When President Muhammadu Buhari ordered residents of Lagos, Ogun, and Abuja to stay at home for 14 days to curb the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic, many people, especially couples, knew they had a lot of adjusting to do.
Adjusting to a new ‘lockdown life’ comes with a price to pay but one of the most concerning is the economic burden of staying put without recourse to work or income.
This is perhaps the most gruesome reality they now have to deal with.
But, of more concern is the underlying fear of the unknown—how to make it through the pandemic and the lockdown.
For Samson Abubakar, 49, it was the first time in his 16 years of working as a public servant in Abuja, to be grounded at home all day long.
“I’ve never experienced it in my entire working life. I’m used to the rat-race life of leaving for work in the morning and returning home in the evening. And on weekends, I go to church.
“I’m not used to this domestic life of staying at home for 24/7,” he said.
Mr Abubakar has been married for more than 12 years. His wife is a primary school teacher at a top private school in the heart of Abuja city.
He complained of the financial implication it was having in his pocket.
“It is even exasperating that one has to spend more money now at home. It is all about giving out and nothing is coming in.
“As if to worsen the situation, the electricity supply is always cut short here in Bwari,” he said.
But it is not all grim.
“I believe there is good in every bad situation,” he noted.
‘Love in time of Coronavirus’
With the lockdown comes a surfeit of time to spend with family—a time to rekindle the love between spouses.
Psychologists have found that during a crisis or anxiety-bound period, people tend to bond more and connect to distract themselves away from pangs of uncertainty and fear. Couple therapists have also noted that the lockdown can test any relationship.
For Mr Abubakar, rediscovering new things about his wife through the great time being spent together gives him joy beyond words.
Not only has he been able to brainstorm about future plans with his wife during the time, but he has also found a new side of himself— ‘being extremely playful.’
“Naturally, I’m not an outgoing type and I’ve spent time with my wife but not to this level because of work.
“Now, we play like kids and also make future plans for our home. In fact, the little house project we are currently doing came from the brainstorming we had on the first day of lockdown,” he said.
Like Mr Abubakar, Khadija Adisa, 34, a teacher, believes the lockdown has impacted her relationship with her husband positively.
“It has really improved our relationship,” she said.
For Idris Oladipo, 32, the stay-at-home order has provided time to discuss pertinent personal issues with his wife which has kept their relationship waxing stronger every day.
“It has kept the relationship cordial and we fight new fights, learn new lessons and get stronger and happier together,” he said.
No doubt, the stay-at-home period is a blessing for family bonding.
As the head of Digital Innovation, Skool Media, in the commercial city of Lagos, he often finds it hard to have a family moment at home in the day because he returns home late at night.
Though a native of Ibadan, Mr Oladipo has been working in Lagos since 2013; he got married four years ago and now has a kid.
“For many of us, we ordinarily wouldn’t have been able to spend some beautiful time with our family when we spend the bulk of our hours at work and on busy Lagos roads.
“The stay at home allows us more time with the family, husbands can get more intimate with their wives and children, this time – no welcoming of guest(s), no partying.
“We can have some fun time with our daughter, have good conversations, tell stories and tales, crack some jokes and yet teach her valuable life lessons,” he said.
Asked how the period has impacted his marriage, he said, “I now pay closer attention to domestic issues especially those that have to do with my daughter.”
‘I help with chores’
Naturally, most women enjoy seeing their husbands—now homebound—assist with house chores so as to make them see how much domestic work they do.
This is not uncommon to see in the homes of recently wedded couples.
However, the shelter-place period is seemingly bringing new sides of couples regardless of how long they have been married.
For Saheed Ademola, 26, assisting his wife with some house chores is no big deal but a gesture of love.
“As a businessman in Lagos, I hate that I don’t have enough time to assist with domestic work. But now that I have the opportunity to partake in it, I must assist her,” he said.
This effort is also mirrored by some married men.
For Shakirat Adetona, 34, a Quantity Surveyor, sharing chores with her husband has reduced her workload, which was divided between working from home and taking care of the family.
“It is not easy working from home when you have a kid to look after but my husband has been helpful in sharing chores with me. He is trying his best on this,” she said.
“My husband helps sometimes but not for long,” another respondent, Temilola Andrew, told PREMIUM TIMES.
But for Mr Abubakar, he wouldn’t assist in doing domestic work because “I’m lazy in that area and we have a house help.”
‘I cook, babysit’
Like many who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES, Poto Rahman believed the stay-at-home order has helped family bonding and enriched spousal relationships.
He said there is an uptick in family time spent together and in domestic duties he has involved himself with.
“I’ve had more time with my family in the last few days than ever and I’ve been involved in more domestic duties.
“I’m now tasked with the responsibility of making breakfast and I spend more time babysitting than before,” he said.
‘I miss social life’
The lockdown has put a strain on all social events in the three states—Lagos, Ogun, and FCT— as large gatherings have long been banned to slow the pace of the spread of the pandemic.
This also means the closedown of churches, mosques, wedding ceremonies, pubs where social life is at its peak.
As a diplomat working in an embassy in Abuja, Ismail Abiola, 46, has got used to spending the night attending dinners and banquets, due to the nature of his work.
He, nevertheless, enjoys lone family moments at home whenever he can.
In the past two days, this, he said, has been interesting and fun.
But, he misses social life.
“No doubt, family time is the best. I get to discover more about my wife and children.
“Yet, I miss the high-life of social events, dinners we usually organise at work,” he said.
While scientists are scrambling to understand how the virus has killed millions across the globe, couples have been cautioned that there is a likelihood that the virus is present in respiratory droplets and because of this, countries like France have discouraged people from kissing on the cheek.
Some couples are adhering to this precaution but many are finding it hard to live by the ‘no-sex’ rule for long.
To fight off any likelihood of contracting the virus, Mr Oladipo said he and his wife had agreed to abstain from coupling “for now.”
“We observe all-important precautions, not moving around, no shaking of hands and hugging or sex.
“We (do) regular washing of hands, application of hand sanitizer, eating healthy, and maintaining personal hygiene,” he said.
Health experts have said that the practice of social distancing and personal hygiene could make it easy to flatten the curve of the pandemic spread.
Mrs Andrew believes social distancing is unachievable between couples adding that adhering to the ‘no-sex’ rule seems too superficial to deal with.
“Social distancing cannot work between couples. How will one not have sex with one’s spouse because of the fear of contracting one disease? It’s difficult; I cannot do it,” she said.
Asked what measures were being taken to fight the likelihood of an infection, she said, “We just make (sure we) wash our hands frequently and apply our hand sanitiser regularly.”
Like her, many others who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES said they are taking the recommended measures to fight off the virus at home.
Some have even deployed more romantic moves to get their spouses into sticking to the hygienic conditions.
“Whenever my husband returns from work, I make sure he takes his bath and washes his hands thoroughly first before any ‘welcome home hug every weekend,’ said Mrs Adisa whose husband works in Oyo state but lives in Ogun State.
‘Lockdown – matter of life and death’
While many Nigerians have groaned over the pains of being in lockdown, Mr Buhari, in his recent address to Nigerians said the development is a matter of life and death.
He said the containment period is to identify, trace and isolate all individuals that have come in contact with confirmed cases of COVID-19.
“All citizens in these areas (Lagos, Ogun, and FCT) are to stay in their homes. Travel to or from other states should be postponed. All businesses and offices within these locations should be fully closed during this period.
“It is a matter of life and death,” he said.