I was having a conversation with a friend recently – one that I’ve had a few times with different people – and every time I have this conversation, it sparks something in me and it usually gets me pretty worked up.
You might have noticed, perhaps because it constitutes your personal experience, that most Nigerian adults (particularly women) aren’t permitted by their parents to live on their own until they get married.
When you first think about it, it sounds noble and one might even conclude that it would help the children, who are really adults (and particularly the women), stay on the straight and narrow as they prepare for marriage.
But let’s pause and give it some more thought.
Now, before I talk about the cons of this cultural practice, let me say that it is true that from an infrastructure standpoint, there are some limitations, unique to our country, that can make it infeasible for young people to get their own apartment right out of university, which then forces them to keep living at home with their parents.
One of such limitations is having to pay rent a year or two in advance, which they wouldn’t be able to afford and the other is security challenges that might scare parents and their children alike. And so in a quest to shield and protect their children, many Nigerian parents insist that their children should reside with them until marriage.
But there are some flaws to this cultural practice that I would like to share. First of all, when a 25 year-old woman is mandated to live at home with her parents and adhere to curfews and numerous dos and don’ts, I strongly believe that it robs her of her sense of independence and ability to make decisions on her own, a skill she will need in her career and throughout her life. She isn’t allowed to think like an adult (which she is) and subconsciously even if she fights it, she will find that even as a full-blown adult, she still depends on her parents in many ways. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it can most certainly rob her of the experiences she needs to be a more independent and well-rounded individual.
When a young adult lives at home, they usually have a lot more at their disposal and they might not need to think about certain aspects of running a home because those things, by default, are sorted out by their parents. This seemingly insignificant dependence on their parents is what I believe is contributing greatly to the lack of innovative and forward-thinking capabilities of many of our young adults. At first glance, it might not seem so but what happens is, the explicit or implicit dependence on their parents’ safety net robs young adults of the freedom to spread their wings fearlessly and fly and it also stifles their ability to innovate, create, problem-solve, and explore in ways they would be forced to if they lived on their own. This dependence on their parents then becomes a crutch that hinders them from the kind of growth necessary for their own personal advancement and even for nation building.
When you compare this to the practice in developed countries, where young adults leave home at the age of 18 (which is considered the legal adult age), to fend for themselves and be creative in their quest for survival and progress, it becomes clear why certain advancements are made in other countries that Nigerian youth struggle to make here at the same pace as their foreign counterparts. Don’t misunderstand me. Many Nigerian young adults are doing the best they can with what they have but this forced dependence on parents in adulthood does have an effect on their mindset and on their ability to do even more.
It might be difficult to see the immediate correlation but there is a clear relationship between the two. And I strongly believe that holding children too close to home even in adulthood, does them a huge disservice. Even eagles push their children out of the nest so they can discover the use of their wings sooner rather than later and so they can become independent.
So what is the way forward? What is the solution? As stated earlier, there are a few undeniable infrastructural and societal challenges that make it difficult for the average Nigerian young adult to go out on their own but even at that, Nigerian parents need a mindset shift if they intend to give the next generation a better chance. They must first dismiss the notion that a young female adult living on her own is wayward as many believe because truth be told, a lot more that parents would disapprove of goes on right under their noses. Parents must also start to encourage their children to go out on their own at a younger age so they can learn creative ways to survive and thrive on their own even with the challenges in this environment.
In addition, Nigerian parents need to remember that marriage is not the be all, end all and so without foreknowledge of when their children will get married, they can’t keep them at home indefinitely and as such they are better off releasing them at an earlier age bearing in mind that what they will learn through the experience of living alone will also help them in marriage.
A sense of independence and true adulthood comes when a child can cut loose from their parents in a way that allows them to grow, make their own mistakes, and become financially independent and responsible.
Allowing Nigerian young adults to move out of their parents’ homes at a young age, say at 21 years old, to spread their wings and fly, is what makes them forward-thinking, intentional, and innovative leaders of tomorrow who can stand on their own two feet and make sound decisions because they have been allowed to explore and fail successfully on their own. They then become leaders who don’t shy away from risk, failure, or hardship – leadership qualities Nigeria will always need.
Aderonke is an On-Air Personality (OAP) on SMOOTH 98.1FM where she hosts The Drive Time show, which provides the right balance of entertainment and education to get listeners through traffic in the Lagos metropolis. The show offers useful information, great music, and interesting chit chat and interviews.
Aderonke is also a writer/blogger, which she demonstrates on her increasingly popular blog called The Love Chest (TheLoveChest.com). She loves great conversation, a good laugh, and ice cream!