Happy Mother’s Day! 5 Lessons from my “Not-so-African” Nigerian Mother

If you don’t know what a typical African mother is like, think Iya Tiwa from Skinny Girl in Transit. African mothers are popularly known for over-reacting to even the minutest situations. Just let your African mother find your “#dead” comment on social media, and you’ll get a phone call right away, with her yelling at the top of her voice, “you will not die in Jesus’ name!” Push it too far by posting a picture of you in a strapless dress, and it’s wrap; your African mother will call you, threatening to have a heart attack, saying o fe pa mi ni?

Don’t be fooled though, African mothers are our biggest supporters, and that’s why we love them like kilode? Let’s not get started on their banging meals; even iya basira cannot compete with my mom’s catfish stew.

It wasn’t until I “left” home that I realized my mom is quite different from your stereotypical African mother. Here are five reasons why.

1. She doesn’t spend with her emotions. The typical African mother has the “my money is my money” mentality, and she often spends her “husband’s money” pointlessly, based on her emotions. She may even go as far as borrowing to “support” her friend whose daughter is getting married, while giving excuses like omo wa na a se iru e”. Remember Iya Tiwa’s budget for Tiwa’s wedding? Outrageous!

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My mom is different. Let’s just say she was my personal Dave Ramsey before he became a thing; and in my opinion, she created her own BJ’s, Costco, and Sam’s club before they even existed. Every time we would go to the market, the sellers greeted her with “madam, hope market dey sell well well? They were all convinced that she had a little kiosk where she re-sold the large quantities of items she bought. Makes sense, right? Buy in bulk so you pay a lower price. So wonder no more where I get my frugal lifestyle from; mama taught me well.

2. She’s calm. The typical African mother is known for her gra-gra-ness. She has a long list of “friends” she doesn’t like, and is ever ready to fight the enemy – whether a physical one or a spiritual one. The term “keep calm” is not in her vocabulary. F’ara bale for what?

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Mom however, does not have the energy nor mental capacity for such. Her favorite phrase is “for the sake of peace”. It doesn’t matter what legitimate reason you come up with to “fight” someone, her response is always “for the sake of peace, let it go”.

3. She’s health-conscious. The typical African mother believes that you should have eran l’eti, you know, just a little flesh so you’re not sickly looking. Think about all the bokoto in their soups, and the entire pack of seasoning cubes, aka pure sodium, that goes into the soup to make it mouth watering.

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Mom has been having smoothies for breakfast long before the days smoothies even became a thing. She cooks her efo riro without all that palm oyel floating on the top, and favors green plantains over the ripe ones. The gym is to my mom what three wraps of spicy succulent suya is to someone else; it’s her happy place.

I still have memories of when mom would catch me right in the moment, with my mouthful of indomie, and ask, “ki ni nutritional value kini yen?” Now, I’ve learned to ask that question regularly about everything I eat.

4. She’s a hustler. The typical African mother is commissioned with staying home to take care of her family. It doesn’t matter that her kids are old enough to be married, and that she has a house maid who cooks and cleans for her (again, think Iya Tiwa).

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with staying home, but mom taught me to have a plan in my back pocket should the narrative change. A plan could be an education, a skill, an investment, a side gig…something…anything that you can use to feed and survive if the need arises.

Mom has always had a side gig for as long as I remember. At one point, she was selling adire, then she was a tailor, and eventually she started a poultry farm business with just a handful of chicks while she held her full time job as a guidance counselor. Today, her little poultry farm has evolved into a poultry feed production business.

Wonder why many women can’t “easily” walk out of abusive relationships? It’s because they don’t have a backup plan in their pockets. I know it’s much more complex than this one reason, but still, it’s a major factor.

5. She’s always learning. Who do you think you are, to speak when a typical African mother is speaking? Abi, who asked for your opinion? The African mother’s role is to give advise, not to receive. She always says things like, gbenu dake jo!, as though you don’t have anything meaningful to contribute as a young, foolish individual.

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Mom on the other hand, asks lots of questions, from everyone, in every age group. It doesn’t matter what she already thinks about a matter, she’ll still ask anyway because your viewpoint matters.

Her curiosity is what led to her business evolving the way it did. Instead of just accepting the feed she purchased for her chickens, she asked questions so she could modify the ingredients as needed. Not long after, her chickens started thriving, so other poultry farmers wanted whatever she was feeding her chickens, and boom, a new business was born.

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My gorgeous mama at 62!

I’ve barely scratched the surface of the depth of mom’s oh so inspiring story. It is more than a little blog post can accommodate; it should be written into a book, or acted as a movie. Let’s not undermine the fact that she was born to Muslim parents in the village, who believed that educating a girl was a waste of their investment. Oh the heights she went just to get an education!

For this mother’s day, I choose to celebrate my mom’s wisdom, and her tenacity. I hope you’ve learned a thing or two from my mom. What is one thing you’ve learned from your mom that you’d like to share?

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24 thoughts on “Happy Mother’s Day! 5 Lessons from my “Not-so-African” Nigerian Mother

  1. Your mom is amazing I cant wait to meet her one day . I love that she is a hustler and that you learn from her that yoy always need to have a back pocket in case the narrative changes. That is so true and I totally agree with her 100 percent . Thanks for sharing and hello to mommy for me.😘😘😘

  2. Such a beautiful post. Kudos to your mom. She’s always had that great stature… the gym and healthy eating, I see! That really is a surprise for an African mom lol. May God continue to bless and keep her!

  3. One thing I learned from my mom is to be very observant when I get to a new place. To watch the people and learn the culture so I know how to conduct myself with wisdom. She used to say that a chicken always stands on one leg when it is in a new environment. The other leg is posed to take flight in any direction, if the need arises. It doesn’t make itself comfortable until it has taken in the environment. This has helped me to conduct myself favorably, make wise decisions and build the right relationships in jobs, school etc.

  4. Your mom is beautiful, inside and out! I love the strength and tenacity that your mom has, she reminds me of my mom in some ways. I may not have realized it back then, but she always encouraged us, expected nothing less than our best, and set us up for success in our future. She is proud to have 4 thriving women today. Thanks for sharing this with us <3

  5. Thanks Sis for putting this together! 🙂
    Thanks mama,
    For being a drama-free mum.
    For always being open to learn (seriously always reading and learning! especially about health and finances)
    For your entrepreneurial spirit which you’ve pretty much passed on to all of us.
    For teaching us to be good stewards of everything God gave us – no waste at all no matter how much you have.
    For not being sentimental (i.e. making objective decisions rather than decisions based on emotions)
    And most of all, for being a Godly mum.
    Love you 🙂

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