For better or worse: Brave dad stood by his blind and alcoholic wife and 13 children
Ann Mburu, a counseling psychologist, author and motivational speaker tells The Nairobian about overcoming poverty and shame.
How was it growing up in a big family?
My parents gave birth to 13 of us! Interestingly, we are grouped into clusters because we were all not born in the same place. I belong to the cluster of those born in Narok County.
What do you remember about life back then?
Abject poverty and shame. I hated life. My parents were unschooled and that gives you an idea of the kind of jobs they did. We knew how to sleep hungry. We knew the pain of being chased away from people’s houses before they began cooking.
What was your lowest moment as a child?
My mother lost her sight when I was very young. She was a DDO (Daily Drinking Officer). Alcohol was her way of life. Eventually, she went insane as a result of depression. I caught her red handed several times on the verge of committing suicide. The shame of having a blind but a drunkard mother was one of my lowest moments as a child.
How then did you manage to go to school?
All my older siblings had to drop out in primary school. In the 90s,there was no free primary school education. I joined Standard One in 1991 and all through standard eight, being sent home for fee was the order of life! At some point, the headmaster got tired because I would always drag my blind mother to his office to sweet-talk him. Mr Kaigua, my headmaster loved me (I was among the best performing pupils) and would always have me back. In class eight, some tourists came visiting our school and by God’s grace, I was among the kids taken on sponsorship all through to college.
Your mum had an accident that changed many things...
When my mother lost her sight, life came to a complete stop. The confusion on how to handle the new life with a “new” mother, a “new wife” for my father changed everything. My older siblings stopped schooling. Our references also changed. We were now children of a blind woman, a title we wore like a crown.
It must have been tough on your dad…
They say the best gift a father can give his children is to love their mother. This man, Mburu, with all the shame and embarrassment, poverty, a crowd of kids to think about, bravely stood with his wife while he had every reason to leave. Not forgetting he was tall, dark and handsome. He is the strongest man I know. I can only imagine the sleepless nights he endured and the tears he cried in secret when he couldn’t take it anymore. I can only imagine!
Another man would have married a second wife…
I am sure the man in him was screaming for help but he remained strong for us. Today, I am sure he is glad he held on. I am so thankful he didn’t run mad.
How did your mum cope?
After an eye surgery, it was discovered that the damage was irreversible. Going into depression and losing her mind, we were not quite sure she would pull through. Mother told me, she resolved to stay alive, she began by accepting her new self. I got to know this while writing my first book, Rise Above Your Past inspired by my mother's experiences.
What would you change about your childhood?
I would never allow low self-esteem to steal the power to embrace the gift of life. I grew up looking down upon myself. Comparing myself with other girls in high school killed my joy and affected my performance. I cried most of my prep time. The thought of poverty back home and a blind mother occupied my mind. It took years to deal and change my mind set.
How did life pan out for you after university?
I had no idea what I wanted to do when I grew up. I trained in IT because a friend was taking that course. Later, I realised that it was all a waste because that was not my thing. Our school then never offered career guidance. By nature, I am a people person. I took time to discover myself and to my surprise, I ended up in counseling, training, motivational speaking and writing of motivational books. So far, I have authored Rise Above Your Past and The Power of Celebrating Your Uniqueness.
Any lessons from your early life?
Life will throw challenges but it doesn’t fix you there. My once depressed and blind mother lives a happy life. She does everything including cooking for her husband. Today, her children who slept and went to school hungry, some are driving their own cars! A once helpless father is a happy man. I once thought I would never amount to anything, but I have been to places I never thought I would ever be in.
Your message for children in similar circumstances...
As much as God has a good plan for your life, you too got a part to play. Young girls, poverty is not a permit to engage in teenage sex for you to be provided for. Boys, drug abuse and radicalization will end your life too early. Don’t desire quick fixes. Life is a process and the process is as important as the expected result.