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    i was raised in a large home. my fondest memories are those of cousins and relatives coming over for holidays , travelling to the village to visit grandma etc. i desire an open home o. where friends and family are always welcome to stay( for a given period.lol). As a single babe, i feel weird living alone so am always inhabiting friends every now and then. In relationships, i have bn conscious of bn attracted to only guys with similar family values as myself. I actually ditched a guy after 3 months of dating-cos he told me he is searching for a wife who wld drive pple away as he is not fond of people..

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