What you need to know:
- While I was growing up, I don't recall discussing many topics with my mother.
- This prompted me to find ways of creating an environment where my children feel comfortable discussing anything with me.
- Striking a balance between being a friend and an authoritative figure is crucial. They must recognise that, above all, I am their parent.
Hellen Njeri Mwangi, wife of renowned politician and activist Boniface Mwangi, has shared details into her life, marriage, parenting, and the challenges of navigating a digital world. Speaking in this exclusive interview,’ Njeri shared her views and understanding of Boniface Mwangi’s activism, saying she only worries for his safety.
The mother of three shared her reservations about vying for office in a society she views as being irreparably divided along tribal lines, emphasising the importance of issue-based politics and integrity. Njeri also talked about her academic background, having studied public relations and mass communication. She currently runs Pawa-254, an art space for creatives
1: Your children are growing up real fast, what’s your experience with parenting in the Digital Age?
It has been a journey. It’s more like I need to parent myself all over again even though I am now a parent myself.
They boldly ask questions, some of which I don’t anticipate at all. I find it challenging to provide guidance on certain matters. You need to be totally honest and admit when you don't have all the answers, and you also have to encourage them to come to you, the parent, with any queries they may have.
While I was growing up, I don't recall discussing many topics with my mother. This prompted me to find ways of creating an environment where my children feel comfortable discussing anything with me. Striking a balance between being a friend and an authoritative figure is crucial. They must recognise that, above all, I am their parent. That’s a very delicate balance.
Being very strict with children can sometimes backfire, as they are bound to seek alternative information elsewhere without your knowledge.
2: You recently celebrated 17 years in marriage, how has the journey been?
It's been filled with challenges, just like any other relationship. I hesitate to label ours as entirely unique. Eventually, it boils down to two individuals. Disagreements are inevitable, sacrifices have to be made by both parties. What has proven effective for us is the art of compromise and the ability to agree to disagree while recognising that we are still united. During moments of heated arguments, it may feel like we're on opposite sides, and the words exchanged may not reflect unity. However, it is crucial to hold on to the awareness that deep down, we are on the same team.
In marriage, there are instances where one may contribute 10 per cent, and the other gives 90 per cent. The key is finding a harmonious middle ground, aiming for a balanced 50-50 where neither person feels overwhelmed. Learning to give each other space and offering unwavering support is essential.
Taking individual time alone is also crucial, but you also have to incorporate your spouse and children into that time, bearing in mind that each member of the family is unique, and with distinct needs.
3: So, are you raising your children differently from how your parents raised you?
I feel like our parents had an easier time, but on the other hand, every generation has its challenges. Back then, information mostly came from church and school. Things were a lot more controlled than they are right now. My children can track me on their phone and know exactly how far I am. They can decide to switch off their location and when I call, they can lie about it. Sometimes it is very hard to be ahead of your children, but you need to trust them and let them know that they can ask you about anything. That is key.
4: Tell us about some of your toughest moments in marriage…
When he ran for office in 2017, that was very hard, as was living apart for nine months. These two circumstances presented significant challenges to our family, and our children didn't understand what was happening.
5: Do you enjoy being married to an activist, and would you vie for political office?
I am just a wife who is never caught by surprise with what he does because we mostly do these things together. I am only surprised by what he would say, but not what he is doing and I think that is because I almost always know why he is doing it. I just always hope that he comes home safe.
I would never run for office. In a different dispensation, if people were more about issue-based politics, maybe I would. Our society is so divided along tribal lines. It is a beautiful thing but it has been weaponised and we follow popular people without caring about our integrity and justice, or the records of the persons we elect. I don't want to ever find myself standing beside questionable people.