2019 challenge feminism lifestyle mental health

What It Means To Be The Oldest Daughter in a Somali Household (292/365)

I’ve written about this before, but I feel like I need to expand on this topic because it’s really personal and truly aggravates me to my inner core. It’s also something I think about a lot especially as I watch my sisters receiving a similar amount of responsibilities that I had at their young ages and honestly we need to stop doing this to our women, we need to stop grooming them for maternal motherhood but a version of motherhood that paints us as the soul caretakers of everyone. We are raised to be the blankets that everyone uses for comfort, and then discards when they no longer need them.

So before I go on, here’s a cheeky disclaimer – yes I’m going to be generalising a lot here and honestly I’m going to refer to my own point of view as well, if this isn’t your POV, that’s fine, it doesn’t take away from the fact that I’m talking about how my own culture has impacted my life.

So what is the oldest daughter in a Somali household, well we become many things:

  • The second mother
  • The babysitter
  • The responsible one
  • The one who needs to give up everything to help everyone out
  • The one who exists to keep the house hold in check.

Our existence is mainly focused around looking after everyone, but who looks after us?

I remember when my first younger sibling was born, I was 6 and honestly excited to have a new sibling. Everything was fine, I was still treated like a child until he reached a few months old and I started changing his nappies and helping out with the baby sitting. I was also cleaning the kitchen at that point, and due to my young age I wasn’t really aware of how weird this was.

Parents have many children, and with each birth came more responsibility on my end. I was running the house and babysitting and for the most part this was completely normalised by everyone around me, including my extended family. If anything they praised me for it, so I ended up thinking it was a good thing and I was a great kid for doing it. The realisation of how much I took on didn’t really hit me until my adult lense looked at my youngest siblings, and being the selfish person I am, I would compare how much domestic chores I was doing at their young age.

Now I know how weird it was that at the age of 12 I was left with my younger siblings who were around 5 and 6 and I was expected to run the house. Sure I have a brother who was one year older than me, but all the responsibility around looking after them was put on me. I honestly tend to roll with whats going on around me, and because I was socialised from such a young age to take everything on, I just did. I’d ask a few questions and kick up a fuss, but ultimately I took on all the extra responsibility because I was expected to and now I see that it’s really fucked up.

It’s also why I’m basically living my missed childhood in my twenties.

We need to stop giving young girls adult responsibilities and really let them focus on their own life. Because we’re raised to take on the world, we end up letting everyone elses problems eclipse our own, we lose track of our own goals and our own future. Obviously I’m not saying that we can’t acheive anything, but we do suffer the consequences of this pure pressure, and it takes a massive toll on our mental health.

Making decisions that solely focus on your own goals and acheivments shouldn’t be seen as leaving your family to rot. You shouldn’t have to live with the pressure of keeping the whole household together, especially Somalis, OUR FAMILIES ARE TOO BIG. Everyone should be held to the same responsibility regardless of gender, but parents should also be the primary caretakers and not their children.

Because we have generations of kids raising kids, we’ve just ended up in a weird cycle and that cycle needs to break!

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