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The Cost Of Avoiding Chores

Four out of six Nigerians I spoke to agreed that chores were the worst part of growing up. They had to be done with clinical precision, and if your parents were anything like the typical Nigerian parents, they had to be done in a way that puts professional janitors to shame. 

Four Nigerians spoke to us about dealing with chores they hated as kids and the price they are willing to pay to avoid these tasks as adults. 

What’s a chore you hated as a kid that you can afford to outsource now?

Bassey: Laundry. I started washing clothes in primary four, when my mom realised I was always coming back from school covered in dirt from playing football. She told the housekeeper to stop washing my uniform, and from there, I graduated to washing every item of clothing under the sun. As I got older, I became the family washing machine. It didn’t help that I was good at it.

Seyi: Market errands. My mother would send me to the market, and there would be men harassing me to buy their wares: “Fine girl, come and buy your jean jacket here.” No, bro, I want to buy egusi; leave me alone. Markets were my personal hell. When my siblings got older, I started paying them ₦500 to go to the market for me.

Aanu: Cooking. I’m the first and only girl out of four children, so you know I was raised by the stove. It didn’t help that two of my brothers were picky eaters. I could make porridge for everyone and still have to make noodles and toast bread for them. I cooked so much my father sent me to culinary school. 

Ose: Cleaning. Something about bending to sweep doesn’t sit right with me. I was called lazy as a child because I used to cry when asked to do the dishes. Washing pots used to stress me out. It felt like a waste of my time. 

When did you start outsourcing it?

Bassey: I went to a boarding school, so I had school sons who washed my clothes. It was epic. When I got into the university, I paid one of the cleaners ₦100 for each shirt he washed for me. It was going great until he started stealing my clothes and telling me stories. That was when I started using drying cleaning services. When I rented my apartment, I bought a washing machine before I got a fridge. 

Seyi: I started with my siblings. When I got married, I employed a housekeeper whose primary task was to go to the market and sort out the items when she returned. It took me months into my marriage to realise that becoming an adult didn’t mean I could avoid these errands. I was now accountable to myself, and somehow that made it worse.  

Aanu: When I got into the university, I was living on campus. That was when I experienced the joys of mama put. I didn’t have to cook, someone else was doing it in exchange for ₦200. When I rented my place, I found a neat cook in Wuse Zone 3, and she makes my soups and stews in litres. I just pay and get a new batch every week. It’s so convenient. I haven’t looked back since then. 

Ose: When I moved into my place. I was doing the dishes after a bad breakup when I found myself crying at the sink. Here I was, doing something I hated while dealing with emotional baggage. I started looking for a housekeeper the very next day.

How much does outsourcing these chores cost you?

Bassey: My washing machine cost ₦86,600 in late 2019. It has a washer and dryer, so it’s very efficient. Last year, I realised that I didn’t want to do laundry at all, so I hired a boy who comes in twice a week. For ₦4,000 per week, he does the laundry and irons. Except for that one time he burnt my native, the arrangement has been great. 

Seyi: Thankfully, my husband understands how stressful market errands are for me, so we have a budget of ₦40,000 for the housekeeper. This includes light cleaning of the apartment, but the main koko is the once-a-week shopping for the household.

Aanu: Depending on the soup, a litre costs about ₦7,000 – ₦8,500 while stew costs ₦5,000 – ₦6000, depending on the protein. Turkey and chicken stew are more expensive than beef stew. Also, I have an agreement with my cook. I pay an additional ₦5,000 (per week), and that gives me access to four meals per week at her restaurant. So, if I’m craving jollof rice or anything else, I can go there to eat. On average, I spend ₦55,000 on food and roughly ₦28,000 – ₦30,000 on snacks and drinks.

Ose: I pay my housekeeper ₦37,000 per month to clean my apartment. When I first hired her, I was afraid the money was too small until she admitted that she used to clean eight rooms every day in a hotel for ₦12,000 per month. This job was an upgrade for her. I sometimes add to her salary at the end of the month. I am very aware that without her services, I won’t function optimally. My apartment is clean, she gets paid, and I don’t have to deal with the stress. 

How much more are you willing to spend on outsourcing these chores?

Bassey: If there was a new machine that can launder AND iron, I don’t mind taking a loan from the bank to get it. 

Seyi: Maybe ₦60,000. Anything higher isn’t sustainable for my family.

Aanu: It’s food, I like to eat. I can pay up to ₦100,000 if I have to.

Ose: I’m giving my housekeeper a ₦15,000 raise next year, and I plan to keep increasing it as I earn more. 

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