The rise of ‘Mumamas’: Why older women are dating younger men

An older woman in a relationship with a younger man.

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When Emmanuel Macron’s relationship with Brigitte Trogneux, a French former educator, came to light in 1993, it shocked the world.   

At 15, the now French President Macron was infatuated with his high school teacher, Ms Trogneux, who by then was married with three children. Years later, the two started an affair pushing Trogneux to divorce her husband - she was 54 years old, he was 29 years old. 

French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron. 

Photo credit: File | AFP

The norm in society is that men date or marry younger women and women date or get married to older men. But the narrative has changed. The older women dating younger men, popularly known as cougars, or closer home, Aunty wa Harrier, or more recently, ‘Mumamas’, have made the dating world more competitive.

This woman is unmistakable, gold, a freshly-installed wig, well-manicured nails, and chunky physical features. These women are usually in their 40s and above, and are financially well of, and in need of affection, physical and otherwise, making them quite a hit with a growing number of young men who would rather be kept than work for a living.  

“They are loving and our biggest fans. They are our biggest supporters financially and they have no drama and slowly you end up falling for them without even knowing it,” Anthony Francis, 28* (not his real name), currently dating a 50-year-old woman says. 

 They say everyone has the right to love whomever they want. With that, older women have embraced the notion of choosing younger men for varying reasons

“These boys are very fine and energetic. Every woman my age wants such a lively man to be around. They are physically fit, youthful, and have a flattering nature. They tend to add a touch of excitement, delight, and vigour into our lives.

"I don’t regret dating a 20-year-old man because they reconnect us with our youth and bring some freshness into our mundane lives. Bedroom encounter expectations are highly active and this increases their attractiveness,” says Jane Desmond, 48*, (not her real name) currently dating a 26-year-old man.

Older women, younger men relationships are becoming common in Kenya.

In 2003, Peter Mbugua made history when he married the late Wambui Otieno, who was 42 years older than him.

Wambui Otieno, 67, after marrying Peter Mbugua, 25, in 2003. Their marriage stoked debate due to their 42-year age difference.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

This was historical because she was the first older woman in Kenya to get out of the closet and declare such a forbidden relationship publicly. A few years later, another glamorous 51-year-old woman referred to as a real estate tycoon in Kenya married a 24-year-old man.

Whilst these two cases made headlines in Kenya, it has become a common thing in the society where the narrative has changed in a way that older women are going with younger men.

Traditionally, psychologists say that relationships between the opposite sex were for procreation and financial stability, however, in modern society, with a growing number of empowered women, relationships are no longer for those purposes.

“Things have changed in the modern age in that women today are looking for companionship, love, and stuff that money cannot buy. I have handled a number of counselling sessions where older women vent out on how they desperately long for companionship, emotional support, and attention they lack in their old age marriage. When a woman reaches her 40s, it is very difficult to get dates from men their age, so when approached by younger men, they are receptive and want to be loved,’ says Dorcas Munene a counselling psychologist.

In our society, an older woman is vilified for dating a younger man. 

“You are wasting his youthfulness and using him for sex. Go get a man of your age and marry,” social media posts taunt such women.

But the real question is, why are older women dating younger men? Has society given older women enough non-judgmental forums to express why they choose that way?

A number of women tell us why they decided to get younger men by penning down their thoughts to the public.     

‘I am attracted to his sexual stamina’

Mary Njeri, *, Bank director, Early-40s

attractive black man

"Mine was love at first. I was captured by his smile and physical appearance and I remember telling my girlfriends that I wouldn’t mind getting to know the boy."

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I don’t regret meeting my ‘toy boy’, who is in his late 20s five years ago at a friend’s party. Mine was love at first. I was captured by his smile and physical appearance and I remember telling my girlfriends that I wouldn’t mind getting to know the boy. Little did I know this would lead to friendship, and with time, grow to deep love. Surprisingly, he resembles my son’s complexation and character, and I think this unconsciously attracted me to him. I know my cheating hurts, but my husband is always busy with work and he has no time for me.

Due to this, our sex life is affected and we can go for months without getting intimate yet we live in the same house. I love sex and I have a desire for more, but he has not been there and despite raising the issue, he always tell me to wait until both of us are in the mood. At 48, I understand it’s natural for him to have gradual decrease in sex drive but unfortunately this started way back while we were newly married. Though I have been patient all through in our 15-year marriage, hoping that he would change, I gave up five years ago. I never thought I would cheat on him but my patience has run out.

Though I still love him for the support he has given my son of 25, I have been looking for a man that would satisfy my sex drive. Luckily, I found a young man who is ready to meet this need and I don’t mind spending anything on him. I love how he spoils me with love and he has more to offer sexually compared to my husband. I have a big appetite for sex, very big, and I might want to do it like five times a day especially during my off day and my husband can’t stand it.

My husband hardly has time for me and even at home he is always busy receiving calls, yet he has people to manage his business. I have kept the affair very private by ensuring I have a separate phone which I use to communicate with my lover. I wouldn’t want my son to know this as he might judge me harshly, considering he is his age mate.

I understand that my boyfriend would want to settle in marriage, and I am okay with that, but we have agreed that the relationship will still continue. The man is in college pursuing an engineering course and I pay his fees and meet his bills. I bought him a car recently on his birthday and he was so happy.

Honestly, ‘who wouldn’t mind having such a woman’ he always asks me. I have rented him a house because of privacy where we meet. I am his best friend and I always advise him as I would to my son. I wouldn’t want to be pregnant for him because eventually my husband may know and so I am on centraceptives.

I will not leave my husband but it’s clear in mind that I am not ready to drop the affair because this man gives me sex which I have been denied at home.”

‘I want to feel youthful’

Regina Mhabashi *, Businesswoman, Early-50s

young black man singing

"On that day, he was performing in the concert and I was captured by his voice and dance moves and I recall committing myself to producing his music at no cost."

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I cherish the 30-years of marriage we have had together with my husband in his 50s and our two children between 20 and 25. I met my husband in church, and he has fully demonstrated his loyalty in how he takes care of our children as a father. I regret cheating on him and sometimes it pains me that I broke our marriage vows but, I have a strong urge to feel youthful and I can’t just let it go.

I met my lover in his late 20s, two years ago in a music concert I had attended. I love music and I have invested in the entertainment business and hence, I can spot good talent from afar. On that day, he was performing in the concert and I was captured by his voice and dance moves and I recall committing myself to producing his music at no cost. After the concert, we made a contract that I would invest in his music career and in return he would give me 20 percent of the earnings he gets. In my mind, I never thought that eventually, I would have an affair with him because he might as well have been my son.

I accompanied him in most concerts, and day by day, his flattering nature captured my heart. He always complimented me and made me feel so youthful, something that my husband doesn’t do. I think as we have aged, my husband forgot that I still need to feel loved. 

One day my boyfriend invited me to his house and he told me how he was deeply attracted to me. At first, I couldn’t believe it as I viewed myself as old. What started as a business contract ended up growing into deep love. He has resurrected my youth and I am totally enjoying it.

I wouldn’t want my husband to know and so I often tell him that I am going for long business trips and use this moment to enjoy moments with my boy. I have rented him a house and I cater for his bills and he promised never to cheat on me. He has plans to marry in future and I am okay with that but we made a vow to never end our affair.

At times, I want to quit the affair because I wouldn’t imagine my son dating someone of my age. I feel selfish and this affects me psychologically. Early this month, I thought of going for counseling sessions to deal with the issue, but it’s a big struggle to leave my boyfriend because I have become so addicted to him since he is fulfilling my desire to be youthful. I might leave the relationship someday because I am not at peace with myself, but I must admit it’s a big struggle for me.

‘I want to be in charge of the relationship’

Caroline Sendo*, Lawyer, Early-50s

young black working man

"It is never a big concern what my neighbours think of me, but those who are close to me think I am mentoring the man in his career as he is also a lawyer who I recruited to my law firm two years ago."

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I am a divorcee and a mother of twins in their 30s. After 10 years of marriage, I discovered that my husband had been having multiple affairs. A gut-wrenching and painful divorce followed later that left our daughters broken.

Not only did I have to live without a family structure, I had to face a new identity as a single mother. The break up was extremely hurting because it represented the loss, not just of the partnership, but also of the commitments and dreams we shared. This painful experience fueled my passion to date a young man as a way to guard my heart and be in charge of the relationship.

I met my lover in his 20s five years ago through a mutual friend who knew of my painful divorce experience and apparently she was also dating a young man. She often told me how her heart had been at peace since she started dating a 26-year-old man, and kept telling me that she doesn't care what people say or think of her dating a man who is half her age. At first, I never gave it a thought but she kept on insisting, and with time, I gave it a try.

Dating a younger man helps me to hold the reins of the relationship within my hands. The man never questions what I do and is always there for me emotionally. He values my input in the relationship and he consults me for important advice regarding life. I am the decision maker and I don’t have to be enslaved in a toxic relationship where the man dictates everything. Currently, the man is not dating though he has future plans of marrying which we have discussed.

I am okay with him having a future because mine is just having fun and enjoying life. We have an agreement that the relationship will not end even when he marries, but I will give him space when he is with his wife. Since my daughters are married, I stay alone, and so, I often invite him to my house.

It is never a big concern of what my neighbours think of me, but those who are close to me think I am mentoring the man in his career as he is also a lawyer who I recruited to my law firm two years ago. So even when my daughters find him in the house, they think we are discussing legal matters.

He earns twice the amount that other employees at his level earn. I have also mentored him and I always refer him to clients, hence building his brand. I am glad to be his advisor and nurturer. I have had peace since I met him and would never imagine dating a man of my age.

‘I am looking for emotional support’

Lydia Musinga, an Entrepreneur, Early 40s

young black chef

"He is a chef and I enjoyed the meal, and at some point I thought, ‘who wouldn’t mind waking up to a sumptuous breakfast in bed once in a while."

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I am grateful for the 15-years of marriage we have had together with my husband, who is in his late 40s. I am always fulfilled when I see our two sons between ages five and 10 and we are committed to giving them the best. I know my cheating may hurt my husband but he is never there for me emotionally and this hurts me. I have tried raising the issue for more than a decade now but he keeps on telling me that I should embrace him as he is.

I always long to have a deeper emotional connection with my husband but it’s been hard. I crave conversations and adoration but my husband works long hours, leaving me with kids. He has a very busy schedule as a manager and we rarely have time together. I have been patient all through, but it’s been hard to bear this neglect. I felt lonely and isolated and as a result, I started looking for someone to meet my unmet need and at this point I landed on a 25-year-old man who I met at a restaurant I had visited for lunch. He was an employee there. He had a great sense of humour, was very good-looking and talked Swahili spoken at the Coat, which I find very enticing.

He is a chef and I enjoyed the meal, and at some point I thought, ‘who wouldn’t mind waking up to a sumptuous breakfast in bed once in a while... We exchanged contacts and our friendship started growing. I fell in love with him so deeply that I couldn’t imagine he was much younger than me.

I love the emotional attention he gives me and I can’t trade that with anything else. I never imagined I would date a younger man, but my desire for emotional support made me vulnerable. I wouldn’t want my husband to know about the affair as this would deflate his ego. I don’t mind helping my boyfriend financially because I enjoy the deep connection we have. Often, we meet in hotels far from Nairobi where we take drives together.

Currently, the man is not dating and we are enjoying every day as it comes. I wouldn’t mind him settling down in marriage someday but we have agreed to end the relationship as soon as he marries because I can’t imagine sharing him with any other woman.