Reflections on fatherhood: I wish I was poor...but with lots of money


As you work hard for a better life, please cherish the current moments; they may be your family’s best life and precious memories.

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I wish I can remain poor but have a lot of money.

This contradictory wish reminds me of a journalist from an international media house who once visited Kenya. He wanted to personally witness the poverty in Kibera which he had heard about incessantly.

In his confession, he always thought poverty means an inability to buy a second car. But what he saw was outrageous; he hadn’t contemplated an entire settlement without such basics as water and sanitation.

However, he saw something else he had never seen in his affluent suburbs in London: Happiness.

The sight of hordes of children playing and laughing took him by a big surprise as did the camaraderie among the women, grooming and braiding each other’s hair amid hearty chitchats.

This happiness was a non sequitur he couldn’t come to terms with. What the hell were such poor people so happy about?

I grew up in a grass-thatched hut. When upgrading it to a mabati roof, we had to shift for a couple of days into a small “cube” of our elder brother.

Squeezing ourselves into a tiny room, cooking, and chatting away the evenings in that humble setting remains one of the best highlights of my life. I still recall fondly that for once I shared a bed with my Dad!

The above memories were reawakened recently when a wealthy lady visited me recently in search of a holiday package. She wanted the most exotic location irrespective of the cost.

She has two sons and a daughter whom she was missing dearly. They are all financially independent and she has not been able to bring them together in the house for almost three years.

The only thing that would lure them to a reunion is an extraordinary destination.

We reserved two twin rooms, one for her and the daughter and the other one for the sons. When they all accepted the holiday offer, she called me to share her excitement and anticipation. She couldn’t wait for the date, much still, to share a room with her daughter. Again!

As a writer, I was reading beyond the headlines. This client was using money to recreate poverty. She was missing the time they shared a roof with her children with whom they are now estranged by affluence.

As I mused over the philosophy of ‘family poverty’, I reflected on my younger children, Muthoni and Nathan, who are always playing with their peers in our compound. Sharing bicycles, playing hide and seek, skating, and other repertoires.

I find it ironic that all this social wealth is available to them courtesy of their father’s poverty. Had my dream come true, I would have outgrown a communal apartment into a private villa in those exclusive addresses.

Think about it for a moment.

In your rented bedsitter today, children fight over the TV remote and sleep on the sofa. Your children and their cousins sleep on the floor when there are visitors and you squeeze the whole family in your small car or matatu when travelling. These experiences make you feel inadequate and curse poverty.

As you work hard for that bigger house and family car, please cherish those moments while they last. It may be your family’s best life and precious memories which your children may later reminisce with nostalgia.

Soon, the children may all have private bedrooms and TVs; they will even own personal cars and houses. But watch out that this success does not starve your soul and you start longing for the moments you quarrelled over bread and toothpaste in one small house.

The dearest family bonds and social connections sometimes germinate in adversity. There is a possibility that poverty is underrated.