It is very common in many Nigerian households that, as the oldest children become adults, they immediately assume parental roles in the family, catering to the needs of their siblings and parents. This commitment can have a significant strain on their own finances.
We spoke to a few Nigerians about the financial burden of being the firstborn, and their responses are highlighted below.
“I’m not really earning for myself, I always have to consider my family” — Ope
I earn reasonably well, but a lot of the strain on my finances comes from being a firstborn. I am always expected to pay for my siblings’ expenses, despite not living with them. The assumption is that, because I’m working, I should be able to shoulder all these expenses.
So, I’m not really earning for myself; I always have to consider my family in every step I take. Because I work freelance, there are periods when I don’t have a steady income. I’m usually under intense pressure because I could receive calls from family members who are stranded, even though I’m stranded myself. This comes with the extra pressure of ensuring that I earn more than enough to take care of my needs and my family’s, both nuclear and extended.
Now, I just hide certain things, like the amount I earn or any expensive purchases, from my family. Also, when I send money home, I make them understand that I can’t do more than that. I’m taking care of everybody, but no one is thinking about what I am going through.
“I can count how many times I’ve done things for myself this year” —Wunmi
Being a firstborn comes with its own set of responsibilities, and being the first girl is just another world on its own. I have three younger siblings who will ask for things whenever they need it, so it’s a lot of pressure. Everybody just needs something, and because my family is closely-knit, they know how much I earn, so it makes it difficult to say no.
Apart from parents and siblings, there are just needs in the house. My parents are getting older, and my dad is going to retire next year. They can’t do a lot, so I have to pick up bills here and there.
It gets so intense that I’m almost never able to buy or do anything for myself. I can count, on one hand, how many times I’ve done things for myself this year. There have been times when I saved up money to pay for a professional course, but I was unable to do that because someone in the house needed money.
I’m now realising that I’m my own person and I need to actualise my goals. I’ve informed everyone that I now keep a budget, and if their needs don’t fit the budget, they’ll have to wait until the following month.
“By default, I’m thinking about my family whenever I get a salary or a raise” — Paul
I hardly ever see being a firstborn as a burden. I see it as something that’s a part of my life, something I have to do because I love these people. Yes, a bulk of my salary goes to my family, and it puts a significant strain on my finances, but I love doing it for my family.
By default, I’m always thinking about my family whenever I get a salary or a raise. If someone tells me I have ₦130 million now, I’m already thinking of how much I’m going to spend on my family. So, I don’t calculate my family’s money as my money. Whatever I have after I have sent money home is my money.
I don’t think of myself as being better or worse off for the financial responsibilities. I’m just grateful to do these things for the people that care about me. My parents are phenomenal, so they barely put any pressure on me. Much of the pressure is from my siblings who aren’t as financially stable as I am. So, what I do is send the money to the house, and they take care of my sisters.
“I’m earning quite well, but unfortunately, I don’t have savings” — Deborah
It’s not been easy. My dad lost his job while I was in university, and my mom is a petty trader. So a significant chunk of the responsibilities fell on me as the first child. Right out of university, I had to get a job to offset some of my bills because it dawned on me, very early, how much hustling I had to do. My first salary was ₦40,000, and I still had financial responsibilities to myself and my family. That was stressful. When my brother had to write WAEC, I had to choose between paying for his WAEC or my ICAN exams. I decided to be selfish for that one. Luckily, we found another way to pay.
My salary has increased since then, but I still have the commitment of sending money back home, paying for my siblings’ school fees and even funding Christmas celebrations. Thankfully, I have siblings who aren’t entitled, so they’ve also had to take up menial jobs that guarantee them a monthly stipend.
Sometimes, I wish I were the last born, and then, I’ll have the privilege of having siblings I can fall back on. If I had older siblings who don’t need my money, I think I’d be in a better place financially. I’m earning quite well, but unfortunately, I don’t have savings because Black Tax is eating deep into my funds, and I have to take care of myself.