When our jobs are a secret

It has occurred to me that some parents find it difficult to tell their children exactly what they do for a living.

Have you ever wondered how some parents tell their children what their jobs involve?

“Mum, what does daddy do for a living?” a child may ask the mother. The question may sound simple, but in some homes, an honest answer can easily drive the child to suicide.

“Your father is a hooligan, dear. He is paid to create chaos in football stadiums and political rallies!”

While some careers are easily known and their roles clearly spelt out, there exist other job descriptions difficult to explain to your children.

For instance, it is widely known that lawyers spend their days arguing cases in court. A police officer’s job is to arrest criminals and maintain law and order, while doctors treat the sick, farmers grow our food and teachers dispense knowledge.

Thus, it is easy for children of such professionals to relate with their fathers’ sources of livelihood, and they proudly share this information with their peers.

“My father is a famous attorney at law. He has won several landmark cases,” the lawyer’s daughter might tell her friends at school.

The police officer’s son might proudly recall his father’s involvement in a famous anti-terror operation, while the teacher’s child may brag of the high grades scored under his father’s tutelage.

It is unlikely, however, to hear one child quip: “Buda yangu ni jambazi sugu. He has masterminded several bank heists in this city, and this has made him a celebrity of sorts. Even the police have added him to their list of most wanted people!”

This comment would also be highly unlikely: “My father is a thief who specialises in picking pockets. He is based on Tom Mboya Street, Nairobi, where he spends the day relieving people of their money, jewels, phones and other valuables.”

Lately, I have been wondering how some politicians tell their children what they do. Given that few of our politicos are scandal-free, it is possible that some of their children live in stigma.

Children of fake prophets, conmen and political sycophants may have a difficult time convincing their peers that their parents actually engage in useful work.

The other day, my little angel, Tiffany, was curious to know what I had been doing all day at work. I had arrived home late in the evening and claimed to be too tired for her little games. She just could not understand why, and this is how the conversation went.

“Daddy, why do you always claim to be tired in the evening?” she asked. I informed her that I spend my days working on tough assignments that often drain all my energy. A look of skepticism materialised on her face.

“Lakini si wewe unafanyanga kazi ya ofisi na watu wa ofisi hushinda wameketi chini?” she challenged.

For some reason, many Kenyans believe office workers spend their time tapping at keyboards behind some fancy desks, unlike the fellows in mjengo, farming, mines hafts and similar ventures that demand physical exertion.

Tiffany appears to have bought into this myth.

“I do not just sit down all day, dear. There is plenty of work to do,” I informed her, but she looked far from convinced.

“If it is hard work, do you ever sweat?” she asked innocently, and I almost burst out laughing.

I therefore spent the next few moments narrating the rigors of my job, explaining that mental exertion can be as taxing as physical work. Despite the fancy trappings of my office job, I have to contend with loads of paperwork, a demanding boss who is hard to please, lots of office politics, strict deadlines and the like.

At the end of the day, daddy comes home feeling just as tired and as stressed as the man who spent his day at the quarry or the factory.

Thankfully, I earn an honest living, despite the low pay. It gives me tremendous pleasure to know that my children are proud to associate themselves with their daddy’s source of income.

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career jobs