Family and Relationship Behavioral Patterns in Covid-19 Lockdown

Adesogan John Seun

With a population of over 200 million people, Nigeria is one of the world’s most populous black nations. As with the rest of the world, Nigeria is currently dealing with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, but in a somewhat different fashion.

 

On Monday, 30th March 2020, the federal government of Nigeria enforced a lockdown in two states – Ogun State and Lagos, which is the epicenter of the outbreak in Nigeria, as well as the Federal Capital Territory, FCT. Similar lockdowns were enforced in many other states, including in Kaduna where the order came a day before the president’s announcement of lockdown. The compulsory lockdown that was necessitated by the need to minimize the spread of the coronavirus disease among the citizens of Nigeria has brought with it different effects on families and behavioral patterns of people. Shortly after the order was announced by the President, there was an uproar among the citizens due to a myriad of concerns. With the entire nation on lockdown, families across the country have been adjusting to a dramatically different way of life. Children are no longer in school, parents are learning how to home-school, and many are also simultaneously working from home.

 

Humans are intensely social creatures. We all need company and social contacts. But for many of us, being at home for long periods, with a small group of people – even those we love the most – can become frustrating.

While some families have utilized the lockdown to their advantage, others have described the lockdown period as a “hell-on-earth” experience.

Hunger has been a major problem in families during this lockdown especially where the breadwinners are daily earners – and most families in Nigeria fall under this category. A large proportion of the population live on daily income with no savings to act as a financial buffer during the lockdown. The prospect of staying at home has, therefore, led to hunger and some other forms of hardship.

The lockdown has been an avenue for Nigerian mothers to exercise their managerial prowess in terms of utilizing the limited available resources to cater for the family needs, even now that important commodities are not readily available in Nigerian markets, leading to a hike in the prices of the few available ones. This is the time that the “wife material” in every mother in Nigerian homes is put to the test.

 

A very big advantage of this lockdown, however, is in the aspect of family bonding. There are families that, over the years, have been so busy with their jobs that they have not had quality time together. They have been up and doing due to the exigencies of their jobs. Thus the lockdown has created more than enough time for family members to enjoy the uninterrupted company of one another (excluding frontliners).

 

An average Nigerian father is usually away at least from 6a.m to 6p.m on a daily basis. This trend has denied fathers the opportunity to bond with their children, but with the lockdown in place, some fathers have been the ones personally taking care of the needs of their children; ranging from helping with academic work, to playing games together, to giving listening ears to all their children’s complaints.

 

Personally, I have been married for two years. Within those two years, I have not cooked even once. I just sit and enjoy delicious meals. Little did I know that making a good meal takes a lot of effort. In order to while away time in this lockdown period, I joined my wife in the kitchen to do the cooking. These days, while my wife washes the plates, I blend the pepper. This has created stronger bonds of love and unity in our marital life. I could see how satisfied this has made my wife; she would rather have me help her in the kitchen than give her the whole money in the bank.

 

The lockdown has also helped me to realize how tedious house chores can be when left for only one person to do. In respect to this, I have decided that once the lockdown is lifted, I would get my wife a service staff that would give her a helping hand in taking care of the chores and as much as possible, I would make out time to join them in the chores too from time to time. I can’t trade anything for my family’s happiness.

It is also said that within this period some homes that have been experiencing marital issues have taken advantage of the lockdown to settle their differences. Some women even confirm that their husbands apologize for being too busy to have paid attention to every detail in their family, which has been hindering them from being empathetic towards their wives and children.

 

Also, some wives that have almost lost their husbands to the so-called “side chicks” (extra marital affairs) have taken time to iron out issues with their spouses; and the husbands, having realized that their marriages are to be treated as a top priority, have started paying attention to their wives and have also set things right in their homes.

More so, the lockdown has restored peace, harmony and decorum in many Nigerian families. Spouses that have been avoiding each other due to conflicts have turned to best friends, after spending quality time together in this lockdown period. Homes at the verge of shattering have once again, had enough time to look into their problems and sort them out.

 

Sad to say, some families have reported different cases of “intimate terrorism” — a term many experts prefer for domestic violence, during this lockdown. The lockdown seems to have been favouring and increasing cases of domestic violence in Nigerian homes. Many men have decided to take out their frustration on their spouses. Some that have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic have resorted to turning their wives into punching bag. Some other men have become violent, harassing their wives sexually and objectifying them, perhaps in a bid to end their frustrations. The worst part of all these is the fact that wives that have filed for divorce cannot get the approval of the law courts until the lockdown period is over, so they have to continue to endure until God knows when…

Eventually, the lockdown will end, but as the confinement drags on, the danger seems likely to intensify.

It is advised that families that have used the lockdown period to improve their interpersonal relationship, should take time to spot all the loopholes causing disputes in their homes and plan to continue to make things better, even after the lockdown.  Those who have been too busy to create time to bond with their family members should also review their modus operandi and  find time out of their busy schedules for their loved ones after the coronavirus has been defeated, especially now that the lockdown has made them realize that family is first, other things (including jobs) are secondary. Now that there are no jobs to go to, people have their families to fall back to.

Others who have suffered the negative effects of the lockdown should try to settle all their disputes, if possible. If not, they should take advantage of the lockdown period to strategize the next line of action and move on with their lives.

It is the prayer of every well-meaning Nigerian that this pandemic ravaging the world comes to an end as soon as possible. While we await the answer to our prayers, we must stick together and look out for one another, irrespective of our socioeconomic differences. We must exhibit a sense of oneness during this time, and together, we shall overcome!

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