You give birth. No, before giving birth, you search for a house help. She has to be mature enough to take care of children. You prefer someone with kids. They are responsible, you say. One who is not easy on the eyes — sura pasono. Your are solely the one to keep your bed warm. You earned it by the ring on your finger. The search is over. You employ one.
Now you give birth.
You have three months to be with your child before resuming work. A hard earned career. The three months are for you to: breathe, breastfeed, change diapers, wake up at night to lull your child, visit the clinic, host ‘I was in the neighbourhood’ type of guests and set your karura back to factory settings.
Three months are over. They felt like a week. It turns out that you live in a country crippled with debt and it needs to tax your salary for it to achieve its “big agenda”. You go back to your eight to five job.
Thika Road and traffic, one side. You leave your home early juu ya jam, come back home late juu ya jam. And you know there is nothing as tiring as sitting for hours in traffic, right? But who is traffic, you arrive home. Your baby is awake. Your nipples are as well. You chomoa and they latch on. But you are tired. Too tired to watch them suckle or fondle their cheeks or caress their hair. You doze off.
The house help you employed we will call her, henceforth, Aunty.
Aunty becomes the mother now. Somehow. And the next years lest, she pisses you off and you employ another and another till the day your child is able to clean their back without leaving a dry patch at the middle.
But I will assume she is a good one. You let her stay.
Weekdays are for Aunty while weekends are yours with your baby. That is the plan. Your plan.
Aunty spends more time with your child than you will ever spend with them. Time in a stage that is crucial for your child.
Your child begins school. You accompany them because which sane parent misses their child’s first day of school. However, your sane mind reminds you that there are bills to pay, school fees being the new addition, you resume. It was a half day leave.
Tomorrow and other tomorrows to come, Aunty walks your child to school and walks them back home. And you know what happens during a walk, right? Talking happens. Who gets to be the first to hear the singing games taught in school? Who gets to be the first to hear the narration of: oooooneee, twooooo, thireeee? Who gets to be the first to witness your child trying to write their name over homework?
“kazi ya watoto ni kusoma”
You enroll your ten year old child at a boarding school. Class four. Or does class six make it better? What of class eight?
If you want to loose your child, start by taking them to a primary boarding school. The more you keep your child away from you, the more the bond between the two of you dies.
You get to see them during holidays but only when you get home after work. And at times you will take them upcountry to spend the holidays with the grandparents and cousins. There is visiting day, a day supposedly, is a day for your to share a meal and talk candidly with your child. But, however, your child spends most of your time together listening to music from the car and scrolling through your phone, a plate of pilau lying on their thighs cold.
Your child is one to make you proud. They are admitted to another boarding school. Secondary school. Here, it is very unlikely that you know who your child is. They are two personas in one. A whore in school, a priest at home. Your communication, at home, is basic. The usual: “umeshinda ukifanya nini?”, “umesoma leo?”.
It is not that you are a bad parent. You provide the basic needs: food, shelter, clothing and I will add education. But that is just it about you. You are consumed in providing these needs that you forget to provide yourself to your child emotionally.
“mwerevu kama babake”
Your child is now an adult. They are enrolled in a campus miles away from home. This is what they have been waiting for. They have never been happier, that I will tell you. To have the taste of freedom without your eyes prying on them. They have the thirst to explore, to try out new things: not beer but whiskey — beer is for the old, a more exciting sex position than the stone age missionary, a bedsitter bash not a birthday party, smoke and feel irie. And take a break from going to church.
If they are people that the devil loves visiting are college students. And he never wants to leave. Your child is not an exception.
When they come home for the long holidays, they prefer the comfort of their phone caressed by their fingers than you. They find the people behind the screen to understand them better than you do. Your child is assured and feels that they are appreciated and loved by their followers. And it is sad that your child does not realise that these people do not care, at all, about them. It is you that cares but they are conscious dead to realise that.
They block you out of their social media accounts. Wozzap to start with. They would rather keep you at bay because they are afraid that you will not understand or rather be embarrassed of the character they portray.
And that is why when you hear your child has robbed a bank or killed someone or murdered because they had an affair with someone’s husband, you will confidently say, mtoto wangu hawezi fanya kitu kama hiyo.
Mtoto wako mgani?
Two weeks ago, someone asked me this:
“would you sacrifice your dreams and your love for art, for the sake of taking care of your children? Help and support them achieve their dreams. Be there for them every step of the way, until the time they are stable enough to fend for themselves. Be present in their lives, a big chunk emotionally. Would you allow your husband, their father, be your — the children and you — provider? Then after, pursue your dreams or better, continue from where you left off?”
I honestly replied:
“I don’t know.”