Do we owe our parents?

Children are important in any society and the pain of not having any, when you truly desire to do so,  is deep and almost physical. People, especially women will go through various invasive and painful treatments in the quest for a child.
However, in societies like Nigeria, you are almost doomed if you do not have one. I say almost because as with most things, having money, eases the situation. A child represents more than a biological necessity. A child represents the hope for a pension, security and sometimes even shelter in old age. A child represents a plant that will hopefully become a tree underneath which a parent will be sheltered from harsh weather.

Nigeria has a non-existent social security system. So when we brag about looking after our elderly ourselves, the underlying truth is that there just aren’t a lot of other options. So yes, it’s unfashionable to take the elderly to nursing homes because there just isn’t one around every corner. The ones that there are must be paid out of pocket. There is no government funding for housing, or social services. We do not have carers paid by the government from the tax pot. So we look after our old. Whether or not we want to.

Health care is mostly paid for at point of use for majority of the over 200 million. For the children and the elderly too. Most of the poorest in the society have no means of paying for childcare. Healthcare needs more than likely will increase the longer you live. In a society without an NHS or OHIP, children are their parents’ health insurance.

So while it’s easy to go on endlessly how parents shouldn’t act entitled etc, we need to look at the society we are talking about at large. I agree that it might not be your reality if your parents are still financially buoyant and don’t need your support, think of the petty traders you know. The labourers. Those working as security guards. The several people you know who would have no pension once they are unable to work. The people you know who still don’t own a building. Even if they have their own home, can they pay for medications once they stop working?

If you have parents in Nigeria who are not rich and have no investments, you are their pension, their health insurance and sustenance.  Whether you like it or not. Whether they were kind or unkind to you. Responsible or irresponsible parents. There isn’t any other viable alternative. As with any responsibility, it can be shirked or denied.

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