Nairobi News


Balancing personal and extended family in tough economic times

By Winnie Onyando November 19th, 2023 2 min read

Growing up in a disadvantaged or modest background in an African household can present substantial difficulties, particularly for those who exhibit determination and ambition.

There are two distinct groups of children in many African families: those who bear the weight of familial expectations and the “king” or “queen” figures who expect a great deal without contributing much.

Many young individuals find themselves burdened with unrealistic family demands that often make them feel as if they are the family’s saviors.

Firstborns, in particular, often are responsible for providing for their entire family without much consideration for their well-being.

Byron Odhiambo, a resident of Nairobi, shared his experience, stating, “I remember my parents repeatedly telling me to work hard and support my siblings, as they considered them my responsibility. They made me their hope, believing I would eventually rescue them from poverty. While I appreciate this significant responsibility, it is gradually taking a toll on me because the expectations appear to exceed what I can bear.”

Odhiambo described how the burden of responsibilities, from school fees to daily expenses and medical bills, has been placed squarely on his shoulders.

He worries about what would happen to his family if he were to lose his life.

“What hurts me most is that they don’t even care about my own needs and establishment as a person, I sometimes wonder if they can do half of the things they ask me to do,” Odhiambo told Nairobi News.

On the other hand, Jactone Maube, also residing in Nairobi, expressed similar sentiments, saying, “There are times when I genuinely feel like a slave. I can hardly afford anything for myself because my relatives are incredibly demanding. The most frustrating aspect is that many of them lack consideration, and they still criticize you, even after you’ve made numerous sacrifices for their benefit.”

In contrast to certain Western cultures that pass down inheritances to their descendants, many Africans inherit nothing but debt and familial problems as part of their legacy.

With the persistently high unemployment rates, the burden becomes increasingly more challenging to bear.

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