Daddy's girls tell it all

There are many circumstances that lead to men being the only parent to their children, and many do an exemplary job at it. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • There are many circumstances that lead to men being the only parent to their children, and many do an exemplary job at it.
  • Death of a mother for example, is a devastating blow to most children.
  • The loss causes an anguish that is beyond words, beyond compare.
  • The agony is even worse for teenage girls as it sets them on a rollercoaster of emotional turmoil which many never completely recover from.

Father's Day was celebrated world over on June 17 but fathers who double in the roles of a mother to their children deserve twice the recognition, twice the appreciation and twice the praise.

There are many circumstances that lead to men being the only parent to their children, and many do an exemplary job at it. Death of a mother for example, is a devastating blow to most children.

The loss causes an anguish that is beyond words, beyond compare. The agony is even worse for teenage girls as it sets them on a rollercoaster of emotional turmoil which many never completely recover from.

Fathers, therefore, have to roll up their sleeves to raise their daughters. But, are daughters raised by fathers different from those raised by both parents?

Do they always adopt masculine mannerisms as most people believe? Are they spoilt brats? What are other misconceptions associated with such women?

Four women, three women who lost their mothers earlier in life and one whose mother was away on business, narrate their experiences on what it is like to be brought up solely by a father, and how this has influenced their behaviour and choices in life.


Ruth Matete is a gospel artist. She was born in Kakamega County. From the age of seven, Ruth was brought up by her dad when her mother passed on.

“As young as I was, he tried to explain to me what death meant, and that mum would not be with us anymore. He worked day and night to ensure that I never felt my mother’s void in terms of care. He was just very present.

I have not known any other life besides growing up with my father. Maybe being raised by my mother would have turned out differently, just maybe. I really miss her, and wish she were alive to see the woman I have become.

Growing up with my father was mostly fun. But he never spared the rod. While most people tend to imagine that kids brought up by a single parent, especially a father, turn out to be wayward, discipline was paramount in our house.

The most outstanding experiences was when Dad woke up early every morning to make breakfast and get me ready for school. During the national examinations, he would walk me to school just to calm my nerves down.

There were sad moments though, when he travelled to the US for work. Being an only child, I did not have so much company, so to speak.

It always felt lonely. Over the years though, I got used to his routine because every year he had to travel outside the country for work engagements.

Misconceptions abound about children brought up by single parents. Some imagine, for instance, that we always have a way with our parents.

Other people assume that children who do not have siblings are spoilt and always get what we want seeing as there is no one to compete with. But this is not always the case.

I believe parenting skills are personal. Each parent knows what works for them and applies those to raise disciplined children.

The biggest influence from my father was the spirit of resilience. He is the type of person who persists, despite setbacks, until something works out.

There are instances when I have felt low, but Dad always encouraged me to keep fighting until the dark cloud passed.

Most importantly, I am proud of Dad for introducing me to Jesus Christ at an early stage. I have a conviction that my life experiences have been shaped by Christianity; my life has been because God has been. Having been raised in godliness is the primary reason why I did not turn out to be wayward despite constant and overwhelming temptation to become errant.

That is not to say that I am perfect, but I am the woman I am today because of God.

I celebrate my father for raising me in love, and for teaching me the ways of God”.



“I am the fifth born girl in a family of seven children, born in Kakamega County. My mother lost the battle to c

ancer in 2003 when I was only 12 years old. At the time, my elder siblings had left home. Being a girl approaching puberty, I needed her the most, but my dad took up the role gracefully, raising my two younger siblings and I despite his disability and other chronic financial difficulties. 

We had not spent any meaningful time together as he was then a civil servant working at the Attorney General’s Office and living in Nairobi, only coming home a few times in the year and would only stay around for a week, sometimes less.

So when my mother passed on, he came back home to take care of us. He strongly opposed to the idea of relatives having to care of us. It was a difficult getting used to him, especially for me because I had just approached puberty.

My dad cleaned and cook for us.  The Luhya community which I come from is very patriarchal,and he was ridiculed for doing domestic chores. Nevertheless, he took all the slurs with humility and determination.

Dad was a very strict disciplinarian and made us work hard both on our farm and in our academics. He later sent me to Bunyore Girls to boarding school, sacrificing his retirement benefits which were soon exhausted.

He would pay school fees and shop for us and dispatch us to school on our own, saying he wanted us to be independent. Visiting days were the toughest, when sometimes he would come other times he would not show up. And even when he came, he had little niceties to bring me. I was then too young to understand his circumstances, but now I understand his was beyond unconditional love for me.  

After High School, I earned a scholarship to study a degree in English literature at Kenyatta University. 

I learnt how to cook, clean and take care of our home from him. My dad’s emphasis on education saw me complete my university education despite the difficulties and I will soon be travelling to the US to start my Master degree in English. He has been the reference point in my life, who also shaped my identity. 

He passed on in 2014 after a short illness and while things had been difficult without my mother, things took a complete tumble for my siblings and I.

My graduation ceremony was nothing worth writing home about; with only a handful of relatives and without my parents.  I would have desired for dad to witness the success he had worked so hard to see me attain, but obviously God had other plans.

I am nevertheless thankful for the time I spent with him. What I have today and the person I have become is because of the strict moral code that he inculcated in us. Everything I undertake today is my tribute to him.

As other people celebrate their fathers, I celebrate mine with gratitude and joy.”



Riziki, the last born in a family of four children is a final year journalism student at the University of Nairobi. She is a fashion designer and also blogs about development on the continent during her free time.

“My siblings and I were largely raised by our father. My mother is a businesswoman who was mostly out of the country for business and only came home fortnightly.

It was very normal to grow up under the care of my father, who gave us an almost ideal world of compassion, wisdom and patience in which to thrive.

As a child, I did not notice any difference or peculiarity until other kids pointed it out. Unlike other children in the neighbourhood, we were not, for instance, allowed to watch TV during week days. We were also required to study before meals, and we religiously conformed to this. 

After the week in school, my siblings and I took catechism classes on Saturday before attending the Mass on Sunday. We then took lunch together after church and played while dad read his newspapers. Such was the strict schedule in our house.

At home, dad treated us equally, boys and girls alike.  This only changed when we visited our grandparents who excused my brothers from some chores. We also had the leeway to negotiate about various decisions at home; Dad was always willing to listen to my viewpoint. He was not the usual harsh father but someone you could easily talk to. It is an experience I savour to date.

My father was a disciplinarian but very patient with us. When things went wrong, he preferred to sit me down for a tough talk to corporal punishment unlike most parents during the time.

I don’t believe there is any difference between children who are brought up by both parents and those raised solely by their dads. While the traditional family set-up of mother and father is beautiful and more practical, I think the ability of a parent, whether father or mother to raise a responsible girl is based on the parent’s virtues and the sacrifices they make for the child. It is not a question of whether both parents are present.

Did my dad help to configure my worldview? Hands down, he is my greatest influence. Not merely because of him being a man, but by being a human being that I admire a lot. I am, for instance, a feminist, just like he is. My dad believed in leading a simple lifestyle and just like him, I am not influenced by a flamboyant consumer culture exhibited by most women my age. I only spend money on something that I cannot do without. I’m not a stingy, just minimal. I am also not a tomboy as most imagine.

My upbringing definitely taught me how to think like a man as I act like a woman. I easily understand male conversations and lines of thought. I always look in male dates for a reflection of my father; his calmness, cheer and patience. It is hard to compromise”.




Carren is a flight reservations officer at Wilson Airport. The last born in a family of four girls describes her upbringing in Nairobi as nothing out of the ordinary.

“I lost my mother when I was five years old, too young to understand what was going on. I have, therefore, grown up entirely around dad who was working at the Ministry of Lands as a cartographer (map maker).

While there was immense pressure from both family and friends for to him to remarry, he chose instead to raise his daughters, by trying to fit into the shoes of our late mother. 

My eldest sister was fifteen when mum passed on but dad was always there emotionally for us all. He was quiet but very tough. Later when my sisters left home, dad played the role of mother and father at the same time, waking up early to prepare me for school before leaving for work.  He would then pick me from school and prepare dinner for the two us. He never failed to come to see me during school visiting days.

There were however occasional awkward moments during my teenage life. Introducing my first boyfriend to him was not easy. I introduced him as a friend. Explaining to my school friends that I did not have a mother was difficult for me. I kept mentioning Dad in our conversations, which made some of them wonder if I hated my mum since she hardly featured in my talks.

There were also out bursts, definitely because of my raging hormones. Whenever things boiled over between my father and I, he would reach out to my closest aunt to talk to me. But having elder sisters helped to navigate my teenage with less turbulence, so I did not have to bother him a lot.

Milestones have always been emotive moments for our family. My graduation in July 2017, for instance, coincided with the month my mother departed. Dad was too emotional; seeing how successfully he had raised me to become who I am.  

But it is his service to God that is beyond reproach. He was very troubled when mum passed on; leaving him with four girls to mind, but he sought solace in God. He has been an elder at his church until recently. Missing church was, therefore, considered a crime in our household. He is always inclined to assist someone who is in need, and I thus learnt the value of generosity from him.

It is also from dad that I learnt the value of a strong family unit. He insisted on keeping us even as our aunts fought to take us away after our mother’s departure. We are a very compact family to date, and he always reminds us that we are his support system.

In terms of security, I still live with my father and he is the only person whom I can call while in distress and be assured of instant support. He has pampered me to date, which feels awkward sometimes.

I don’t feel deficient in any way, but sometimes I am tempted to imagine how different life would have been growing up with mum. I spent the shortest time with her before she passed on.

Mothers take the most credit for what they do for their families, but there are also dads who do equally amazing things, sometimes behind the curtains, and who deserve to be equally celebrated and acknowledged, but who get less recognition. I celebrate my dad.”


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