By Njoki Karuoya and Harold Ayodo
My husband John Thongori and I have just celebrated 16 years of marriage. Ours has been an interesting journey with its share of great and challenging times. I am the outgoing and public person while John is happy to be the opposite. A contented Judy Thongori.
A contented Judy Thongori.
I have got to the point where I will accept feedback from my husband without thinking he is being negative; that if a hairstyle does not suit me, there is only one way to say that. I have also learnt not to ask for an opinion if I cannot handle it.
I have learnt the value of listening and not necessarily responding immediately. I now know that I do not need to verbalise feedback and that there are other ways of communicating.
Most important, I have learnt that I cannot change John any more than he can change me; that there is enough good in the people we are and have become. That is why we married in the first place.
Conflict in our marriage and how to handle it is work in progress for us, but in the meantime, we try to talk out of conflict.
We are both lawyers and have separate offices within the same building from which we lean a lot on each other.
I appreciate the space I have and John’s support in occupying that space. I trust that while John occupies that space, the family’s interest remains supreme.
I derive my energy from my husband John and our children Eric, 14 and Tracy, 12. They are wonderful children and they give us useful feedback. We have instilled in them values and trust they will help them become adults who will enrich this society.
Honesty to them is a virtue; I only wish they could stop sharing more about my age, weight and the extent of the grey hairs on my poor head!
My husband and I do not believe in caning except in extreme cases of indiscipline. When the children break the rule, we communicate displeasure and withhold privileges from them.
We hope to remain communicative and loving to them even in the next stage of life which, we understand, is not easy. One thing we know is that we need to be ahead of the children to manage them out of conflict.
I have always wished I could have more time with the family. I now know that I will have to focus on quality rather than quantity. Where I can combine both, I will happily do so.
Our greatest time together is when we go out of town, which we try to do every school holiday; the time spent together is rewarding.
I am many identities to many people, but the identity I want to take with me to my maker is that of having been a trusted, faithful friend and a loving family person.
But getting that identity is a life long process. In my 20s and 30s, I thought being a professional lawyer meant being lethal, and that Judy the lawyer and Judy the family person were different people. Judy gazes adoringly at her husband John.
Judy gazes adoringly at her husband John.
Society, sadly, made me feel that to be professionally successful, I had to be unattached. A pregnant or breastfeeding professional looked untidy.
But I have grown and I guess society, too, has. I believe the professional front is sustained and energised by the relationships we have. Without my family, I am not me. If my family is not okay, I am not okay and I cannot perform as a professional.
At our first staff meeting this year, I told my colleagues that I perceived them as family people and I asked them to perceive me in the same light.
We need to understand that we all come from families and that work cannot compete with them; so that when one has a sick child or needs to attend a school event, which should take priority.
When people come to work yet they need to be with a child who has a fever, they will not work well; they will simply push paper waiting for time to go home. But if they get time off to nurse the child, they can compensate for that time by being more productive.
The lesson, therefore, is that when a choice has to be made between the two, the family will ultimately win.
I recommend to employers to give space to families in their organisations. Let us hang photos of our loved ones in the offices as they energise us and we feel that our employer cares.
In touch with self
Employees should not be apologetic about their families because it gives them depth and value. Pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and women with teenage children should make them part of their identity when applying for a job.
Defy the stereotype that children will interfere with your work. The Thongori family. From left: Tracy, John, Judy and Eric. Photos: Maxwell Agwanda/Standard
The Thongori family. From left: Tracy, John, Judy and Eric. Photos: Maxwell Agwanda/Standard
Men, too, should not be apologetic about their expectant wives, breastfeeding babies or adult children. They should accept that this is their family.
Let us spare ourselves a generation of unhappy children.
I believe everyone is successful in life. It depends on what one considers success and once you find it, you will wonder what else you were looking for.
My beliefs come from lessons I have learnt on my journey towards and during my 40s. For me, success is being in touch with myself and being faithful to that self.
It has everything to do with the fulfilling relationships one has and not the hours spent in the office or the fat bank balance.
These are only a means to an end; the end being how happy one feels at the end of the day or season.