I am my mother's first-born daughter. So, as the oldest, it was my duty to help out my family with my siblings. For most of my childhood, my mum was a stay at home mother; so she did the majority of the chores at home. I helped her out with small duties like cleaning the living room or washing the dishes. But as soon as she took up a job to help out in the house financially, I, as the oldest child, took up the big jobs she used to do. At 14 I started taking on major responsibilities. I was responsible for making sure my siblings did their chores. My dad would say that it was my job to run the household if he and my mum were not around. It was a lot of responsibility to put onto a teenager. I had to babysit my siblings which meant I missed out on a childhood. I wasn’t able to go out with my friends after school or on the weekend.
The older I got the more the responsibilities I had. I went from helping out with the chores and school runs to providing financial and emotional support to my family. Contributing to the utilities and food shop, and still providing provide emotional support to my younger siblings. I am often their first point of call when it comes to decision making in their lives such as what university to go to or any friendship problems they have. It can sometimes be a blessing, but it can also be emotionally draining to be the firs point of contact for everyone, as you very easily end up neglecting your own emotional wellbeing.
This also has had negative effects on me as I have often taken the motherly role in my other relationships. Seeing myself taking on the burdens of my friends as I would for my family. I love to help my family out but I had to realise that it was really taking over my life. I understood the circumstances which lead my parents to be dependent on me, but I needed a break to grow and find myself. I was becoming a woman but I was unable to do that in my parents house.
I managed to free myself from these responsibilities when I decided to go to university outside the city I grew up in. There I made friends with other young Black women who were also the oldest daughters. This made me realise that I was not the only person who was taking more than their fair share of responsibilities in their households.
Hearing my friends' stories about their upbringing has allowed me to understand that I am not the only person with a similar story. As the years went by, I have understood the need to set healthy boundaries that can still allow me to support my family but also live my life without being emotionally and physically drained.
It is important that all first-born Black women set healthy boundaries with their families. We love them but that doesn't mean we should spend the rest of our lives looking after them.
Written by Chrissie Okorie