Step mum from hell: Life became unbearable when our father married second wife
Lack of fatherly love almost made Joel Ochieng' lose control of his life. He narrates to The Nairobian why he chose to forgive him and move on with his life.
What do you remember about your childhood?
I am the first born in a family of two. I was raised in Eldoret where my father was a tailor. By then, our family was stable since my father could be awarded tenders to make branded clothes for state agencies. But in 2000 when I was four, my father started suffering from a disease similar to ‘chicken-pox’ though doctors couldn’t ascertain what it was. That was the beginning of our troubles as a family.
What happened next?
We returned to Oyugis in Homa Bay County to a small ‘simba’ my father had built when he was a young man. The little my father could do was eat and sleep. He couldn’t even take a shower by himself so my mother had to do all this for him. Life became so hard for us.
And how did you survive…
My mother would weed or farm at other people’s farms for Sh200 a day. Since I was too young to work, I would be left home to look after my father. We had to survive on a single meal or even miss meals whenever my mother couldn’t find a kibarua. In 2006, my father got healed and something unfortunate happened - he started searching for another wife.
How was it for you?
I was in class four and returning home not to find my father to help with homework was disgusting. When I needed his assistance, he wasn’t there and that made me grow up being bitter about him since he was never around to take care of us. I didn’t want to associate myself with him at all because of the insults he would hurl at me when he could pass by home.
Was the step-mum receptive?
No. Anything little, like money, that our father was setting aside for us to clear school fees could offend her and she could fight our mother all the time.
She wasn’t good to us since we lived in the same compound. At the end of 2012, she left home because she realised our father was practicing wife inheritance and she didn’t have him for herself as she had thought.
All through were you talking to your dad?
We rarely spoke because our step-mum came in between us. I was also trying to stay away from him to avoid his insults and intimidation every time we met. However bad it got, I never reacted physically but I had thoughts of leaving home if the conditions couldn’t change.
When was your turning point?
In 2015, before I joined campus, I had a conversation with my mother that changed my mind set. I decided to forgive and forget all that had been done to me.
Although I was still bitter that I had to hold a harambee to join school yet my father had money to pay, I was focused to stay away from pain.
Do you now talk to your father?
Yes. In 2017, he started calling me and sending me pocket money - something I never expected. We are in good terms and he returned home to provide and take care of the rest of us. It was never easy to accept him at first but we have learnt to live well with him.
What lessons have you learnt so far?
First, one needs strength to face problems that are in our lives. Without a thick skin, one won’t make it. Secondly, forgiveness also heals the offended person, so let’s learn how to forgive people as soon as they wrong us.