Amongst differing opinions about gender stereotyping, Nkechi had to deal with what society thinks about different issues. Putting up with her mother and getting some experiences by people in her school.
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Growing up with her mother has been a good tale for Nkechi, but she had to endure the sordid narratives projected on single mothers raising their children. She always wondered what bad single mothers had done to the society to deserve all the shaming. Growing up, she had been a good girl to her mother and their neighbors could testify on how well-behaved she was. She grew up in a neighborhood with children that were raised by both parents, and still behaved poorly and wondered why society had decided to stigmatised only single mothers.
What about children their father died and their mother never cared to remarry. Are they facing the same thing? she thought.
These children were not stigmatised as much as the ones born out of wedlock or the divorced one’s. The only crime her mother committed was being a single mother. Her mother was in her mid-thirties and visited every prayer houses, praying for a husband.
Nkechi excelled well in academics. She had overheard some women saying that her mother was training her to become like a man. Mama, like she would always call her mother, worked hard to cater for Nkechi’s wellbeing. She could afford to pay for her school needs before most of the students. The women were standing at a corner, gossiping.
“She is a girl for God’s sake. And after everything she will become a woman and a man will marry her to his house and she will abandon everything,” the first woman said.
“That’s their business. Maybe she wants to end up like her mother. Single and bitter,” the second woman said.
“Bitter? How? Her mother is far from that word She is actually a sweet soul, just that she is still unmarried. She deserves to be happy,” she said and shaking her head, with a pity written all over her face.
The second woman moved back and glanced at the first woman. “Why are you contradicting yourself? You said she is not bitter and ended up saying she deserves happiness. Please, pick a struggle. Any woman that’s not married is bitter. They soak their bedsheet with tears every night. That’s what they won’t admit to you.”
She said and allowed her lashes to flutter before she closed her eyes and opened it. Nkechi pretended like she had not overheard their conversations and quickened her pace when they both shot their gaze at her. Stream of tears trickled down her cheeks and she tried hard to hide her waning emotion that was becoming sober. Tears still trickled down against her attempts at hiding it.
As she got home, she opened the door and loudly slammed it close, banging it hard against the edge. “Eyy! I hope all is well,” Mama said, and dropped the cover of the pot she had on her hand. It fell to the ground and clanked.
She cleaned her palms on her wrapper and walked out of the kitchen. Nkechi was sitting on the sofa with her legs folded while her head ducked. “Oh, it is you. You scared me,” Mama said.
Mama walked back to the kitchen to continue what she was doing. Nkechi barged into the kitchen boiling in a full rage when Mama was standing and trying to stir the food.
“I hate you mum—” she sputtered.
Mama turned, dropping the spoon in her hand on the floor and it hit the ground. “You subject me to all the ridicules and you don’t even care a bit, that I’m being mocked everyday as a product of a single mother…” she said and tears started to drop down from her eyes.
“Shut up… Shut up… I said shut up,” she said, walking close to her. “How dare you talk to me in that way?” Mama slapped Nkechi and it sounded like the spoon that dropped on the ground.
She could see her palm on Nkechi’s cheeks and she kept shouting, pushing Nkechi’s back to the wall. She kept dragging her cheeks with her palm and freed her after few minutes. “You slapped me?” Nkechi cried. “I don’t blame you, Mama. You don’t know the pains I go through everyday.”
Nkechi stomped her foot on the floor. Mama turned off the cooker and Nkechi walked out from the kitchen. Mama followed her closely till they got to the door. She dragged her back and she fell on the sofa as she made to walk out from the entrance door.
Mama bent down slowly and lifted Nkechi’s face, fixing it towards her own. “Talk to me,” Mama said.
Nkechi’s face was looking gloomy and Mama could sense a girl being bullied. Mama tried to brighten her face a bit for Nkechi to talk to her.
Nkechi raised her head up and stared at Mama. Her eyes was red and dim. She snorted. “What about the prayer houses you visit everyday? When are you getting married. I need a step father,” she said in a faint voice.
Mucus began to drip down from her nostril. Mama glanced at her for some minutes and looked away. Nkechi was expecting an answer from her and didn’t want anything disappointing. Mama stood up. “My daughter, I have come to accept myself. I think self love is the key…”
“What are you saying, mother? Self love? Why didn’t you subscribe to that before? You have been going to different prayer houses. Are you trying to console yourself now? I have gone through enough. I am tired,” she said sneezing.
Mama wanted to yell at her but stopped, then cackledd. “It’s not really. I never wanted to marry. I succumbed to society’s narrative when the pressure became too much. Marriage requires a lot of sacrifice. I think can be unmarried and happy,” she lifted her head lowered down. “I met a shrink after everything that looked like I’ll die if I don’t get married. I can now say marriage is the least of my problem, daughter. I have you and you are my world.”
Nkechi looked up and saw her mother’s trying to smile. Her face unflinching. She stood up and hugged Mama after trying to move her legs forward.