The life of a firstborn anywhere in the world is far from a walk in the park, but it’s even more challenging for the Nigerian firstborn.
Apart from the fact that your parents seemingly practiced parenting with you, winging it without any prior experience, you were also forced to grow up fast, in many cases becoming a mini-parent to your younger siblings.
Now that you are an adult, the financial responsibility on your shoulders is an added burden. Some have managed to escape it, developing tough skin and refusing to be hostage by guilt, but for those of us who are natural nurturers, saying no, or looking the other way, is not an option.
Worse still, we sometimes deal with the crippling fear of letting our parents and siblings down, or not being there for them as we promised. This fear often drives us to take actions that are counterproductive. Without meaning to, we let most of our money go to providing for and supporting others, leaving our own financial needs unattended to.
What to do?
Help yourself first. This is the key. You must make sure you’re standing first. It’s the same thing flight attendants tell you; before trying to help anyone else, put on your oxygen mask first. Selflessness is a great trait everyone can learn from, yet it is also equally important to ensure your own security first.You can’t pour from an empty cup. Your goal should be to care for others from your saucer, rather than depleting your cup and landing both you and them in penury. Don’t go into debt for others.
Create a safety net for yourself. This could be anything from three months to six months’ worth of living expenses. Review your spending for the past few months to understand your monthly expenses, and don’t forget other items that aren’t monthly, like school fees, house rent and taxes. Then set aside (or start saving towards) a safety net account that will keep you going if a big expense comes up, or you lose income.
When you do this, you will know exactly how much you have to support your family with. You can even create a support budget or open a support fund account so you can set goals and limits.
Understand and accept that taking care of your parents and siblings gives you satisfaction and that’s okay. For you, money is not meant just for buying shares and building empires but for supporting those you love and investing in their lives. Make peace with this; it doesn’t make you foolish or weak. Just bear in mind that you need to be able to support your loved ones without getting pulled under water.
This is all easier said than done, of course. As a firstborn who is also a nurturer, I know how hard it can be to say “I can’t help right now” especially in the face of genuine need. However, this is the exact reason why you must ensure you’re actually in a position to help. When your heart begins to feel the pangs, remind yourself that it’s not about saying no; it’s about supporting your own future so you can continue to help the people you love for years to come.