Felicia Maimako's life seemed poised for a fall. Emerging from two failed marriages wasn't what she had envisioned for herself. Now, she had children with different fathers who had left her when it suited them.
Perceiving herself as an average businesswoman and under family pressure to leave home and pursue a better life, she found solace in a man who would eventually become her husband.
"I met the father of my child when I was 20. We dated for four years and got married in Kurudu in Abuja. After our marriage, I conceived and gave birth to a child," she said.
Maimako's husband had promised to lift her family out of poverty, which had sounded like an amazing idea to her.
Before this turn of events, as a young woman, her life revolved around helping her family sell their farm produce and hawking food in the streets of Kurudu. She hadn't had the opportunity to attend school, and her family's expectations were clear.
"My parents are poor, and I didn't get the opportunity to go to school. All my family expected from me was to learn a skill, generate capital to start a business, or get married," she said.
"I finally found the man of my dreams and got married. My parents were happy with this decision because they believed it was the best for me," she narrated to Prime Progress.
A few months after marriage, her bundle of joy arrived, bringing additional responsibilities for the entire family.
Trashed as nothing
Life and parenting weren't as idyllic as Maimako and her husband had imagined. It turned out to be the most challenging phase of their lives. Overwhelmed by the responsibilities, her husband decided to take a drastic step.
"I would have sworn I was with the right person, but it was all my imagination. My husband just woke up one morning, had a fight with me, and told me he was not interested in me."
Months later, she decided to follow him to his hometown and discovered that he already had a wife with mature children. He had been married before they met.
"It was shameful for me to return home with such stories, so I decided to stay as the second wife. But after a few weeks, I couldn't bear it any longer, because my husband and his first wife made life unbearable for me, so I left," she narrated to Prime Progress.
Back in Abuja, she persevered and did everything in her power to provide for herself and her infant. Soon, she found another man who loved her, and they hastily tied the knot. However, she was unaware that her suffering had just begun.
Maimako revealed that her last partner never married her. Instead, she became pregnant with his child, and they were planning to get married when he went on a trip and never returned.
"My second baby is only 6 months old, and her father disappeared when she was about to be born. He said he was going to his village in Nasarawa state to get items for our wedding preparations. He never returned and hasn't answered my calls since," Maimako told Prime Progress.
Maimako's parents eventually realized the hardship their daughter was enduring and provided her with all the support they could offer. She returned to them.
Earning by all means
Yet, Maimako remained determined to make her life count. Every morning, she woke up determined to find legitimate ways to earn a living.
"My life became a mess because I was too naive and submissive to my parents' wishes. I thought having a husband would change my story, but it only got worse. I began moving from house to house around Kurudu and Jikwoyi, looking for people who needed assistance with their household chores," she explained.
This wasn't easy for Maimako, as her baby was only one month old, and they both needed to stay in safe places to avoid illness and harsh weather.
"I had to carry my baby on my back and move around because I needed to earn money. I couldn't leave her at home with my parents because she needed to be fed regularly," Maimako said with a sigh said. "I would go to areas with large houses, knock on people's doors, introduce myself, and explain what I could do."
The young mother revealed that she managed to catch the attention of a few people who called her on weekends to assist with their household chores.
"I do a lot of washing. Sometimes, I work for two different people in a day. I also clean people's houses, although not everyone trusts strangers with such tasks, and I completely understand that," she said.
Maimako noted that this has been her source of livelihood ever since, and from time to time, she also helps her family.
Pushed back but remaining optimistic
As a house help, Felicia has faced numerous challenges, which have taken a toll on her mental health.
"Knocking on people's doors, getting work done with my baby around, and doing it well has proven difficult. But I have no other option; I have to do it. Sometimes, I cry because I see how my children suffer from hunger when they follow me around. At times, I have to stop and breastfeed my baby, which isn't always appreciated by those I work for. So, I often have to improvise, tying her to my chest, feeding her, and working simultaneously," she said.
Maimako admitted to receiving insults from many people she worked for, but she needed the money to provide for her family.
"I enrolled my daughter in school, and it's very challenging to pay her fees. So, I have to endure mistreatment from some people and work as hard as they want. I stand to lose if they dismiss me, so I will continue to remain humble," she exclaimed.
Maimako earns at least 3,000 to 5,000 when she works in a day. Sometimes people give her clothes, food, and leftover detergents, which have been helpful. She is working toward her dream of opening a large laundry shop with employees and becoming the chief consultant there.