Lessons from mum on wifehood

Mother and daughter

I have learned and unlearned a lot from the dysfunction of my parents' marriage.

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • You must never allow anyone to take away your joy and purpose in life.
  • Love you first in order to love another truly.

A mother is she who can take the place of all others but whose place no one else can take. Cardinal Mermillod (1824- 1892)

I lost mine on the eve of my 17th birthday, but not before I picked many lessons from her about life and wifehood.

Mami was raised by a courageous, hard-working woman. My grandmother is the only woman of her age from my county that I know of who acquired land, in her name in the mid-1960s. My grandmother’s young husband died in Manyani soon after joining the Mau Mau, leaving her with toddlers.

Juuju refused to remarry and instead chose to take her children to school and join the men as they queued for land allocation. Many insults and mistreatments later, she did get her piece of land. A warrior who raised her children all on her own, I celebrate her this Mother’s Day.

Mami was her eldest daughter, who in her own right set trends. But her marriage was a nightmare. My parents left a legacy of pain and abuse in their short lived union. We – my siblings and me - have had to be intentional about healing from our childhood ghosts. From the dysfunction that was their marriage, I have learned and unlearned a lot from Mami.

If a marriage is abusive in any way, leave and let live. We are gifted life to flourish and live abundantly, whether married or not. You must never allow anyone to take away your joy and purpose in life. Mami left, sought a divorce, lived and flourished.

Love you first in order to love another truly. Just before her death, Mami remarried her ex-husband. It was as sudden as her accidental death a few months later. I was too angry to understand what was going on. All I remember was that on the day that the car knocked her off the road, she had a sling on her arm, resulting from a broken arm from one of their numerous infamous violent exchanges.

Happy moments

Maybe she did not grow up with a father’s love and devotion and ended up seeking it from her husband. But from her experience, I have learned that love starts with self, for self, and from within. Until a wife gets that right, her husband can only love her as she loves herself. With a healthy dose of self-love, I believe Mami would never have tolerated or gone back into an abusive relationship.

The more you work, the more you learn, the more you earn. As a wife, you cannot be a parasite and expect respect. Mami always had a venture. From formal employment to commercial farming to clothing business, she did it all. We were raised in a farm where there was poultry, cattle, coffee, fruits and businesses in the town centre that she was running. She was probably amongst the first women in our locality to own a car, a handy land rover. Poverty was not acceptable to her. She taught me that a wife does not sit back and wait for the husband to provide.

“Your work is your first husband,” Mami once told me as we stood in line at the coffee factory. I was too young to understand this, but now that I am a wife, I know that a beggarly attitude strips you of self-esteem. Relying on one income will keep a family in perpetual lack. Not utilising one’s talents and skills to contribute to the family wallet is lazy and sinful. Even the Holy Bible says so!

Face the demons head-on. In their happy moments, my parents would dance. I can still hear Skeeter Davies and Jim Reeves country ballads playing away in their gramophone. Those were truly happy moments for us all. To date, we reminiscence and cannot help but wonder, wouldn’t it have all turned out so wonderful if they had faced their demons head-on and sought healing? How lovely it would be today to take their grandchildren to them so that they can teach them the twist dance.

Be bold, question the norms. In a patriarchal society, this is bound to get you in trouble, but often, it is the right way. Mami took the unbeaten paths. It is only when she conformed that she lost her way.

Karimi is a wife who believes in marriage. [email protected]

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