"I would have just gone and lived the life I wanted, I would have listened to my friends who said 'forget about your husband and go and build a life for yourself', I should have been selfish. If I had, I would definitely be living a better life right now, like my mates. But I couldn't leave, I had to stay because of the children."
The pain in *Mrs M's eyes was louder than her high pitched voice. Looking at her I could see a thousand 'what ifs?', regret, doubt and discontent. Mrs M is a mother figure to me, quite elderly, somewhere between her mid-fifties to mid-sixties.
What brought on all of this, this uncomfortably honest conversation, you might ask... Well it started with a simple "I went to Oto market because things are a lot cheaper there". Then she went on to recount how she ran into Agnes at the market, an old friend she hadn't seen in years.
You see, Agnes used to live on the same street as Mrs M many years ago, somewhere in Ejigbo. Agnes was one of Mrs M's numerous neighbour-friends. Then they were young women building their homes and making families.
Agnes who moved out of the street in Ejigbo over ten years ago asked Mrs M where she lives now. A bit shamefacedly, Mrs M admitted that she and her hubby still live on that street in Ejigbo
"Whaaaaaaaaaat??? Nne! Tufia!!! Unu ka no na Ejigbo? (You people are still in Ejigbo?) Unu ka no na mainland? Hia! All of us on the street now live in Lekki or Victoria Island, in our own homes, we even thought you and Mr M relocated overseas. Ejigbo kwa? Hia!"
Mrs M told me that it was bad enough that all her peers had moved on and left her behind (which wasn't news to her), but what really stung on that hot afternoon in an overly crowded market filled with Christmas shoppers was the way Agnes screamed this for as many people as possible to hear.
"....But I couldn't leave, I had to stay because of the children." Are words that keep resounding in my ears. Mrs M was the breadwinner in her home and catered for five children and one husband who's been down on his luck since the late '80s.
At some point things got so bad and friends advised her to leave. First of all she ignored them because life throws challenges at people and she could overcome, besides Mr M would 'bounce back' soon.
Then she ignored them because although she had begun to resent and therefore disrespect Mr M (I reckon raising 5 children and a husband can do that to a woman, especially when DH isn't making any visible effort to better his situation), she stayed because that's what "good" wives did.
And then she ignored them because of the children.
Now the children are all grown up and have all moved on with their lives, Mr M is still Mr M; unlucky, lazy and indifferent. Mrs M is retired but she still does small businesses here and there to keep head about water.
I wonder about the children she stayed for.
I wonder about children of parents in unhappy marriages, would they really have turned out so badly if their parents got divorced? What are the real benefits of growing up in an unbroken home? Does growing up in an unbroken home guarantee that the children would grow to become respectable members of the society? I ask because I've seen people who grew in in proper homes with proper families grow up to become nuisances to society, and I've seen products of broken homes become role models...
I've often wondered if it's not enough to each care for the children and show them as much love as possible regardless of if the couple is together or apart...
Do you have any experience or knowledge about this, is staying for the children and (potentially condemning yourself to endless misery) really worth it?