Nnu Ego, the protagonist of The Joys of Motherhood, comes from a wealthy family, and her first marriage is into another wealthy family. Even wealthy women must work, though, so she still does farm work. But during her second marriage, Nnu Ego is unprepared for life in Lagos, and for the abject poverty she endures through most of her marriage. Because she still thinks like a traditional woman, she expects to work, and she knows the fruits of her labor belong to her husband. But she doesn't know how to negotiate her husband's selfishness, alcoholism, and the way that he simply doesn't fulfill all of his responsibilities as a husband. Nnu Ego struggles, and her family is often on the brink of starvation. Her hopes are placed on her children's futures, and she believes that if she sacrifices for them now, they will take care of her later. But her children are growing up in a westernized culture, and they feel that their hard-earned money belongs to them, no matter how much Nnu Ego sacrificed for them. So Nnu Ego never sees the results of all her sacrifices, and lives and dies in poverty.
Although having many children was a traditional sign of wealth, caring for her offspring impoverishes Nnu Ego throughout her life.
Even though Nnu Ego struggles with poverty all her life because of the number of children she has, she is ultimately a wealthy woman, wealthy in how her children venerate her.