When success means more responsibilities

Sunday June 2 2019


By Devotha John

It’s everyone wish to be successful. However, at times being successful comes with a lot of pressure, especially when you happen to be the only successful person in the family.

Naturally, everyone depends on you to solve all their problems. You are considered to be the family’s Bill Gates (put the name of the richest man you know here).

Apart from close family members, relatives, neighbours, friend, all depend on you to ease their financial problems, be it money for school fees, medical care, you name it.

While many are ready to help anyone anytime if they are in a position to do so, there are people who don’t believe that there are times when those we run to to help us in times of need don’t have money themselves at times.

“You can see dissappointment and disbelief written all over their face when you tell them you don’t have money,” says Josephine.*

The mother of four is financially stable and a giving person. However, she says sometimes it feels like it’s all too much. People keep sending her money requests even at times when she is broke herself.


It’s because of such people that Pauline* is considering changing her phone number. She has blocked people she thinks have been taking advantage of her.

“Some people don’t give you the time to breathe as they send you text messages now and then asking for money. ” Pauline complains.

She cannot imagine how things would be if she were a man. Being a married woman, Pauline believes, puts one in a better position as compared to being a man. This she says is due to the fact that those who would have wished to move to your house cannot do so because in African culture, ‘a home belongs to a man.’

“But some are shameless. They come and overstay their welcome, regardless of the fact that it is considered in some tribes to be a taboo overstaying in an in-law’s house” says Pauline.

She does not subscribe to the belief that a home belongs to a man but to both husband and wife and therefore thinks it’s not proper for a man’s relatives to do as they please in a married couple’s house because they believe it’s their brother’s house.

“This is likely to happen if their brother is the most advantaged in the family. They tend to think their brother’s house is their house and therefore disregard his wife. This is disrespectful. ”

Pauline says the rule in their house is not just inviting anyone to come live with them without consulting each other. “If it’s my relative who has to come live with us, I inform my husband for approval and vice versa. We do so to avoid inconveniences,” says Pauline.

They know how some relatives can strain relationships and to avoid that, they don’t entertain those who overstay their welcome. “We cannot cater for everyone’s needs but we try as much as we can to help out. We too were helped when growing up but we don’t overstretch ourselves to make others happy,” she says.

If we could only be considerate

Mbezi-based contractor, Erick*, 45, says he sometimes finds it burdensome to have a huge number of dependents.

“I am the only shoulder on which every family member leans on. I try as much as I can to meet their needs despite having a lot on my plate to accomplish. It really irks at times, so to speak,” Erick says.

He has been at logger heads with his brother, who at some point could not have his needs met because Erick could not give him the money he had asked for. He had been taking care of their sick mother’s medical bills in India. With medical bills to cover, Erick had to put other things on hold.

Some family members accused his wife of advising him against supporting them financially. This put a strain on their marriage but being an understanding woman, she did not let this come between them.

Erick says family members can lead to matrimonial conflicts if couples are not careful. He says it reached a point where his elder brother forced him to divorce his wife just because of material things. “He thought my wife was a barrier to their enjoying my wealth, something, which really troubled me and the stability of my marriage,” says Erick.

The third-born in a family of seven is not against assisting family members. However, he says people should understand that even those they think are rich have their own plans and budgets. “What they don’t understand is that we have goals to achieve and our own families to take care of. When one tells you they don’t have money, they really mean that. Some people have got loans to repay such as education, car and even house loans,” he says.

He sometimes finds it unfair when some of his siblings think he is not helping them enough, especially given that he started supporting them with his education loan money when he was still at university.

“I used to send my parents money from my education loan to pay my siblings school fees. ”

When he got a job after graduation, his family back home remained his priority. He could have saved the money to fulfill his dream of establishing his own construction company, which he did much later but put his family first.

“I am not complaining but it hurts when people think you are not doing enough,” says the father of three.

After starting his own family, his wife and children became a priority. He makes sure his parents don’t lack but as for the rest, he supports them only when he can.

Too quick to forget

Barthazar* finds it okay supporting those in need including family members who are less privileged but thinks one should not overdo it.

The father of two says when things were good in the past, his house used to be full of people most of the time. He thanks God he married an understanding wife because she never used to complain about this.

“One thing that I have learnt through the years of staying with relatives is that once some people get their own life, very few would even send you a text message to ask you how you are doing. I have hosted many people in my house but I have not seen many in a long time though they all are in this same city,” he says grinning.

This has taught him to put his family needs first. Since the economy has changed, Barthazar puts it clear to his relatives that he can no longer afford to host anyone for more than a month.

Being a civil servant, Barthazar depends mostly on his monthly salary, save for a small poultry project in his backyard. However, Barthazar is considered rich in his family.

The problem, according to him, when it comes to living with relatives, some tend to have a negative attitude towards your wife. Some would go as far as painting a bad image of your spouse or even saying things that do not concern them.

To those expecting to enter matrimony, he advises them to help family and relatives from where they are. “They can come visit you but they should not stay for too long. This way, you can be assured of some degree of harmony in the family.”

Teach them to fish instead

Novelty Deograthias, a psychologist says being successful is a blessing. For him, this is an opportunity to help the less privileged not only in your family.

He says there are people who have been wealthy for generations because they support each other, children inherit their parents’ wealth and the chain goes on. An individual, he says may be the source of fortune and prosperity for the whole community.

The psychologist adds that a supportive successful person in a family is likely to create love and closeness among family/clan members, hence strengthening the family bond.

Commenting on the concern where family members become too dependent on one person, the psychologist says it all depends on how one plans their goals and makes priorities. He believes no one can become poor for helping others.

“A successful person can easily use dependants as workforce in their projects unless they are incapacitated. We can borrow a leaf from Indians living in Africa who engage a good number of their family members in their projects.”

The psychologist calls on African households to invest in education, noting that in case there are educated dependants in a family, they can be easily supported to stand on their own feet.

“An educated family member can hardly think of only depending on the successful person to push their lives. They may use the available opportunity to fend for themselves unlike the unskilled ones whose chances for employment may be virtually slim,” he notes.

Neema* agrees with the psychologist that without proper planning, being the sole bread winner may turn out to be a burden.

“I don’t find any harm in a well to do family membher empowering family members in need of support. The best way to do it is by teaching them to fish rather than giving them fish. Support them to create their own jobs so they can stand on their own feet,” she says, adding that paying school fees for your siblings or relatives in need would be a means of setting them free from dependency in future. Also who knows, they could be of help to you in future when you need help.

Neema’s husband is well of and like many in African families has lots of needy relatives. He supports them hoping they too will support others in future, says Neema.

“Most uf us are where we are because a brother, sister, aunt, uncle supported us in one way or the other. We can only appreciate their help by giving back to those who need help,” she says.

They should serve as role models

Father Leons Maziku, a psychology expert and a lecturer at St Augustine University of Tanzania says having a successful member in a family is a blessing because they should serves as role models.

Unfortunately this is not always the case as some families tend to exploit the fruits of the successful person. This he says leads to laziness, as some family members take advantage and stop engaging in productivity activities, knowing their brother or sister will always be there to cater for their needs.

The priest says at times they would start gossiping about you, especially when you fail to meet their needs. They could even be a source of division in the family, creating groups of those who are for you and those against you.

For married couples, Fr Maziku advises that their families should come first. He too believes having many relatives in the house for a long time, may cause unnecessary competition hence creating problems. They could make each partner think their people are not treated fairly, which could lead to fights and finally divorce.

Fr Maziku advices relatives to visit occasionally, not stay long or permanently. For him, the best assistance a successful family member can offer is empowering relatives through education.

He is of the opinion that family members should look up to the successful persons as role models and learn how to be independent through them.