“Moving out of your father’s house” is a saying that only Nigerians would really understand. But for a non-Nigerian reader, this simply refers to leaving the nest or moving out to live on your own.
It’s Saturday morning, you’re lying in bed listening to Burna Boy’s newest song and scrolling aimlessly through your phone. Just as you’re about to doze off, your mother stands at the foot of the stairs and yells for your attendance. Huffing out of bed you say to yourself, ‘if I had my own place this wouldn’t be happening.’ How many of us can relate to this scenario? It’s at moments like this that you know it’s time to ‘move out of your father’s house’.
How many of us long for our own spaces, our own homes? I would venture to say many of us feel this way.
So what’s stopping so many young people from getting a place of their own? The reasons are twofold. The first is pretty much impossible to get around. The economic situation most of us face is dire and that’s putting it lightly. Unless there’s a Nigerian money fairy that none of us know about hiding pots of money around our cities for us to find, moving out is impossible for most of us. Tying into this is the lack of a social welfare culture in our country which means affordable and safe housing is a myth. The reality of living in government housing not only sends a shudder down the spine of many in this country, it’s a situation that is not even likely to come into existence any time soon. Nigeria’s housing deficit is estimated to be about 17 million.
The second reason is culture: the very thing that shapes the landscape of our lives in so many ways. It’s generally frowned upon for unmarried women to move out of their parents’ houses. Of course, this rule has become laxer over time due to more women simply putting their foot down. However, we can’t ignore that many parents who have begun to hit the retirement age also want their own space as well. That being said, the most popular sentiment still posits unmarried women who live alone as sex workers or up to no good. In order to not bring ‘shame’ to their family, they are often pressured into staying in the family home regardless if it’s still a good fit for their continuing development as an adult. For women, being able to afford a home is almost beside the point. The question that’s always asked happens to be ‘is your father chasing you from his house?’ As if to say the only reason a woman would be interested in leaving her family home is due to family strife.
Despite all this, more and more young people are moving out. Finding ingenious ways to assert their independence in a society that can often be stifling to individuality. Moving out is often another way to discover the type of person you are. Do you like early religious services? Do you like your cooking utensils on the top drawer or the bottom one? How would you decorate your own home or apartment? For most of our childhood and adult lives, these are questions that have already been answered, often long before we came into existence. We don’t really have a choice on how egusi is stored in the deep freezer. It’s always been a particular way and there doesn’t seem to be any genuine reason to question it. But the ways in which a home is maintained and run and decorated is another facet of a person’s personality.
There is another reason why moving out appeals to many that must be mentioned. Romantic attachments and relationships is a good a reason as any. Watching classic romantic comedies where the protagonist rolls over to look at their love interest with amazement in their eyes makes any Nigerian millennial snort with laughter. Because who’s going to bring their significant other to their parents’ house to spend the night? No one that has plans to live out the rest of their natural lives, that much we know. The simple answer is always to get a hotel if alone time with your partner is such a necessity. However, hotels, even the inexpensive ones will eventually put a dent on finances. Quite frankly, it’s not realistic or sustainable. So should we stay or should we go? Should we give up the relative safety and comfort of our family homes for more autonomy? Is ‘staying at home’ a form of arrested development? These are all open-ended questions and no answer is wrong in truth. That being said, the days of moving out before an ‘acceptable’ age are over.
By: Youruba Mermaid